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Spicy and Supportive: The Herbal Virtues of Cayenne

A delicious kitchen spice, you might not have realized that Cayenne is also an incredibly medicinal herb. Small doses of this herb can bring great benefits, including digestive support, pain management and circulatory stimulation. Read on for more great information all about this amazing plant.

Herb Info

  • Common Name: Cayenne Pepper

  • Latin Name: Capsicum annuum

  • Family: Solanaceae

  • General Characteristics: A perennial plant that grows as a spiky shrub up to 3 feet tall. Has bright-red, conical fruits filled with seeds.

  • Harvesting info: Fruit harvested in summer when ripe, dry away from Sun

  • Precautions/Safety: Use very small doses of this herb! Can cause intense pain, burning and contact dermatitis. As a stimulant, this herb can also exacerbate anxiety in some individuals, especially those with a hot/dry constitution.

Cayenne Pepper Herbal Actions

  • Stimulant (circulatory and digestive)

  • Tonic

  • Carminative

  • Antispasmodic

  • Diaphoretic

  • Analgesic

  • Antimicrobial

  • Antiseptic

  • Rubefacient

  • Anti-catarrhal

  • Antiemetic

  • Expectorant

  • Astringent

  • Hemostatic

  • Styptic

  • Laxative

  • Vulnerary

A Note on Pronouns

You may notice that I tend to use "they/she/he" when referring to different herbs in my materia medica blog posts. This is intentional, as using the word "it" to describe such complex and vibrant living beings feels like objectification. Philosophically, I recognize the livingness in all beings. It is very difficult to communicate these concepts in English, though, which is a language that often diminishes plants (and all more-than-human beings) into things and objects. Talking about them in any other way can feel clunky and difficult.

This is one reason I am grateful that the singular "they" is common now in modern English, and that is the pronoun I generally choose to work with when discussing plants. However, I do pick up on masculine and feminine energies from some plants, and will occasionally use "she/he" in those instances. When I do this, I'll often use "he/they" or "she/they" interchangeably for the herb in order to allow space for the wide spectrum of gender expression each plant possesses.

Plants, and gender, are expansive concepts and I do not intend to limit your understanding of any plant by my use of pronouns. Please use whatever words you'd like to describe the plants with whom you interact. I just ask that you foster respectful and reciprocal relationships that makes sense for you and your herbal work.

Ways to Interact with Capsicum annuum

Cayenne pepper is a superb pain remedy, especially when applied topically and locally to sore sites. Be careful not to put this herb on open wounds, though, as he can cause intense burning sensations. However, Cayenne is a stypic that stops bleeding and can be interacted with in dire circumstances for this purpose. This herb is a powerful warming stimulant, increasing circulation to local areas, which can promote pain relief and help speed healing and recovery.

The main way that Capsicum annuum works to reduce pain is through desensitizing the way that our brain perceives pain. The primary constituent responsible for this is Capsaicin, which stimulates our sensory receptors and creates the illusion of heat. Through repeated exposure, this diminishes the transmission of pain impulses from the peripheries to the spine. This means that applying Cayenne to sore areas doesn’t stop the pain, but it does prevent the pain signal from being received by our brain.

This can be helpful wherever instances of chronic pain are interfering with an individual’s ability to get through the day. Cayenne is particularly indicated in cases of arthritis, unbroken chilblains, headaches, neuralgic pain and back pain. When using topically, make sure to only apply Capsicum annuum to unbroken skin and don’t leave in place too long or this herb may cause blistering.

Cayenne is also a stupendous digestive herb that is antimicrobial, making food safer to eat and a great addition to any travel or backcountry first aid kit. He also helps our body fight infection, being supportive for both prevention and treatment when dealing with unpleasant tummy issues of many kinds. This herb also helps to relieve gas, colic and acute diarrhea. However, Cayenne is a potent and spicy herb that may upset some peoples' stomachs. If this is you, don't use Cayenne internally for belly issues.

Stimulating the secretion of digestive juices, Cayenne increases appetite and also helps our body better integrate and process the food we eat. As an antiemetic, Cayenne can also help minimize nausea. Michael Tierra claims that this herb can even help heal stomach ulcers if used carefully, recommending a slow increase in dosage to help guide the stomach to increase the mucus coating of the stomach lining.

Another way that Cayenne lends his support to us is through the myriad ways they can help with common symptoms associated with colds and flus. Cayenne is a great gargle for sore throats as an analgesic and infection buster, especially when used at the onset of symptoms to shorten the length of infection. He can also help decongest the lungs and move stagnant mucus. Cayenne also modulates fever temperatures, stimulating sweating and improving temperature regulation.

This herb is also used to counter debility and can be great to take during the acute and recovery phases of an illness. They are tonifying to the nervous system, helping strengthen nerves, and can be similarly supportive in helping the body recover from any period of long-term stress. Beyond the nervous system, Cayenne is also toning to the entire body and is particularly helpful for individuals with a cold or sluggish constitution.

A red and fiery herb, Capsicum annuum has a particular affinity for the heart and circulatory system. He helps regulate blood flow and strengthens the heart, arteries and capillaries. Cayenne increases blood flow to the surface, including extremities, as well as to deep organs. This make Cayenne a great support for reducing cold hands and feet. Lucy Jones makes the point that Cayenne is a great carrier and activator to include in small doses in formulations because they help get the medicine where it needs to go.

First Aid Kit Wonders

Cayenne is an excellent herb to consider including in any first aid kit. They are clearly a great ally against many common ailments, including stopping bleeding, blocking sensations of pain, supporting digestive issues and fighting colds and flus. Cayenne's circulatory stimulating properties can also help keep things moving when the body is stressed out and having difficulty maintaining balance.

Cayenne is also a styptic that can stop bleeding, but I would need to be in a pretty extreme situation before I would consider using Cayenne for this purpose, as putting them on an open wound would be extremely painful. NOLS, a wilderness first aid educator, teaches that direct pressure to the capillaries is the best way to stop bleeding, and it is always what I would try first before pulling out herbs. Yarrow is another great herb to keep around for their styptic qualities that stop bleeding, you can read all about this fantastic herb here. And for more inspiration on what to include in your herbal first aid kit, check out this blog post from Artemisia Academy.

Medicine Making with Cayenne Pepper

As it seems like cold and flu season is almost yearlong now, it is always a great time to make some Fire Cider to help boost your immune system and get you through all the icky bugs that can travel around.

Cayenne makes a great addition to any Fire Cider and you can be very creative with the ingredients you choose to include. For more FREE guidance on incredible ways to work with Fire Cider to boost your body and increase resistance to infection, check out Artemisia Academy's FREE Fire Cider Class.

Here's a simple Fire Cider recipe from Artemisia Academy's Beginner Medicine Making Class:

Fire Cider Ingredients:

  • Garlic

  • Ginger

  • Onion

  • Horseradish

  • Cayenne

  • Any other spicy/aromatic herbs

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

Fire Cider Recipe:

  • Chop herbs and fill a glass jar about 1/5 full

  • Cover with Apple Cider Vinegar (fill almost full, leaving 1-2 inches on top)

  • Cover lid with parchment paper to prevent vinegar from reacting with metal lid

  • Let steep for 2 weeks and shake every few days

  • Strain and store in a cool, dark place

How to Use Fire Cider:

  • Drink by the shot full during cold and flu season to prevent illness

  • Mix with hot water and honey for a cold and flue tea to drink 3-4 times a day

Artemisia Academy Programs

If you're interested in learning more about herbs, anatomy, and how to live a healthy and vitalizing life, Artemisia Academy’s Herbal Apprentice Program might be perfect for you. This program is full of great herbal information and guides you to learn how to be a healed healer. And for a free download with lots of helpful info all about Fire Cider, check out Artemisia Academy's FREE Fire Cider Class.

About the Author

Alicia Cielle Heiser is an Astrologer, Herbalist and student at Artemisia Academy. Her work centers on facilitating a greater understanding of the cyclical nature of the world and the ways that we as humans fit within the greater whole. She is writing a series of materia medica blog posts for Artemisia to make the wisdom and knowledge of herbal medicine more available to more people. Alicia also has a podcast called Conversations with the Planets and she offers herbal astrology readings and crafts personalized herbal tea blends. You can find her at 


Disclaimer: Information presented on this webpage is for educational purposes only, and does not include the diagnosis and treatment of disease nor replace the advice of a licensed physician. Please refer to a licensed health professional for any illness or persistent symptoms before using herbal remedies.

Herbs can sometimes cause discomfort or side effects, and may interact adversely with pharmaceutical medications. Do not use herbs internally without the approval of a doctor or medical professional if you are currently on medications or have a history of medical conditions.


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