Cayenne pepper (Capsicum annuum), an exotic condiment and healing herb used in cooking and natural medicine, is the fruit of a shrubby plant native to tropical America. Although it was most likely cultivated for thousands of years in Africa, India and tropical areas of the Americas, the herb eluded literary reference until much later. It did not appear in history books until 1493, when Peter Martyn wrote of its arrival in Italy with Christopher Columbus. In the 16th century, famous English herbalist John Gerard reported cayenne’s cultivation in England. Since those early days, people have given cayenne pepper many names, including hot pepper, Africa pepper, red pepper and red bird pepper. It has also become a popular and effective healing herb around the world, and is used in a variety of natural remedies.
Cayenne Pepper Health Benefits
Capsaicin, cayenne’s active ingredient, is the chemical substance responsible for the herb’s healing power. When applied externally or taken internally, capsaicin acts as a powerful stimulant. It also has the ability to reduce pain and soothe various aches and pains. Listed below are some of the most widely known cayenne pepper benefits.
- Aiding poor digestion – One of the most powerful benefits of cayenne pepper is its ability to stimulate and aid the digestive process. A pinch of the pepper in food can help prevent common digestive problems such as indigestion, heartburn, sluggish digestion, stomach cramps and diarrhea.
- Treating arthritis, sprains and other inflammation – When applied externally in the form of a poultice, cayenne pepper slightly irritates the area, which causes increased blood flow to the location and reduces inflammation.
- Reducing toothache pain – When applied directly to the painful tooth, cayenne pepper stops most toothache pain on contact. This is because the capsaicin that the herb contains temporarily blocks pain signals from being sent to your brain.
- Increasing appetite – Scientists in Indonesia found that mixing tiny amounts of cayenne pepper into food made it more appetizing to individuals with a poor appetite. People who ate cayenne pepper with their meals ate more than those who did not.
- Treating psoriasis and other skin diseases – Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, cayenne pepper has helped a number of people suffering from psoriasis, shingles and other skin problems. Often used in home remedies for psoriasis, cayenne is also a primary ingredient in numerous over-the-counter and some prescription creams used for the treatment of psoriasis.
- Treating respiratory ailments – Scientists believe that capsaicin acts as a mild irritant in the lungs, which helps dislodge mucus deposits caused by respiratory ailments. Asthma, bronchitis, coughs, colds and sore throats have all been treated successfully with cayenne pepper for hundreds of years, but only recently has modern science begun to investigate the herb’s effectiveness for these disorders.
- Reducing chronic pain – For centuries, herbalists have recommended rubbing cayenne pepper directly into the skin to reduce painful muscles and joints. However, it may also be useful for treating fibromyalgia and other forms of chronic pain. The capsaicin found in the herb interferes with the substance that sends pain messages to the brain. The FDA has even approved capsaicin for use in over-the-counter pain relieving creams.
Preparation and Dosage
To reap the many health benefits of cayenne pepper, apply the substance externally in the form of a poultice (see recipe below) or capsaicin cream, or take it internally. If you’re suffering from digestive or respiratory upsets, simply add a tolerable pinch of the pepper to your meals. If you can’t handle the spice, try taking cayenne pepper capsules, which are available in the vitamin and supplement aisle of most grocery and department stores.
A typical dosage consists of 800 mg cayenne in capsule form three times daily before meals, but always follow the manufacturer’s directions for the best results. According to the University of Michigan Health System, you may also take 1 ml cayenne pepper tincture three times daily or make an infusion by steeping 1 tsp. cayenne powder in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain and mix 1 tsp. of the infusion with a glass of water. Drink three to four times daily, as needed.
In normal culinary applications, cayenne pepper will cause no problems when consumed. Individuals with ulcers or chronic bowel diseases, however, should consult their doctor before taking cayenne pepper internally. Taking the substance in excess can even cause injury in people with healthy digestive systems, so take only as directed or in normal culinary amounts. Discontinue use immediately if you experience burning during bowel movements, diarrhea or stomach upset as a result of consuming cayenne.
When applying cayenne externally, you may experience a burning sensation that becomes less noticeable after a few applications. Cayenne pepper does not cause skin redness when applied externally because it affects the sensory nerves and not the capillaries. Excessive contact with the skin may cause blistering and dermatitis, however, so do not leave a cayenne poultice or other external application in direct contact with your skin for longer than 10 or 15 minutes at a time.
Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling cayenne pepper and do not allow it to come in contact with the eyes or sensitive mucous membranes around the nose and mouth. If you accidentally get cayenne into your eyes, nose or mouth, flush immediately with water.
Pain Relieving Cayenne Pepper Poultice
This pain relieving poultice, adapted from Jude C. Todd’s book “Jude’s Herbal Home Remedies,” is great for sprains, arthritis, muscle aches and broken bones. It expedites healing, reduces inflammation and decreases pain. Applying olive oil to the skin before applying the poultice allows you to leave the dressing in place for up to two hours.
- ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
- 2 to 3 tbsp. ground cayenne pepper
- Olive oil
- Cloth bandage or clean strip of cotton cloth
- Bring the vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan.
- Add enough cayenne pepper to make a paste, usually about 2 to 3 tbsp.
- Apply a thin coat of olive oil to the affected area to protect against burning from the cayenne pepper.
- Spread the vinegar and cayenne paste onto a cloth bandage or clean strip of cotton cloth cut large enough to cover the pained area.
- Apply the bandage to the skin and leave in place for up to 2 hours, remove and rinse off any remaining paste.
- Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs
- The New Healing Herbs
- The Health Benefits of Cayenne
- The Pill Book Guide to Natural Medicines
- Jude’s Herbal Home Remedies
No related posts.