Few herbs have the versatility for human use as does the common chili pepper, or Capsicum frutescens. The capsicum plant is a small, spreading shrub that originated in tropical America but is now widely cultivated throughout the world, including in the United States. The small red fruit owes its stinging pungency to a chemical called capsaicin, which comprises about 12 percent of the pepper and was isolated by chemists more than a century ago. If the word capsaicin looks familiar, it’s likely because you’ve seen it advertised as an ingredient in many drugstore ointments used to relieve arthritis and muscle pains. Registered patent names such as Capsaizin P and Zostrix contain the chili pepper ingredient.
The Indians of the American tropics cultivated the chili pepper for centuries for both its culinary and medicinal uses. The plant makes its first appearance in Western literature in 1494, when it captured the imagination and pen of a physician named Diego Alvarez Chanca, who accompanied Columbus on his second voyage to the West Indies. Today many world pharmacopoeias (official drug lists) include cayenne or capsicum, and the American Physicians Desk Reference includes several prescription drugs that contain it.
Here are some ways that you can use this powerful and very useful herb in your home.
Relieve Muscle Pain
1 tablespoon cayenne powder (from your garden or grocery store)
1 tablespoon wormwood (from garden or herb store)
1 tablespoon tansy flower (from garden or herb store)
8 ounces vinegar
Combine ingredients. Warm gently to dissolve the powders, then cool and strain through cheesecloth. Next, add a 1/2 ounce of spirits of camphor and 8 ounces of turpentine to the herbal/vinegar mixture. You now have a super liniment. Its secret is in its potency as a rubefacient, or substance that stimulates the blood flow to the surface of the skin.
Ease Coughs and Congestion
Cayenne is a good expectorant and can be used to relieve coughs and to break up congestion.
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
Combine ingredients. Sweeten to taste with a little honey. Take a tablespoon and you’ll soon be breathing easier.
Lower Blood Pressure
Research has shown capsaicin to be an effective antihypertensive (blood pressure reducing) agent.
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 cup hot water
Mix and drink. If this cayenne cocktail is too pungent for you, try taking your capsicum in capsule form. Purchase some empty gelatin capsules at a pharmacy (size 00) and fill them with cayenne powder. Take two of these capsules daily.
Lighten Menstrual Flow
Cayenne is also an effective bleeding regulator and so has become a timehonored remedy for reducing excessive menstrual flow.
1/8 teaspoon of cayenne1 cup warm water
Mix and drink.
Millions of people suffer from ulcers. While modern medical research has shown that antibiotic therapy is effective for treating many cases, you can get some relief from the pain by mixing a teaspoon of cayenne in a cup of hot water and drinking. For those who were raised with the milk and cream approach to treating ulcers (which, incidentally, doesn’t work), the idea of hot chili peppers probably sounds horrendous. Yet both experience and research has shown this to be an effective pain reliever. Several studies conducted in Brazil and Thailand have found no higher incidence of stomach ulcers among their pepper-fond populations. Nor do hot peppers aggravate or cause hemorrhoids, as has often been claimed, since capsaicinoids are broken down before they reach the lower intestine.
From Head to Toe
But we’re not finished yet. If cayenne is effective against aching muscles, cold congestion, high blood pressure, excessive menstrual bleeding and ulcer pain, what else can it possibly help?
Think feet. Standing for long stretches can leave your “dogs barking,” as the saying goes. To relieve aching feet, try placing some cayenne powder inside your socks before putting them on. It’ll stimulate blood circulation, which will do wonders to relieve that tired feeling.