Botanical Name: Capsicum annuum
Components: A member of the nightshade family, cayenne is indigenous to the equatorial region of the Americas but now grows in tropical and temperate areas around the world.
Overview: Cayenne has been used as both a food and a medicine by Native Americans for thousands of years. Capsaicin, its main active ingredient, does far more than produce a hot, burning sensation. Applied topically, it blocks a body chemical integral to the transmission of pain impulses. Studies have demonstrated its value in alleviating pain and discomfort from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, psoriasis, headaches, diabetic neuropathy, and shingles. It also reduces the pain from mouth sores associated with chemotherapy and radiation. Internally, capsaicin can reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, which helps keep the blood flowing freely, decreasing the potential for clotting. The antioxidant nutrients in peppers enhance cardiovascular and bronchial health.
Uses: Most often used in cooking, and occasionally added to creams or salves for external use. Also commonly used in over-the-counter and prescription-strength pain preparations.