Care of Amy Symington

Photo care of Vegetarian Times

Cayenne pepper (or Capsicum frutescens), a proud member of the nightshade plant family, is named after the city of Cayenne in French Guiana and is an extremely versatile and highly utilized spice worldwide.  It can be seen in almost every culture’s cuisine from South Asian to Caribbean to Thai to Latin to American. Although found in many different forms from fresh to dried to flaked, powdered tends to be the form most universally consumed.  Its pungently hot characteristics are most often utilized in hot sauces, curries, soups, jerked foods, rice and bean dishes and salsas.  However, its uses are endless really.

Additionally, there are almost as many health benefits for cayenne as there are potential uses.  Due to its high content of capsaicin, the consumption of cayenne can lead to an increase in metabolism, circulation and blood flow to all major organs.  If you are interested in decongesting your sinuses, reducing your cholesterol levels, regulating your blood pressure or increasing thermogenesis (aka the burning of calories), cayenne is your friend.  It promotes healthy mucus production in the body, hence the runny nose after eating, which can aid in regulating digestion and increasing immunity.

Cayenne research has also led to its potential use for pain relief particularly relating to arthritis, psoriasis, and diabetic neuropathy, in addition to potential cardiovascular benefits and the prevention of ulcers. It is a very good source of pro-vitamin A carotenoids, like beta-carotene, which are essential for all the tissues that line our gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts. Beta-carotene is also an antioxidant that combats unwanted free radicals that enter the body.  And if none of the above grabs your attention, you may be interested to know that cayenne is also considered to be an aphrodisiac.  😉

So sprinkle it on your popcorn, put it in your smoothies, sauces, stews, and soups and add it to your tea, chocolate, and curries.