Some like it HOT!

Although most people don’t consider cayenne pepper an herb, it is one of the most valuable items in the kitchen for its multitude of uses. Is it an herb or is it a spice? That’s a fine line if the line exists at all. As you will see it certainly has its place in the spice cabinet, medicine chest, greenhouse and garden.

No herbal apothecary would be complete without cayenne. One interesting aspect of cayenne pepper is its effects on blood. When taken internally cayenne is warming and stimulates the movement of blood to peripheral areas for people who experience cold hands and feet. Being a mover and a shaker, cayenne is to an herbal formula what a spark plug is to a car. It assists with moving herbs swiftly through the bloodstream to the intended area of the body. Because it dilates the blood vessels, it makes delivery of oxygen and nutrients readily available and stokes the digestive fire temporarily boosting the body’s metabolic rate by up to 25% depending on how much you eat.

Used externally it has the complete opposite effect. It will stop bleeding on contact with an open wound as well as having antiseptic action. Time and time again I’ve used cayenne to stop bleeding until the person can get to the doctor or emergency room. Yes, the person usually backs up wide eyed when they see me coming with cayenne pepper but trust me, if you’ve just drilled a hole through your hand, you’ll barely notice the sting. If you’ve got a deep drippy wound, pack it in and apply a little pressure. It works on contact. That being said, I would not employ this method with a bloody nose unless you intend to bring a person to their knees in one hot hurry. The name cayenne is derived from the Greek word Kapto meaning “I bite” and is the main ingredient in pepper spray. Although it can be quite irritating to the mucous membrane of the nose and eyes, it has proven to be quite beneficial to other areas of the body. Cayenne can be taken internally to help control bleeding ulcers but will not have an effect on bleeding outside of the digestive tract as it cannot make direct contact elsewhere.

There are 3 different HU or Heat Units available when it comes to cayenne. 40,000 HU being the most commonly used and the one I use for stopping bleeding. 90,000 HU is the one recommended for stopping a heart attack and 160,000 HU which I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole! HOT HOT HOT!

Natures Nitroglycerin

As mentioned in a previous article but well worth repeating; perhaps cayenne’s most amazing attribute is its ability to stop a heart attack. According to Dr. John Christopher, pioneer of herbal medicine, “In 35 years of practice, and working with the people and teaching, I have never on house calls lost one heart attack patient and the reason is, whenever I go in-if they are still breathing-I pour down them a cup of Cayenne tea (a teaspoon of Cayenne in a cup of warm water), and within minutes they are up and around.” The tincture is also effective for this purpose. When using cayenne to stop a heart attack it is recommended to use the 90,000 HU (heat units). If the person is conscious it may be administered as a teaspoon in a cup of hot water. If unconscious, a few drops of tincture under the tongue is best. Cayenne has been shown to stop heart attacks in as little as 30-60 seconds.

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Cayenne will make you sweat which is important for detoxification purposes. When camping in the hot desert the herbalists used cayenne pepper tincture in the first aid kit to induce sweating if the need arose. This would also be helpful in the case of fever for the same reason.

Capsicin, the active ingredient in cayenne has been found to reduce “substance P,” a chemical that carries pain messages from nerve endings to the skin to the central nervous system. Clinical trials have shown that 75% of the people who applied a capsicin cream on their shingles experienced substantial pain relief with only an occasional burning sensation. Because of the reduction of substance P, cayenne pepper is a great anti-inflammatory reducing all kinds of pain and can be used as a poultice to relieve cold boggy painful conditions or used externally as a liniment for poor circulation.


In addition to its healing benefits, Cayenne is also nutritious. It contains minerals such as Zinc, Selenium, Calcium, and Magnesium. It also contains Vitamins such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C. It’s sometimes used as a tonic and is said to be unrivaled in warding off disease (probably due to the high vitamin C content).


What about the utilitarian aspects of cayenne?

If you’ve ever had to deal with a woodpecker, you’ll know the tenacity of the creature. They don’t go away when asked nicely and good luck lining one up in your sights. It isn’t happening. They’re swift and have an uncanny sense when threat is near. Either that or they have an accomplice that warns from the top of the telephone pole. You’ll typically see the tail end of the bird before you have a chance to do anything about it. Recently, Mr. Woodpecker served as our early morning wakeup alert with his attempts to bore a hole into our house, specifically, our bedroom.  Cayenne pepper to the rescue. Simply sprinkle the powder into any existing holes the woodpecker feels compelled to return to and it will have a sudden change of heart. It will try to return but as long as the cayenne pepper is present, it won’t stick around for long.  He’ll soon regret dipping his pecker into the pepper to put it bluntly. After 6 or 7 failed attempts, woodpecker has shown his weakness and is decidedly no match for cayenne.

This trick works just as well for garden pests, specifically rodents that drill up from underground. Sprinkle cayenne around their holes or line the bed with cayenne and like the woodpecker they’ll quickly realize your place is not as friendly as it seemed.

Cold feet? Sprinkle a little cayenne pepper in your socks.


stimulant, carminative, tonic, anti-catarrhal, anti-emetic, anti-microbial, diaphoretic, digestive, antiseptic


Tip: when using culinary herbs as medicinals it is always best to use as fresh as possible. Herbs will lose potency once they are ground and have sat on the shelf for a couple of years. For medicinal usage I would recommend growing your own or ordering in the smallest amount available from For freshness and cost effectiveness Mountain Rose is a great resource.

Caution: Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after touching Cayenne or use gloves to apply salve or liniment. If you are using the Cayenne salve on your hands, consider applying it at night and sleeping with gloves on or socks over your hands. Always start with small doses to prevent any unwanted effects.

Mr. Dave’s favorite old time liniment (to be used externally or along the gumline)

In one pint of rubbing alcohol combine the following:

1 ounce powdered myrrh

½ ounce powdered goldenseal

½ ounce cayenne pepper (either 40,000 HU or 90,000 HU)

Shake every day for one month and strain. Although Mr. Dave swears his liniment is good for anything that ails you, he finds it particularly useful for the treatment of cold sores and toothache due to infected gum.

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