Cayenne pepper – nutrition, proven health benefits & uses

Cayenne pepper

The scientific name of the cayenne or chile pepper is Capsicum frutescens. Other names include African chillies, Bird pepper, Cayenne, Chile pepper, Chillii, Red pepper, Bird pepper, Cayenne pepper, Chili pepper, Hot chili, and Spanish pepper.

Other names include

AFRIKAANS: Brand rissie.
ARABIC: Dâr fulful, Dar feller (Yemen), Filfil har (Irak), Filfull harr (Lebanese), Filfilianhar, Felfel (Egypt).
ASSAMESE: Jolokia.
AYMARA: Huayca.
BENGALI: Kancha lanka, Lanka, Lanka marich, Morich, Lal marich.
CHINESE: Mi jiao, Ye la zi, Ye jiao zi.
CROATIAN: Paprika ljuta.
CZECH: Pálivá paprika, Pepř cayenský.
DANISH: Spanskpeber.
DUTCH: Spaanse peper.
FINNISH: Chilipippuri.
FRENCH: Piment des oiseaux, Piment enragé.
GERMAN: Ziegenpfeffer, Vogelpfeffer, Roter Pfeffer, Chili Pfeffer.
GREEK: Kafstiki pipera (Cyprus), Kavterés piperiés, Piperi kagien, Tsíli.
GUJARATI: Lal marchum, Lila marchum, Marchum, Mirch, Mirchi.
HEBREW: Paprika harifah, Pilpel adom, Pilpel harif.
HINDI: Mirch, Lal mirch, Lalmirchi, Lankamirchi.
ITALIAN: Peperone acre, Peperone d’India, Peperone rabbioso, Pepe d’ucello, Pepe rosso picante, Peperoncino, Diavoletto, Pepperoncini
JAPANESE: Kidachi tougarashi.
KANNADA: Menshinkai.
KOREAN: Kaien gochu, Kochu.
LAOTIAN: Mak phe kunsi.
MALAY (Indonesia): Lombok cabai, Cabai merah, Cabai rawit.
MALAY (Malaysia): Cili padi, Lada merah, Lada mira.
COUNTRY: Chuvanna-mulagu (red), Kanthari, Mulagu, Kappalmelaka.
NEPALESE: Khursani, Ratô khursani.
PERSIAN: Felfel.
PORTUGUESE: Pimenta-malagueta, Pimentão (Brazil).
PUNJABI: Lal mircha.
ROMANIAN: Ardei iute.
RUSSIAN: Perets kustarnikovyj, Struchkovy pyerets.
SANSKRIT: Marichiphala.
SINHALESE: Gas miris, Rathu miris.
SLOVENIAN: Ostra paprika.
SPANISH: Ají, Chile, Guindilla, Pimienta picante.
SWAHILI: Pilipili, Piri piri, Peri peri
SWEDISH: Chilipeppar, Spansk peppar
TAMIL: Milagai .
TELUGU: Mirapakaya, Mirapakayalu , Merapu kai.
THAI: Phrik chīfā, Phrik khīnū.
URDU: Lal mirch, Lalmarach, Hari mirch, Gach mirch.

Cayenne pepper is an erect, branched and half-woody plant, growing to a height of 0.8 to 1.5 meters. Leaves are oblong-ovate to ovate-lanceolate, 3 to 10 centimeters long, and pointed at the tip. Flowers are solitary or several in each axil, stalked, pale green or yellowish-green, and 8 to 9 millimeters in diameter. Fruit is commonly red when ripe, oblong-lanceolate, 1.5 to 2.5 centimeters long. Seeds are numerous and discoid.

Medicinal property of Cayenne pepper

Stimulant, digestive, rubefacient, stomachic, sialagogue, alterative, antispasmodic, febrifuge, depurative.


– Fruit contains the active principles: capsaicin, 0.14% and capsicin.

– Cayenne pepper contains fatty oil, 15-20%; some volatile oil; capsaicin, 0.15 – 0.5%; starch, 0.8-1.4%; pentosans, 8.57%; and pectin, 2.33%.

– Study yielded two chemical compounds: Ortho- hydroxy- N- benzyl- 16- Methyl- 11, 14- diene- octadecamide and 9, 12-diene-octadecanoic acid.

– Yields ester, terpenoids, noncarotenoids, lipoxygenase derivatives, carbonyls, alcohols, hydrocarbons, capsaicin, dihydrocapsaicin, capsiconinoid, and capsinoid.

Parts used

Leaves and mature fruit.

Nutritional uses

– Fruit is a popular condiment.

– Mixed with or made into pickles, and is a principle ingredient in Indian curries.

– The leaves are used as vegetable, with a very pleasant and somewhat piquant flavor.

– In tropical countries, eaten fresh to promote digestion.

– In Taiwan and the Batanes Islands, leaves used in soup.

– An excellent source of calcium and iron, a good source of phosphorus and vitamins A and B.

Folkloric traditional medicine uses  

– Bruised berries used as powerful rubefacient; used for sore throats. Also used as gargle.

– Externally, a strong rubefacient that acts gently with no danger of vesication.

– Arthritis and rheumatism: Crush fruit, mix with oil and apply on affected part.

– Dyspepsia and flatulence: Eaten as condiment or drank as infusion as a stimulant and antispasmodic.

– Infusion of the fruit is stimulant, stomachic and antispasmodic; used for dyspepsia and flatulence.

– Infusion preparation: 3-10 grains every 2 hours to a cup of boiling water.

– Toothache: Juice of the pepper pressed into the tooth cavity.

– Rheumatism: Poultice of cayenne applied over affected parts.

– Fomentation of leaves and fruits applied to rheumatic pains.

– Leaves of some varieties used for dressing wounds and sores.

– Strong infusion of fruit of hotter varieties applied as lotion for ringworm of the scalp.

– Used in typhus intermittent fevers and dropsy.

– Externally, used as rubefacient , and internally as stomachic.

– Chile vinegar, made from pouring hot vinegar upon the fruit, used as stomachic.

– Chillies, combined with cinchona, used for lethargic affections, atonic gout, dyspepsia with flatulence, tympanites and paralysis.

– As rubefacient, mixed with with 10 to 20% cotton-seed oil, applied as cataplasm or as liniment.

– Powder or tincture used for relaxed uvula.

– Used in typhus intermittent fevers, gout, dyspepsia, cholera.

– Ancient Mayans used it for treatment of coughs, sore throat and coughs.

– In Jamica, used by traditional healers to treat diabetes mellitus.

– Azetecs used chile pungency for toothaches

Other uses of cayenne pepper

– In the Philippines, plant commonly used for dyeing in green shades.
– In Taiwan, used as ornaments and for rituals.

Preparation of Capsicum Oiniment

Materials required

– Cayenne pepper fruits.
Vegetable oil.

– Macerate Cayenne pepper fruits in enough vegetable oil to cover the fruits.
– Keep jar covered.
– After one week, strain to separate the fruits from the oil. The macerated fruits may be discarded or leave the macerated mixture in the jar and just decant the oil as needed.
– If turbid, heat the oil gently at low temperatures (Do not boil) until the mixture becomes clear.
– Transfer to medicine bottles.

Scientific proven health benefits and uses of Cayenne pepper


Capsaicin for medicinal use comes from Capsicum frutescens and is the active ingredient in the extract of hot peppers. It is most concentrated in the rib or membrane, less in the seeds, least in the flesh. Capsaicin depletes substance P in the afferent type C sensory nerve fibers, affecting only proprioception. Unlike other treatments for neuropathy, such as local anesthetics, opiates, anti-seizure medications or tricyclic antidepressants, capsaicin specifically treats pain without impairing other aspects of the nervous system. In incomplete depletion of substance P from suboptimal use, it may cause paradoxical increase of pain. (See: Capsaicin / DrugInteractions)


Post-herpetic neuralgia, post-mastectomy pain, hemodialysis-associated pruritus, psoriatic itching and pain, painful neuropathies, especially diabetic neuropathy, arthritic pains,and other superficial neuropathies.

Capsaicin and Dyspepsia:

In a small trial in Italy (Dr. Mauro Bortolotti et al, University of Bologna), 30 patients with functional dyspepsia were randomized on daily capsules of 2.5 g of red pepper or placebo. The capsaicin content (trans-8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) was 0.7 mg/g of red pepper power. After 3 weeks, upper gastrointestinal symptoms of epigastric pain, fullness, nausea and early satiety were all significantly reduced in the capsaicin group and not in the placebo group. The mechanism of action is believed to be the desensitization of gastric nociceptive C fibers, which carry pain sensations to the central nervous system. (see study )

Chronic Low Back Pain:

Study showed a capsicum plaster preparation to have application in chronic non-specific back pain. (see study)

Postoperative pain:

Study showed capsicum plaster applied at Korean hand acupuncture points reduced postoperative sore throat. (see study)

Anti-H pylori / Anti-ulcer:

Study to demonstrate in vitro activity of capsaicin on metronidazole-susceptible and -resistant H pylori showed bactericidal effect even at lowest concentration (25 ug ml). Capsaicin. the active ingredient of hot pepper showed in vitro activity against H pylori and presents a possible alternative treatment strategy for antibiotic resistant strains of H pylori, a reasonable meal supplement for those with duodenal and gastric ulcer, and for developing countries, a cheaper alternative.(see study)

Anti-H pylori: Study showed capsaicin to have a dose-dependent inhibition of the H pylori, suggesting chili ingestion as possibly protective against H. pylori-associated gastroduodenal disease. (see study)

Anti-inflammatory effect in H pylori-infected gastric epithelial cells:

Study showed capsaicin inhibited the release of pro-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-8 (IL-8) by H. pylori-infected gastric epithelial cells. (see study)

Hypoglycemic Principle:

Study led to the extraction of the active principle, capsaicin. Results showed the capsaicin to be the major constituent of C frutescens that is responsible for the hypoglycemic episodes seen in dogs, an effect apparently mediated by insulin release. (see study)

Gastric Acid Secretion:

Aqueous extracts of C annuum or C frutescens induced gastric acid secretion dose-dependently. (see study)

TPRV1 / Conflicting Glucose Effects:

The action of capsaicin is mediated by TPRV1 (vanilliod receptor) belonging to the ion channel group. TPRV1 has been found on pancreatic beta cells, and activated by capsaicin to increase insulin secretion. However, another study reported pure capsaicin activating glucagon secretion and increasing plasma glucose. At present, capsaicin glucose effects are still conflicting. (see study)

Antibacterial / Anthelmintic:

Phytochemical analysis of a methanol extract yielded saponins, tannins, alkaloids, glycosides and steroids. Study showed dose-dependent antibacterial and anthelmintic activity. Among the bacteria, Staph aureus was most susceptible, followed by K pneumonia and P aeruginosa. The anthelmintic effect al all concentrations was lesser when compared to standard. Results suggest the methanolic extract can be sued for bacterial and anthelmintic infections. (see study)


Study found 5 grams of capsicum provided capsaicin levels associated with a decrease in plasma glucose levels and the maintenance of insulin levels. Results suggest potential implications in the management of type 2 diabetes.

Burning Mouth Syndrome:

Study showed topical application of capsaicin as mouthwash proved itself as an alternative treatment for symptoms in patients with BMS (burning mouth syndrome). (see study)


Ethanol extracts of fruits of three kinds of Capsicum showed similar potencies in antimicrobial activities against Gram(+) and Gram(-) bacteria and fungi, although they contained different levels of capsaicin. Capsaicin was the main antimicrobial component. Similarity in antimicrobial activity of the hottest and least hot pepper suggests presence of synergism between capsaicin and other components of the fruit extracts. (see study)


Study evaluated the antifungal potential of aqueous leaf and fruit extracts of C. frutescens against four major strains associated with groundnut storage. Leaf extract showed strong activity against A. flavus, while the fruit extract showed good activity against A. niger.


Study evaluated methanol and ethanol fruit extracts of Capsicum annuum and C. frutescens for antibacterial activities selected bacteria. Both extracts were effective against Vibrio cholera, Staphylococcus aureus, and Salmonella typhimurium. The methanol extracts showed higher antibacterial activity., and C. annuum showed greater activity than C. frutescens. (see study)

Effect on Glucose Absorption and Metabolism:

Study evaluated the effect of 5 g fresh chili pepper on glucose response after a glucose drink and metabolic rate in Thai women. Results showed significant inhibition of postprandial plasma glucose during absorption period, with increased metabolic rate sustained up to 30 minutes postprandially. (see study)

Antidiabetic / Cardioprotective Effect:

Study evaluated the effect of Capsicum frutescens diet supplementation on fasting blood glucose levels and biochemical parameters in alloxan induced diabetic Wistar rats. Results showed improvement in all biochemical parameters, blood glucose, and body weight suggesting cardioprotective and anti-diabetic properties. (see study)

Mosquito Repellency / C. frutescens and Carica papaya:

Study evaluated the mosquito repellency of distillates of fruits of C. frutescens and C. papaya. The extracts showed better repellency when combined. However, the repellency did not seem to be simply additive but rather a complex interaction of constituents of the mixture. (see study)

Insecticidal / Aedes aegypti:

Study evaluated the insecticidal activity of different concentrations of methanol extract of fruits and leaves of C. frutescens against 2nd and 3rd instar larvae of Aedes aegypti. The fruit extract showed more killing effect than the leaf extract. The mortality of the larvae was found to be concentration dependent. (see study)

Diuretic Potential:

Study evaluated the diuretic potential of C. frutescens, C. oliturius and A. esculentus in albino rats. All three exhibited diuretic potential. Decoctions were comparable to furosemide. (see study)


Ubiquitous market produce.
Fruit cultivated as condiment.

Capsaicin is available as fresh and dried peppers, and in many countries, in capsules, tablets, and tinctures and for external application in potencies ranging from 0.1% to 0.75%.

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