Cayenne peppers are members of the solanaceae family in the genus capsicum. The most common members of this family are the chili pepper, bell pepper, paprika and other types of peppers both hot and mild.
Each member of the capsicum family has the potential to produce capsicum. However, in the bell peppers or sweet pepper family, a recessive gene in it and by doing so, eliminates any heat associated with capsicum.
What is capsicum? Capsicum puts the fire in peppers. It's a chemical in the peppers the affect the chemoreceptors of the skin and mucous membranes. The Scoville scale measures the amount of capsicum in the plant, and therefore the amount of heat it produces when you eat it.
Many scientists believe that the capsicum in the plants is a natural defense system that enables the plant's seed dispersal. Birds have no receptors for the capsicum to affect so they can consume the hot peppers without feeling any affects. However, mammals do have these receptors in addition to molars that can destroy the seeds instead of spreading them. The capsaicin also helps hinder fungus and other plant diseases with the anti-fungal and anti-microbial effect it has.
Cayenne peppers are hot but far from the hottest on the Scoville Scale. With bell peppers having a rating of zero, the cayenne pepper rating of 30,000 to 50,000 sounds pretty impressive but eating it is a walk on the beach compared to the rating of the Naga Viper with a fiery 800,000 to 1,382,118. The rating is impressive but way to high for most people to consume comfortably and close to competing with pepper spray for capsicum heat.
Most people can eat the cayenne pepper without suffering too badly so it makes a good addition to foods. Consuming cayenne pepper aids the mucous membranes. It also is beneficial for cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Its antimicrobial benefits help reduce infections. The consumption of the cayenne pepper also is beneficial to the skin and eyes. Since the capsicum increases circulation, it's beneficial for those suffering from Reynaud's disease and poor circulation to the extremities. Many herbalists also recommend it as a method of boosting metabolism.
Capsicum, and consequently cayenne pepper that contains it, is also an anti-inflammatory. This means it's good for a number of conditions varying from arthritis to atherosclerosis. The cayenne pepper contains antioxidant properties that fight off cell damaging free radicals. It's also one line of defense against the common cold and fevers.
Despite the heat produced by the pepper, it is an effective method of dealing with stomach pain and acid. It also aids in secretions and digestion. It is an effective painkiller without side effects. Some scientists are now working on methods to use it as an alternative painkiller for dental procedures and childbirth.
Other health benefits of cayenne peppers include its high amount of nutrients such as vitamin A and C. In addition, it's effective in lowering blood sugar. One study showed that eating hot peppers with a meal lowered the need for insulin by 60 percent.
Cayenne pepper is also a diet aid, since it speeds up the metabolism, slows the assimilation of fat and helps burn calories. It also helps trigger the "feel good" neurotransmitters in the brain, endorphins. This aids in pain relief and depression.
Not only can you receive great benefits by consuming the peppers containing capsicum, you also can derive benefits when you use capsicum on the skin. Ointments and creams containing capsicum are effective for sore muscles in the back, bruises, arthritis and rheumatism pain or sprains.