Cayenne

Blood circulation stimulant • Pain killer (topical)

Herbs
   
 

Cayenne
Capsicum minimum, Capsicum annuum, or capsicum frutescens

Also called chillies, chilli peppers, cayenne peppers, it is the common red hot chilli pepper (used in many Asian countries as a kitchen spice).

Cayenne is named after the city of Cayenne in French Guiana on the north-eastern coast of South America. Cayenne has a spiciness, or "hotness", or piquancy rating of between 30,000 and 50,000 Scoville Units. The Scoville Unit also known as the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) is named after the American chemist Wilbur Scoville to measure "hotness".

Cayennne pepper is a very good source of vitamin A (in the form of pro-vtamin A carotenoids, including beta-carotene). Two teaspoonfuls of dried cayenne pepper can provide up to 30% of our daily vitamin A RDA. Besides vitamin A, cayenne pepper has vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese, and vitamin K.

The main medicinal properties of cayenne peppers or chillies (as they are also know in many countries) are derived from the chemical called capsaicin. The "hotter" teh chilli, the more capsaicin it contains.

Capsaicin is being studied for its health benefits. Scientists are studying capsaicin's health benefits in the fight and prevention of arthritis, psoriasis, inflammation, diabetic neuropathy, cardiovascular problems, stuffy nose, congested lungs, and stomach ulcers. And there have been many encouraging results that show capsaicins effectiveness in treating and preventing these conditions.

A concentrated capsaicin cream under the brand name Zostrix, nas been approved by the FDA for the treatment of post-shingles attack pain (post-herperic neuralgia).

Taken internally, cayenne pepper has also been anecdotally regarded as a treatment for heart disease, although more clinical trials need to be conducted before this is considered conclusive.

Functions/benefits
Stimulant.
Warming.
Circulatory stimulant.
Anaesthetic (pain-killing) characteristics.
Carminative (relaxes the stomach and reduces gas).
Topical analgesic (for pain).
Reduces incidence of thromboembolic (potentially fatal blood clotting) disease.

Indications
Low energy.
Failing digestion in the elderly.
Poor circulation.
Impotence.
Unbroken chilblains.
Lower back pain.
Post-shingles neuralgia (used as a cream or oil).
Heart disease.
Protection of the stomach from irritation due to anti-inflammatory drugs.

Contraindications/Safety
Large doses may irritate the stomach in some people.
Due to its anti-clotting properties, people with bleeding problems (slow clotting time) should not take cayenne.

As a common food, cayenne is generally regarded as safe for normal consumption. Some reports indicate that cayenne may aggravate stomach ulcers, but further studies show that it isn't so.

Cayenne may increase the absorption amout of the asthma drug theophylline, potentially leading to toxic levels.

Method & use
Ingestion: Add 1 or 2 drops to herbal teas or tinctures (every few hours if necessary).
External: Apply the cream to small areas only. (Avoid sensitive areas. Eg. Lips and eyes.)

Tip: If the cayenne taken is too hot for comfort and starts to ‘burn’, eating a banana will help to ‘cool’ you down.

For topical applications, capsaicin creams are approved as over-the-counter medication. Use as directed.

Homemade tincture can be made by soaking fresh or dried peppers in vodka for a few days. Add 3-4 drops in herbal tea or warm water, 3 or 4 times a day. As an alcohol substitute, use vinegar instead.

For chronic back pain (lumbago), add the cayenne tincture to a liniment. Quarter teaspoon (1ml) tincture to three-quarter teaspoon (3ml) liniment. Apply sparingly and cover with plastic. Leave on for 30 minutes. Apply daily.

If you find cayenne peppers to be too "hot", a similar but milder plant alternative would be ginger. Ginger is also easier on the digestive system, and suitable for the onset of chills, period pain and menstrual cramps.

 

 

   

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Last update: 01 Sep 2008

 
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