How 'bout cayenne pepper?

Cayenne peppersCayenne pepper is an extremely hot, yet tasty and versatile spice.  The bite comes from the active ingredient capsaicin.  With a beautiful crimson color and high heat, it is sure to add flare to any dish you are planning to cook.  But cayenne pepper is more than just a heat maker.  This spice has a plethora of uses that not even your orthodox medical practitioner can argue with.   

History of Cayenne Pepper            

Cayenne pepper has been used in Mexico, South America, and the West Indies for thousands of years.  Capsicum annuum is its botanical name.  When the pepper was discovered by the Spanish, it was eventually introduced into Africa, Asian, Indian, and European cuisines.  It has now become one of the most popular spices in the world.  It can grow in most any climate, but most loves the nutrient-rich soils of moist climates.  It has been used for its flavor, its medicinal purposes, and as decoration.

Considerations for Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is actually quite spicy.  It has a 7 out of 10 rating for spiciness, which means it is 30,000 – 50,000 Scoville Units.  To give you an idea of what that means, jalapeno, chipotle, and poblano peppers are only about 2,500 – 5,000 Scoville Units, serrano peppers are about 5,000 – 15,000 Scoville Units, and habanera peppers are roughly 100,000 – 350,000 Scoville Units.  That means cayenne peppers can really pack a punch.  The nice thing about cayenne pepper is that it usually comes in powdered form, providing the flexibility to make any dish as mild or as spicy as you want!

Home Remedies and Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Pepper has been used for thousands of years as not just a spice but a medicine. 

~Stomach ailments~

The ancient peoples of Peru and Guatemala used cayenne pepper as a cure for many types of stomach ailments.   You would think because cayenne pepper is so spicy that it would cause heartburn.  For most people, however, cayenne pepper has the opposite effect. Modern research suggests that cayenne pepper not only reduces heartburn, but can help people who have ulcers.  I suppose the Mayans were on to something!

~Cardiovascular Health~

Capsaicin is a vasodilator, which means that it enlarges the space (the lumen) in the blood vessels so that blood can flow more easily.  Vasodilation promotes several physiological effects, including relief from headaches and pain, as well as improvement in overall vascular health.

~Cayenne Pepper for Pain and Inflammation~

Capsaicin, when applied topically, has shown very promising results in patients with neurological pain, such as phantom limb and HIV neuropathy.  The Capsaicin found in cayenne peppers also has strong anti-inflammatory effects.

~Cayenne Pepper for Weight Loss~

While eating cayenne pepper won’t magically turn you into a model, the heat it produces in your body does mean you are burning a few extra calories.

~Cayenne Pepper for Cough Suppressant~

Cough keeping you up all night?  Mix a dash of cayenne pepper with a tablespoon of honey and melt that in with your favorite tea or a glass of warm water.  Sip on that for a while and your cough should subside enough to help you get to sleep.  I tried this last January when I had a really bad cold accompanied by a horrible cough.  Sure enough, it worked!

~Cayenne Pepper as an All-Natural Pet Repellent~

Cat chewing on your house plants?  Dog getting in your garden?  Well, a little bit of cayenne pepper sprinkled in these areas is a great way to ensure your pet will not try again (unless, of course, you have a very stubborn animal).  Cayenne Pepper is non-toxic to both your pet and your plants.  Our cat used to chew on a piece of fraying carpet in our old apartment.  My husband put a little cayenne pepper in the area and, after a few sneezes, he never chew again!  Just be careful not to put tons of the spice in a very concentrated area because it could burn your pet’s paws of nose.  The trick is to just make it uncomfortable for them when they enter the restricted area.

Precautions when using Cayenne Pepper

While cayenne pepper has many fine qualities, you have to be careful with a few things.  First off, you want to be careful when handling this pepper, even in its powder form.  If you’re sprinkling it out of a bottle,  you have less to worry about, just don’t handle large amounts of it for an extended period of time without wearing some hand protection. Like most hot peppers, cayenne pepper can burn your skin.  You also have to be very careful not to rub cayenne pepper in your eyes after handling it.  While you won’t go blind you will be in a lot of pain, and there is little you can do about it (cayenne pepper is what they use to make pepper spray with).  Make sure you wash your hands (and under your fingernails) after handling it.  Also, you want to keep cayenne pepper away from intense, direct heat.  Heating peppers brings out more flavor, but heating them too much can create fumes that will make you cough uncontrollably.  Truth me, it’s really bad.  My husband and I learned the hard way.  Being aware of the fumes is especially important if you have asthma or other lung problems.  Lastly, what goes in spicy will come out spicy.  You have been warned!

Cayenne Pepper Nutrition Highlights (%DV = percent of daily value)

In 1 tbsp:

  • Calories 17
  • Vitamin A 44% DV
  • Vitamin C 6% DV
  • Iron 2% DV
  • Vitamin B-6 5%  DV
  • Magnesium 2% DV           

Cayenne Pepper In the Kitchen

  • Use these spicy peppers on sweet potato cubes sautéed in grass-fed butter.  The sweet and spicy combination gives way to a very savory dish.
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper on deviled eggs will certainly spice up any party.
  • Use cayenne pepper instead of black pepper to add variety to you usual cusine.
  • Add cayenne pepper to chili of soup to make it even hotter.
  • Mix in cayenne pepper with your chicken, tuna, or egg salad.
  • And, don’t forget to experiment! 

REFERENCES: Home cooking with Hot ChilisRed Pepper Encyclopedia; David M. Simpson, MD,  Stephen Brown, MD, Jeffrey Tobias, MD; Controlled trial of high-concentration capsaicin patch for treatment of painful HIV neuropath; Neurology June 10, 2008 vol. 70 no. 24 2305-2313; USDA

Originally posted 2013-09-24 12:30:45.

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