Chile Peppers

Cardiovascular health. Appetite regulation. Cayenne and other hot chile peppers, which are members of the genus Capsicum, contain capsaicin, which may help control certain types of pain. Capsaicin can also trick the body into feeling fuller, so chile peppers are a good choice for people who want to avoid overeating. Their spiciness stimulates the brain’s satiation receptors, triggering the same appetite suppressing hormones that the stomach normally sends out when it’s full.  Capsaicin also inhibits substance P, a neuropeptide associated with inflammatory pain processes. 

Cayenne peppers are one of the most common ways to spice up a dish - see how it compares to other chilies on the Scoville heat scale chart at the end of the article. Whether they’re powdered and hidden in the dish or used whole, there’s no doubt that their presence can be felt! Cayenne also comes with a pretty impressive resumé when it comes to health benefits as well as being delicious.

Where does cayenne pepper come from? Where can I find it?

Cayenne peppers originate from Central and South America and are named after the Cayenne region of French Guiana. Evidence suggests that humans have been consuming cayenne peppers dating back as far as 7000 B.C. Today, the peppers can be found all over the world and are particularly easy to find in any grocery store either powdered, dried, or as fresh peppers. When purchasing powder, be sure the ingredients are pure cayenne as some products labeled as chili powder may contain either cayenne pepper or various other red peppers.

How does cayenne pepper help my health?

Cayenne pepper exerts its primary health benefits in the cardiovascular system. It is known to be anti-arteriosclerotic, anti-platelet (clot prevention), fibrinolytic (clot-busting), reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, and can help with weight loss. It has also been shown to help prevent ulcers and drain congested nasal passages.

Cayenne pepper is also known for its immune boosting potential: besides the anti-inflammatory effects of capsaicin, cayenne is also an excellent source of carotenoids, including beta carotene – a powerful antioxidant that can help prevent free radical damage. Its high levels of vitamin A (two teaspoons of cayenne pepper provide 47 percent of the daily value for vitamin A) support immune function as well.

In addition to being an excellent source of vitamin A, cayenne pepper is a good source of vitamin E, vitamin C, B6, vitamin K, manganese and dietary fiber.

How to Use it

Cayenne pepper can be used fresh or dried. Fresh green or red cayenne peppers can be used in a fashion similar to fresh jalapeños: as a garnish or chopped up and added to dips, sauces, soups and main courses. You can lower the spiciness level by removing the seeds. If you are sensitive to the oils in cayenne, do this while wearing gloves and avoiding contact with the eyes and face to minimize transferring the painful irritants to sensitive areas. You can also dry fresh, ripe red cayenne peppers. Simply wash and place on a wire rack until dry and brittle, which takes about three weeks. These whole, dried peppers can be stored in a sealed container away from light for up to a year.

Dried cayenne pepper is more versatile and works as well as fresh in most dishes. For true cayenne lovers, the challenge is not finding foods that the dried pepper enhances; rather, it’s finding any that it cannot improve. It can be added to cocoa for a bit of spice, and when paired with lemon juice works with virtually all vegetables. Dried cayenne should be kept in a tightly sealed glass jar, away from direct sunlight. It will last for up to three years.

Aside from the culinary uses, there are a few unusual applications:  if you tend to get cold feet in the winter, a small amount of cayenne powder sprinkled into your socks may help  - just make sure you have no open cuts or blisters on your feet. If you are prone to ulcers, you can try red pepper tea: steep one-quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a cup of hot water.