- Family Solanaceae
- Capsicum annum
- Capsicum frutescens
- Capsicum, Grains of Paradise, African Pepper, Bird Pepper, Chilli/chili/chile Pepper, Sweet Pepper, Hungarian Pepper, Red Pepper, Goats Pod, Zanzibar Pepper, Paprika, Hot Pepper, Tabasco Pepper
- Do not take if suffering from peptic ulcers or acid indigestion.
- Do not use therapeutic doses during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Avoid touching the eyes or other sensitive areas after handling the fruits or seeds.
It is native to Central America, but it is now cultivated in tropical areas of the world, especially Africa and India. It is a spiky shrub, growing to about three feet in height producing long, thin, scarlet-red fruits filled with white seeds. C. frutescens is closely related to C. annum, but is not recognized as a separate species by all botanists. This species is a perennial, producing mainly hot fruits. (see more in the Foods section).
Peppers have been grown in Mexico for more than 7,000 years. Pre-Columbian ceramincs are decorated with the fruits, confirming that the Aztecs cultivated and used these fruits to a great degree.
Columbus is credited with taking the fruits from the New World back into the Old.
The cayenne was originally called the Ginnie pepper.
Gerard described it as extreme hot and dry, even in the fourth degree and recommended it for scrofula, a prevalent lymphatic throat and skin infection commonly known as the Kings Evil.
Cayenne was popular with 19th century physiomedicalists, who used it for chills, rheumatism, and depression.
The Apache, Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo, and other Southwestern Native American tribes, rubbed powdered cayenne onto arthritic joints to help block pain and reduce swelling.
- In his book Canaries: Their Care and Breeding (1978), George Lynch relates this story.
- “The Norwich was the first canary ever to be colour fed. The story is that in the early 1870s a Norwich breeder had a good bird which had developed a bad chill during the moult and he tried feeding it hot cayenne pepper as a cure. Whether or not this effected a cure is not known, but the bird developed a rich orange colour when it grew its new feathers. The breeder kept the secret to himself and after the next moulting season produced richly coloured birds on the show bench. Predictably this caused all kinds of trouble and following protests the birds were sent to the public analyst but no traces of artificial colouring or staining could be found. Around 1873 the secret was disclosed and for a period ‘fed’ and ‘non-fed’ classes were provided at shows, but it was generally agreed that colour feeding had come to stay.”
- appetite and circulatory stimulant
- carminative (relieves flatulence)
- diaphoretic (promotes sweating)
- rubifacient (produces warmth when rubbed on the skin).
- stimulating nerve tonic
- capsaicin (0.1-1.5%)
- volatile oil
- steroidal saponins (capsicidins in seeds only)
- fatty acids
- vitamins A, B, and C
Fruits and seeds
The capsicidins found in the seeds are thought to have antibiotic properties.
Initially, it was thought the pain-relieving benefits of cayenne arose solely from a counterirritant effect. This means that something causes enough irritation to a tissue that it distracts from the original irritation by sending out high levels of messages and thus overwhelming the nerves ability to communicate pain to the brain. This temporarily stimulates the release of various neurotransmitters from local nerves, leading to neurotransmitter depletion. Without the neurotransmitters, pain signals can no longer be sent, which is the way most topical arthritic creams work. However, capsaicin does more. It also neutralizes substance P, an inflammatory chemical involved in inflammation found in the fluid that bathes the joints. Substance P is believed to be the primary chemical mediator of pain impulses from the periphery to the brain. This substance also has proven to activate inflammatory mediators in psoriasis and the cream was able to reduce the scaling, redness, and thickness of the lesions.
Dried fruit powdered and mixed with a pinch of lemon juice, diluted with hot water and honey to taste makes a good gargle for a sore throat.
Infused oil is massaged into arthritic or rheumatic joints. It is less irritating than applying the fresh raw fruits. Infused oil mixed with a neutral oil can be applied to the area around a varicose ulcer, but not directly on it, to encourage blood flow away from the area.
Tincture for arthritis is best mixed with willow bark tincture; taken as a circulatory stimulant, the tincture is diluted in hot water.
Tablets or capsules are convenient for long-term use and used to correct poor circulation.
Ointment is applied to chilblains but only if the skin is unbroken.
Infusions made with the powder and hot water is ideal for colds and chills and for treating shock or depression.
Compresses soaked in an infusion is placed on rheumatic pain areas, sprains, and bruises. Do not leave on the skin for long periods of time as blistering may occur.
Gargles and mouthwashes are used for throat problems.
Massage oil, from an infused oil, is used on rheumatism, arthritis, and lumbago.
(a) Hot Massage Oil:
- 25 g/1 oz cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp. mustard powder
- 2 inches ginger root or 1 tbsp. dried ginger
- 2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 300 ml/1 1/4 c. vegetable oil (olive is best)
- Follow directions for an infused oil: Put the ingredients into a container and place into a pan of water that comes to within an inch of the top. Simmer slowly for two hours. This procedure allows for prolonged heating without the danger of spoiling the oil by boiling. Burnt oil has no value and must be discarded. After two hours, allow to cool then strain well.
(b) Cayenne Mouthwash:
- 8 g/1/4 oz each of parsley and sage
- 1 heaping tbsp. cayenne pepper
- 10 whole cloves
- 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg (optional)
- 500 ml/ 2 1/4 c. cider vinegar
- Macerate the ingredients for two weeks, strain, and bottle. Dilute 1 tsp. with water to use. This remedy gives a powerful warming sensation, clearing the head and the sinuses.
Capsaicin is well known for stimulating circulation and altering body temperature. Applied to the skin, it desensitizes nerve endings and, therefore, good as a local analgesic. Its heating qualities not only remedy poor circulation, but also improve blood flow by dilating peripheral capillaries. This action increases the flow of nutrients to the tissues and removes toxic buildup in the same areas.
External preparations are used to reduce arthritic pain and inflammation and to relieve symptoms of bursitis, fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, and nerve pain that often follows shingles. Some preparations are used to treat skin rashes and pain of psoriasis.
Powdered capsaicin can be added to socks as a traditional remedy for perpetually cold feet.
It is used as an effective decongestant for chest and sinus congestion and easing expectoration.
Cayenne has a revitalizing effect on both the mind and body, dispelling tiredness, lethargy, and depression, mainly by opening passageways and dilating blood vessels.
Cayenne, along with other peppers, has a long history of use as a digestive aid. It was considered helpful in treating various conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, including stomachaches, cramping, and gas, as well as stimulating digestive juices and preventing potential infections by ridding the intestines of harmful microorganisms. Remarkably, internal use has been known to ease the pain and speed up the healing of ulcers.