Botanical Name(s):

Capsicum annuum, C. frutescens, C. minimum. Family: Solanaceae

Other Name(s):

African chili, chili, hot pepper, Louisiana long pepper or sport pepper, paprika, red chili, spur pepper, tabasco pepper

General Description:

Cayenne is a hot spice commonly used in cooking. Bell pepper and paprika are the mild varieties of this pepper.

Topically, cayenne is an effective pain reliever. It contains capsaicin, which is used in ointment form to relieve pain. Ointments made from cayenne stop muscle and joint pain by "confusing" pain transmitters and blocking pain messages from the skin. When taken orally, capsaicin may be a stomach stimulant. Cayenne also contains carotene molecules, which have powerful antioxidant effects. Cayenne is also reported to help digestion, improve circulation and reduce cholesterol and blood fat levels.

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Medically Valid Uses:

Cayenne is commonly used as a:

  • Topical analgesic (desensitizes local nerves decreasing pain associated with conditions such as post-herpetic neuralgia caused by shingles)

  • Diaphoretic (promotes sweating)

  • Sialagogue (increases the flow of saliva)

  • Rubefacient (increases surface blood flow when applied to the skin)

Unsubstantiated Claims:

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Cayenne pepper is claimed to play a role in the circulatory system and may help regulate blood flow, improve circulation, alleviate symptoms of Raynaud's disease (by improving circulation), enliven a specific organ or the entire body and strengthen the heart, arteries, capillaries and nerves. Cayenne is also claimed to stimulate appetite, act as a tonic to promote proper functioning of the the digestive system, stop bleeding from ulcers and alleviate flatulent dyspepsia.

In the respiratory system, cayenne possibly helps break up congestion associated with bronchitis. Cayenne may also help to prevent infections and ailments such as colds and chills, sinus infections and sore throats. As a gargle, cayenne can be used for laryngitis, working well in combination with myrrh.

Applied externally, cayenne is thought to reduce pain associated with toothache, lumbago, arthritis and rheumatism.

Dosing Format:

Cayenne is available in many forms: as an ointment, oil or entire plant, in dried fruits, and crushed or powdered. It is better preserved when stored in a sealed, light-resistant container.

The fruit is the part of the plant that is used. It should be harvested when fully ripe, removed from the calyx, and then dried in the shade.

For external use, follow packaging instructions. Apply on an area for a maximum of two days. Allow 14 days before starting a new application on the same area. Longer use in the same area may damage sensitive nerves.

Side Effects, Toxicity and Interactions:

Excessive consumption of pepper that has capsaicin as the active ingredient can cause acute gastritis and, in some cases, hemorrhagic gastritis. Avoid contact with mucous membranes, especially the eyes. In rare cases, urticaria or skin irritation can occur.

Do not use cayenne if you have an active gastric or duodenal ulcer, diverticulitis or irritable bowel syndrome.

Do not apply cayenne to injured skin. People who are allergic to cayenne should not use it.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should consult a physician before using any herbal medications.

Additional Information:

Click here for a list of reputable Web sites with general information on nutrition.


  1. Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C, eds. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 1998.

  2. Blumenthal M, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Rister RS, eds. German Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; 1997.

  3. The US Department of Agriculture publications.

  4. Robbers JE, Tyler VE. Tyler's Herbs of Choice: The therapeutic use of phytomedicinals. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press, 1999.

  5. Dr. Duke's phytochemical and ethnobotanical databases. Agricultural research service, Duke University.

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