Scientific name: Capiscum annuum (also Capiscum frutescens)

Solanaceae family (Nightshade)

Also known as chile, chili pepper, “Ginnie pepper” back in 1548.

Cayenne is a safe herb used both in the kitchen and medicinally. Known for its spiciness, it warms the system by promoting blood circulation, especially for fingers and toes. Very handy in the winter for relieving congestion! Only the fruit is edible from this plant – leaves, stem, and flowers can be toxic. Seeds are used as well.

Nutrients

  • Capsaicin
  • Carotenoids
  • Vitamin A, B, C
  • Potassium
  • Niacin
  • Iron
  • Flavonoids
  • Steroidal saponins
  • Volatile oils

Health Benefits

*Many of these benefits will be seen after taking cayenne regularly for an extended period of time (weeks to months).

*Best used when fresh or freshly dried. Buy in small amounts about every 6 months.

  • Strengthens the heart: may reduce severity of heart disease
  • Digestive aid: stimulates release of saliva and stomach enzymes, and relieves indigestion
  • Expectorant
  • Stimulates blood circulation (due to capsaicin)
  • Analgesic: effective topical pain reliever for arthritis, bursitis, muscle & joint pain, migraines, shingles, and more
  • Effective for throat problems: eg. tonsillitis laryngitis, hoarseness
  • Antiseptic / Antibacterial properties: supports the immune system
  • Lowers blood glucose levels & maintains insulin levels: useful for those with diabetes or at risk
  • Anti-fungal
  • Improves metabolism
  • Lowers bad cholesterol
  • Antioxidant

Cooking Tips

A little goes a long way. Make sure no one is too sensitive to handle the heat!

CAUTION

This is a hot one! Again, a little goes a long way, especially if you’re sensitive. If you’re handling it directly, especially from the garden, and you have sensitive skin, it might be better to wear gloves, and of course don’t touch your eyes until after you’ve washed your hands. As always, use caution when pregnant and consult a doctor if using blood-thinners.

If using a compress, do not leave on for long periods of time – may cause blistering.

Because it is a strong stimulant, take in small amounts. Excessive consumption can cause stomach convulsions/gastroenteritis, and liver damage.

Quick Remedies

(consult a doctor if experiencing any serious conditions)

  • Colds, chills, cold hands/feet, shock, and depression: add 1/2 tsp of cayenne to a cup of boiling water. Take 1 tablespoon of this and mix with another cup of water and sip throughout the day as needed. Use 2-3 drops of the first mixture (infusion) to aid digestion.
  • Rheumatic pains, sprains, bruising: Using the infusion above, soak a compress in it and put directly on the area (do not leave on for excessive time).
  • Throat problems: gargle with 5-10 drops diluted in 1/2 glass of water.

How to Grow

Planting

Where do you live?

While cayenne might do better in warmer climates, it’s a pretty hardy plant and it’s possible to get a good harvest in the north, as long as there’s a good season of warm weather. These also do very well in containers. They will grow as perennials in warmer climates, and annuals in colder areas.

Put em in the ground

It’s recommended to start seeds indoors or in a greenhouse and wait for them to sprout before putting them in the ground.

  • Warm weather, long growing season
  • Fertile, well drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Space seeds 12-48″ apart depending on the type

Care

  • Too much or too little water will cause the leaves to turn yellow

Harvest

  • Ongoing through fall to the first frost
  • They should be ready in 70-80 days
  • 4-6″ long
  • Easy to pull from the stem
  • Green, partly green to colored