As early as 700 B.C., cayenne pepper was already being used. It was used exclusively for Aztec kings often mixed with chocolate. Christopher Columbus discovered it and brought it back with him to Europe. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced cayenne to the rest of the new world especially in the Indian subcontinent.
Cayenne is native to Central American region and used in Mexican cuisines as a spicy ingredient for several thousand years. Today, this chili pepper is considered as one important commercial crop with India, Pakistan, Argentina, China and America as some of the worlds’ major producers.
Cayenne peppers’ scientific name is capsicum annuum and belongs to the nightshade family of Solanaceae. It’s a perennial shrub that grows to a height of 90-100 cm and grows well in warm climate with drained sandy soil. It has a woody stem having numerous branches and covered with dark-green foliage and small cream-white flowers. The pepper fruit is pungent and fiercely hot. It is slender and elongated in glossy bright green color and turns to deep-red when it matures.
Cayenne is one of the best health-benefiting spice around and loaded with vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients.
This superfood is packed with capsaicin, an alkaloid compound that gives it a strong spicy taste. Capsaicin is known to have anti-bacterial, analgesic, anti- carcinogenic and anti- diabetic properties and has the ability to reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels.
Cayenne is an excellent source of anti-oxidant flavonoids like cryptoxanthin, zea xanthin, lutein and carotenes that works together to protect your body from the damaging effects of free radicals caused by stress and illnesses.
The level of essential mineral it hold is very high that even when taken in small quantities on a regular basis gives you a good supply of potassium, manganese, selenium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. These minerals help your heart to function well, resulting in a good heart rate and blood pressure.
With Cayenne’s analgesic properties, it can be used to treat sore muscles, arthritic pain, toothache, back pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and neuralgia. It is also great as relief for stomach upset, intestinal gas, diarrhea, seasickness, fever, and cramp.
Some precautions to take. Go easy on your intake of cayenne as it can cause hot sensation and severe irritation to your mouth, tongue, eyes and skin. Avoid contaminating your fingers. Can be a problem if you accidentally touch your eyes. It can also aggravate existing gastro-esophageal reflux condition and may increase bleeding during surgery. For most adults, this chili is safe when taken in food quantity. Too much may cause kidney or liver damage. As for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, better to avoid eating chilies to be safe.
Cayenne fun fact: In the late 1500, cayenne was already being prescribed in Europe to treat skin and throat infections.
Spice up your morning. Drizzle some cayenne powder to your hot chocolate… yum-yum!
Stay fit. Eat well. Enjoy life.