Cayenne Benefits

Cayenne
Latin Name

Capsicum annuum

Also Known As

Capcaisin, Guinea spice, Cow Horn Pepper, Aleva Pepper, Bird Pepper

Origin

North and South America

Parts Used

Fruit including seeds

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

As one of the oldest cultivated foods in the world, Cayenne Peppers have enjoyed over 10,000 years as a medicinal and culinary spice. Archaeological excavations have revealed that cave dwelling humans from circa 7,000 BCE were eating peppers.

Cayenne is also one of the staple foods of the Hunza people – a civilisation from the Hunza Valley, situated in a remote pristine area in the north of Pakistan, famed for their optimum health and longevity.

Cayenne Benefits

Digestive Health/Gut Health

The first element to healthy digestion is saliva production. This is stimulated by Cayenne pepper which enables the digestive system to break down food and lubricates the throat, stomach and intestinal tract, encouraging smoother digestion.

Cayenne also enhances enzyme production and gastric juices in the gut which boosts nutrient absorption and increases the body’s ability to break down protein, carbohydrates and fats.

This fiery pepper fights the overgrowth of Candida albicans, a yeast that is necessary to the gut, but one that commonly gets out of control. When the microbiome is compromised and the good bacteria is depleted (say from a course of antibiotics), Candida can spread through the intestines and penetrate the gut lining which can cause detrimental autoimmune responses and release toxic by-products into the bloodstream. Fortunately, Cayenne kills Candida by disrupting their cell walls – a property that is attributed to a compound known as CAY-1.

With regard to peptic ulcers, research shows that Cayenne firstly helps to numb the pain by acting as a local anaesthetic. It can also staunch the bleeding caused by the ulcer, thereby reducing its severity.

Healthy Weight Loss

Famously used by celebrities to get in shape for the red carpet, Cayenne is a powerful natural ingredient for weight loss, able to stimulate metabolism, act as an appetite suppressant and melt fat. Cayenne contains the phytochemical "capsaicin" which is responsible for the heat in this fiery spice. It works by binding to the neuroreceptors which increase calcium influx, triggering a host of cellular responses such as increasing the levels of antioxidant enzymes and decreasing pro-inflammatory protein expression. This in turn helps to flush out toxins and increase the metabolic rate.

Studies show that adding Cayenne pepper to meals promotes thermogenesis (the way our bodies convert food into fuel), which further boosts metabolism and increases feelings of satiety whilst curbing the impulse to eat more after a meal. Another phytochemical found in Cayenne is "dihydrocapsiate" which has been found by scientists to increase metabolism by around 50 calories per day.

Many studies show that Cayenne also reduces hunger, with one study finding that it reduces the production of the hormone “ghrelin”. The people taking Cayenne supplements ate 10 percent less than the control group, whilst subjects drinking a beverage containing Cayenne ate 16 percent less.

Natural Pain Relief

Cayenne is one of the most studied plants for pain relief due to its multiple pain blocking actions. The phytochemical capsaicin has been found to block the TRPV1 neurotransmitter, which is one of the body’s pain messengers and by blocking this nerve, desensitisation occurs. A 2016 review of the use of Cayenne to treat pain concluded that it may have benefits as a long-term analgesia, without incurring other sensory changes.

Cayenne is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, making it an excellent topical remedy for joint pain. It has also been found to reduce the amount of something known as “substance P”, a neuropeptide that is produced by the body and travels to the brain to signal pain. By decreasing this substance, pain signals can no longer reach the brain, thus feelings of pain decrease.

Heart Health

According to a study done in Thailand in the 1970s, "Cayenne prevents heart attacks and strokes before they happen by lowering the fibrin in your blood, so blood clots can't form" - more modern research appears to back this up.

Zhen-Yu Chen, Ph.D, professor of Food and Nutritional Science at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, conducted extensive research on Cayenne in 2012. The team found that capsaicin and a close chemical relative boost heart health in two ways. They lower cholesterol levels by reducing accumulation of cholesterol in the body, increasing its breakdown and excretion in the faeces. They also block the action of a gene (cyclooxygenase-2), that makes arteries contract, restricting the flow of blood to the heart and other organs. This blocking action allows more blood to flow through blood vessels. He said, “Our research has reinforced and expanded knowledge about how these substances in chillis work in improving heart health. We now have a clearer and more detailed portrait of their innermost effects on genes and other mechanisms that influence cholesterol and the health of blood vessels. It is among the first research to provide that information.”

Typical Use

Tincture:
Take 1 - 3 ml up to 3 times a day.

Folklore and History

Capsicums were originally native to the Americas where they have been eaten for millennia. They are one of the oldest cultivated crops of the native Americans, who have been farming them since 5200 BCE.

By the time the Americas were invaded by the Europeans, the resident ruling Aztecs were mixing Capsicums with Cacao to make an exclusive regal treat. Capsicums went on to be introduced to Europe and the east, where they got the name 'pepper' because of their similarly pungent and spicy flavours to peppercorns, which at the time were so valuable they were used as currency in some places.

Their medicinal properties were documented in western herbalism in 1597 and they were prescribed as a remedy for skin and throat problems. By the 1800's they were being used in western medicine for the treatment of a variety of ailments.

By the 20th century, Capsicums had made their way into various medical dictionaries, materia medica and pharmacopoeia. They are a popular ingredient in a vast number of culinary recipes as well as many therapeutic preparations. However they are still used and produced in their greatest numbers by the tropical and sub-tropical Americas where they originate from.

Cayenne
Constituents

Capsaicin; carotenoids; saponins (capsicidins); flavonoids; phenolic compound; volatile oil.

Precautions

Topical applications:
May cause inflammation or some sort of reddening or burning at the site of application – stop applying.
May also cause a sustained loss of feeling at the site of application – seek medical attention.

Taken internally:
Sickness, flatulence, heartburn, sweats, running nose & watering eyes, or diarrhoea may occur.