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Herbal Medicine Materia Medica: Cayenne

David Hoffmann L. BSc (Hons), MNIMH ©


Capsicum minimum


Names: Capsicum, Chili or Chili Pepper, Hot Pepper, Tabasco Pepper.

Habitat: Tropical America and Africa and widely cultivated.

Collection: The fruit should be harvested when fully ripe and dried in the shade.

Part Used: The fruit.


  • Capsaicin.
  • Carotenoids; capsanthin, capsorubin, carotene.
  • Steroidal saponins known as capsicidins, in seed and root.

Actions: Stimulant, carminative, anti-catarrhal, sialagogue, rubefacient, anti-microbial.

Indications: Cayenne is the most useful of the systemic stimulants. It stimulates blood flow, strengthening the heart, arteries, capillaries and nerves. A general tonic, it is also specific for both circulatory and digestive system. It may be used in flatulent dyspepsia and colic. If there is insufficient peripheral circulation, leading to cold hands and feet and possibly chilblains, Cayenne may be used, also for debility and for warding off colds. Externally it is used as a rubefacient in problems like lumbago and rheumatic pains. As an ointment it helps unbroken chilblains, as long as it is used in moderation! As a gargle in laryngitis it combines well with Myrrh. This combination is also a good antiseptic wash.

King's Dispensatory describes it thus: Capsicum is a pure, energetic, permanent stimulant, producing in large doses vomiting, purging, pains in the stomach and bowels, heat and inflammation of the stomach, giddiness, a species of intoxication and an enfeebled condition of the nervous power. The infusion is much used in colds, catarrh, hoarseness, etc. In atonic dyspepsia and catarrhal gastritis it stimulates the nerves of the stomach, promotes the secretion of the digestive juices, and assists peristaltic motion. As an internal remedy some have advanced the theory that it is destroyed during digestion. Perhaps, when ingested with food, this may be partially true, but, if so, how do we account for its remarkable activity in sustaining the nervous system when given in delirium tremens and the power it has in steadying the patient and promoting sound sleep? That its effects are partly due to its stimulating action upon the gastric membranes is unquestionable, but its entire effects cannot be due to this cause alone. The same may be said of its action in congestive intermittent and remittent fevers. Some thought to attribute its action in congestive chill to its effect upon the solar plexus. It forms an excellent addition to quinine in intermittents, where there is a deficiency of gastric susceptibility and it has been asserted that but 1/2 the quinine will be needed when combined with Capsicum.

Capsicum meets the debility of young and old, but is particularly useful in the elderly, when the body-heat is low, vitality depressed and reaction sluggish. Tired, painful muscles, stiffened joints and relaxation of any part are common conditions in the elderly that are, in a measure, rectified by Capsicum. Homoeopathists suggest its use in pneumonia when abscesses threaten. Flatulence in dyspeptic states may be dispelled by capsicum.

Externally, the infusion and tincture have been found valuable as a stimulating gargle in the ulcerated throat of scarlatina; also as a counter-irritant, as an application to indolent ulcers, in chronic ophthalmia and in chronic or indolent ulceration of the cornea. If use dearly in tonsillitis, with relaxation, it may abort the trouble, but if it does not, its use should be discontinued until the active inflammation has subsided. Hoarseness, from atony of the vocal cords, is relieved by it, and it is a remedy for relaxed uvula. It enters into various tinctures and linaments. The concentrated tincture of capsicum has been highly recommended in the treatment of chilblains and toothache. In the former, a piece of sponge of flannel must be saturated with it, and rubbed well over the seat of the chilblain, until a strong tingling and electrical feeling is produced. This application should be continued daily, until the disease is removed; relief will be experienced on the very first application and frequently there will be a total removal of the disease after the second or third application. This, however, will depend upon the severity of the case.

Powdered Capsicum, sprinkled inside the stockings, was a favorite prescription with Prof. Scudder for cold feet. This medicine possesses an extraordinary power in removing congestion by its action upon the nerves and circulation; if the skin is not broken.

Specific Indications and uses; - Marked depression and debility; atonic dyspepsia of drunkards; delirium tremens; colic, with abdominal distension; congestive chills; cold extremities, with blanched lips and small, weak pulse; congestion, with capillary atony; tongue dry and harsh, and buccal and salivary secretions scanty, in fevers; chronic hemorrhoids, from relaxation.

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