By now it’s no secret that I dig my chiles of all kinds. I’m really really really digging my just finished fermented hot sauce, and though I made a quart of it it is certain that it won’t last until my cayennes growing in containers on the deck are ripe, let alone nicely fermented.
You might have heard random crazy people remark that chiles, or sauces made from them, are health foods. You might also have thought it just another crazy thing said by a crazy person, as it’s not unheard of for anything that a person (crazy or not) likes quite well to be labeled health food. There’s a considerable element of truth to the seemingly crazy statement that chiles are health food, and to some extent, the hotter the better.
Whiskey is perhaps not a health food, but the results of my trials are not yet in. 🙂
Nothing that follows is medical advice. It’s mostly what a qualified physician would call old wives’ tales, folklore, or quackery. So don’t take it was medical advice. You might die. Well, really, you will die, then someone will put what’s left of you into a dark place and not even take you out on your birthday. You won’t seem to mind.
As an herbalist, when I’m wearing that hat, I usually use cayenne (or some suitable stand-in) for two primary purposes. The first is to increase blood flow, either locally by topical application or generally by ingestion, and at this it excels. It is a vital adjunct in the St. John’s Wort salve that I use for things like peripheral neuropathy and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome because of this action. The second of my primary purposes for the stuff is to reduce high blood pressure resulting from essential hypertension, for which it works wonderfully and, in my limited experience, without fail. There may be someone somewhere whose HBP resists cayenne’s action, but I’ve not yet encountered that person.
Amethyst’s father, some years ago, was told by his physician to go home and get his affairs in order because his high blood pressure was about to kill him. He was already on the highest permissible dose of the strongest available anti-hypertensive drug, and his blood pressure was skyrocketing out of control. It had been steadily climbing for some time, and modern medicine had nothing to reverse that trend. Figuring he had nothing to lose, the old man called his long haired freaky herb nerd son-in-law to see if something might be done to save his life. His BP was running right around 200/140 at the time, if memory serves, and spiking occasionally well above that. I started out by explaining that we’d have to address his diet and lifestyle, and he hung up. Nuthin’ doin’. Nobody ever wants to change pleasurable habits.
He called back a while later after contemplating imminent mortality and finding it the least desirable outcome, and I put together a protocol that incorporated cayenne. He likes hot food so it wasn’t all that tricky. There were other things, of course, but the heavy hitters in the heart department were cayenne, garlic, hawthorn, and high quality fish oil (which might or might not even work but won’t hurt). Mere months later he was completely weaned off of the prescription drugs, his BP was running right around 120/70-80 all the time, and his doc who also suffered essential hypertension (so knew that it would eventually kill him, too) was amazed and wanted to know what was done so that he might prolong his own life.
Amethyst’s father is still alive and well all these years later.
Like niacin, cayenne can reverse atherosclerosis. Unlike niacin, cayenne at medicinal doses doesn’t pose any threat to your liver. It’s actually good for your liver and gets the blood moving within it. (The FDA approved niacin for lowering cholesterol long ago, but the dumb bastards blew it. They approved a no-flush version when the flushing is a vital action in niacin therapy, and the approved dose is about a third of what it ought to be. But at truly therapeutic doses of niacin you have to keep an eye on the liver just as you do for statins — never mind that most docs fail to do so for either treatment.)
Being good for improving circulation, cayenne is good for that favored activity that’s enhanced by improved circulation. 😉
If you should ever happen to be near someone who’s having a heart attack, quickly stir a teaspoon of relatively fresh ground cayenne into a glass of warm water (or cold if that’s all you have available) and have the victim chug it down. (Forget about the aspirin. No one’s gonna need it.) In about half a minute to a minute the crisis should pass. If not, then at about 15 minutes do it again and continue at 15 minute intervals until the crisis passes or a practitioner of modrun medikill seance takes over. Chances are pretty darn good, though, that after the first blast you’ll have to work to convince the victim that it’s wise to seek medical treatment because it’s best not to take unreasonable chances with vital organs of which you have just one.
Never mind that in the US medical errors kill about 200,000 people per year. We’re askeert of terrists, not doctors. ‘Cuz terrists, despite being less likely to kill you than shark attack or bee sting, are scary. That’s why we call ’em terrists, and generally don’t mind giving up all of our liberty and privacy to achieve a state of… Well, of being still terrified of a fiction.
But I digress. You’re used to this by now, right? 😀
Cayenne has been shown to cause apoptosis in cancer cells of the pancreas, lung, and liver. (Apoptosis means “switch on the suicide gene”, basically.) It’s not 100%, something more like 90%, but given how deadly those cancers are 90% is pretty incredible. I have a hunch that regular cayenne consumption might help to prevent some or most of those cancers from growing in the first place. Along with not being an idiot about diet, toxin exposure, and so on, of course. I take a long view: Something is going to take you out, so eventually you’ll learn what that something is in your specific case. Hopefully later rather than sooner, but not so late that you become a miserable old pain in the ass.
Speaking of pain in the ass, cayenne can get those ‘rhoids under control for ya. Which intuitively makes sense. ‘Rhoids are veins and cayenne is good for veins. Also, get enough cayenne into ya and you’ll scare the damned things so bad they’ll want to get out of the way and stay out of the way. Oh, yeah: It goes in through the top, not the bottom. Unless you’re into that kind of thing, which is really nobody’s business but your own. Live like you want to live. I hear it works well going in through either end, but I’m not up for trying the southern approach.
Still on the subject of pains in the ass: It’s normal for some warming back yonder to occur when you’re ingesting a considerable quantity of any hot chile. It’ll pass once your body adjusts, or you’ll get used to it. Or something. Don’t worry too much about it.
Got perpetually cold hands and/or feet? Cayenne, baby. In or on, either way works fine. In (ingested by mouth) is more convenient over the long haul and brings other benefits that topical application won’t. But if you’ve got arthritis in the affected area, topical application will do for you what oral ingestion won’t, or at least not as effectively. Whatever. You’ll figure it out. Some science is easy.
Cayenne is pure hell on helicobacter pylori, the gut critter (a gram-negative, microaerophilic bacterium) that causes peptic ulcers. Knocks it out, or at least down to the point that it stops causing problems. Seems counterintuitive to dump cayenne on an ulcer… But cayenne is actually good on bleeding wounds to slow the bleeding and permit clotting.
Which brings up another benefit: Cayenne (taken internally) prevents troublesome clotting of the sort that can really foul a person up. Catalyzes clotting when ya need it, prevents it when ya don’t… Some herbs are just magical that way. Don’t question it. Unless you have scads of cash to spend on scientifical-like research for which there will be no financial return on your investment, anyway.
For any of those benefits, you can just make a cayenne tea like the one for heart attack, but you might want to work your way up to the full teaspoon per, starting at about a quarter teaspoon or so. Most folks prefer to chug to avoid much of the heat in the mouth. Don’t take your cayenne in capsules, though, unless there’s just no way you can work up the nardages to drink it suspended in warm water. Like niacin or coitus, it’s best if it freaks you out a little.
Me, I just eat the hot chiles on my food. Now that I have a quart of freshly fermented sauce, I’m thinkin’ I might just do it up in therapeutic doses for a while myself and see what happens. It’s said that it’s best not to take the cayenne with food if you’re after the therapeutic effects… but since I’m not having a heart attack and I’m getting well more than a teaspoon of it at a time and more than once per day, I figure WTF and all that. Can’t hurt, might help.
Oh, wait, it can sometimes hurt. Let me tell you about that.
If you’re on a blood thinning drug, don’t do therapeutic doses of cayenne. There’s no sense risking leaking out. If you’re so inclined, you might talk to your doc about it with an eye toward getting off of the drug. And your doc might tell you to please in some random god’s name stop reading medical advice on the internet. Or from some freaky longhair who thinks that herbs are generally preferable to “real” medicines for most things.
Don’t do a big dose of cayenne all at once, if you’re not used to it, unless you’re having a heart attack — work up to it instead. It probably won’t do any harm, but I’ve heard of a guy who went into shock from it. He wasn’t harmed and recovered just fine without medical intervention, but he and his wife were very scared by it.
I had a stretch of life’s cruelest joke, post-coital headache, and at the tail end of that stretch I tried a rib joint’s mostest hottestest bazillion alarm sauce… It was like being bashed on the head with a crowbar. It felt like I was about to die, and I was good with dying as long as it came sooner rather than later so I wouldn’t have to endure that headache any longer. I didn’t die, and the headache hung around for about an hour and a half. I don’t recall the timing of it so don’t know if the cayenne had any correlation, but the cruel headaches stopped shortly after that. I’m not going to suggest that cayenne had a thing to do with stopping those headaches. My point was that for me, that one time, cayenne made me wish for death. Only that one time, though. So I guess if you’re prone to suffering post-coital headaches you might not want to fool around with cayenne. Or, for that matter, you might not want to fool around at all if you’re one who would find death inconvenient.
Don’t do therapeutic doses of cayenne while pregnant or nursing. The capsaicin (the hot stuff) will get throughout your body and so into the little screamer. It’s advisable to keep the rotten little monsters comfortable and content because, as it turns out, though very effective it is also illegal to lock them in the closet or the trunk of the car until they stop screaming. And we dare to call this thing we do civilization.
So there’s most of what I know about the wonderful health benefits of cayenne and other hot chilis. Again, it’s not medical advice and shouldn’t take the place of consulting your doctor about your health concerns. Your doctor may well be, in my opinion, completely full of shit and more apt to harm than heal, but I don’t take my opinions very seriously and neither should you.
I wish lunch time would hurry up and get here so I have an excuse to eat more of my delicious fermented chile sauce…