Cayenne is a spice derived mainly from two cultivated species of the Capsicum genus, Capsicum annuum L. and Capsicum frutescens L. Capsicum adds color, pungency, and aroma to dishes around the world. Although originally cultivated in the tropical Americas, it is now grown worldwide. Capsicum annuum is cultivated almost exclusively in Europe and the United States, and Capsicum frutescens is cultivated in the tropics and warmer regions of the United States.
The level of pungency (heat) of the Capsicum species depends mainly on the concentration of capsaicinoids, primarily capsaicin. Chili peppers and red peppers come from plants with capsaicinoid levels 30-600 parts per million and 600-13,000 parts per million, respectively. Paprika is derived from plants with lower levels of capsaicinoids and is used to flavor less spicy foods, such as ketchup, cheese, and salads. Spanish paprika (pimento) is mainly used for coloring. The more spicy chilies and chili pepper from Capsicum annuum L. and Capsicum frutescens L. are used in curry powder, Tabasco® sauce, and chili powder. Cayenne pepper is made by grinding the pungent fruit of Capsicum into a powder.
Overall, clinical evidence is good for the use of topical Capsicum in a plaster for low back pain and at various acupoints for postoperative pain, nausea, and vomiting. Cayenne pepper is approved by the Commission E as a topical ointment for the relief of painful muscle spasms. The mechanism of action for topical pain relief by Capsicum is well studied. It is likely that the pain-relieving effect of pungent Capsicum spp. is due to capsaicin.
Capsicum is traditionally used for other purposes, including (but not limited to) weight loss, sore throat, tonsillitis, gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, muscle pain, and skin conditions. However, clinical support for Capsicum for these uses is lacking. The main constituent of Capsicum, capsaicin, has also been investigated in clinical study.
Cayenne was proposed as a chemical weapon during the American Civil War. Today, oleoresin of Capsicum has mostly replaced use of earlier riot control agents, such as chloroacetophenone and chlorodihydrophenarsazine.
Capsicum essential oil and cayenne pepper are listed in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list for use as a spice in foods. When used orally, Capsicum may cause gastrointestinal irritation, mouth and throat irritation, damaged taste buds with reduced ability to taste foods, fullness, flatulence, dyspepsia, diarrhea, ulcer aggravation, and stomach pain. Based on secondary sources, large amounts may cause kidney and liver damage. Topically, Capsicum may cause burning, redness, and irritation. Inhalation of Capsicum may cause dyspnea and cough. It may also irritate mucous membranes.

Related Terms

acyclic diterpene glycosides, African Capsicum, African chillies, African pepper, anastasia black, anastasia red, anastasia red of sweet pepper, ancho chilli, anteraxanthin, anthocyanins, arnoia peppers, ascorbic acid, bell pepper, belrubi, beta-apo-8'-carotenal, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, bg 2816, big jim, bird eye chilli, bird pepper, bounty banana pepper plants, C. chinense cultigens PA-426 and PA-350, C. praetermissum, CAAN4, capsaicin, capsaicin oleoresins, capsaicin-beta-D-glucopyranoside, capsaicinoids, capsanthin, capsiate, capsibiol, capsibiol-t, capsiconiate, capsiconinoids, capsicosides, Capsicum annuum L., Capsicum annuum L. accession Criollo de Morelos-334, Capsicum annuum L. 'avelar', Capsicum annuum L. 'bellboy', Capsicum annuum L. 'buchon', Capsicum annuum L. 'Bugang', Capsicum annuum L. Bukang, Capsicum annuum L. 'California', Capsicum annuum L. 'California wonder', Capsicum annuum L. Chilsungcho, Capsicum annuum L. CM334, Capsicum annuum L. coraciforme, Capsicum annuum L. 'dabotop', Capsicum annuum L. 'early calwonder', Capsicum annuum L. 'excalibur', Capsicum annuum L. fruit extract, Capsicum annuum L. grossum, Capsicum annuum L. 'hyang chon', Capsicum annuum L. 'jejujaerae', Capsicum annuum L. 'kyonami', Capsicum annuum L. 'lamuyo', Capsicum annuum L. 'mazurka', Capsicum annuum L. 'NuMex RNaky', Capsicum annuum L. 'P1482', Capsicum annuum L. 'padron', Capsicum annuum L. parent 'maor', Capsicum annuum L. 'pukang', Capsicum annuum L. 'Saeng-Ryeog #211', Capsicum annuum L. 'Saeng-Ryeog #213', Capsicum annuum L. 'TF68', Capsicum annuum L. type lamuyo, Capsicum annuum L. var. Anaheim, Capsicum annuum L. var. angulosum Mill., Capsicum annuum L. var. angulosum Mill. (Solanaceae), Capsicum annuum L. var. annuum (chili jalapeño chigol), Capsicum annuum var. annuum L., Capsicum annuum L. var. bronowicka ostra, Capsicum annuum L. var. California, Capsicum annuum L. var. conoides, Capsicum annuum var. conoides takanotume (RP), Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum, Capsicum annuum L. var. Km-622, Capsicum annuum var. longum sendtner, Capsicum annuum var. lycopersiciforme rubrum, Capsicuum annuum var. variata, Capsicum annuum L. var. yolo wonder b, Capsicum annuum L. 'yaglik', Capsicum baccatum, Capsicum baccatum 'PBC80', Capsicum callus, Capsicum chinense, Capsicum chinense 'Habanero', Capsicum chinense Jacq., Capsicum chacoense, Capsicum eximium, Capsicum fruit, Capsicum frutescens, Capsicum frutescens accession BG2814-6, Capsicum frutescens fruit, Capsici fructus acer, Capsicum minimum, Capsicum oleoresin, Capsicum pendulum, Capsicum pubescens, capsidiol, capsin, capsinoids, capsiplast, capsorubin, capzasin, Carolina cayenne, carotenoids, cas 404-86-4, cas 84603-55-4, cascabel chilli, casorubin, cay-1, cayenne pepper, Charleston belle, chilaca, chile, chile ancho (Capsicum annuum L. 'San Luis'), chili, chili guajillo puya (Capsicum annuum L.), chili guajillo puya flour, chili pepper, chilli, chillies, chung yang variety, civamide, cremor capsici compositus fna (ccc), criollo de morelos 334, datler, delfin, dihydrocapsaicin, dihydrocapsaicin-beta-D-glucopyranoside, dihydrocapsiconiate, dn3, dn5, dohevanil, dolorac, dolorub capsico, dr6, early jalapeño, feruloylserotonin, fiery jack, flavonoids, fructus capsici, gang ja variety, garden pepper, glucosides, goat's pepper, goat's pod, grains of paradise, green bell pepper, green Capsicum, green chili pepper, green pepper, guajillo peppers, high heat, homocapsaicin, homodihydrocapsaicin, honka, hot chili pepper, hot pepper, Hungarian pepper, hydroxycapsaicin, ici fructus, jalapeño, Japanese Capsicum, jaranda, jariza, keystone resistant giant, lignan glycosides, Louisiana long pepper, Louisiana sport pepper, lr2, lr7, lutein, ma1, ma3, mana, Mexican chillies, minerals, mulato, ne-21610, negral, neoxanthin, New Mexico no. 6 chile, nonivamide, nordihydrocapsaicin, nordihydrocapsiate, numex, oleoresin Capsicum (oc) spray, p-coumaroylserotonin, padrón-type, pageant banana pepper plants, pain-free HP™, paprika, pepper, pepper ('Padrón'), pimento, pimiento, poblano, pod pepper, ponv-Capsicum plaster (pas), proteins, provitamins E, P, B1, B2, and B3, pungent pepper, quercetin, red chiles, red chili, red chili spur pepper, red pepper, resiniferitoxin, resiniferatoxin (rtx), Rheumaplast®, rn1, rn2, Russian sweet pepper, saponin, serrano, sesquiterpenoids, Solanaceae (family), steroidal saponins, sweet pepper, tabasco pepper, thiols, trans-8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide, ubatuba cambuchi, uchu, vanilloid, vanillyl fatty acid amides, violaxanthin, vitamin A, vitamin C, volatile oils, Wärme-Pflaster™, yolo wonder, xilli, Zanzibar pepper, zeaxanthin, Zostrix®.
Note: This monograph focuses on cayenne and pungent Capsicum spp. and does not specifically include clinical trials investigating the effects of isolated capsaicin or information on nonpungent varieties of Capsicum. However, due to the nature of Capsicum (pungent and nonpungent varieties within the same species and occasionally the same variety), some information on nonpungent Capsicum is included.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Low back pain (topical plaster) (Grade: B)
Good evidence suggests that cayenne may reduce lower back pain when applied to the skin. Additional research is needed to reach a strong conclusion about dose, duration, and safety.
Post-operative nausea / vomiting (plaster at acupoint) (Grade: B)
plaster at acupoints, an alternative to acupuncture, has been studied as a means to reduce postoperative nausea and vomiting with promising results. Based on available studies,
Post-operative pain (plaster at acupoint) (Grade: B)
Cayenne plasters at acupoints reduced postoperative pain and the need for pain-relieving medications. Further study on dose, duration, and safety is still required.
Diabetic neuropathy (Grade: C)
Capsaicin cream may help reduce pain associated with diabetic nerve damage (neuropathy). However, additional research is needed to confirm these findings.
Duodenal ulcer (Grade: C)
It is unclear if chili peppers are helpful for duodenal ulcers. Additional research is needed in this area.
Dyspepsia (Grade: C)
Early evidence suggests that cayenne may help treat symptoms of indigestion (dyspepsia). Additional well-designed research is needed before conclusions can be drawn.
Ear infections (Grade: C)
Based on early evidence, homeopathic remedies, including
Helicobacter pylori infection (Grade: C)
It is unclear if capsaicin helps prevent the growth of
Pain (soft tissue) (Grade: C)
may reduce soft tissue pain when applied to the skin. However, additional research is needed before conclusions can be drawn.
Rhinitis (Grade: C)
Limited evidence suggests that capsaicin nasal spray may help reduce nasal congestion in patients with chronic rhinitis. However, additional research is needed before conclusions can be made.
Sore throat (Grade: C)
In preliminary study,
Stimulant (Grade: C)
Early evidence suggests that
Tonsillitis (Grade: C)
An herbal product containing cayenne (
Weight loss (Grade: C)
Early evidence suggests that cayenne may help suppress the appetite, but well-designed human research is limited. Additional trials testing cayenne alone are needed.