Capsicum (cayenne)

The Capsicum, or Bird Pepper, or Guinea Pepper, is a native of

tropical countries; but it has been cultivated throughout Great

Britain as a stove plant for so many years (since the time

of Gerard, 1636) as to have become practically indigenous.

Moreover, its fruit-pods are so highly useful, whether as a

condiment, or as a medicine, [79] no apology is needed for

including it among serviceable Herbal Simples. The Cayenne
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pepper of our tables is the powdered fruit of Bird Pepper, a variety

of the Capsicum plant, and belonging likewise to the order of

Solanums; whilst the customary hot pickle which we take with

our cold meats is prepared from another variety of the Capsicum

plant called Chilies. This plant--the Bird Pepper--exercises an

important medicinal action, which has only been recently

recognized by doctors. The remarkable success which has attended

the use of Cayenne pepper as a substitute for alcohol with hard

drinkers, and as a valuable drug in delirium tremens, has lately

led physicians to regard the Capsicum as a highly useful,

stimulating, and restorative medicine. For an intemperate person,

who really desires to wean himself from taking spirituous liquors,

and yet feels to need a substitute at first, a mixture of tincture of

Capsicum with tincture of orange peel and water will answer very

effectually, the doses being reduced in strength and frequency

from day to day. In delirium tremens, if the tincture of

Capsicum be given in doses of half-a-dram well diluted with

water, it will reduce the tremor and agitation in a few hours,

inducing presently a calm prolonged sleep. At the same time the

skin will become warm, and will perspire naturally; the pulse will

fall in quickness, but whilst regaining fulness and volume; and the

kidneys, together with the bowels, will act freely.

Chemically the plant furnishes an essential oil with a crystalline

principle, capsicin, of great power. This oil may be taken

remedially in doses of from half to one drop rubbed up with some

powdered white sugar, and mixed with a wineglassful of hot


The medicinal tincture is made with sixteen grains of [80] the

powdered Capsicum to a fluid ounce of spirit of wine; and the

dose of this tincture is from five to twenty drops with one or two

tablespoonfuls of water. In the smaller doses it serves admirably to

relieve pains in the loins when depending on a sluggish inactivity

of the kidneys. Unbroken chilblains may be readily cured by

rubbing them once a day with a piece of sponge saturated with the

tincture of Capsicum until a strong tingling is induced. In the early

part of the present century, a medicine of Capsicum with salt was

famous for curing severe influenza with putrid sore throat. Two

dessert spoonfuls of small red pepper; or three of ordinary cayenne

pepper, were beaten together with two of fine salt, into a paste,

and with half-a-pint of boiling water added thereto. Then the

liquor was strained off when cold, and half-a-pint of very sharp

vinegar was mixed with it, a tablespoonful of the united mixture

being given to an adult every half, or full hour, diluted with water

if too strong. For inflammation of the eyes, with a relaxed state of

the membranes covering the eyeballs and lining the lids, the

diluted juice of the Capsicum is a sovereign remedy. Again, for

toothache from a decayed molar, a small quantity of cayenne

pepper introduced into the cavity will often give immediate relief.

The tincture or infusion given in small doses has proved useful to

determine outwardly the eruption of measles and scarlet fever,

when imperfectly developed because of weakness. Also for a

scrofulous discharge of matter from the ears, Capsicum tincture, of

a weak strength, four drops with a tablespoonful of cold water

three times a day, to a child, will prove curative.

A Capsicum ointment, or Chili paste, scarcely ever fails to

relieve chronic rheumatism when rubbed in [81] topically for ten

minutes at a time with a gloved hand; and an application

afterwards of dry heat will increase the redness and warmth, which

persist for some while, and are renewed by walking. This ointment,

or paste, is made of the Oleo-resin--Capsicin--half-an-ounce,

and Lanolin five ounces, the unguent being melted, and, after

adding the Capsicin, letting them be stirred together until

cold. The powder or tincture of Capsicum will give energy to a

languid digestion, and will correct the flatulency often incidental

to a vegetable diet. Again, a gargle containing Capsicum in a

proper measure will afford prompt relief in many forms of sore

throat, both by its stimulating action, and by virtue of its special

affinities (H.); this particularly holds good for a relaxed state of

the throat, the uvula, and the tonsils. Cayenne pepper is employed

in the adulteration of gin.

The Peter Piper of our young memories took pickled pepper by

the peck. He must have been a Homoeopathic prover with a

vengeance; but has left no useful record of his experiments--the

more's the pity--for our guidance when prescribing its diluted