The Herbs Section
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Cayenne, or Capsicum annuum (Latin), also known as hot pepper, chili pepper, paprika, and red pepper, is an effective remedy for muscular tension, rheumatism, and digestive ailments.
Capsaicin is the active ingredient in Cayenne. Capsaicin dulls pain sensations by interrupting the chemical messages sent to pain-sensing nerves. Over-the-counter topical creams, such as Zostrix and Dolorac, contain capsaicin as an active ingredient. These applications are used to relieve pain caused by muscle spasms, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, shingles, diabetic neuropathy, and even phantom pain caused by amputation. Capsaicin creams must be applied regularly in order to provide relief.
Cayenne can also be taken orally, and is available in both capsules and tinctures. There is evidence that cayenne supplements can relieve cluster headaches, heartburn, and indigestion, and even promote weight loss. Oral doses of cayenne have also been used to treat menstrual cramps, loss of appetite, diarrhea, alcoholism, and seasickness.
Strangely enough, despite its spicy flavor, cayenne actually helps lower body temperature by stimulating the region of the brain responsible for cooling the body. Perhaps this is part of the reason hot peppers are so prevalent in the cuisines of countries that have a hot climate. Cayenne’s ability to make the body more heat resistant has made it a popular folk treatment for fever, including malarial and yellow fevers.
Capsaicin in cayenne is being studied for its ability to prevent cardiovascular disease, including hardening of the arteries, stroke, and heart disease. It is thought that cayenne helps reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, thus promoting a healthy vascular system. Capsaicin is also a natural expectorant, and helps thin mucus, allowing you to expel it more easily. For this reason capsaicin is often included in home remedies for cough, and can be helpful when combined with other medicines as a treatment for pneumonia.
If you take too much capsaicin for extended periods of time you could develop chronic stomach problems, kidney damage, liver damage, or nerve problems; so be sure to follow the dosage recommendations on the bottle, or the recommendations of your physician. Do not apply capsaicin creams close to the eyes, mucous membranes, or areas of broken skin, and follow the instructions on the packaging here as well—overdoing it on the cream can cause skin inflammation, blisters, and ulcers.
Cayenne is available in fresh and dried forms, as a liquid extract, in 450-milligram capsules, and in creams and ointments containing 0.025 and 0.075 percent capsaicin.
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