Cayenne is hot, hot, hot!

Cayenne (Capsicum annum) has been used since the beginning of history in South and Central America as a culinary and medicinal herb. Cayenne pepper is a fruit, much like a tomato. This bright red fruit grows in warm tropical climates on small perennial shrubs that bloom with white flowers in late summer.

Varieties of cayenne are cultivated all over the world. The strength and medicinal value range from the most powerful pepper grown in Sierra Leone, Africa, to the mild paprika enjoyed in Hungary.

Cayenne, which takes its name from the Greek word meaning "to bite," was introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus. Legend has it that Columbus discovered the pungent pepper growing on an island off French Guyana, later called Devil's Island.

Although there is evidence that cayenne had been cultivated in South America and Africa for centuries, the rest of the world had to wait for their first taste until Columbus returned home in 1493. No reference to cayenne has been found in ancient Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, Latin or Sanskrit.

One of the most effective stimulants, cayenne targets the digestive and circulatory systems primarily. Cayenne regulates blood pressure, strengthens the pulse, feeds the heart, lowers cholesterol, thins the blood, cleanses the circulatory system, heals ulcers, stops hemorrhaging, speeds healing of wounds, rebuilds damaged tissue, eases congestion, aids digestion, regulates elimination, relieves arthritis and rheumatism and prevents the spread of infection and numbs pain.

Cayenne stimulates every system and cell of the body. It is used around the world as a stimulant, astringent, antispasmodic, circulatory tonic, antidepressant and antibacterial agent. In addition, cayenne acts as a diaphoretic to induce sweating, a rubefacient to increase circulation at the skin's surface and a carminative to help prevent and eliminate gas.

Used as a condiment, cayenne aids digestion and soothes intestinal ailments by stimulating the stomach to produce mucous. In China, the pungent pepper has been used to stimulate the appetite and promote the flow of saliva which, in turn, aids digestion.

In the circulatory system, cayenne helps the arteries, veins and capillaries regain the elasticity of youth by feeding the cell structure. Cayenne helps equalize circulation by regulating the flow of blood from the head to the feet. Cayenne strengthens the pulse by increasing the power, not the frequency. Generally, cayenne boosts overall health of the entire cardiovascular system.

Cholesterol reduction

Cayenne's ability to help lower cholesterol was first noticed during a routine environment at the Central Food Technological Research Institute in Mysore, India. When scientists at the institute added cayenne to the high cholesterol diet the test animals were being fed, there was not the usual rise in serum and liver cholesterol. Instead, the cholesterol was being excreted. Cayenne prevented the absorption of cholesterol.

Further studies showed that diet plays an integral part in cayenne's ability to help the body shed excess cholesterol. Cayenne was unable to influence cholesterol intake when the diet contained little protein. With enough protein in the diet, cayenne was able to inhibit cholesterol absorption significantly.

In addition to helping prevent the build-up of cholesterol, cayenne also helps thin blood and prevent blood clots. Ingesting cayenne stimulates the body's fibrinolytic system, helping to prevent clots from forming and dissolving clots that have already formed, according to a study performed at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand.

The surge in fibrinolytic activity lasted for up to 30 minutes after the cayenne was eaten. The temporary nature of this boost in the function of the fibrinolytic system is important. Prolonged use could lead to problems such as excessive bleeding.

Daily doses of cayenne keep the fibrinolytic system operating efficiently. Perhaps this is why natives living in New Guinea, Africa, Korea, India and Thailand have a lower instance of thrombolic disease and greater fibrinolytic activity than Caucasians living in the same areas who do not make cayenne a part of their daily diet.

Circulation stimulant

In more ways than any other herb, cayenne gets the blood moving. Touted as "the purest and most certain stimulant known to man," cayenne is considered to be one of the best crisis herbs. By helping the circulatory system operate more efficiently, the snappy red pepper boosts the energy level and eases the damaging effects of stress on the body.

In experiments on human subjects at the University of Dusseldorf, cayenne was found to increase the patient's ability to concentrate. The stimulant and anti-fatigue effects of cayenne were found to be immediate, temporary and harmless.

By increasing the circulation of the blood to peripheral tissues throughout the body, cayenne helps deliver necessary nutrients to inflamed and infected areas. Studies show that the nutrients in food ingested with cayenne are assimilated faster and more easily.

Nutrients abound

The herb itself contains many nutrients essential to the health of the circulatory system including alpha-tocopherols, vitamin C and minerals. Cayenne also contains a high amount of vitamin A (beta-carotene) which aids in healing ulcers. The redder the cayenne pepper, the more vitamin A it contains. Paprika, the mildest cayenne, has the highest vitamin C content of all. Cayenne, the vibrant red fruit bursting with heat and energy, holds more vitamin C and beta-carotene than any other plant in the garden.

Cayenne's high mineral content, including sulfur, iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, makes it an effective treatment for diabetes, gas, arthritis, pancreatic and throat disorders. The high vitamin C content of the fruit helps target colds, while the tremendous amount of beta-carotene helps speed healing of ulcers.

One of the most remarkable qualities of cayenne is its ability to act as a catalyst. Cayenne intensifies the beneficial effects of other herbs by ensuring speedy and thorough distribution of the herb's active components to the important functional centers of the body such as those responsible for metabolism, data transmission, cellular respiration and neural hormonal activity.

Use for cayenne

A little bit of cayenne goes a long way. Since a small quantity of cayenne can dramatically increase the efficiency of most herbs, this catalyst herb is added to nearly every herbal combination available.

Added to garlic, for example, cayenne speeds up the anti-biotic action of the other herb. Cayenne boosts the power of garlic so much it's akin to taking liquid penicillin. Together, garlic and cayenne lower blood pressure safely and rapidly.

Cayenne is used in formulas for pain relief, infection, respiratory ailments, female problems, thyroid balance and heart treatments. Cayenne is an ingredient in laxatives, diuretics and ulcer medication. Added to ginger, cayenne helps clean out the bronchial tubes. Regardless of what ailment the herbal formula is designed to treat, the addition of cayenne aids in absorption and effectiveness.

Internally, cayenne has many benefits as a catalyst and a stimulant. This powerful stimulant can also be used as a relaxant to soothe gas, diarrhea, asthma and toothaches. Proven effective in healing gastric ulcers, cayenne has been recommended as a gargle for a sore throat and as a hangover cure. In the West Indies, natives who are feeling feverish sip a concoction of hot water, cayenne pods, sugar and sour orange juice. West Indians favor a local dish called Mandram to aid digestion. This culinary delight combines cayenne, sliced cucumbers, shallots, onions, lemon juice and Madeira wine.

A history of healing

Externally, the aromatic herb makes a very effective pai killer or anesthetic. Cayenne has been used in poultices for centuries as an irritant or counter-irritant. Exposure to the pungent herb can cause pain, but prolonged exposure deadens the nerves to pain.

Cayenne has also been touted as one of the most powerful cures for hemorrhoids. Application of cayenne ointment brings relief from hemorrhoids but it is also recommended that the patient be warned of the pungent herb's potency.

The Dublin Medical Press recommended in 1850 a drop or two of cayenne pepper extracts as a remedy for toothache. One hundred years later, Hungarian scientists injected capsaicin, or cayenne extract, under the skin and found that it desensitized that area to pain.

The active analgesic (pain killer) in cayenne is capsaicin. Capsaicin stimulates and then inhibits the transmission of pain from the skin and membranes. Cayenne applied to wounds acts as both an analgesic and an antibiotic. Scientific literature in Bulgaria first reported on the anti-bacterial benefits of cayenne in 1972.

A Hungarian experiment showed that cayenne inhibits the growth of several strains of bacteria. In the 1960s, Hungarian scientists discovered a saponin they named capsicidin in cayenne to which they traced the antibiotic properties of the herb.

Application of cayenne to wounds can kill bacteria, anesthetize the pain and, according to folklore, expel foreign objects. Mixing a little cayenne with plantain results in a poultice that has the power to eject foreign objects embedded in the skin, according to herb legend. Both herbal lore and scientific data affirm the power of the herb that bits back. It is the case with cayenne more than any other herb that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Daily dosage

Studies show that cayenne is most beneficial for treating a variety of ailments and maintaining overall cardiovascular health if it is taken daily as a whole herb, not an extract. With the advent of the gelatin capsule, people who could not tolerate the bite of the red pepper can take it with ease.

It is important to remember that a little cayenne goes a long way. Nature made the red pepper hot for a reason, so if you can't swallow too much outside the capsule, don't try to swallow too much inside the capsule. People show don't usually eat hot spicy food should build a tolerance slowly. Cayenne works best in concert with a healthy diet that is low in fat and high in protein and carbohydrates.

Measurements & Data Corporation.

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By Dick Quinn

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