Cayenne Pepper: Herbal Remedies


©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Cayenne peppers can be used in a variety of herbal remedies from indigestion to high blood pressure.

Are you a hot salsa or chili fan? Then you'll want to learn more about the virtues of the cayenne pepper. These ripe fruits of the Capsicum genus are widely used as a popular spice, but cayenne peppers also are dried and powdered or tinctured for medicinal purposes. In this article, you will learn some herbal remedies using cayenne pepper as well as some precautions you should take when using this fiery plant.

Uses of Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne stimulates digestion and muscle movement in the intestines, which helps restore deficient digestive secretions and aids absorption of food nutrients. (Stomach acid tends to decline with age, and some cases of poor digestion are related to a lack of this acid.)

Cayenne also stimulates circulation and blood flow to the peripheral areas of the body. Because it stimulates digestion and circulation, cayenne is often added to a wide variety of herbal remedies; it improves the absorption and circulation of the other herbs throughout the body.

Have you ever gone after the chips and salsa with gusto and then felt flushed and drippy in the nose? Cayenne warms the body and stimulates the release of mucus from the respiratory passages. Anyone who has eaten cayenne knows that hot peppers can clear the sinuses and cause sweating.

Cayenne actually can raise the body temperature a bit, as it stimulates circulation and blood flow to the skin. An herb such as cayenne or ginger that promotes fever and sweating is considered to have a diaphoretic (sweat-inducing) action. This action can help reduce fevers and relieve such the congestion of colds and sinusitis.

Cayenne has become a popular home treatment for mild high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol levels. Cayenne preparations prevent platelets from clumping together and accumulating in the blood, allowing the blood to flow more easily. Since it is thought to help improve circulation, it's often used by those who have cold hands and feet.

You can use cayenne peppers topically as a pain-relieving muscle rub and joint liniment. The source of the heat is capsaicin, the fiery phenolic resin found in most hot peppers. Capsaicin causes nerve endings to release a chemical known as substance P. Substance P transmits pain signals from the body back to the brain.

When capsaicin causes substance P to flood out of the cells, you experience a sensation of warmth or even extreme heat. When the nerve endings have lost all of their substance P, no pain signals can be transmitted to the brain until the nerve endings accumulate more substance P. For this reason, topical cayenne pepper products are popular for the treatment of arthritis, bursitis, and for temporary relief of pain from psoriasis, herpes zoster, and neuralgia (nerve pain). These cayenne preparations are most appropriate for long-standing chronic conditions, not acute inflammations.

Cayenne often is found in diet and weight-loss formulas. But can eating hot peppers really help you lose weight? Probably not, but cayenne may support your diet and exercise efforts. Because it aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients, cayenne can reduce excess appetite that is due to malabsorption, a common condition in overweight people.

In the next section, you will learn how to prepare cayenne pepper for herbal remedies and some of the potentially dangerous side effects.

To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

  • For an overview of all of our herbal remedies, go to the main Herbal Remedies page.
  • To learn more about treating medical conditions at home, visit our main Home Remedies page.
  • One of the best things you can do for your health and well being is to make sure you are getting enough of the vital nutrients your body needs. Visit our Vitamins page to learn more.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.

Preparations and Warnings for Cayenne Pepper

Like all herbs, there are some precautions you should take before using cayenne pepper medicinally.

Cayenne Pepper Preparations and Dosage

To clear a head cold and relieve sinus pain and congestion, try drinking a cup of tea made with lemon and ginger or some horseradish to which you've added a dash or two of cayenne pepper.

Cayenne Pepper Precautions and Warnings

If you've ever accidentally rubbed your eyes after cutting hot peppers, you know this herb should be handled carefully. Cayenne pills may cause a burning sensation in the throat, stomach, or rectum of sensitive individuals. Some people may tolerate cayenne fluid preparations or combination products better than tablets or capsules. Others may find cayenne pepper in the diet easier to digest than cayenne medications.

Use small, cautious doses only. Avoid getting cayenne into the eyes or open wounds. Do not use topical applications of cayenne products too frequently, as there is some concern that nerve damage could occur with daily repetitive use. Cayenne placed directly on the skin can cause burns and even blisters, so dilute a cayenne preparation in oil before placing it on the skin, or mix it with flour and water until it forms a paste, which you can spread on muslin to prepare a poultice. You also can mix cayenne with orris root powder and dust it very lightly on heavily oiled skin, working it in with massage.

Do not use cayenne in cases of high fever (104 degrees Fahrenheit or above). Cayenne preparations are not recommended for use by individuals who have rapid heart rates or who become overheated or perspire easily. Avoid internal use of cayenne in cases of asthma and gastrointestinal irritation or inflammation, except under the supervision of an experienced herbalist. Do not use cayenne on broken skin.

When cooking or making medicines with cayenne peppers, you must take into account the widely varying intensities (heat) of different peppers -- from very mild to extremely fiery. There is even considerable variance in heat of peppers from the same bush throughout the season or due to the health and size of the pepper. Always taste peppers first.Side Effects of Cayenne PepperCayenne peppers are a member of the Solanaceae, or Nightshade, family, which includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and tobacco. A very few individuals have an intolerance to this entire family, experiencing symptoms that can include joint pain after eating even a small amount of these foods. To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

  • For an overview of all of our herbal remedies, go to the main Herbal Remedies page.
  • To learn more about treating medical conditions at home, visit our main Home Remedies page.
  • One of the best things you can do for your health and well being is to make sure you are getting enough of the vital nutrients your body needs. Visit our Vitamins page to learn more.  

Jennifer Brett, N.D. is director of the Acupuncture Institute for the University of Bridgeport, where she also serves on the faculty for the College of Naturopathic Medicine. A recognized leader in her field with an extensive background in treating a wide variety of disorders utilizing nutritional and botanical remedies, Dr. Brett has appeared on WABC TV (NYC) and on Good Morning America to discuss utilizing herbs for health.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.