THE HERBAL CORNER - * Cayenne (Red Pepper)
The fiery taste and bright color of CAYENNE make it one of the world's most noticeable and widely used spices. Recently, this herb has become as hot in healing as it is on the tongue. Cayenne - also known as red pepper, capsicum, chili pepper, and several other names - is a perennial plant in its native tropical America but is annual when cultivated outside tropical zones. It grows to a height of three feet and only its fruit is used for its culinary and medicinal value.
Cayenne extract has proven remarkably effective at relieving certain types of severe, chronic pain. It may also aid digestion, stimulate the appetite, fight colds, relieve diarrhea, reduce cholesterol, and prevent heart disease. Herbalists regard cayenne as a powerful tonic. The fruit stimulates the heart and promotes circulation while boosting energy. Like other species of hot garden pepper, Cayenne contains the stimulant known as "capsaicin."
Although considered relatively safe, cayenne usage does come with precautions. Pregnant women and patients with ulcers, gastritis, or bowel diseases should avoid cayenne or use only under the supervision of a healthcare practitioner. Large doses can cause stomach pain or vomiting. Prolonged application of Cayenne on the skin can cause dermatitis or blistering. Cayenne is readily available in powder form, in capsule or tablet herbal formulations, as tincture, dried herb, tea, or essential oil. An oil preparation can be rubbed on sprains, swelling, sore muscles, and joints to ease pain. Cayenne can be combined with myrrh and used as a gargle or antiseptic wash to treat laryngitis.
- - Digestive Aid. Red pepper assists digestion by stimulating the flow of both saliva and stomach secretions. Saliva contains enzymes that begin the breakdown of carbohydrates, while gastric juices contain acids and other substances that further digest food. In cultures with bland cuisine, such as traditional American meat-and-potatoes cooking, people often believe that highly spiced foods damage the stomach and contribute to ulcers. This is not the case. According to a study published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association," researchers concluded that ingestion of highly spiced meals by normal individuals is not associated with gastrointestinal damage.
- - Diarrhea. Like many culinary spices, cayenne possesses antibacterial properties, possibly explaining traditional claims that it helps relieve infectious diarrhea.
- - Colds. Cayenne is loaded with nutrients. It contains vitamin C, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and B-complex vitamins. Cayenne tea is excellent for a cold and chills because it heats you up and forces you to sweat-out toxins. It also cleanses the digestive tract, further helping to rid your system of germs. Cayenne's active ingredient capsaicin also possesses anti-inflammatory properties.
- - Chronic Pain. Recently, Cayenne has been shown to possess real pain-relieving (analgesic) properties for certain kinds of chronic pain. For reasons still not completely understood, capsaicin interferes with the action of "substance P" which is the chemical in the peripheral nerves that sends pain messages to the brain. Several recent studies all showed capsaicin so effective at relieving a particular type of chronic pain that two over-the-counter capsaicin creams, Zostrix and Axsain, have won Food and Drug Administration approval. Zostrix is the most effective treatment yet for the severe pain that follows the disease known as shingles or herpes zoster. Axsain is used to treat the severe ankle and foot pain, known as burning foot syndrome, which affects approximately half of all diabetics.
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Please note: the information contained herein has been compiled from various sources. The above statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. We make no claims, either expressed or implied, that any treatments mentioned in this newsletter will cure disease, replace prescription medication, or supersede sound medical advice.
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