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Cayenne: More than just a cooking spice

After my interview for The Changing Earth Podcast with Cat Ellis, Author of

Life-Saving Herbs, Essential Oils and Natural Remedies for When There is No Doctor I wanted to know more about the wonders of Cayenne. I was further inspired when I found this pin from explaining how Native Americans have been using the healing power of Cayenne powder for many years to heal abrasions. The fact that this herb would not be the top on a raiding list if people swarmed the grocery store for supplies makes it a survivalist's ideal healer and one that could be obtainable even when the cupboards are bare. In my research I found some great tips and recipes so let's check this plant out! 

Cayenne (Capsicum frutescens)

Cayenne is most identifiable as a spice that we use to heat up our dishes. It may be better known as the chili pepper and is a favorite addition to Mexican dishes.

Cayenne's History

Cayenne is native to tropical areas of the Americas where it grows as a perennial but if you grow it outside it's native zone it is an annual.

 Identifying The Plant

Cayenne usually reaches about 3 ft. high or more. The stem is woody at the bottom and branches at the top with leaves that are oval to lance shaped. It flowers between April and September with white, droopy droop flowers that are singular, pairs, or threes. The pepper itself is full of seeds and has a leathery outside. The colors range from red or yellow.


Medicinally the focus is on the use of the fruit and the many possible preparations. Cayenne contains capsaicin, a chemical that can desensitize the endings in your nerves for a while.

  • For colds & chills, cold hands & feet, shock or depression add 1/2 tsp herb to a cup of boiling water then dilute a tablespoon of this infusion with more hot water to make a cupful & sip as required. You can also take 2-3 drops of undiluted infusion to stimulate digestion.

  • To stimulate circulation - dilute 5-10 drops of tincture in half a cup of hot water.

  • For rheumatic arthritis pains, sprains, and bruising - soak a pad in the infusion and apply to painful area. *Don't leave compress on skin for long periods of time especially on sensitive skin, blistering may occur.

  • For canker sores apply a tiny pinch of cayenne to relieve pain.

  • Use ointment on chilblains. Chilblains are tissue damage that occurs when the skin is exposed to cold and humidity and are often confused with frostbite or trench-foot. It's damage to capillaries that causes redness, itching, inflammation, and sometimes blistering. Don't apply if the skin is broken.

  • For vericose ulcers (a condition that occurs usually from chronic wounding, basically a damaged vein.) apply a little infused (essential) oil (25g of powder to 500ml sunflower oil, heated over a water bath for 2hrs.) to the area around the ulcer.


  • Seeds can be toxic: do not use them!

  • Follow dosages carefully. Too much can lead to liver and gastroenteritis damage.

  • Avoid during breastfeeding and pregnancy.

  • Avoid touching the eyes or any cuts after handling fresh chilies.

*Tincture - Process of steeping the dried or fresh herbs in a 25% mixture of alcohol and water. Can be stored for up to two years.

*Infusion - 2 teaspoons of dried leaves or roots or 1 teaspoon of bruised seeds to one cup of boiling water, steeped for 10 minutes. Should be made fresh for each dose.

*Compress - a cloth soaked in infusion

*Essential Oil - most essential oils can be purchased at a natural food store. To make your own, put 250g of dried herbs or 750g of fresh herbs into 500ml of sunflower oil into a bowl. Place this bowl over a pot of boiling water for about three hours. Then pour into jelly bag or cheesecloth fitted to a wine press and strain mixture into a container. Pour this mixture into a clean, airtight storage bottle.

Attention Use At Your Own Risk

I am not medically trained in anyway. I am simply a student. I read and experiment with ancient herbal techniques. I am simply passing on the knowledge I have gained from studding many texts on the subject and I am in no way responsible for anything you do with this information. For a listing on the books that I have compiled knowledge from visit:!saras-survival-stuff/c1mzf

For this article I used these resources the most:

Graedon, Joe, and Teresa Graedon. Complete Guide to Natural Home Remedies: 1,025 Easy Ways to Live Longer, Feel Better, and Enrich Your Life. Print.

Lust, John B. The Herb Book. New York: B. Lust Publications, 1974. Print.

Ody, Penelope. The Complete Medicinal Herbal. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1993. Print.

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