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Hot, hot, heat & healthy!

The history of cayenne peppers can be traced to Central and South America, regions where cuisine is known to have some serious hot and spicy flavors.   Available all year long, cayenne pepper is a member of the Capsicum family of vegetables, which are more commonly known as chili peppers.  The pepper can be used in its fresh form, but is most often dried and ground, and the powder a staple in many spicy dishes around the globe, from hot sauce, to rice dishes, to chilli con carne.

In addition to its broad use in the kitchen, cayenne pepper is also believed to possess many therapeutic properties as well.  A powerful anti-inflammatory, cayenne has been used as a natural topical pain reliever and effective treatment for cluster headaches and osteoarthritic pain.  It is stimulating to the digestive tract, and can also aid in detoxification thanks to it’s heating effect on the body and lymphatic rhythms (ever heard of that cleansing beverage of water, lemon honey and cayenne?).  And why else do we “heart” this zippy zinger?  Well, your ticker gets some love too, as various studies have shown that cayenne can help keep blood pressure levels normalized, and can also assist the body in ridding itself of LDL cholesterol and lowering triglycerides.

Cayenne pepper is an excellent source of vitamin A and beta-carotene, just look at its brilliant bright red color to know that is must be jam packed with awesome antioxidant power!  Vitamin A is essential to the body’s ability to build and maintain healthy epithelial tissue, including the important mucous membranes that line our various orifices and serve as the body’s first line of defense against invading pathogens.  Cayenne is also a very good source of vitamin E as well as a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin C, fiber, vitamin K, and manganese and dietary fiber. Wow, what a super spice!

Okay, so I know I should consume this capsicum, but what if I can’t handle the heat in the kitchen?

Luckily, cayenne is available in capsule form for those with sensitive taste buds.  But there are also many simple ways one can add a smidgen to daily dinner sampling, if tough tongued.  So why not pick up a package of the powder (ideas follow this post) and get culinary creative:

  • Use in place of black pepper as an at-the-table seasoner
  • Give your hot cocoa some Mexican flair by adding a dash to your sweet and warm beverage
  • Add a sprinkle to stir-frys, curries, and stews for a whole new depth of fiery flavor
  • Combine with warm water, agave and lemon for a cleansing morning kick start

Ready bring the heat? Try these 12 Spicy Vegan Recipes to Ignite Your Tastebuds.