Wednesday, September 21, 2011

spice of life- cayenne pepper

Capsicum minimum. Also known as cayenne pepper. You may find it on your spice shelf or in a bowl of curry, or better yet, in a bottle of hot sauce served with that burrito. I have come to enjoy the feel of cayenne pepper in my mouth, that little tingle when there is just enough to feel the burn after a few bites of something spicy. My fiance is apt to pour hot sauce on many a dish, and I've begun to follow suit.

Here's why- cayenne pepper is more than just flavor. Capsicum can also be a remedy used to treat many ailments, including arthritis, digestion, fibromyalgia, headaches, coughs, and pain caused by nerve damage.

First and foremost, the energizing feeling you get from eating cayenne pepper goes back to its most important properties- its ability to increase circulation. It's why you might like to eat a big bowl of yummy curry on a cold winter's day. If you eat enough, you begin to sweat and can feel heat coming off of your body.

According to, cayenne pepper extract can be rubbed onto areas of the body that are affected by muscle or nerve pain, fibromyalgia, and arthritis. The pepper both increases the circulation to the area and counteracts the chemical used by nerve cells to transmit pain signals, helping to lessen pain. Cayenne also contains salicylates, which act like aspirin. The warmth caused by increased circulation can often be just as helpful as using a heat pack.

Ok, so you've just ordered a jungle curry from you local thai restaraunt, and after a few bites you begin to wonder- why the heck would anyone make something this spicy?

As I had mentioned, cayenne pepper can also aid in digestion by stimulating muscle movement which helps the acids in the stomach to digest your food. It can also be added to herbal remedies to help improve the circulation and absorption of other herbs as well.

You're starting to feel a little warm, and maybe a little sweaty from your jungle curry. Your nose might be a little runny too. This warming sensation can really help when you are congested or have a fever, as the peppers will release the mucus in your sinuses and help to sweat a fever out.

It can also help relieve the pain of a sore throat. This next recipe may sound disgusting, but so many people swear by it that I'll be trying this remedy when my next sore throat hits, which is inevitably soon as the weather changes.

Sore Throat Gargle

1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup strong (triple strength) sage tea
2-3 tsp. salt
pinch of cayenne pepper

To make the sage tea, boil a cup of water and then pour it over 3-4 tablespoons of dried sage. Let this steep for 30-60 min, and then strain it. Combine with the rest of the ingredients. Gargle this concoction frequently throughout the day to relieve your sore throat.

If sage tea isn't your thing, you can try a cup of lemon and honey in hot water with some cayenne pepper sprinkled in it too.

Cayenne pepper is so lovely, that I had to include a second recipe, one that is more tasty and useful for sprinkling on grains or salads. I found this one and the one previous in Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health.

Fire Cider Zest

1/2 cup chopped ginseng root, fresh or dried
1/4 cup freshly grated ginger root
1/4 freshly grated horseradish (this is hard to find, but try, it's really tasty! if not, you can find jars of horseradish at the grocery store, just make sure it's just horseradish!)
1/8 cup chopped garlic
cayenne to taste
apple cider vinegar

1. Place the herbs in a glass jar. Pour enough vinegar to cover the herbs by 2 inches and sea the jar. Let this sit for 4 weeks.
2. Strain the herbs from the vinegar. Sweeten with honey to taste.

I can't wait to hear about any of the herbal remedies that you have tried to cayenne pepper. Let me hear about them!

Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health
Annie's Remedy- Cayenne pepper
Discovery Health- Cayenne Pepper- Herbal Remedies

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