Health Benefits of Cayenne: The Burning Balm

It may surprise you to know that the very ingredient that makes your Friday night chili an adventure has also been documented as a powerful medicine for more than a thousand years. Learn all about the benefits of cayenne, including medicinal recipes.

| August/September 1999

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


3/14/2011 10:25:24 PM

Cayenne Pepper is great for so many things! Glad to see this confirmation on your site. We grow it fresh in our garden, dry it and grind it for our own use on the farm.

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