Cayenne pepper, also known as the Guinea spice, Cow Horn Pepper, aleva or bird pepper, comes from red hot chili peppers. The fruit, or body of the peppers are dried then ground down, pulped and baked, and then sifted to make the spice known as cayenne pepper.
Most cultivated varieties of cayenne, capsicum annuum, can be grown in a variety of locations and need approximately 100 days to mature. Peppers prefer warm, moist, nutrient-rich soil in a warm climate. The plants grow to about 2–4 feet (0.6–1 metre) of height. Chilis are mostly perennial in sub-tropical and tropical regions; however, they are usually grown as annuals in temperate climates.
Cayenne pepper is high in vitamin A. It also contains vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium and manganese.
Cayenne is a popular spice used in many different regional styles of cooking, but it has also been used medicinally for thousands of years. Cayenne is often referred to as chili, which is the Aztec name for cayenne pepper. The main medicinal properties of cayenne are derived from a chemical called capsaicin. Capsaicin is the ingredient which gives peppers their heat. A pepper's capsaicin content ranges from 0-1.5%. Peppers are measured according to heat units. The degree of heat determines the peppers' usage and value. Generally, the hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains.
Today cayenne is used worldwide to treat a variety of health conditions, including poor circulation, weak digestion, heart disease, chronic pain, sore throats, headaches and toothache. Ayurveda also utilises cayenne to treat poor digestion. Chinese medicine uses cayenne for digestive ailments. When taken internally, cayenne soothes the digestive tract and stimulates the flow of stomach secretions and saliva. These secretions contain substances which help digest food.