Know Your Medicinal Herbs: Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is thought to originate within the Cayenne region of French Guiana. It comes from a small fruited pepper plant, of the capsicum annuum genus, and the orange to deep red fruit is dried and ground down for its spicy flavor. Yet it is also appreciated for the benefits of the chemical within, capsaicin. Capsaicin carries many health benefits, particularly when it comes to treatment of certain types of pain. In fact, certain groups, including Native Americans, have used cayenne for both food and medicine for thousands of years.  
 
When used as a pain relief agent, cayenne is used to create a paste or cream that is applied to areas of pain on the body, such as pulled muscles or sore joints. It is thought to reduce the pain messages sent to the brain when applied topically, thus easing the intensity of pain. The capsaicin in the cayenne pepper is often recommended for pain associated with osteoarthritis, nerve pain, such as that caused by shingles, as well as for lower back and shoulder pain.  
 
For digestive health, cayenne boosts the immunity within the stomach to protect against infections, as well as aid in the process of digestion. And while many believe that the spice can trigger stomach ulcers, studies have actually shown the opposite. Cayenne can prevent the development of ulcers.  
 
Another interesting effect of cayenne is that it can reduce the appetite. When used in food, it is shown to increase the feeling of fullness and satiety, and people tend to eat less throughout the day when their meals contain cayenne. Those taking capsaicin supplements end up consuming approximately 10% fewer calories overall. It’s believed that this is due to the capsaicin contained within the cayenne pepper.  
 
While reasonable portions of cayenne are beneficial, take care not to overindulge. Too much capsaicin can cause skin irritation, as well as heartburn when ingested in large quantities. For many people, they achieve the most benefit from consuming cayenne as a supplement, rather than through eating the pepper itself. No matter how you choose to incorporate cayenne pepper into your diet, always check with your doctor when determining the proper portion or method of delivery.