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By Karen Morris

The Cayenne or chilli pepper plant Capsicum annuum is well known in many cuisines worldwide for its bright red conical shaped fruit.

In fresh, dried, whole or powdered forms it is used to produce herbal treatments for internal and external use. The hot, pungent and stimulating nature of Cayenne is due to the active substance capsaicin. In foods and medicines this herb is used in small quantities. Cayenne is native to Central and South America and is one of many members of the Solonaceae or nightshade family.

Cayenne is very nutritious, containing a range of useful vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B and C, minerals Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Phosphorous, Selenium and Zinc, also anti-oxidant vitamins derived from the bright red colouring of the fruit.

Medicinally Cayenne is used internally to assist the heart and blood vessels by improving and stimulating blood flow to the whole body, creating a feeling of warmth. It stimulates digestive secretions and has the ability to promote perspiration and clear congestion making it useful in cold or feverish conditions. It is also used to aid in lowering blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Cayenne must be avoided if suffering inflammatory or ulcerous conditions of the digestive system as it can irritate the sensitive tissues.

Topically Cayenne plays an important role in herbal creams and ointments by increasing blood flow and circulation, reducing pain and promoting warmth to chilblains, stiff arthritic joints and sore muscles. It is also well known for assisting wound healing due to its antiseptic properties.