- Capsicum frutescens L.
- Capsicum minimum (Roxb)
- var. longum
- Nightshade family
Parts Usually Used
Description of Plant(s) and Culture
A very hot pepper, cayenne is a perennial plant in its native tropical
America but is annual when cultivated outside tropical zones. Growing
to a height of 3 feet or more, 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 glowers grow alone or
in pairs or threes between April and September. The ripe fruit, or
pepper, is a many-seeded pod with a leathery outside in various shades
of red or yellow.
Cayenne pepper (capsicum frutescens, var. longum) comes from the
ground, dried ripe red pepper pods of a small tropical shrub. This
ground red pepper, combined with yeast and flour, is baked into a
hard cake, which is then ground into the finished spice. Used in curries
and chili powders; in small amounts added to bland foods like eggs
and cream sauce. It has no odor and its taste is hot and acrid.
Paprika (capsicum frutescens) comes from the cayenne pepper. Different
varieties of paprika vary in quality and pungency; some of the best
come from Hungary. Uses include: goulashes, and to add color and flavor
to many bland, savory dishes.
Other varieties: Long red cayenne (C. annum), also called Manchi-phalam
in Sanskrit; Jalapeno, Anaheim, Hungarian Wax, Purple Venuzuetan.
From the Greek kapto, "I bite", capsicum is a biting plant. The best
comes from Africa, Asia, and South America. It is produced in good
quality in the Southern States, especially those that lie beyond the
southern line of Tennessee. Grow in West Indies, Hungary, East Indies,
Appetizer, antiseptic, febrifuge, antibacterial, carminative, diaphoretic,
rubefacient, condiment, nerve tonic, digestive, irritant, sialagogue
(stimulates secretion of saliva), stimulant, and tonic (cayenne is
usually mixed with other herbs in medicinal doses)
Alkaloids, apsaicine, capsacutin, capsaicin, capsanthine, capsico
PABA, fatty acids, flavonoids, sugars, carotene, volatile oil, and
vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, and C
Legends, Myths and Stories
Native to northeastern coastal areas of South America, these red
hot peppers have been used in folk medicine since 7,000 BC.
The hot red cayenne chili arrived in the West from India in 1548
and was known as Ginnie pepper. Gerard describes it as "extreme hot
and dry, even in the fourth degree," and he recommended it for a skin
infection commonly known then as the King's Evil. Cayenne was popular
with the 19th century physiomedicalists who used its warming properties
for chills, rheumatism, and depression.
The Herbalist Almanac states that if paprika is fed to yellow canary
birds, their plumage turns red. Paprika also improves the coloration
of hatchery reared trout. It is also called pimiento; but should not
be confused with allspice, also called pimento. (Note difference in
Contrary to popular belief, hot, spicy food may actually be good
for your health; if it contains liberal amounts of cayenne, also known
as capsicum. Cayenne is also very nutritious; peppers in general contain
iron, phosphorous, calcium, B-complex and more vitamin C than oranges.
According to Dr. Irwin Ziment of the UCLA School of Medicine, the
hot, stinging sensation that follows biting into a chili pepper triggers
the release of endorphins by the brain, chemicals that relieve pain
and can cause a mild euphoria. Elevated triglycerides (over 190 mg)
are a major risk factor for heart disease in women.
The 1987 study published in the Journal of Bioscience states that
rats fed a diet high in cayenne experienced a significant reduction
in blood triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or "bad"
cholesterol. Capsaicin, a compound found in cayenne that gives the
spice its "kick", is an anti-inflammatory.
The incidence of blood clots in countries that routinely use curry
in their cuisines is much lower than in the United States. Herbs such
as turmeric, garlic, cayenne, usual ingredients in curry powder, are
believed to help prevent platelets from sticking together and forming
dangerous blood clots that could result in heart attacks and stroke.
A stimulating stomachic. A catalyst for all herbs. Improves circulation,
aids digestion by stimulating
gastric juices, stimulates
the appetite, reduces inflammation,
is a mild stimulant or tonic,
improves metabolism, relieves gas, colds,
chills, and stops bleeding from ulcers.
Good for the kidneys, lungs, spleen, pancreas, heart, and stomach.
Taken for nausea, scrofula, swollen
lymph glands, rheumatism,
arthritis, and pleurisy.
Use with lobelia for nerves.
Recently, cayenne has been used successfully to treat patients with
cluster headaches, a particularly
painful type of headache.
Used externally, cayenne liniment can soothe the stiffness and pain
of rheumatism and arthritis.
Can be used as a general stimulant to build up resistance at the
beginning of a cold, tonsilitis,
laryngitis, hoarseness, shingles.
It can be taken as an infusion for stomach and bowel pains or cramps.
Small quantities of the fresh fruit or the powder will stimulate
appetite, expels worms. For
external use, cayenne is made into plasters or liniment or the tincture
is applied to increase blood flow to areas afflicted with rheumatism,
arthritis, pleuritis, or pericarditis. Said to increase fertility
and delay senility. In West India a remedy for scarlatina. Wards off
While red pepper smarts a little, it can be put in an open wound,
either in a fresh wound or an old ulcer, and it is very healing instead
of irritating; but black pepper, mustard, and vinegar are irritating
to an open wound and do not promote healing.
Formulas or Dosages
Infusion: use 1/2 to 1 tsp. pepper per cup of boiling water.
Take warm, 1 tbsp at a time.
Powder: for acute conditions, take 3-10 grains, for chronic
conditions 1-3 grains.
- Mullein leaves (6 parts)
- Slippery elm bark (9 parts)
- Lobelia (3 parts)
- Cayenne (1 part)
Add 3 oz. mixture to boiling water to make a paste. Spread the paste
on a cloth and apply to the affected area.
- 2 oz. gum myrrh
- 1 oz. goldenseal
- 1/2 oz. cayenne pepper
Put this mixture in a quart of rubbing alcohol (do not take internally).
Let it stand for a week or 10 days, shaking every day. This can be
used wherever a liniment is used or needed. (heals wounds, bruises,
sprains, scalds, burns, and sunburns.
Apply freely. In pyorrhea,
rinse mouth with liniment or apply liniment on both sides of the gums
with a little cotton, Q-tip, or gauze.
To stimulate vitality: combine equal parts of cayenne pepper
and ginger root powders. A half to 1 tsp. may be taken 2 or 3 times
daily to stimulate circulation, vitality, and digestion and to prevent
Sugars, carotene, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, C
Powder, tincture, tablet, teas, liniment, and capsules.
Capsules: take 1 capsule 1 to 3 times daily.
Tea: a cup of tea can be taken for stomach cramps or a cold
on a daily basis. Prepared teas are available, or make it from dried
Prolonged application to the skin can cause dermatitis and raise
blisters. Excessive consumption can cause gastroenteritis and kidney
or liver damage. Avoid touching the eyes, genitalia, or any cuts after
handling fresh chilies.
If taken internally, do not exceed recommended doses. High doses
taken internally can cause gastroenteritis and kidney damage.
Cayenne can be irritating to hemorrhoids. Should not be used by people
with gastrointestinal problems. Never apply cayenne ointment or liniment
to broken skin.
The seeds can be toxic, so do not use them.
Avoid therapeutic doses of cayenne during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.