Cayenne pepper (Capsicum annuum), is a variety of red chilli pepper, and not a pepper as mistakenly believed: even if it is often used in powder, in fact, it is still a chopped chilli pepper. Its name derives from the native city of this type of chilli, the city of Cayenne in French Guyana. Cayenne pepper is a variety produced mainly in the United States, where it is used for the preparation of spicy sauces, but the Cayenne pepper is also cultivated in Asia, Africa and some European countries, including Italy. In addition to flavoring meals, this particular chilli pepper performs a series of beneficial actions for our body: it is a natural anti-inflammatory and painkiller, it promotes digestion, it helps to lose weight (as it stimulates the metabolism), and it is a healthy panacea for heart and arteries. But let's discover more!
Characteristics and benefits of Cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, a substance that gives it its typical spicy flavor and it has important analgesic properties. It is also rich in vitamin A, vitamin B6, C and E, as well as mineral salts such as potassium, calcium and manganese. It is widely used in herbal medicine thanks to the natural oxidants it is rich in: in addition to capsaicin, there are also flavonoids and lycopene. But let's see specifically what are the characteristics of this beneficial pepper.
Cayenne pepper promotes digestion: Cayenne pepper plays a tonic and stimulating action that helps to promote digestion, acting on the metabolism of foods. In spite of its spicy flavor, this chilli pepper is also useful for the healing of gastric and duodenal ulcers, as it would promote the reconstruction of the stomach tissues, and it also helps to eliminate intestinal gas: it stimulates peristalsis facilitating the emission of air.
Cayenne pepper provides an anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving action: Cayenne pepper, mainly thanks to capsaicin, is a natural anti-inflammatory and painkiller useful in case of headaches, backaches, arthritis, muscular pains and toothaches. Cayenne pepper also has a thermoregulatory action: it stimulates sweating and promotes healing in the case of a cold or flu, and it is an excellent decongestant and antiseptic useful to fight sore throat and cough.
Cayenne pepper is useful in case of hypertension and high cholesterol: the Cayenne pepper also helps to improve circulation by lowering levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides in the blood, keeping the arteries clean and preventing cardiovascular system diseases. Cayenne pepper is also useful in cases of hypertension as it is able to lower blood pressure, as well as free blood from harmful toxins to the heart.
Cayenne pepper helps to lose weight and accelerates the metabolism: the Cayenne pepper stimulates the metabolism favoring thermogenesis, a process through which body heat is generated starting from fat. For this reason its consumption can be useful in a weight loss diet: it helps to lose weight and, thanks to capsaicin, it reduces the sense of hunger.
Cayenne pepper is an excellent diuretic also useful against cellulite: thanks to its diuretic action, the Cayenne pepper promotes the elimination of toxins through the expulsion of liquids. Furthermore, its vasodilatory action, promoting peripheral circulation, helps to fight cellulite, improving microcirculation.
Cayenne pepper would help to prevent cancer: capsaicin would also help to prevent some types of cancer such as lung cancer or liver cancer, thanks to its anti-tumor properties that make it useful in the fight against cancer cells.
How to use Cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper can be used both fresh and dried as a condiment or as an herbal remedy. You can buy it fresh in the nurseries and at the supermarket, while you can find the dried one both at the supermarket in the spice department and in herbalist’s shops. But let's see how to use it.
Uses in the kitchen
The Cayenne pepper was one of the staples of the Mayan and Aztec cuisine that immediately understood its healthy characteristics. Cayenne pepper is often used for the preparation of a spicy flavored oil which is prepared by macerating the peppers in extra virgin olive oil, in a dark place for about two weeks. Cayenne pepper oil is then used as a condiment to give flavor to different dishes. The Cayenne powder, which is obtained by mincing the dried red peppers, is used as a spicy seasoning to flavor meat, fishes, sauces, legumes and vegetables, and it is often used in a mix of spices together with paprika, white pepper and black pepper, and herbs.
Cayenne pepper is used in herbal medicine as a herbal remedy in the form of essential oil, extract powder or ointments. In case of backache, joint and muscle pains, you can apply a ointment made of Cayenne pepper to relieve the pain. You can also prepare it at home by mixing 3 tablespoons of cayenne powder with a cup of oil. Heat in a bain-marie and add the beeswax.
In case of toothache, try to dab the painful area with a cotton ball soaked in warm water and cayenne pepper to feel immediate relief.
Cayenne pepper, consumed in excessive amounts, can cause diarrhea or other intestinal symptoms if swallowed, or skin irritations if applied to the skin. Consumption is not recommended in case of allergy to the components of the plant, and in case of hypertension, gastritis, hemorrhoids but also during lactation and in children under the age of 4 years.