Made from dried ground cayenne chilies, cayenne pepper is one of the most readily available, easy-to-use sources of capsaicin, a healing substance that gives all peppers their fiery heat. The capsaicin in cayenne has the capacity to soothe a sore throat (even better than lozenges, which can dry tissues, increasing irritation). Cayenne also makes an excellent expectorant: a small taste releases fluids in the mouth, throat, and nasal passages that thin mucus, break up congestion, and flush out irritants, helping to stave off bacterial infections. Used topically in ointments, capsaicin provides significant relief from muscle and joint pain.
Choose It & Use It
Cayenne pepper adds zip to foods ranging from hot cocoa to chili and from peanut brittle to your favorite curry dish. It's potent, so start small and taste as you go—leaning toward mild heat—some foods seasoned with cayenne become spicier over time. Caution: nursing mothers and children under 2 should avoid cayenne.