• Denine Rogers

Cayenne - Capsicum annuum

Capsicum annuum (Cayenne) plant was first introduced to Europe with the return of Christopher Columbus from the New World. The cayenne pepper plant is a hot biting taste of a fruit and has been cultivated for hundreds, even thousands of years in the tropical regions of the world such as the Americas, Africa and India (Kowalchick, 1987). The South American Indians were enjoying hot pepper meals by 5000 B.C. (Keville, 1996). Columbus was the first Westerner to take conscious note of food flavored of this pungent herb (Kowalchick, 1987). The doctors that accompanied Columbus on his 1492 voyage noted their uses by the Native Americans as pain relievers, toothache remedies and for flavoring food (Houdret, 2002). The name cayenne is derived from the Greek word meaning to bite (Kowalchick, 1987). Cayenne first appeared in the history books was in 1493, when Peter Martyn wrote its arrival in Italy after Columbus's voyage.

Later in the sixteenth century the a London herbalist John Gerard reported its cultivation in Great Britain (Kowalchick, 1987). The Portuguese were responsible for their spread to India in 1611 and then Cayenne spread throughout the world (Houdret, 2002). There are over 90 varieties of cayenne that were hybridized and adapted by each culture (Keville, 1996). Cayenne from Sierra Leone in Africa is said to be the most pungent and medicinal (Keville, 1996). When Carolus Linnaeus named the genus Capsicum in the mid-1700s, he identified only two species. The number of species identified by botanist slowly increased. By the 1900s, more than 100 cultivated species of Capsicums had been described and named (Keville, 1996). Mexican Indians and the Hunan and Szechwan Chinese, steep their meals in hot peppers have been known to have less chronic obstructive lung disease than the British with their blander diets (Keville, 1996).

Cayenne has been known to bring blood and body heat to the surface, stimulating sweating and cooling of the body. It also acts as an energy stimulant, slightly encouraging the adrenals to produce cortisone (Keville, 1996). Research has shown that Capsaicin blocks the transmission of pain and itching by nerve fibers in the skin. When Capsaicin applied in the form of a tropical cream helps to relieve pain by depleting local supplies of a neurotransmitter called substance P. (Hoffman 1996). Clinical trials showed that 75% of the people who applied a capsaicin cream on their shingle disease experienced substantial pain relief, with only occasional burning sensation. A small amount of cayenne stabilizes blood pressure and reduces excessive bleeding anywhere in the body. Scientific literature review also shown that ulcer patients in a New Delhi, India Hospital experienced the same rate of healing after 4 weeks of eating 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) a day as those who abstained (Keville, 1996).

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Keville, K. (1996) The Illustrated Herb Encyclopedia - A Complete Culinary, Cosmetic, Medicinal and Ornamental Guide To Herbs, (New York, NY: Mallard Press: 1991), 57- 58

Kowalchick, C., Hylton, W. H. (1987) Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. (United States: Rodale Press, Inc). 75-78

Houdret, J, (2002) Herbs (New York, NY - Hermes House, Anness Publishing Inc.) pp 124

Hoffmann, D, (2003) Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. (New

York, NY: Kensington Publishing Corp), 536