Ericka Koos

Characteristics of the Plant

Stages of Development in Capsicum Plant
Stages of Development in Capsicum Plant

Cayenne is an herb made from a red, hot chili pepper. It is a cultivar of the Capsicum annum genus, which also includes bell peppers, jalepenos, and other various peppers. It comes from the family Solanaceae, informally known as the "nightshade" or potato family. Other plant species that derive from this family include potatoes, tomatoes, and tobacco. Most plants in this family have alternate leaves, a superior ovary, and the fruit they produce is a berry. (Grubben).

Capsicum annum shrub
Capsicum annum shrub


The Capsicum annum grows into a large shrub and produces its fruits, a berry, which can be either red, yellow, orange, or green when ripe. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the cayenne pepper, along with few other "hot" peppers in the Capsicum annum species, is the plant's production a chemical called Capsaicin, which creates a burning sensation when ingested. (Ehlrich).

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Members of the Solanaceae family originated in South America and have been distributed throughout Central and Southern America regions over time. Because of the drastic differences in climate amongst the regions, the species in this family have developed genetic variations to help them cope in these environments. (SGN). This is why the Capsicum genus can survive in most climates, although it thrives best in a warn, dry environment. Although the name Capsicum annum suggests an annual plant, the plants in the Capsicum genus can actually grow year-round throughout multiple seasons, given the proper climate.

Cayenne Pepper

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Cayenne pepper is typically thought of in its spice form, which is used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. The spice comes from the dried body or flower of the cayenne plant where the Capsaicin chemical is contained. Cayenne is most popular in Cajun cooking, as well as Asian, Mexican, Indian, and Chinese cuisine because of the "hot" sensation associated with the spice. However, it has many medicinal benefits that are often overlooked. These include:

  • The Heart (regulates blood flow, equalizes blood pressure, improves circulation, relieves heartburn)
    • Cayenne reaches the heart immediately upon consumption. This is why many herbalists swear by using it to cure even severe heart conditions, including heart attacks. It is often consumed as a tea, since it is fast-acting, to relieve common symptoms associated with heart pain and distress. (EarthClinic).
    • Cayenne is also successful in relieving heart symptoms because it prevents platelets from "clumping together and accumulating in the blood, allowing the blood to flow more easily." (Brett).

  • Weight Loss
    • Cayenne is often used to assist in weight loss diets because of its ability to help with digestion. It is also said that it reduces excess appetite, which stops people from over-consuming and makes them feel full longer. (Brett).
    • There are many "cayenne pepper diets" out in the world today, most of which involve a body cleanse that lasts between a few days and a week. Many of the diets involve water, fresh lemon, cayenne pepper, and some type of sweetener (often maple syrup). Because of the cayenne pepper's effect on digestion in the intestines, this diet is very popular to cleanse the body of built-up toxins, as well as keep nutrients within.

  • Pain Relief (headaches, toothaches, inflation)
    • The chemical found in cayenne pepper, Capasaicin, is very effective in relieving pain because it collides with the chemical messengers of the body, substance P, and force them out of the body's cells. This interaction reduces the amount of pain signals that are sent to your brain. (Ehrlich).
    • It is used as a topical treatment because when Capasaicin is placed on the skin, it immediately begins the chemical reaction within the body. It is often recommended for joint, muscle, and arthritis pain and several studies also suggest that it helps with lower back pain
    • Capasaicin is also recommended for nerve pain that is associated with painful skin conditions, such as shingles and psoriasis.

  • Improves Digestion (can regulate bowel movements, improves constipation, gas, cramping, stomach aches)
    • Cayenne does this by stimulating muscle movement in the intestines. It helps restore stomach acid, which is one of the beneficial components of digestion. (Brett).

  • Helps relieve cold symptoms (sore throat, mucous, nausea, coughs, ear infections)
    • When cayenne enters the body, it immediately warms up, which stimulates the flow of mucus from the respiratory passages and clears the sinus passages while doing so. Also, cayenne increases the body's temperature a small amount and has a diaphoretic impact on the body, which effectively reduces a fever and relieves congestion associated with the common cold. (Brett).

  • Source of Energy

Many of these benefits have not been researched enough to declare them 100% effective, but there have been many tests done that suggest these benefits are associated with the intake of cayenne. However, it has been one of the most widely used herbs for thousands of years in herbal remedies and I'm sure it will continue to be used in medicine.

When cayenne is used for medicinal purposes, it is often recommended to be consumed in its powdered form. However, there are also various capsules and other ways in which cayenne can be consumed, each of which should be examined carefully before use.
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Side Effects of Cayenne

There are side effects associated with excessive use of the cayenne spice, so precautions are necessary when consuming it for medicinal purposes. Just as many people experience when eating something that has too much spice on it, not everyone's body is tolerant of spice, so this should be considered when using a remedy. Small doses are always recommended (less than one teaspoon in tea or drink), but should be determined specific to the individual's tolerance. Some side effects of cayenne include (Brett, Ehlrich):
  • Avoid contact with eyes and open wounds because of the "heat" factor associated with the capasaicin chemical
  • May cause irritation when on the skin, so individuals should test spot before applying
  • Do not use topical treatments too frequently because of the spice's impact on the nerves
  • Do not place cayenne directly on the skin, dilute the spice with oil or other substances
  • Not recommended for individuals with rapid heart rate or those who perspire easily
  • Not recommended for individuals with bad cases of asthma


1. Brett, Jennifer. "Cayenne Pepper: Herbal Remedies." TLC Family: How Stuff Works. TLC, n.d. Web. 11 Jan 2012. <>.

2. "About The Solanaceae Family." Sol Genomics Network. SGN, n.d. Web. 11 Jan 2012. <>.

3. Ehrlich, Stephen D.. "Cayenne." University of Maryland Medical Center. UMM, 12 Dec 2010. Web. 11 Jan 2012. <>.

4."Cayenne Pepper Cures." Earth Clinic: Global Remedy Network . N.p., 04 Jan 2012. Web. 11 Jan 2012. <>.

5. Grubben, G.J.H.. "Capsicum Annum." Protabase. PROTA, n.d. Web. 11 Jan 2012. < Code&QI0=Capsicum annuum&RF=Webdisplay>.