Cayenne (Capsicum annuum/ minimum/ frutescens) is a remarkable and cheap remedy for many ailments. It helps to regulate blood pressure, stems bleeding and stimulates the circulation in a gentle, but very effective way. It also (surprisingly) aids digestion and can help to heal stomach ulcers.
When I studied herbalism I learned to think of it as a 'fat buster', as it can remove unwanted fatty build-up from the circulatory system and liver, reducing cholesterol. It also has powerful antibacterial properties. I had my own experience of using Cayenne in an emergency after I shaved off the top of a finger and part of the nail while cleaning a peanut butter machine a couple of years ago. Not trusting my own wisdom or instinct (how often this is the case!) I went to a local pharmacy, where I was advised to go to a doctor to have the wound stitched. But there was nothing to stitch, as all skin had been removed! I regained my wits and plunged the finger into a bag of Cayenne, leaving it there for about 5 minutes. It staunched the bleeding and although it felt hot, it didn't sting or hurt at all. I also got the full benefit of Cayenne's antibacterial properties. I then made a herbal 'putty' to treat the wound. Suffice to say that I have a perfectly healed finger (and nail), with sensation returning to the tip of the finger about 12 months later, despite nerve damage.
Another more dramatic instance of the healing power of Cayenne occurred a few years ago. My mother had suffered a stroke, which was probably still happening when I arrived 90 minutes later. Curled up on her bed, she muttered that she thought she was going to die. I put a couple of drops of Cayenne tincture in a small amount of lukewarm water and dipped the corner of a clean handkerchief in the mix. While she was semi-conscious, I put this in her mouth and repeated it several times until she reacted by resisting, at which point I knew the Cayenne was doing the trick (as it can also do for heart attacks). Within five minutes she had regained full consciousness and was worrying about Canadian relatives due to visit in a few days
So, keep powdered Cayenne in your first aid cupboard.
1. Fill a small jar with the powder
2. Top up with 40% vodka
3. Shake daily
4. After 14 days strain through a coffee filter
The tincture will keep for a couple of years.
While most of us could do with incorporating Cayenne into our daily diet, constitutionally 'hot' people may find it too heating, so beware! The easiest way to take it I find is to put the powder (begin with 1/8 teaspoon, building to 1 full teaspoon) in tomato juice or passata.
Hey presto, a Bloody Mary without the vodka!
Another useful tip for winter is to sprinkle it in your socks, which will keep your feet toasty warm.
The health benefits of Cayenne are too numerous to detail here in an exhaustive list,
But, a health warning should run something like this: "Omit Cayenne from your first aid cupboard at your peril!"