Cayenne (Capiscum minimum)

Cayenne is a slender hot pepper in the Solanaceae, or nightshade family, that grows a small perennial plant about 2 feet in height. It is a cultivar of Capiscum annuum. It grows best in hot, tropical climates with well drained, sandy, nutrient rich soil slightly on the acidic side in full sun. From seed, these peppers need about 3 months to mature for harvest; their bright red color is an indicator of ripeness. They can be hung to to dry and stored whole or powdered.

Medicinal Uses
Cayenne is a stimulant, tonic, carminative, sialagogue, rubefacient, antiseptic, and alterative. It’s great for breaking winter colds, sinus and chest congestion, infections, and inflammations. It’s a warming herb that can also enhance the properties of other herbs used with it in recipes and preparations. Cayenne is very high in Vitamin A and C, along with many other trace nutrients, and capsaicin, the active constituent in cayenne, dilates the blood vessels and speeds up metabolism, increasing the blood and oxygen flow to the major organs and regulating blood flow. In doing this, it strengthens and tones the heart, major arteries and capillaries as well as the nerves. Studies show it reduces blood pressure, strengthens and tones the liver and digestive system, and promotes healthy mucus production in the internal organs. It is useful for encouraging blood flow to the extremities, especially in conditions of chronic coldness, and can be used topically in salves and rubs in small amounts to ease pain and increase heat. Capsaicin ointment is also shown to provide relief from shingles and psoriasis. It can help laryngitis as a gargle when combined with myrrh. Although cayenne can be used to expel colds and excess mucus from the body, it can also aggravate inflammatory conditions if it’s used too often.

Folk Uses
It is named for the city of Cayenne in French Guiana and is sometimes referred to as the “Guinea Pepper”. It’s used culinarily throughout Asia, especially in Korea, Thailand, and Szechuan, China, and is the primary ingredient in many chili sauces worldwide. It is also thought to be an aphrodisiac. The Caribe indigenous first introduced it to the western world when Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Hispañola in search of spices. This plant was mistakenly called pepper, because of the hot flavoring that it shares with black pepper, which explorers were in search of. It is the Portuguese who are responsible for bringing cayenne to the rest of the world from its native South America.

A ten minute infusion of 1/2-1 teaspoon of cayenne per cup of water, drunk when needed, or .25-1 ml of tincture, three times a day or as needed.A great winter tea tonic to take is lemon-ginger tea with cayenne and raw honey. It’s best if you boil the ginger root for about 15 minutes as a decoction, then take off the heat add in the fresh lemon juice, and stir in the raw honey and a pinch of cayenne. It’s important to note that heating honey is not advised in the aryuvedic tradition – this creates “ama”, or toxins, because the heat destroys the enzymes found in raw honey, and renders the honey and wax it into a form that is very slow to digest, essentially glueing up your insides. Adding honey to hot drinks is not even advisable, but this is such a good tonic that I think adding the raw honey to the drink when it is at a drinkable temperature is the way to go.

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