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Cayenne pepper is a perennial in its native tropical America, but is an annual when cultivated outside of the tropical zones. Growing to a height of three feet or more, its glabrous stem is woody at the bottom and branched near the top. The leaves are ovate to lanceolate, entire and petioled. The drooping, white-to-yellow flowers grow alone or in pairs of three between April and September. The ripe fruit, or pepper, is a many-seeded pod with a leathery outside in various shades of red or yellow. There is a host of hot chili varieties; serrano, yellow wax and jalapeno are the most common California chilies around. Capsaicin is the particular compound which accounts for the fiery properties in all chilies. A pharmacist, Wilbur Scoville, devised a way early in this century of scoring capsaicinoid content; hence, they are called Scoville Units. Most peppers fall into a range from 0 to 300,000 Scoville Units. Green bell peppers rate zero because they lack the necessary capsaicinoids. jalapenos measure 2,500 to 5,000, while the Tabasco peppers and Cayennes rank between 30,000 and 50,000. At the upper end of the scale are the Scotch Bonnet from the Caribbean and the Habanero from the Mexican Yucatan - both are a definite 300,000 each. These days, however, many Chile writers use a new system, the Official Chili Heat Scale, with a rating of 0 to 10. Bell peppers still fall to the bottom, with zero; jalapenos come in at 5, Tabasco and Cayennes at 8, and the Scotch Bonnet and Habanero at 10.
The active ingredient in cayenne and other chili peppers, capsaicin, delivers the fiery kick to Mexican food, turns plain pickle juice into Tabasco sauce, makes ginger ale a real thirst quencher, lets the good times roll in Cajun cuisine, and makes curry powder a more interesting spice all around. Capsaicin, in fact, is able to first stimulate and then to desensitize the warmth detectors in the hypothalamus gland, so that a drop in body temperature is evident. This enables natives in hot southern climates like Central and South America and Africa, for instance, to tolerate the heat a lot better than we would. That's one of the reasons why they consume so much capsicum and other chili peppers, to keep themselves cool, believe it or not!
The chemical capsaicin has a molecular structure very similar to vanilla, but a thermal rating equal to the molten hinges on the gates of hell! Some recent European studies have suggested that adding cayenne pepper to your meals not only boosts your vitamin C levels, but can also rev up your body's metabolism. It seems the capsaicin somehow 'resets' the individual 'fat thermostats' (called 'brown fat'), which enables the body to bum off more fat through chemical combustion, rather than storing it in muscle tissue.
Topical creams containing capsaicin are intended for the temporary relief of minor aches and pains of muscles and joints associated with arthritis, simple backache, strains and sprains. Adults and children two years of age and above may safely use them. They should be applied to affected areas not more than four times daily. Transient burning may occur upon application, but usually disappears in several days. For optimum relief, the treatment should be continued every day, 3 to 4 times daily.
Caution: Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water after applying. Do not apply on broken skin or pre-existing rashes. Do not use with a heating pad. Keep it away from your eyes.
The New England journal of Medicine reported that residents of Thailand have virtually no blood clot problems because of their frequent consumption of red pepper. If you use capsicum on a regular basis, you won't ever have to worry about getting blood clots! About 2 capsules a day is good for general health maintenance and eating more Mexican, Indian and other spicy foods laced with red pepper will virtually guarantee keeping your blood pretty thin. It also means you have a reduced risk of ever suffering a stroke.
How can something so hot help something so painfully raw and sensitive as a stomach ulcer heal up quite nicely in the course of time?
The internal consumption of capsicum stimulates the gut's mucosal cells which release more slimy mucous that neatly coats the walls of the intestines, including sore, bleeding ulcers. If you've ever watched a dog lick its wounds or held a burnt finger in your mouth, you'll know about the kind of relief I'm talking about which comes to stomach ulcers covered by lots of mucous. That then is about how cayenne pepper helps to heal ulcers. Suggested intake is one capsule twice to three times daily with meals.
If you're diabetic an average of 3 capsules of Nature's Way or any health food store brand of capsicum will help bring down high blood sugar levels very nicely. If you're just the opposite and hypoglycemic, you'd better avoid cayenne altogether, both in food and in herbal formulas as well.
Rodents were fed high fat diets but given some cayenne pepper as well. There was an increased excretion of cholesterol in their feces and no rise their liver cholesterol to speak of. So when you're consuming any kind of greasy food, be sure to drink an 8 oz. glass of tomato juice with it that has a pinch of cayenne pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. This also should help lower your risk of heart disease.
Cluster headaches usually last between 30 minutes and two hours and occur several times each day for months on end. They are generally characterized by excruciating, throbbing pain in and around the eye. The pain can be so intense at times that it seems as if a hypodermic needle is being jabbed into the eyeball. But thanks to pioneering research done in Italy, cluster headaches can almost become a thing of the past for nearly two million suffering Americans. Dr. Bruno Fusco, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Rome, tested the effects of one capsaicin-based cream (Zostrix) on 45 patients for up to a week. His team of researchers applied a little of the cream with cotton swabs about an inch inside the nostrils on the side of the head where the pain was felt. After the swabs were removed, those sides of the nose were gently massaged for about 15 seconds to make sure the cream had been evenly distributed and to help it penetrate the mucous membranes. The results were incredible: cluster headaches vanished in 34 patients and they remained pain-free for a year or more. Five others reported a 500/0 reduction in their headaches, and just six got no benefits at all. The only reported side effect was a burning sensation in the nostril when some of the cream was applied, but after 4-5 applications, the burning ceased.
Capsicum and paprika are known to increase energy levels within the body to a certain extent. Capsicum especially is included in some herbal energy products currently found on the market, such as Nature's Way Herbal Up sold in most health food stores nationwide. Cayenne pepper increased the intensity of electrical energy auras around the volunteers who used capsicum frequently in their diets. This finding indicates just how strength-promoting cayenne can be.
Capsaicin, which gives hot peppers their fiery properties, dissolves in either fat or alcohol. That's why either milk or beer is so popular for helping to quench the flames when any of these species are ingested for dietary or medicinal purposes.
An ointment used in mainland China and Taiwan for treating athletic and work-related injuries such as sprains, bruises, and swollen painful joints is made with one part ground hot pepper and five parts Vaseline. Prepare by adding the ground hot pepper to the melted Vaseline, which is then mixed well and cooled until it congeals. This ointment is applied once daily, or once every two days, directly to the injured area. In a 1965 report from a journal of traditional medicine from Zhejiang, 7 of 12 patients thus treated were cured and 3 improved, while 2 did not respond to this treatment. In the effective cases, 4-9 applications were usually used.
According to naturopathic physician Jane Guiltinan, cayenne pepper will literally 'knock the socks' off the worst sore throat pain imaginable.' Relief will last for up to four hours. Dr. Guiltinan recommends a mixture of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and salt to be used as a gargle. Her simple formula not only relieves sore throat pain, but also fights viral infection. The addition of a sour citrus juice like lemon or lime adds an astringent element to the remedy, which shrinks swollen membranes and helps to eliminate mucus deposits. The salt discharges further bacterial growth in warm, moist places such as the throat.
Instructions for making her searing gargle are quite simple: Combine the juice of one-half lemon or lime with one full tablespoon of salt. Stir both into one-half cup of lukewarm distilled water. Next stir in one-quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Gargle small amounts of this potent medicine for as long as you are able, but DON'T SWALLOW! Variations of this basic remedy may include the addition of honey, blackstrap molasses or pure maple syrup and pure vanilla extract to add some flavor and improve the horrible taste. Gargle with some of this mixture about every four hours or as often as needed until the sore throat goes away.
Some time ago medical investigators at the pain clinic at Toronto General Hospital in Canada discovered a new way to treat prolonged cases of shingles. In about 15% of cases, the disease includes a chronic phase of severe ongoing pain called post-herpetic neuralgia. Even the touch of a bedsheet can hurt so much that it is nearly impossible for the sufferer to rest comfortably. But when these researchers applied a capsaicinoid-based cream to their patients' shingles -sensitized skin, 78% experienced a modest decrease in pain, while another 56% reported a substantial decline in their pain thresholds.
Although scientific evidence is still somewhat scant, a few medical studies have already suggested that including cayenne pepper and other chilies in your diet regularly should help reduce your risks of ever contracting viral pneumonia and other diseases of the respiratory system. In some ways not yet fully known to scientists, capsaicin is able to strengthen the lungs through improved immune defenses, so that infections can't set in so easily. Perhaps this phenomenon may be due to the high amount of vitamin C present in chili peppers. The late Hungarian scientist Dr. Albert Szent - Gyorgyi was studying cayenne pepper (especially paprika) in the early 1930s when he discovered and isolated this important nutrient; this eventually earned him a Nobel Prize in medicine. Overall, chilies contain considerably more vitamin C per unit weight than do oranges or grapefruits. This probably explains why Spanish sailors from the 16th century on preferred taking on board with them as many pickled peppers as they could pack. The chilies prevented scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency disease that was once very common among sailors.
The homeopathic remedy Capsicum is made from the chilli pepper, which is still known in homeopathy by the name C. annuum. Medicinally, chillies are a powerful stimulant for the whole body, increasing blood flow and promoting perspiration. In the past they were used to treat infections. Complaints helped by this remedy are characterized by stinging pain in the bladder, thighs, back, ears, neck, and, when coughing, the chest. The pain resembles the burning sensation caused by eating or touching hot peppers. Capsicum is given for mouth ulcers, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, heartburn, rheumatism, and sore throats. People, who need Capsicum crave stimulants such as coffee, although these aggravate the burning pain.
HABITAT AND CULTIVATION
Cayenne is native to the tropical Americas and is now cultivated throughout the tropics, especially in Africa and India. Cayenne is grown from seed in early spring and flourishes in hot, moist conditions. The fruit is harvested when ripe in summer and is dried in the shade.
Cayenne contains alkaloids, fatty acids, flavonoids, vitamins A, B1, C, volatile oil, sugars, carotene pigment.
HOW MUCH TO TAKE
Creams containing 0.025 - 0.075% capsaicin are generally used. There may be a burning sensation for the first several times the cream is applied, but this should gradually decrease with each use. The hands must be carefully and thoroughly washed after use, or gloves should be worn, to prevent the cream from accidentally reaching the eyes, nose, or mouth, which would cause a burning sensation. Do not apply the cream to areas of broken skin. A cayenne tincture can be used in the amount of 0.3-1 ml three times daily.
SIDE EFFECTS AND CAUTIONS
Besides causing a mild burning for the first few applications (or severe burning if accidentally placed in sensitive areas, such as the eyes), there are no side effects from use of the capsaicin cream. Very high intake of cayenne internally may cause ulcers, but the necessary amount is rarely achieved with sensible intake. As with anything applied to the skin, some people may have an allergic reaction to the cream, so the first application should be to a very small area of skin.
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