Cayenne Pepper (Capsicum frutescens)

Cayenne is a hot pepper which has had a long history of use in herbology. Its active ingredient is capsaicin. When taken internally it can warm the body, raise metabolism, improve weak digestion and increase circulation.

When used topically in prepared products standardized for capsaicin activity (0.025-0.075%), it temporarily depletes substance P, required for pain signal transmission. The cream is typically applied to the painful area(s) tidqid. Besides causing a mild burning for the first few applications (or severe burning if accidentally placed in sensitive areas, such as the eyes), there are no side effects from use of the capsaicin cream. As with anything applied to the skin, some people may have an allergic reaction to the cream, so the first application should be to a very small area of skin. When using cayenne, wash your hands before touching your eyes. Use cayenne only on unbroken skin; if irritation occurs, discontinue use.

It sometimes takes more than a day or two for the benefit to kick in, which is when the burning sensation stops. So spending a little more time building up a tolerance to the burning sensation might be one way to make the discomfort a bit more bearable. It takes something with true detergent action to get this material off your skin — a mild baby shampoo or dish liquid is your best bet — and a wipe-down with rubbing alcohol won’t hurt either. If you can tolerate it on your skin for at least 15 minutes you will get some benefit even if you have to wash it off later.

Very high intake of cayenne internally may inflame ulcers instead of treating them, but this amount is difficult to achieve with sensible intake. People with ulcers, heartburn, or gastritis should use any cayenne-containing product cautiously as it may worsen their condition. It is interesting to note that ulcers have been treated with cayenne.

Cayenne often contains 40,000 heat units per capsule of 450mg. A typical dose is 1-2 capsules (tincture 5-15 drops) 2 or 3 times daily before meals.

 


Cayenne Pepper (Capsicum frutescens) can help with the following

Circulation  


 

Increased Risk of Stroke

Cayenne reduces platelet aggregation (makes the blood less likely to clot) and thus may reduce the risk of clotting strokes.



 


Digestion  

Hydrochloric Acid Deficiency

Capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne, is believed to assist digestion by stimulating the flow of both salvia and stomach secretions. One or two capsules of cayenne pepper taken before meals stimulates hunger also.



 

Dyspepsia / Poor Digestion

A few sources have recommended cayenne pepper as a potential treatment for dyspepsia, gastritis and even peptic ulcer, most modern herbal texts suggest avoiding the herb in persons with these conditions. A small clinical trial suggests that cayenne may be beneficial in some persons with functional dyspepsia. Approximately 850mg of cayenne powder in a capsule was given 3 times per day just before meals (0.7mg capsaicin per gram). [NEJM 2002;346: pp.947-48]



Hormones  

Hypothyroidism

See link between Hypothyroidism and Ginger.



Infections  

Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Capsaicin used topically may benefit sufferers of postherpetic neuralgia. Capsaicin cream is also called capsicum cream. It is available in drug stores, health food stores, and online. A typical dosage is 0.025% capsaicin cream applied two to four times a day. The benefit may take several weeks to develop.



 

Sinusitis

Cayenne may have some supportive activity as an antimicrobial to help control infections such as sinusitis.



 

Chronic / Hidden Infection

Cayenne may have some benefit as an antimicrobial to help control infections in general.



 

Pneumonia

Cayenne may have some supportive activity as an antimicrobial to help control infections such as pneumonia.



Inflammation  


Metabolic  

Headaches, Cluster

Capsiacin cream has a significant success rate reported from one study where three applications (in a liquid form) per day were placed in the nose on the affected side. A significant downside must be that cayenne pepper in the nose has to hurt!



Musculo-Skeletal  

Osteoarthritis

Topically for pain control only.



 

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Topically for pain control only.



Nervous System  

Trigeminal Neuralgia / Facial Pain

Capsaicin has been used to treat atypical facial pain, especially when a specific pain “trigger point” (a place, if touched, causes or exacerbates facial pain) is involved. Capsaicin is applied directly to this “trigger point” several times a day. If the trigger point is inside the mouth, a plastic dental splint is used to apply the capsaicin cream. If the trigger point is on the face, it is topically applied. In some cases, pain reduction only occurs after several weeks of application. There is anecdotal evidence that a course of capsaicin treatment can result in long-term pain remission for some patients with atypical facial pain.

Capsaicin is not considered a standard treatment for TN although at least one article in the literature indicates that it may be useful in treating trigeminal neuralgia. An ointment containing capsaicin was applied over the painful area tid. Six of 12 patients had complete pain relief, 4 patients reported a decrease in pain, and 2 patients reported no benefit. [Anesthesia and Analgesia 74: pp.375-377, 1992]



Organ Health  

Diabetes Type II

Cayenne used topically may benefit diabetic neuropathy. However, using it orally can improve circulation in the extremities and help lower blood sugar – two good reasons for using this seasoning in diabetes. Two to four capsules with meals is recommended.



Respiratory  

Asthma

Capsaicin, cayenne pepper’s major active component, induces long-lasting desensitization of airway linings to various mechanical and chemical irritants. This effect is probably due to capsaicin-induced depletion of substance P in the respiratory tract nerves. The respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts contain neurons which have large numbers of substance P receptors. Depletion of substance P may be desirable in asthma.



Skin-Hair-Nails  

Cold Hands and Feet

In cold climates, cayenne powder can be used topically as well as internally. One-eighth of a teaspoon sprinkled into each shoe and/or glove acts to help the body generate heat. Water-soluble components in cayenne dilate capillaries in the skin surface, producing an immediate sensation of heat. Within 15 minutes, oil-soluble compounds reach deeper tissues, generating warmth for hours.



 

Psoriasis

In a double blind study, application of a capsaicin cream to the skin helped relieve both the itching and the skin lesions in people with psoriasis.



Key

May do some good
Likely to help

Glossary

Metabolism

The chemical processes of living cells in which energy is produced in order to replace and repair tissues and maintain a healthy body. Responsible for the production of energy, biosynthesis of important substances, and degradation of various compounds.

TID

Three times a day.

QID

Four times a day.

Ulcer

Lesion on the skin or mucous membrane.

Gastritis

Inflammation of the stomach lining. White blood cells move into the wall of the stomach as a response to some type of injury; this does not mean that there is an ulcer or cancer - it is simply inflammation, either acute or chronic. Symptoms depend on how acute it is and how long it has been present. In the acute phase, there may be pain in the upper abdomen, nausea and vomiting. In the chronic phase, the pain may be dull and there may be loss of appetite with a feeling of fullness after only a few bites of food. Very often, there are no symptoms at all. If the pain is severe, there may be an ulcer as well as gastritis.

Milligram

(mg): 1/1,000 of a gram by weight.

Tincture

An alcohol or water-alcohol solution, usually referring to a preparation from herbal materials.

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