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Herb of the Month - Cayenne Pepper!

The little spice that packs a powerful punch! Not only does it add heat and flavour to our favourite dishes, it also boasts some rather interesting health benefits.

Cayenne (Capsicum Spp) is part of the nightshade Solanaceae family and easily recognised for its small red fruit, which packs a mighty spicy punch. It is a very popular spice for cooking and often a pantry staple. For the people who enjoy spending time in the kitchen, you can appreciate the powerful heat that comes from cayenne pepper! Simply chopping or slicing the chilli can make your eyes water, and we have all had that unfortunate moment of accidently rubbing your eyes after prepping fresh chilli, it’s definitely not recommend OUCH!

It is due to the warmth that Cayenne can bring, that it is often found inside therapeutic creams and lotions. Cayenne helps to bring warmth to specific areas, which may help provide temporary pain relief in conditions such as mild osteoarthritis.

The therapeutic uses do not stop there! This powerful spice has been used traditionally in herbal medicine for many years. Its warming properties have also been known to act as a circulatory stimulant, in that it helps gently move blood around the body. It has an affinity with supporting peripheral circulation – making it a nice kitchen addition for people who frequently experience cold extremities.

Cayenne pepper is known for its strong antioxidant properties which may contribute and help support cardiovascular health. It is also rich in beta-carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A in the body. Cayenne is also a rich dietary source of Vitamin C, containing 201mg /100g compared to fresh oranges which contain 53mg/100g – but remember a little Cayenne goes a very long way!

Interestingly when consumed as a food cayenne can be used to support and aid digestion. Energetically the ‘hot’ properties of chilli can help to bring warmth to the digestive system; increasing warmth aids our digestive acids and the increases the ability to breakdown nutrients and increase nutrient absorption. It is also because of this warmth that Cayenne may aid our metabolism and support weight management when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

If you are prone to digestive health concerns such as stomach ulcers, Cayenne is not the best spice for you. While the heat can have therapeutic benefits it can also be too stimulating for some people. If you want to start adding it to your cooking, start slowly and build your way up – just remember a little goes a very long way.