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Parts used and where grown
from South America, the cayenne plant is now used worldwide as a food
and spice. Cayenne is very closely related to bell peppers, jalapeños,
paprika, and other similar peppers. The fruit is used medicinally.
contains a resinous and pungent substance known as capsaicin. Topical
application of capsaicin relieves pain and itching by acting on sensory
nerves. Capsaicin temporarily depletes “substance P,” a chemical in
nerves that transmits pain sensations. Without substance P, pain
signals can no longer be sent. The effect is temporary. Numerous
double-blind trials have proven topically applied capsaicin creams are
helpful for a range of conditions, including nerve pain in diabetes
(diabetic neuropathy), psoriasis, body tenderness due to fibromyalgia,
nerve pain after shingles, osteoarthritis pain, and rheumatoid
With the aid of a healthcare professional, capsaicin administered
via the nose may also be a potentially useful therapy for cluster
headaches. This is supported by a double-blind trial.
Modest reductions in appetite have been found in healthy Japanese
women and white men when they consumed 10 grams of cayenne pepper along
with meals in a double-blind trial. A similar trial found that cayenne
could increase metabolism of dietary fats in Japanese women. These
trials suggest cayenne may help in the treatment of obesity.
In a double-blind study of people with dyspepsia (heartburn),
supplementation with 833 mg of cayenne powder in capsules, three times
per day before meals, reduced heartburn symptoms by 48%, compared with
a placebo. However, 2 of 15 individuals receiving cayenne discontinued
it because of abdominal pain.
How much is usually taken?
creams containing 0.025 to 75% capsaicin are generally used. People
often apply the cream to the affected area three or four times per day.
A burning sensation may occur the first several times the cream is
applied. However, this should gradually decrease with each use. The
hands must be carefully and thoroughly washed after use, or gloves
should be worn, to prevent the cream from accidentally reaching the
eyes, nose, or mouth, which would cause a burning sensation. Do not
apply the cream to areas of broken skin. For internal use, cayenne
tincture (0.3 to 1 ml) can be taken three times per day. An infusion
can be made by pouring 1 cup of boiling water onto 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of
cayenne powder and let steep for ten minutes. A teaspoon of this
infusion can be mixed with water and taken three to four times daily.
In the treatment of heartburn, researchers have used 833 mg of cayenne
powder in capsule form, taken three times per day before meals.