14 Facts About Cayenne Pepper

facts about cayenne 1

Cayenne pepper is one of the most popular spices in the world, known for bringing heat and a touch of smoky sweetness to dishes. But there’s more to this fiery red powder than meets the tongue. Here are 14 fascinating facts about the incredible cayenne pepper.

Cayenne pepper is made from hot chili peppers in the Capsicum annuum species, most commonly cayenne chili peppers. Its heat comes from a compound called capsaicin, which gives all chili peppers their spicy kick. Cayenne powder can range from mild to flaming hot on the Scoville scale, a measurement of spiciness.


Cayenne pepper has been used for thousands of years in Central and South American cuisines before making its way across the world. Today it’s a beloved spice used globally in fiery hot sauces, complex curries, cajun cuisine, and more.

Beyond bringing heat to dishes, cayenne pepper boasts an impressive nutritional profile and potential health benefits. The capsaicin that gives cayenne its heat has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties. From heart health to weight loss, this spice packs a healthy punch.

Here are 14 fascinating facts about the incredible cayenne pepper.

Facts About Cayenne Pepper

red chili peppers

1. The Name “Cayenne” Comes from a Capital City

The term “cayenne” can refer to the pepper and a specific type of powdered spice made from ground, dried cayenne peppers. This name comes from the capital city of French Guiana, Cayenne.

As cayenne pepper made its way from Central America to Europe and Africa, it became known by the name of this South American city where it was frequently traded. Thus, cayenne pepper was born.

2. Its Scoville Heat Units Range from 30,000 to 50,000

The Scoville scale measures the spicy heat intensity of chili peppers and spicy foods. Cayenne pepper lands at a fiery 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).

To put that into perspective, jalapeños measure 2,500 to 8,000 SHU. So Cayenne brings some heat! But it pales compared to the world’s hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper, which clocks in at a mouth-scorching 1 to 2 million SHU.

3. Cayenne Contains the Compound Capsaicin

The heat in all chili peppers comes from capsaicin, an alkaloid compound uniquely produced by plants in the genus Capsicum. When eaten, capsaicin triggers nerve receptors in the mouth that sense heat and pain, giving cayenne and other chilies their signature spicy kick.

Interestingly, birds lack these receptors entirely, allowing them to eat spicy pepper seeds and disperse them widely without any reaction.

4. It Contains More Vitamin A than Carrots

Cayenne pepper is an excellent source of vitamin A. Just two teaspoons of cayenne pepper contains 44% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A. That’s more than two medium carrots!

As an antioxidant vitamin, vitamin A plays a vital role in eye health, immune function, cell communication, and healthy bones and teeth.

5. Cayenne Boasts High Levels of Vitamin C

In addition to vitamin A, cayenne pepper is loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C. Two teaspoons provide a whopping 68% of your daily vitamin C needs. This water-soluble vitamin acts as an antioxidant and is vital for collagen production, iron absorption, a healthy immune system, and more.

6. It Contains Disease-Fighting Antioxidants

Along with vitamins A and C, cayenne pepper contains health-promoting carotenoids like beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein, and capsanthin. These plant pigments act as antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.

By fighting free radical damage and inflammation, antioxidants help lower the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders.

7. Capsaicin Has Pain-Relieving Properties

The compound that gives cayenne its heat – capsaicin – has been shown to reduce pain sensations when applied topically. When used medicinally, capsaicin helps alleviate nerve, back, arthritis, and muscle pain.

Capsaicin achieves this by depleting pain neurotransmitters called substance P from nerve fibers. It initially triggers these pain receptors before eventually causing them to become less sensitive.

8. It May Boost Metabolism and Fat Burning

Several studies have found that consuming cayenne pepper may slightly boost metabolism and increase fat burning. This effect is again thanks to the capsaicin. By activating brown fat and boosting thermogenesis, capsaicin helps the body generate more heat and burn more calories after a meal.

While the metabolism and fat-burning effects are small, they could make it a little easier to lose weight when combined with a healthy diet and exercise.

9. Cayenne Promotes Heart Health

Cayenne pepper is fantastic for heart health thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties and high antioxidant content. The capsaicin in cayenne peppers helps reduce LDL cholesterol oxidation and lowers high blood pressure levels – two major risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Cayenne may also help prevent blood clots by inhibiting platelet aggregation in the blood. Its vitamin C and carotenoid content provide further heart-healthy antioxidant power.

10. It Has Anti-Fungal Properties

Along with its anti-inflammatory effects, early research shows cayenne has antifungal properties.

Test-tube studies demonstrate that cayenne is highly effective at suppressing 16 different fungal strains, including Candida albicans – the fungus responsible for yeast infections and thrush. Researchers believe cayenne could be developed into antifungal drugs for medicinal use.

11. Cayenne Helps Preserve Food

Before refrigeration, cayenne pepper was used to preserve meats in warm climates. Cayenne’s anti-microbial properties prevent food spoilage by deterring mold growth. Foods packed with chili powder were found to keep longer without rotting.

So while cayenne pepper heats things up in terms of spiciness, it can help cool foods down temperature-wise by acting as a preservative.

12. It Adds Heat Without Lots of Sodium

Going hand-in-hand with its preservative power, cayenne pepper is the perfect way to add flavor without adding excess salt or sodium. Cayenne pepper contains just 3% of your recommended daily sodium intake per teaspoon.

So you can amp up the heat and spice in your favorite dishes without worrying about increased sodium levels wreaking havoc on your heart health.

13. Cayenne Has a Long Shelf Life

As a dried spice, ground cayenne pepper powder keeps exceptionally well. Properly stored in an airtight container kept in a cool, dark place, cayenne pepper lasts 3-4 years.

Over time, it will slowly lose potency and flavor. But even after a few years sitting forgotten in your pantry, it will still have a kick!

14. It’s Used Medicinally to Stop Bleeding

Before modern medicine, cayenne pepper was used to stop bleeding wounds. The high levels of vitamin K in cayenne help promote rapid blood clotting. And the capsaicin constricts blood vessels, staunching blood flow.

This traditional use continues today – you can find cayenne pepper in wound care products and topical creams designed to stop bleeding.


From its spicy heat to its vitamin content and health effects, cayenne pepper packs a punch! This popular spice has a fascinating history and science behind its searing burn.

Hopefully, these 14 facts gave you a new appreciation for this potent chili powder. Whether you’re a daring spice lover or timid taster, cayenne pepper can add a flavorful kick and potential health benefits to dishes sweet and savory.

FAQ about Cayenne Pepper

What is cayenne pepper?

Cayenne pepper is a moderately hot chili from the Capsicum annuum species, used both as a culinary spice and as an herbal supplement. It’s recognized for its long, skinny red peppers with a curved tip.

How hot are cayenne peppers?

Cayenne peppers have a heat level ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), making them moderately hot compared to other chili varieties.

What are the uses of cayenne powder in cooking?

Cayenne powder is used to add heat and flavor to dishes such as seafood, egg dishes, meats, stews, casseroles, cheese dishes, hot sauces, and curries.

Are there different varieties of cayenne pepper?

Yes, there are many cultivars of cayenne pepper varying in size, color (most commonly red, but also yellow and purple), and heat intensity. Examples include Cow-horn and Golden Cayenne.

What does the name “cayenne” refer to?

The name “cayenne” may have originated from the Old Tupi word “kyynha” or may be related to the town of Cayenne in French Guiana. It refers to both the pepper variety and the powdered spice made from it.

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