Cayenne peppers, also known as cow-horn pepper, aleva, bird pepper, or, red pepper, is a hot chili pepper used to flavor dishes. This is one of my favorite spices and I use it on almost everything.
Cayenne peppers can be grown in a variety of locations and needs approximately 80-100 days to mature. Peppers prefer warm, moist, nutrient-rich soil in a warm climate. The plants grow to about 2–4 feet in height and should be spaced 3 ft apart. Cayenne peppers are mostly perennial in sub-tropical and tropical regions; however, they are usually grown as annuals in temperate climates. They usually start off green, and then change to orange, then to a bright cherry red. Some will go directly from green to red. Cayenne peppers are ready to pick when they are bright red all over.
Nutrition in cayenne peppers
Cayenne pepper is relatively high in vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium and manganese. However, because of the small amount of cayenne pepper normally consumed, it makes a minor contribution to overall dietary intake of these nutrients.
Medical uses of cayenne peppers
The heat produced by cayenne is caused by a high concentration of capsaicin. Capsaicin has been widely studied for its pain-reducing effects, its cardiovascular benefits, and its ability to help prevent ulcers. Capsaicin is effective in opening and draining congested nasal passages.
Cayenne is a popular home remedy for mild high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Cayenne preparations are believed to prevent platelets from clumping together and accumulating in the blood.
May people believe that if you’ve cut yourself and don’t have a bandage nearby applying cayenne directly onto the wound will stop the flow of blood. I have never tried this and am hesitant to recommend something I have not tried. If you have had experience with this let us know.
Here is what one herbalist has to say about it. “Cayenne pepper equalizes the blood pressure and allows cuts—even deep cuts—to clot quickly so you can keep all your blood inside your body, where it belongs. You can either sprinkle it on dry, or mix it with some water to form impromptu gauze. It’ll sting a bit of course, but it’s actually a tried and true healer—so it’s good to have some handy”.
The University of Maryland Medical Center has considerable information on the medicinal use of cayenne pepper. The following information is from their website.
- Capsaicin has very powerful pain-relieving properties when applied to the skin. It reduces the amount of substance P, a chemical that carries pain messages to the brain, in your body. When there is less substance P, the pain messages no longer reach the brain, and you feel relief. Capsaicin is often recommended for the following conditions:
- Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as joint or muscle pain from fibromyalgia or other causes
- Nerve pain from shingles and other painful skin conditions (postherpetic neuralgia) that happens even after the skin blisters have gone away. Research is mixed, and it may be that it works for some people and not others. Check with your doctor to see if trying capsaicin ointment is right for you.
- Pain after surgery, such as a mastectomy or an amputation
- Pain from nerve damage in the feet or legs from diabetes, called diabetic peripheral neuropathy. However, capsaicin doesn’t seem to work for peripheral neuropathy from HIV.
- Low back pain. Several studies suggest capsaicin cream can reduce lower back pain.
- Capsaicin cream can reduce itching and inflammation from psoriasis, a long-lasting skin disease that generally appears as patches of raised red skin covered by a flaky white buildup.
- As a spice, cayenne may be eaten raw or cooked. Dried cayenne pepper is available in powdered form, and you can add it to food, or stir it into juice, tea, or milk. It is also available in capsule form or in creams for external use. Creams should contain at least 0.075% capsaicin.
How to Take It
- Don’t apply capsaicin cream to cracked skin or open wounds.
- Don’t give cayenne to children under 2. However, capsaicin ointment may be used on the skin with caution in older children. Don’t use topical cayenne ointments for more than 2 days in a row in children.
- For shingles, psoriasis, arthritis, or muscle pain: Capsaicin cream (0.025 – 0.075% capsaicin) may be applied directly to the affected area up to 4 times a day. Pain may get slightly worse at first, but then may get better over the next few days. Capsaicin should be applied regularly several times a day. It usually takes 3 – 7 days before you notice substantial pain relief.
- For digestive problems: Capsaicin may be taken in capsules (30 – 120 mg, 3 times daily).
- The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.
- Cayenne does not dissolve easily in water, so it’s hard to wash off. Use vinegar to get it off the skin. Capsaicin cream may cause an itching, burning sensation on the skin, but these symptoms tend to go away quickly. Test capsaicin cream on a small area of the skin before extended use. If it causes irritation, or if symptoms do not get better after 2 – 4 weeks, stop using it.
- Do not use capsaicin with a heating pad, and do not apply capsaicin cream immediately before or after hot showers. After using capsaicin, wash your hands well and avoid touching your eyes. If you’re using cayenne around children, make sure they wash their hands thoroughly after handling cayenne and do not touch their eyes or nose.
- Capsaicin capsules may cause stomach irritation. People with ulcers or heartburn should talk to their health care provider before using capsaicin. Eating too much capsaicin could cause stomach pain.
- People who are allergic to latex, bananas, kiwi, chestnuts, and avocado may also have an allergy to cayenne.
- Eating cayenne in food is considered safe during pregnancy, but pregnant women should not take cayenne as a supplement. Cayenne does pass into breast milk, so nursing mothers should avoid cayenne both as a spice and a supplement.
- If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use cayenne supplements without first talking to your health care provider.
- ACE inhibitors — Using capsaicin cream may raise the risk of developing a cough, one of the side effects of ACE inhibitors. These medications are used to treat high blood pressure. People who take ACE inhibitors should talk to their doctor before taking cayenne. ACE inhibitors include:
- Captopril (Capoten)
- Elaropril (Vasotec)
- Fosinopril (Monopril)
- Lisinopril (Zestril)
- Stomach acid reducers — Capsaicin can increase stomach acid, making these drugs less effective. These drugs include:
- Cimetidine (Tagamet)
- Esomeprazole (Nexium)
- Famotidine (Pepcid)
- Omeprazole (Prilosec)
- Ranitidine (Zantac)
- Over-the-counter drugs such as Maalox, Rolaids, Tums
- Nonprescription versions of Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac, and Prilosec
- Aspirin — Capsaicin may make aspirin less effective as a pain reliever. It also may increase the risk of bleeding associated with aspirin.
- Blood-thinning medications and herbs — Capsaicin may increase the risk of bleeding associated with certain blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin) and clopidogrel (Plavix) and herbs such as ginkgo, ginger, ginseng, and garlic.
- Medications for diabetes — Capsaicin lowers blood sugar levels, raising the risk of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. Ask your doctor before using capsaicin if you have diabetes.
- Theophylline — Regular use of cayenne may cause your body to absorb too much theophylline, a medication used to treat asthma. This could be dangerous.”
Cayenne pepper is good to have in your storage for several uses. Both as a spice and a medicinal herb. I keep quite a bit, because I think rats and other critters will taste better with a bit of cayenne.