Cayenne pepper is a type of capsicum, also known as red chilli pepper. Native to Mexico, it is widely used in culinary dishes around the world, and is also dried to form powdered cayenne pepper, used as a spice.
Rich in vitamins A, C, E and B6, cayenne pepper is also a good source of manganese and potassium. However, it's the active ingredient capsaicin which is of most interest when it comes to the potential health benefits of cayenne pepper.
Capsaicin is the chemical which gives chilli peppers their "heat". It is an irritant and produces a burning sensation on the skin – but over time it also blocks certain neurotransmitters which tell the brain it is feeling pain. Capsaicin is widely used in personal defence pepper sprays, but it also has pharmaceutical applications and is used as an analgesic in creams and patches.
Cayenne pepper is known to stimulate the digestive system, and seems to have a detoxifying effect on the body. It is thought that cayenne may also help to reduce the risk of blood clots, boost the immune system and treat leaky gut syndrome. Cayenne pepper has also been shown to be effective in the control of blood sugar.