Capsicum species


Cayenne pepper is a pungent spice, thought to have originated from Cayenne in French Guiana. It was first described by a doctor travelling with Christopher Columbus and is now popular in worldwide cuisine, and for use in soothing preparations for conditions such as arthritis, as an aid to digestion and to strengthen blood vessels.

Parts used

Cayenne is made from a variety of hot peppers that have been dried.


The prinicipal active ingredient in cayenne is capsaicin, which gives it its characteristic hot flavour. Capsaicin is an oily chemical that can irritate the skin and burns the eyes, which it why it is used in pepper sprays for self-defence. Cayenne pepper is unrelated to common black pepper, although it is a relative of salad peppers and the hot peppers used to make chilli powder.

Medicinal uses

According to US medical herbalist Dr Richard Schulze, ‘If you want to master one herb in your life, master cayenne pepper. Cayenne is at the top of the list of the 10 most important herbs, and taking it makes the other nine work better. There’s no other herb that increases your blood flow faster and make immediate physiological and metabolic changes in the body.’ Cayenne is available in cream, ointment or impregnated in a plaster for topical use, or in fresh, dried, tincture, tablet, capsule or powder form for internal use.

  • Strengthens heart and blood vessels.
  • Improves circulation.
  • Relieves pain caused by headaches, nerve and arthritic pain.
  • May treat cluster headaches.
  • Eases nerve pain caused by shingles, diabetes, surgery or trigeminal neuralgia.
  • Soothes pain caused by arthritis.
  • Improves digestion.
  • Boosts vitality.
  • Relieves sinus pain.


Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
In oral form, cayenne pepper may cause stomach pain or diarrhoea and heavy use can damage the liver or kidneys. Always follow the directions. Cayenne cream can create a mild burning sensation on the skin that generally last for about 30 minutes after application. This effect generally disappears after a few days. Powder or flakes may trigger coughing or sneezing if inhaled. It is always wise to consult your medical practitioner before taking natural remedies, especially if you have existing health problems, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or are on medications.

Flora Force Products containing Cayenne

Domestic & culinary uses

Use cayenne to add a mild heat or a fiery spice to your meals. It can be added to curries and chilli, to season sauces, mayonnaise, pickles, cheese, pasta and fish dishes. To flavour oil for stir-frying vegetables, fish or chicken, heat the oil in a frying pan and then add 1 or 2 whole dried chillies, or a shake of dried flakes or powder, sauté for a few minutes and remove. This technique is often used in Chinese and Indian cooking. At your next braai, try serving cooked mealies with cayenne-flavoured butter. Remember that chilli peppers contain oil that can irritate skin and eyes, so use gloves when chopping or scraping them and wash your hands immediately after handling them. Do not touch your eyes, face or skin while working with these peppers.


Capsicums are warm-season vegetables that can be grown almost year-round in tropical or subtropical regions. In temperate areas, sow seeds from early spring to midsummer (late spring to early summer in cold zones). Seedlings are available at nurseries. Plant in a sunny, well-drained bed or in a container, rich in organic matter. Water well. Hot peppers turn from green to red or yellow when ripe. Pick only when they are fully ripe. Dried hot peppers can be threaded on a string and hung indoors in a dry, airy poisition.


  • Fresh or dried, cayenne peppers contain about 1.5% capsaicin – the pain-killing ingredient that gives them their unmissable fiery heat.
  • The heat in peppers is measured in Scoville units (SU). Cayenne peppers measure 30,000 to 50,000 SU, jalapeño peppers are 2,500 to 5,000 SU and New Mexico hot peppers come in at a paltry 500 to 1,000 SU.

Photo credits

  1. Photo by H. Zell (Own work)[GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.