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Capsicum annuum L. Cayenne

Family: Solanaceae
Synonym: C. minimum Roxsb., C. frutescens L.
Description: Fruit varies in colour, size and pungency; pods up to 10cm or more in length and conical- shaped, colours ranging from green when unripe to yellow and red.
Habitat: Tropical America and Africa, widely cultivated.
Harvest: Ripe fruits are picked in summer (Bown, 1995).

Part used: Fruit.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 0.06-0.2ml tds, Dried: 30-120mg tds.

Character: Very hot, pungent, drying (Ody, 1993).

-stimulating nerve tonic.
Topical: COUNTER-IRRITANT, increases blood flow to an area. (Ody, 1993)

-To increase appetite; indigestion;
-Colds and chills; cold hands and feet;
-Depression, shock;
-Throat problems such as tonsillitis, laryngitis, hoarseness;
-Pain relief in shingles and migraines; (all Ody, 1993)

External usage:
-Rheumatic pains, sprains and bruising; rheumatism, arthritis, lumbago (in massage oil).

Safety: Do not use seeds as may be toxic. Excessive consumption may lead to gastroenteritis and liver damage. Avoid therapeutic doses while pregnant and breast-feeding. Do not leave compress on skin for long periods. Avoid touching eyes and face and contact with unbroken sensitive skin, eg. eczema. (Ody, 1993) Not recommended for children.

Contra-indications: Hypertension, hyperacidity, peptic ulceration (Mills, 1993).

Key Constituents:
-Alkaloids incl. capsaicin, 0.1-1.5% -pungent phenolic compound;
-Carotenoid pigments incl. capsanthin;
-Ascorbic acid; volatile oil.

Pharmacology: Studies on capsaicin show similar effect to prostaglandins; ‘Zostrix’ skin cream which contains capsaicin shown to improve healing from post-herpetic neuralgia and to reduce pain in diabetic neuropathy -an antisubstance-P has been suggested; this supports claims of remedy for stimulating circulation, digestive secretions and perspiration; the volatile oil also likely to be significant factor (Mills, 1993). Antibiotic activity demonstrated on some micro-organisms; effects on gastrointestinal system also shown to be complex (Wren, 1988).

History: First recorded by Columbus’ doctor on second voyage to West Indies in 1494 (Robbins, 1997). “Gerard describes it as ‘extreme hot and dry, even in the 4th degree’, and recommends it for scrofula, a prevalent throat and skin infection commonly known as the King’s Evil.” (Ody, 1993).
Key ingredient in materia medica of Samuel Thomson and later in the physiomedical canon due its intense ability to bring ‘vital heat’ to the body to relieve chills, rheumatism and depression (Mills and Ody).

Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“TINCTURE Dilute 5-10 drops in half a cup of hot water, and I) take as circulatory stimulant and tonic or 2) use as a gargle for throat problems, especially useful in weak and deficient conditions. Use in an ointment for unbroken chilblains.” Penelope Ody (1993: 46).

“Applied externally in the form of an ointment or plaster, it will produce an appreciable counter-irritant effect, stimulating a significant increase in circulation in the sub-dermal tissues beneath, so reducing the need of the body to invoke painful and debilitating inflammation.” Simon Mills (1993: 423)

“-Colds, chills, congestion -very sensitive to cold and damp: generally give small frequent doses for cumulative effect;
-Cold extremities with cyanosis [dark bluish discolouration of skin due to deficiency of oxygen in blood];
-Shock from injury, cold sweats: with Cinnam and Caryoph;
-Nervous depression: in very small doses in addition to nervines.” Priest and Priest (1983: 66)


Bel Charlesworth Medical Herbalist

Bel Charlesworth MNIMH
Medical Herbalist

BSc Herbal Medicine

Member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists since 2003

Tel: 07775 920079

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