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Cayenne pepper

Hot and spicy, cayenne pepper is available year round adding zest to flavorful dishes around the world and health to those brave enough to risk its fiery heat.

The cayenne pepper is a member of the Capsicum family of vegetables, which are more commonly known as chili peppers. It is known botanically as Capsicum frutenscens. The common name "cayenne" was actually given to this pepper because of its cultivation in a town that bears the same name in French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America.

 


Health Benefits

Hot and spicy, cayenne pepper adds zest to flavorful dishes around the world and health to those brave enough to risk its fiery heat. The hotness produced by cayenne is caused by its high concentration of a substance called capsaicin. Technically referred to as 8-methyul-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide, capsaicin has been widely studied for its pain-reducing effects, its cardiovascular benefits, and its ability to help prevent ulcers. Capsaicin also effectively opens and drains congested nasal passages.

In addition to their high capsaicin content, cayenne peppers are also an excellent source of vitamin A, through its concentration of pro-vitamin A carotenoids including beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is not only a potent antioxidant in its own right, but can be converted in the body to vitamin A, a nutrient essential for the health of all epithelial tissues (the tissues that line all body cavities including the respiratory, gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts). Beta-carotene may therefore be helpful in reducing the symptoms of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, its antioxidant activity make it useful in preventing the free radical damage that can lead to atherosclerosis, colon cancer, and diabetic complications, like nerve damage and heart disease.

Fight Inflammation

All chili peppers, including cayenne, contain capsaicin, which in addition to giving cayenne its characteristic heat, is a potent inhibitor of substance P, a neuropeptide associated with inflammatory processes. The hotter the chili pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. The hottest varieties include habañero and Scotch bonnet as well as cayenne pappers. Jalapeños are next in their heat and capsaicin content, followed by the milder varieties, including Spanish pimentos, and Anaheim and Hungarian cherry peppers.

Capsaicin is being studied as an effective treatment for sensory nerve fiber disorders, including pain associated with arthritis, psoriasis, and diabetic neuropathy. When animals injected with a substance that causes inflammatory arthritis were fed a diet that contained capsaicin, they had delayed onset of arthritis, and also significantly reduced paw inflammation.

Natural Pain Relief

Topical capsaicin has been shown in studies to be an effective treatment for cluster headaches and osteoarthritis pain. Several review studies of pain management for diabetic neuropathy have listed the benefits of topical capsaicin to alleviate disabling pain associated with this condition.

In a double-blind placebo controlled trial, nearly 200 patients with psoriasis were given topical preparations containing either capsaicin or placebo. Patients who were given capsaicin reported significant improvement based on a severity score which traced symptoms associated with psoriasis. The side effect reported with topical capsaicin cream is a burning sensation at the area of application.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Cayenne and other red chili peppers have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and platelet aggregation, while increasing the body's ability to dissolve fibrin, a substance integral to the formation of blood clots. Cultures where hot peppers like cayenne are used liberally have a much lower rate of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism.

Clear Congestion

Capsaicin not only reduces pain, but its peppery heat also stimulates secretions that help clear mucus from your stuffed up nose or congested lungs. Capsaicin is similar to a compound found in many cold remedies for breaking up congestion, except that capsaicin works much faster. A tea made with hot cayenne pepper very quickly stimulates the mucus membranes lining the nasal passages to drain, helping to relieve congestion and stuffiness. Next cold and flu season, give it a try.

Boost Immunity

Cayenne peppers' bright red color signals its high content of beta-carotene or pro-vitamin A. Just two teaspoons of cayenne pepper provide 29.4% of the daily value for vitamin A. Often called the anti-infection vitamin, vitamin A is essential for healthy epithelial tissues including the mucous membranes that line the nasal passages, lungs, intestinal tract and urinary tract and serve as the body's first line of defense against invading pathogens.

Prevent Stomach Ulcers

Chili peppers like cayenne have a bad--and undeserved--reputation for contributing to stomach ulcers. Not only do they not cause ulcers, these hot peppers may help prevent them by killing bacteria you may have ingested, while powerfully stimulating the cells lining the stomach to secrete protective buffering juices that prevent ulcer formation. The use of cayenne pepper is actually associated with a reduced risk of stomach ulcers.

Lose Weight

All that heat you feel after eating hot chili peppers takes energy--and calories to produce. Even sweet red peppers have been found to contain substances that significantly increase thermogenesis (heat production) and oxygen consumption for more than 20 minutes after they are eaten.

Description

The cayenne pepper is a member of the Capsicum family of vegetables, which are more commonly known as chili peppers. It is known botanically as Capsicum frutenscens. The common name "cayenne" was actually given to this pepper because of its cultivation in a town that bears the same name in French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America.

History

It is not surprising that cayenne peppers as well as other chili peppers can trace their seven thousand year history to Central and South America, regions whose cuisines are renowned for their hot and spicy flavors. They have been cultivated in these regions for more than seven thousand years, first as a decorative item and later as a foodstuff and medicine.

It was not until the 15th and 16th centuries that cayenne and other chili peppers were introduced to the rest of the world. Christopher Columbus encountered them on his explorations of the Caribbean Islands and brought them back to Europe where they were used as a substitute for black pepper, which was very expensive at that time since it had to be imported from Asia. Ferdinand Magellan is credited with introducing them into Africa and Asia, continents that since have incorporated them not only into their cuisines but their pharmacopeias. While cayenne and chili peppers are now grown on all continents, today China, Turkey, Nigeria, Spain and Mexico are among the largest commercial producers.

How to Select and Store

Even through dried herbs and spices are widely available in supermarkets, explore the local spice stores or ethnic markets in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness than those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried spices, try to select organically grown dried cayenne pepper since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.

Cayenne pepper should be kept in a tightly sealed glass jar, away from direct sunlight.

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Cayenne is sure to heat up any vegetable healthy sauté.

Keep a container of cayenne on the table right next to the pepper mill, so you and your family can add a pinch of extra spice to any of your meals.

Give your hot cocoa a traditional Mexican flair by adding a tiny bit of cayenne pepper.

Canned beans take on a whole new dimension when cayenne is added to them.

Cayenne and lemon juice make great complements to cooked bitter greens such as collards, kale and mustard greens.

Safety

Cayenne pepper is not a commonly allergenic food, is not included in the list of 20 foods that most frequently contain pesticide residues, and is also not known to contain goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that amount represents; the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Not all of our Daily Value standards are obtained from the FDA. In most instances, we used FDA Daily Values when available because they are widely recognized and apply to both men and women. However, when unavailable, we've used other science-based research to establish nutritional standards. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. Read more about our Food and Recipe Rating System.

 

Pepper, Cayenne, Dried
2.00 tsp
11.20 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin A 1470.24 IU 29.4 47.3 excellent
vitamin C 2.72 mg 4.5 7.3 good
vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) 0.08 mg 4.0 6.4 good
manganese 0.08 mg 4.0 6.4 good
dietary fiber 0.96 g 3.8 6.2 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

In Depth Nutritional Profile for Cayenne pepper

References

  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
  • Gonzalez R, Dunkel R, Koletzko B, et al. Effect of capsaicin-containing red pepper sauce suspension on upper gastrointestinal motility in healthy volunteers. Dig Dis Sci 1998 Jun;43(6):1165-71.
  • Hautkappe M, Roizen MF, Toledano A, et al. Review of the effectiveness of capsaicin for painful cutaneous disorders and neural dysfunction. Clin J Pain 1998 Jun;14:97-106.
  • Kempaiah RK, Srinivasan K. Integrity of erythrocytes of hypercholesterolemic rats during spices treatment. Mol Cell Biochem 2002 Jul;236(1-2):155-61.
  • Sambaiah K, Satyanarayana MN. Hypocholesterolemic effect of red pepper & capsaicin. Indian J Exp Biol 1980 Aug;18(8):898-9.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

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