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July Plant of the Month – Cayenne

July: Cayenne

Latin name: Capsicum annuum, Capsicum frutescens  – Solanaceae

Common name: Cayenne, chili pepper, chile

Usage: The powdered fruit of Capsicum annuum is a familiar culinary spice found in most grocery stores and many kitchen cabinets. Cayenne pepper can add kick and flavor to our favorite meals but it also packs a healing punch. This little chili supports our immune, cardiovascular and digestive systems and can also be used topically as an analgesic. Cayenne pepper is unique in the world of herbal energetics in that it goes beyond warm and is decidedly hot and very dry. If you have ever taken a bite of cayenne pepper, or utilized a generous amount on your food, you have probably experienced this pepper’s strong ability to encourage movement in the body(sweating, nose running, eyes watering). This exact physical reaction is what makes cayenne pepper so valuable in treating colds, flus and other congested respiratory infections. The flow of mucus out of the lungs and sinuses can help dispel infection while increasing body temperature and inducing sweating helps our body to prevent pathogens from replicating.      The stimulating action of cayenne also directly affects our circulatory and digestive systems. Cayenne increases blood flow and helps strengthen our heart and cardiovascular system. This action also makes cayenne especially valuable for the issue of cold extremities, helping move blood to those areas of the body.  Cayenne pepper stimulates the digestive system and in some cases can provide relief from indigestion and soothe peptic ulcers.     Topically cayenne can be used to ease muscle and joint pain, especially that of rheumatic origin. One of the main constituents of cayenne, capsaicin can actually decrease substance P, a neurotransmitter that relays the sensation of pain in the body. Unlike local anesthetics, cayenne does not eliminate all nerve sensation and cause numbness, it simply decreases pain. Amazing! Another good reason to keep cayenne in your spice cabinet is its use as a styptic (stops bleeding). The fruit of the cayenne pepper is utilized, often in powdered form.

Growth/Habitat: Capsicum annuum  is native to the tropical and subtropical regions of North and South America.Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum also known as chiltepin or bird pepper, is a variety of cayenne that is native to the Southern US. You can find this variety of cayenne growing in the Bodhi Garden and fruiting throughout the hot summer months.  Cayenne is a perennial plant in our warm climate and will provide you with peppers year after year. Prefers warm to hot temperatures, full sun and well-drained soil. Cayenne does not need much water but does not like to dry out completely. The C.annuum plant has simple, ovate leaves arranged alternately and produces small white flowers before setting fruit. The fruit is generally red and about 3 to 6 inches in length. 

CAUTION: Never use cayenne on broken skin. Consume cayenne with food. Some people may find even small amounts of cayenne irritating. The oils in the pepper, especially the seeds, can burn the skin and eyes. Avoid mucus membranes as the pepper’s oils can burn them. Always thoroughly wash your hands when working with cayenne and consider wearing gloves if you are processing the whole fruit. Cayenne pepper is HOT. Do not utilize with people with hot constitutions or hot conditions.

Recipes: Add cayenne to your next meal! Or incorporate cayenne in your next batch of fire cider! Check out Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe below:

  • ½ cup grated fresh horseradish root
  • ½ cup or more fresh chopped onions
  • ¼ cup or more chopped garlic
  • ¼ cup or more grated ginger
  • Chopped fresh or dried cayenne pepper ‘to taste’. Can be whole or powdered. 

Put all of these ingredients in a quart mason jar, cover with apple cider vinegar by about an inch or two. Label and let sit for at least one month. Strain, bottle, label and store in a cool place or in the refrigerator for maximum shelf life.

Enjoy!

Sources:

Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal: a Guide to Living Life with Energy, Health, and Vitality. Storey Books, 2001.

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