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Cayenne Pepper: Its History and Use

Updated on February 20, 2020

The Red Bird Pepper, Cockspur Pepper, Goat's Pepper, African Pepper and Hot Flame all have one thing in common. They are nicknames for Capsicum, better known as cayenne pepper. The pepper ranges in color from red, orange and yellow. This herb is ingested either raw or cooked, but only after rigorous drying transforms the pepper into a powder. Hot cayenne powder is available all year round, giving your taste buds a jolt, and is sure to step up any sauté simmering.


The use of Cayenne pepper was first recorded in the Central and South American region over seven thousand years ago. It was initially used as decorative items, rather than as a food enhancer. Its hot and spicy flavor made it perfect for serving as a spice for food, and the natives believed it had terrific medicinal value. Cayenne pepper was unknown to Europe before the 15th and 16th centuries until the expeditions to the New World. The Europeans initially used cayenne pepper as a cheaper alternative for black pepper, since black pepper had to be imported from Asia. The famed explorer Magellan introduced cayenne to Asia and Africa, which made these peppers a global commodity. This pepper was first cultivated in the town of Cayenne, French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America. This is how the pepper received its name.

The Plant

Growing no more than 3 to 4 feet in height, the cayenne plant is considered a shrub. The plant has smooth surfaces making them appear shiny with green leaves. It flowers into and eventually becomes long pepper pods. The pods once matured and darkened in color are the portion that provides the pungent and spicy flavor when used in cooking. Store cayenne pepper in a tightly sealed glass jar, keeping it out of direct sunlight.

Nutritional Properties

Cayenne peppers are an excellent way to boost immunity in the body. It contains a large amount of beta-carotene or pro-vitamin A. Additional supplements provided by cayenne peppers include vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, and dietary fiber.

Medicinal Properties

Research is being conducted in tying cayenne pepper to weight loss. The heat generated in the body known as thermogenesis after eating cayenne pepper releases energy thus burns off calories. Fight inflammation with chili peppers, including cayenne, since they contain capsaicin. Natural pain relief with cayenne pepper includes effective treatment for headaches and osteoarthritis pain.

Serving Ideas

Improve traditional recipes by adding a dash of cayenne pepper to most any food item. Cayenne peppers have more use in food recipes than just chili. Dips for vegetables, dressing for salads, barbecue sauce or meat marinade with a pinch of cayenne strikes a difference in the fare. Become Mexican by giving your hot chocolate the added spice with a dash cayenne pepper. Besides bringing a salt and pepper shaker to the table, a flavorful addition is one other filled with cayenne pepper. Varieties of cayenne powder are generally carried in most supermarkets and gourmet stores.

Cayanne pepper is a good way to spice up your life!
Cayanne pepper is a good way to spice up your life!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Matthew Shine


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