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The Cayenne is a hot red chili pepper used to flavor dishes, and for medicinal purposes. Named for the city of Cayenne in French Guiana, it is a cultivar of Capsicum annuum related to bell peppers, jalapeños, and others. The capsicum genus is in the nightshade family (Solanaceae).
The fruits are generally dried and ground, or pulped and baked into cakes, which are then ground and sifted to make the powder, Cayenne pepper.
Cayenne is used in cooking spicy hot dishes, as a powder or in its whole form (such as in Szechuan cuisine) or in a thin, vinegar-based sauce. It is generally rated at 40,000 to 90,000 Scoville Units. It is also used as a herbal supplement, and was mentioned by Nicholas Culpeper in his Complete Herbal.
The potent, hot fruit of cayenne has been used as medicine for centuries.
In addition, it has been used for the following problems:
Cayenne contains a pungent resin-like substance known as capsaicin. This chemical, the active ingredient of pepper spray or mace, relieves pain and itching by affecting sensory nerves. Capsaicin temporarily causes various neurotransmitters to release from these nerves, leading to their depletion. Without the neurotransmitters, pain signals can no longer be sent. The effect is temporary.
Capsaicin and other constituents in cayenne have been shown to have several other actions, including reducing platelet stickiness and acting as antioxidants.