Cayenne Pepper Identification: Also known as “African Cayenne” or “African Bird Pepper”.
Its glabrous stem is woody at the bottom and branched near the top. The leaves are ovate to lanceolate, entire, and petioled. The drooping, white to yellow flowers grow alone or in pairs or threes. The fruit, or pepper, is a many seeded pod with a leathery outside. As it ripens it turns from various shades of dark green to black to red.
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade family)
Other Names: Capsicum, Hot pepper. Cayenne chili pepper, African pepper, Tabasco pepper, Red pepper
Flowers: April – September
Parts Used: Pods
Habitat: Temperate climates and can be grown indoors.
History: The first North American to advocate Cayenne pepper in healing was Samuel Thomson, creator of Thomsonian herbal medicine, which enjoyed considerable popularity before the Civil War. Thomson believed most disease was caused by cold and cured by heat, so he prescribed “warming” herbs extensively, and Cayenne was chief among them.
After the civil war, America’s Eclectic physicians recommended it externally for arthritis and muscle soreness and internally as a digestive stimulant and treatment for colds, cough, fever, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and toothache. The Eclectics also advised adding Cayenne to socks to treat cold feet, a use echoed in some herbal preparations today.
Contemporary herbalists prescribe capsules of Cayenne powder for colds, gastrointestinal and bowel problems, and as a digestive aid. Externally, they recommend Cayenne plasters for arthritis and muscle soreness.
Constituents: Capsaicin, Carotenoids, Flavonoids, Vitamins A and C.
Medicinal Properties: Properties: Appetizer, Digestive, Irritant, Sialagogue, Stimulant, Tonic.
Main Uses: Digestive Aid: Cayenne pepper assists digestion by stimulating the flow of both saliva and stomach secretions. Saliva contains enzymes that begin the breakdown of carbohydrate, while stomach secretions (gastric juices) contain acids and other substances that further digest food.
Diarrhea: Like many culinary spices, Cayenne pepper has antibacterial properties, possibly explaining traditional claims that it helps relieve infectious diarrhea.
Chronic Pain: For centuries, herbalists have recommended rubbing cayenne pepper into the skin to treat muscle and joint pains. Several capsaicin counterirritants are available over-the-counter, such as Heet, Stimurub, and Omega Oil.
Recently, however, Cayenne has been shown to possess real pain-relieving properties for certain kinds of chronic pain. For reasons still not completely understood, capsaicin interferes with the action of “substance P,” the chemical in the peripheral nerves that sends pain messages to the brain. Several recent studies all showed capsaicin so effective at relieving a particular type of chronic pain, that two over-the-counter capsaicin creams, Zostrix and Axsain, are available.
Blood Pressure: Cayenne pepper helps regulate blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, it lowers it, and if you have low blood pressure, it raises it.
Other Uses: Shingles, diabetic foot pain, cluster headaches, and may help cut cholesterol and prevent heart disease.
Preparation And Dosages:
In food, season to taste, but be cautious. A little too much can set the mouth on fire.
For an infusion to aid digestion and possibly help reduce the risk of heart disease, use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per cup of boiling water. Drink it after meals.
For a tincture: (1:5 in 90% alcohol). Take 10 to 30 drops, 2 to 5 times per day in half-cup of water.
For external application to help treat pain, mix 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per cup of warm vegetable oil and rub it into the affected area.
Cayenne should not be given to children under age 2. People over 65 often suffer a loss of taste-bud and skin-nerve sensitivity and may require more than younger adults.