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Herbal Monograph

Herb: CAYENNE   (Capsicum frutescens;  C. annuum;  Solanaceae)

Other Names:    Grains of Paradise, Hungarian pepper, goat’s pod, paprika.    (2)

Africa pepper,  American pepper, bird pepper, capsicum, chili pepper, cockspur pepper, goat’s pepper, pod pepper, red pepper, Spanish pepper, Zanzibar pepper  (13)

African pepper, Guinea pepper, bird pepper, chillies.    (57)

Character/Energetics:   spicy, hot   (6);  very hot, pungent, drying   (15)

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:  kidney, lungs, spleen, stomach, heart    (6)

heart, circulation, stomach and kidneys; spleen, pancreas  (14) 

Parts used:   the ripe fruits  (6);  fruit  (13)    

Identification & Harvesting:    An annual, or a perennial in the tropics, 8-40 in. high plant with an erect stem, somewhat woody and angluar.  Sparsely branched higher up.  Leaves are usually solitary, long-stemmed, oval, lanceolate to ovate, wedge-shaped at the base, margined or slightly curved, smooth.  Flowers are usually solitary or occasionally in pairs or threes.  They are hanging and long-stemmed.  Corolla is wheel-shaped with a short tube, varying in color from white to yellow;  occasionally from purple to violet with whitish-green or violet markings.  Berry is 1.5-5 cm long and up to 4 in. thick and varies in form.  The wall of the fruit is tough and leathery and may be red, yellow-green, or brownish.  Seeds are numerous, light, yellowish-white, flat, disc, circular, or kidney-shaped and thickened at the margins.  Surface is pitted.  Indigenous to Mexico and Central America.  Cultivated in all warmer regions.  Harvest when completely ripe and dry at a maximum of 95 F.    (2)

Cayenne is a perennial plant in its native tropical habitat but is annual when cultivated outside tropical zones….The ripe fruit, or pepper, is a manyseeded pod with a leathery outside in various shades of red or yellow.  (13)

Varies much in color, size and pungency.  The most pungent are those of Sierra Leone, but the color is yellowish red.  Japanese are bright red and longer, but less pungent.  Birdseye cayenne are small bright Japanese pods of equal size.  These are the most expensive, owing to the cost and care in collection.    (57)

A highly variable species in the nightshade family that includes paprika, bell and jalapeno peppers.  Originates in the tropical Americas and is grown worldwide.    (61)

Active constituents:    Capsaicinoids (amines of the vanillyl amine with C8- C13- fatty acids), chiefly capsaicin, dihydrocapsaicin;  carotinoids incl. capsanthin (dark red);  flavonoids;  steroid saponins, mixture a.k.a. capsicidin.    (2)

a pungent alkaloid called capsaicine, a red carotenoid pigment, capsanthine, several vitamins including vitamins A and C    (6) ;  alkaloids, fatty acids, flavonoids, vitamins A, B1, C, volatile oils, sugars, carotene pigment  (15)

Contains carotenoids and vitamins C and E, powerful antioxidants.    (61)

Actions:  stimulant, expectorant, astringent, hemostatic   (6);  appetizer, digestive, irritant, sialagogue, stimulant, tonic  (13);  carminative, stimulant; antispasmodic, astringent   (14); circulatory stimulant, promotes sweating, gastric stimulant, carminative, antiseptic, anti-bacterial, stimulating nerve tonic. Topical: counter-irritant, increases blood flow to an area. (15);    stimulant, stomachic, counter-irritant  (50)

In the 1970’s John Christopher promoted cayenne as a circulatory stimulant, claiming that “it feeds the necessary elements into the cell structure of the arteries, veins and capilllaries so that these regain the elasticity of youth again, and the blood pressure adjusts itself to normal.”  However this belief has no scientific proof.  Carotenoids enhance the activity of various immune system cells.  The carotenoids in cayenne have been shown clinically to improve lifespan in primates.    (61)

Stimulant, tonic, carminative, rubefacient.  The purest and most certain stimulant in herbal materia medica.  Produces natural warmth and equalizes circulation.    (57)

Conditions and Uses:  Used for painful muscle spasms in areas of shoulder, arm and spine, rheumatic conditions, arthritis, frostbite, chronic lumbago;  as a gargle for hoarseness, sore throat, strep throat;  in creams for circulation and as a female orgasm stimulant.  Use should be limited to 2 days;  longer usage can cause dermatitis, blistering and ulceration.  Used internally for gastrointestinal disorders, loss of appetite, dyspepsia, diarrhea, alcoholism, seasickness;  for malarial fever, yellow fever and other fevers, prophylactically for arteriosclerosis, stroke and heart disease as well as to increase potency.    (2)

Cayenne warms the center, aids digestion, decongests the lungs, circulates chi and blood, stops bleeding and stimulates kidney yang (sympathetic immune system).   (6)  

Cayenne is a preventative for heart attacks, flu, colds, indigestion and lack of vitality, and it’s used in the treatment of the spleen, pancreas, and kidneys and stomach sores.

InternalArteriosclerosis: Tincture*, Powder*

  Arthritis: Tincture*, Powder*

  Asthma: Tincture, Infusion, Powder

  Bleeding: Tincture, Infusion, Powder

  Hypertension, Blood Pressure (high or low): Powder* 

  Bronchitis:  Tincture*, Powder* Syrup*

  Chills:  Tincture, Infusion, Powder

  Colds:  Tincture, Infusion

  Convulsions: Tincture*, Infusion

  Coughs: Tincture, Infusion, Powder

  Indigestion:  Tincture, Infusion, Powder

  Infections: Tincture*, Infusion*, Syrup*

  Jaundice:  Tincture*, Infusion*, Powder*, Syrup*

  Ulcers:  Tincture*, Infusion*, Powder*, Syrup*

  Varicose veins:  Tincture*, Infusion*, Powder*

External  Frostbite: Tincture, Fomentation, Lineament

        Painful joints: Tincture, Fomentation, Lineament

        Swellings: Tincture, Fomentation, Lineament

        Varicose veins: Tincture, Fomentation, Lineament

* Usually used  in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem. (14)

Cayenne is a potent stimulant for the whole body. The fruit increases blood flow, tonifies the nervous system, increases the appetite, relieves indigestion, and stimulates yang energies (see pp. 14-15). It encourages sweating and is anti-bacterial, so is ideal for colds and chills. Also good for throat problems, such as tonsillitis, laryngitis, and hoarseness. Recent research suggests that cayenne can ease the severe pain of shingles and migraines.  (15)

Capsicum is a powerful stimulant, stomachic and counter-irritant; produces when swallowed a sense of heat to the stomach and a general glow over the whole body; aids digestion and is very useful in enfeebled and languid stomach, dyspepsia, atonic gout, etc. (50)

Persons exposed any length of time to cold and damp may ward off disease by taking pills made of pure cayenne, and a cold may generally be removed by one or two doses of the powder taken in warm water.    (57)

The ancient Maya used it to treat mouth sores and inflamed gums.  Capsaicin, the source of cayenne’s bite, is used in minute amounts in topical pharmaceutical products to treat pain at the site of an apparently healed infection, for shingles and osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis.  The whole herb itself is not used in this way.    (61)

Combinations: It is excellent when added to formulas to stimulate the action of other herbs. (14)

Cayenne enters into many of the compounds of the herbal practice and is one of the most important remedies.    (57)

Tincturing Process: 80-95% alcohol  (10)

        1 oz herb: 5 oz (95%) alcohol   (11)

CAYENNE   (Capsicum frutescens; Solanaceae)

Dosage & Applications: 1‑3 grams in decoction; powder, 500 mg.  

  Begin with small to moderate doses, gradually increasing the amount used. Thus the gastrointestinal tract will be able to adjust by increasing the amount of mucus coating the stomach lining. If used carefully in this way, cayenne pepper can heal stomach ulcers.   (6)

Infusion: Use 1/2 to 1 tsp. pepper per cup of boiling water. Take warm, 1 tbsp. at a time. 

Powder: For acute conditions, take 3-10 grains; for chronic conditions  1-3 grains. 

In powder or tablet form, capsicum is used as a general stimulant and to build resistance at the beginning of a cold. It can also be taken as an infusion for stomach and bowel pains or cramps. Small quantities of the fresh fruit or the powder will stimulate appetite. 

For external use, cayenne is made into plasters or liniment or the tincture is applied to increase blood flow to areas afflicted with rheumatism, arthritis, pleuritis, or pericarditis.   (13)

Cayenne is effective as a fomentation for rheumatism, inflammation, pleurisy, sores and wounds. It can be used as an infusion or added to lineaments….The powder or tincture can be rubbed on toothaches or swellings. Cayenne will stop bleeding both internally and externally. I have sprinkled powdered cayenne on bleeding cuts and it immediately stops the bleeding. 

When cooked , cayenne becomes an irritant. 

Taken as a daily tonic (four days a week) 1/4  tsp. in  water or juice, 3x daily, it will benefit the heart and circulation. Cayenne can be added to soups and salads….

Infusion: 1 tsp. to 1 cup boiling water taken in 1/2 oz doses. Pour water over cayenne.

Tincture: 5-15 drops 3x daily.      Fluid Extract: 10-15 drops 3x daily.

          Oil:  For toothache, clean the cavity and place cotton saturated  with the oil into the cavity; use sparingly, as it is very potent.  

          Powder (internal): 1 to 2 #0 capsules (1 to 10 grains) 3x daily.

          Powder (external): For external bleeding, powder may be placed directly on the wound. (14)

Its  most important application, however, is in the relief of malignant sort throat and scarlet fever, in which it is used internally and as a gargle.

Applied externally, capsicum is a powerful rubefacient, very useful in local rheumatism and in forms of ailments where a stimulant impression upon the surface is demanded. It may be applied in the form of a poultice. It has the advantage of acting speedily without endangering vesication.  (50)

Up to 1500 mg capsules daily, or steep 1/2-1 tsp powder in a cup of hot water for 10-15 min.  Tincture 5-10 drops.    (61)

Precautions:    Reversible or irreversible peripheral nerve damage possible with external use.  Use should be limited to 2 days;  longer usage can cause dermatitis, blistering and ulceration.  No final determination of possible hazards or side effects.  Internal use could cause diarrhea, intestinal and gallstone colic.  Investigations of carcinogenesis have yielded inconsistent results.  Toxic doses lead to hypothermia by affecting the thermoreceptors.  High doses for extended periods can cause chronic gastritis, kidney damage, liver damage and neurotoxic effects.    (2)

Prolonged application to the skin can cause dermatitis and raise blisters. Excessive consumption can cause gastroenteritis and kidney damage.  (13)

The seeds can be toxic, so do not use them.

Follow dosages carefully; excessive consumption of cayenne can lead to gastroenteritis and liver damage.

Avoid therapeutic doses of cayenne in pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Do not leave a compress on the skin for long periods, especially on very sensitive skin, or blistering may occur.

Avoid touching the eyes or any cuts after handling fresh chilies.  (15)

Known to have anti-platelet activity — use with care when taking herbs or drugs with anticoagulant activity (such as warfarin or horse chestnut).  Anti-platelet principles potentiate the danger of bleeding disorder contingent upon anticoagulants.  If you are taking large amounts, have your bleeding time measured by your doctor as a precaution.    (1)

Capsaicin is a highly toxic irritant in its pure form.  Not water soluble, so it is difficult to wash off after handling.  Scientists working with capsaicin protect themselves with space-suit gear.  Hot peppers can cause burning skin irritation, a condition known as “Hunan hand” from the spicy cuisine of China.    (61)

Divination:  VIII   Strength: Cayenne

        Cayenne stimulates the circulation of blood and energy, raises vitality, counteracts          putrefaction and gas, and stops bleeding.  (g, ruled by the q)

        Symbolically used for: Coldness. Lack of vitality. Blockage on all levels. Isolation

        Divinatory Meanings: Power. Strength. Courage to face outer challenges. 

        A person who is a mover.

        Reverse Meanings: Bullishness. Quarrelsome person. 

One who is injurious to others. Overpowering person. (52)    t (48)

General Notes: The hot red cayenne chili arrived in the West from India in 1548 and was known as Ginnie pepper. Gerard describes it as “extreme hot and dry, even in the fourth degree,” and recommends it for scrofula. a prevalent lymphatic throat and skin infection commonly known as the King’s Evil. Cayenne was popular with the 19th century physiomedicalists (see pp. 20-21), who used its warming properties for chills, rheumatism, and depression.  (15)

The popular belief that cayenne stimulates digestion and circulation has no scientific proof.    (61)



(1)  Cayuga Botanicals Research Data, “The Herb-Drug Mix” by Robert Rountree, M.D., Herbs for Health,

Jul/Aug ’99, pgs. 52-54

(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), pgs. 715-16

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pg. 241 

(10) Herbal Preparations and Natural Therapies by Debra Nuzzi St. Claire, M.H., pg. 127

(11) Herbal Materia Medica (5th edition) by Michael Moore, pg. 8

(13) The Herb Book by John Lust, pgs. 151-152

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 99-100

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pg. 46

(50) The Practical Herbalist and Astrologer by Ira N. Shaw, pg. 33

(52) The Herbal Tarot Deck (Created by Michael Tierra and Designed by Candis Cantin)

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., pgs. 77-78

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 50-51