||Cayenne [Paprika] (English)|
frutescens/Capsicum spp. (Botanical)
Cayenne, also known as red pepper, was first introduced to the world by the
Caribbean Indians, who gave it to Columbus. Since then its popularity has
spread, and it has become an important spice particularly in Cajun and Creole
cooking, and in the cuisines of southeast Asia, China, southern Italy, and
Mexico. Capsaicin is the most important ingredient in cayenne and gives it its
spiciness. Although spiciness is associated with heat, capsaicin stimulates a
section of the hypothalamus which effectively lowers body temperature. Natives
of subtropical and tropical climates consume it regularly because it helps them
tolerate the heat. As well as being an important spice in many ethnic cuisines,
cayenne has many important medicinal properties, including supporting and
stimulating the cardiovascular system, acting as a long-lasting topical
analgesic, improving digestion, and acting as an expectorant, antioxidant, and
antibacterial. Cayenne is very beneficial for the cardiovascular system. A study
done on natives of Thailand, who ingest cayenne every day in their meals, shows
that they have much lower rates of cardiovascular disease than Americans.
Cayenne lowers levels of blood cholesterol. It helps prevent blood clots as
well. These properties greatly reduce the likelihood of developing
The capsaicin in cayenne has very powerful analgesic properties when applied
topically. It works primarily by decreasing pain transmitters in the body,
making it an excellent solution for the pain caused by postherpetic neuralgia,
diabetic neuropathy, toothache and trigeminal neuralgia, postmastectomy and
other surgical trauma or stump pain, headaches, psoriasis, and osteoarthritis
and rheumatoid arthritis. Capsaicin also reduces inflammation in joint tissues,
which aggravates arthritic conditions. Use of capsaicin-laced taffy to relieve
mouth pain from chemotherapy and radiation has been very effective.
Cayenne stimulates saliva and stomach secretions which promotes digestion.
Its antibacterial power also fights infection in the gastrointestinal tract and
can relieve infectious diarrhea. As an expectorant, it thins mucus and helps
move it out of the respiratory tract, making it helpful for emphysema. Its
strong antioxidants also protect lung tissue from cellular
Shrubby, tropical perennial. Can grow up to two feet. Branches and stems are
hardwood and angular. Flowers bloom in pairs or clusters, greenish or
yellowish-white. Leaves broad, elliptical, puffy, wrinkled. Fruit pendulous,
podlike, shiny, red, orange, and yellow when ripe. Flowers in summer. Indigenous
to Mexico and Central America, but now grows in subtropical and tropical zones
of Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America.
Capsaicin (0.1% to 1.5%), carotenoids, vitamins A and C, flavonoids, volatile
oil, steroidal saponins (capsidicins—in seeds
Fruit eaten raw or cooked. Fruit dried and powdered. Powder can be added to
foods, stirred into juice, tea, or milk, or taken in capsule form. Capsaicin
cream: Zostrix, Axsain, Capzasin-P (should contain at least 0.025%
Traditional: antioxidant, expectorant, antihypertensive, topical analgesic,
stomachic, carminative, gastrointestinal stimulant, rubefacient, antibacterial,
circulatory stimulant, diaphoretic, used to strengthen integrity of veins,
capillaries, and arteries. Historically used to treat ulcers.
Clinical applications: emphysema, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis,
osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, fever, cluster headaches, migraine,
shingles, indigestion, artherosclerosis, psoriasis, flatulent dyspepsia
Can also be used topically with caution for the following: postherpetic
neuralgia, trigeminal neuralgia, postmastectomy pain, mouth pain from
chemotherapy or radiation, diabetic neuropathy, psoriasis
Capsaicin is the most important pharmacological ingredient in cayenne.
Cayenne contains high levels of vitamin C and A, and its carotene molecules act
as an antioxidant. Cayenne supports and stimulates the cardiovascular system in
several ways. It helps prevent atherosclerosis by lowering blood cholesterol and
triglyceride levels, which reduces blood pressure as well. It also increases
fecal excretions of free cholesterol, preventing absorption of cholesterol. It
has an anti-aggregation effect on platelets and increases fibrinolytic
Cayenne contains six pain-relieving compounds and seven anti-inflammatory
ones, the most important of which is capsaicin. It also contains salicylates
which are similar to salicin, the herbal equivalent of aspirin. Capsaicin
inhibits pain by causing an initial increase in substance P and then a depletion
of it in the sensory nerves. Because of the initial stimulation of substance P,
it takes several days for the pain release to become effective, but it is very
helpful for chronic pain sufferers. The depletion of substance P is also thought
to decrease inflammation in joint tissues affected by osteoarthritis and
rheumatoid arthritis. Because cayenne is a rubefacient, it helps to increase
blood flow to painful joints or cold extremities, and reduces the scaling and
redness of psoriasis, although it may cause some initial burning and
The capsaicin in cayenne stimulates the cooling center of the hypothalamus,
which decreases body temperature. Its salicylate content and stimulation of
sweat glands help reduce fever as well.
The gastric and duodenal mucosae have capsaicin-sensitive areas which respond
to stimulation from capsaicin by increasing mucosal blood flow and vascular
permeability, inhibiting gastric mobility and activating duodenal motility. This
aids digestion and protects against acid- and drug-induced
|Dosage Ranges and Duration of
As an external analgesic, apply capsaicin cream (0.025% to 0.075% capsaicin)
directly to affected area up to qid. Also used as tincture (1:5): 1 ml tid.
Cayenne pepper is generally regarded as safe in the United States. Topical
applications may cause temporary burning sensation or redness, but this should
subside without complication. Keep cayenne away from eyes, as the capsaicinoids
are a strong irritant to mucosal membranes. Chronic overuse of capsaicin can be
Wash hands well after use and avoid touching the eyes. Not very soluble in
water, so use vinegar to remove it best. Cream may cause skin irritation in some
people. Test on small area of skin before extended use. If causes irritation,
discontinue use. May cause gastrointestinal irritation, although does not
influence duodenal ulcers. Do not use for children under age 2. Safe for use
during pregnancy. It is not known if the spicy compounds are transferred through
Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors
A case of cough induced by topical capsaicin cream (0.075%) has been reported
in a patient taking an ACE inhibitor (Hakas 1990). A 53-year-old female patient
applied capsaicin cream to her lower extremities for the treatment of peripheral
neuropathy secondary to diabetes. She had been maintained on an ACE inhibitor
for several years without experiencing cough as a side effect prior to the
introduction of the capsaicin. The cough was temporally related to application
of the capsaicin
In a clinical trial involving 18 healthy volunteers, capsaicin reduced
gastric mucosal damage induced by aspirin (Yeoh et al. 1995). Endoscdopic
examination revealed that oral administration of 20 g of chili (equivalent to
9.65 mg capsaicin) 30 minutes prior to ingesting aspirin (600 mg) reduced
gastric mucosal lesions.
Cayenne enhanced theophylline absorption and bioavailability when
administered orally to rabbits (Bouraoui et al. 1988). High or regular use of
cayenne may increase the risk of theophylline toxicity, although this has not
been tested in humans.
|Regulatory and Compendial
On U.S. FDA list of herbs generally regarded as safe. FDA approval of
capsaicin creams, Zostrix and Axsain, for chronic pain.
Boone CW, Kelloff GJ, Malone WE. Identification of candidate cancer
chemopreventive agents and their evaluation in animal models and human clinical
trials: a review. Cancer Res. 1990;50:2-9.
Bouraoui A, Toumi A, Mustapha HB, et al. Effects of capsicum fruit on
theophylline absorption and bioavailability in rabbits. Drug-Nutrient
Chevallier A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. London: DK
Publishing Inc; 1996.
Duke J. The Green Pharmacy. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale Press; 1997.
Hakas JF. Topical capsaicin induces cough in a patient receiving ACE
inhibitor. Ann Allergy. 1990;65:322.
Hot peppers and substance P. Lancet. 1983;I:1198.
Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C, et al., eds. PDR for Herbal
Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Co; 1998.
Heinerman J. Heinerman's Encyclopedia of Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall; 1988.
Kowalchik C, Hylton W, eds. Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of
Herbs. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale Press; 1987.
Locock RA. Capsicum. Can Pharm J. 1985;517-519.
Munn SE, et al. The effect of topical capsaicin on substance P
immunoreactivity: A clinical trial and immuno-histochemical analysis
[letter]. Acta Derm Venereol (Stockh). 1997;77:158-159.
Murray M. The Healing Power of Herbs: The Enlightened Person's Guide to
the Wonders of Medicinal Plants. Rocklin, Calif: Prima Publishing; 1995.
Newall C, Anderson L, Phillipson J. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for
Health-care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
Tandan R, et al. Topical capsaicin in painful diabetic neuropathy. Controlled
study with long-term follow-up. Diabetes Care. 1992;15:8-14.
Tyler V. The Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and
Related Remedies. 3rd ed. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical
Products Press; 1993.
Visudhiphan S, et al. The relationship between high fibrinolytic activity and
daily capsicum ingestion in Thais. Am J Clin Nutr. 1982;35:1452-1458.
Vogl T. Treatment of hunan hand. N Engl J Med. 1982;306:178.
Yeoh KG, et al. Chili protects against aspirin-induced gastroduodenal mucosal
injury in humans. Dig Dis Sci.
Copyright © 2000 Integrative Medicine
CommunicationsThis publication contains
information relating to general principles
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