When, as a boy, I lived at N4/464 in Adeoyo area of Ibadan with my uncle, Mr. Albert Oshodipe, now of blessed memory, a butcher who hawked beef came to sell some of it every three days or thereabout. Like the ice cream van jingle, which announces arrival of the vendor a mantra-like song told of his presence in the neighbourhood.

Emi n’imoran (am the counsel) imoran mi laarin okunrin ati obinrin my counsel among men and women Emi ti o j’ata emi yepere. The heart that does not eat pepper is a ordinary heart.

How right he was… 53 long years ago! Today, medical health researchers and many doctors are singing the praise of pepper as a possible healer of many diseases, including… hold your breath, PEPTIC ULCER and open sores.

In his BACK TO EDEN, author Dr. Jethro Kloss summarises into seven broad categories, the biochemical actions of cayenne pepper, from which have been deprival about 20 uses of this most sought after pepper for medicinal purposes.

Jethro Kloss says cayenne pepper is a “stimulant, tonic, sialogogue, alterative, rubafacient, carminative, and digestive”.

A stimulant rouses to life. The tonic tones up. A sialogogue stimulates saliva production. An alterative cleanses the bloodstream. And a rubafacient. It promotes sweating, especially during fevers. The carminative settles the stomach while the digestive, as the word suggests, promotes digestion.

Jethro Kloss did not emphasise the anodyne factor of cayenne  pepper. This is the pain-blocking or pain-killing activity, which has led to cayenne being formulated into creams and roll-ons for arthritic and other pains. Some of the well documented properties of cayenne pepper are:

 Anti-irritation

It has been used to ease upset stomach, sore throat, ulcers, diarrhoea and irritating cough. Jethro Kloss says cayenne pepper does not irritate the skin or tissue as Black pepper, mustard or vinegar. “These are all irritating, he says. “But red pepper is soothing. While red pepper smarts a little; it can be put in an open wound, either in a fresh wound or an old ulcer, and is very healing instead of irritating” He adds: “But black pepper, mustard and vinegar are irritating to an open wound and do not promote healing.” Red pepper, on the other hand, “is one of the most stimulating herbs known to man”, causing “no harm or unhealthy reaction”.

 Anti-cold, anti-flu

Like the biochemic cell salt ferrum phosphate, cayenne, according to Dr. F. Edward, DC, ND, DACBN, “aids in breaking up and moving congested mucus. Once mucus begins to leave the body, relief from flu symptoms generally follows”.

 Blood thinning

One of the things I use cayenne for is for blood thinning. I learned this from Mrs Elizabeth Kafaru, now of blessed memory, who employed it in after-stroke therapy and gave it as well to hypertensive patients, especially if the elevated blood pressure is attributable to atherosclerosis (blockage of the coronary arteries by atheroma) or a simple case of high blood cholesterol in which Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) ratio is out of gear. Dr. Edward says: “Cayenne pepper also helps reduce atherosclerosis, encourage fibrinolytic activities and prevents factors that lead to the formation of blood clots which can help reduce the chances of heart attack or stroke”.

Dr. David Hoffman says in HOLLISTIC HERBAL: “Cayenne is the most useful of the systemic stimulants. It regulates the blood flow, equalising and strengthening the heart, arteries, capillaries and nerves. It is a general tonic and is specific for the circulatory and digestive systems. It may be used in flatulent dyspepsia and colic. If there is insufficient peripheral circulation, leading to cold hands and feet and possibly chilblains, Cayenne may be used. It is used for treating debility and for warding off cold.”

 Detoxification

World-wide today, detoxification is a health watch-word. We consume toxins in the air, water and food, and our bodies are exposed to them in the environment. We cannot escape from them. So, we have to help our bodies get rid of them if we desire a long life span devoid of pain and disease. There are many detoxifying herbs and proprietary agents, including chickweed, vervain, golden seal root, zeolyte AV, zeolite pure and diatomaceous, all of which are often mentioned in this column. But not many people know of Cayenne as a detoxifying agent. Dr. Edward says: “Cayenne is a known circulatory stimulant. It also increases the pores of our lymphatic and digestive rhythms. By heating the body, the natural process of detoxification is streamlined. Cayenne also causes us to sweat, another important process of detoxification combined with lemon juice and honey, cayenne tea is an excellent morning beverage for total body  detoxification.

Joint Pain Relief

Capsaian, a chemical in cayenne, causes temporary pain on application to the joint skin surface. The pain sends nervous message to the joint which blocks pain transmission from the joint to the brain. This gives some relief from pain and accounts for the popularity of cayenne creams in pain management. A few years ago, Bell Lifestyle (Nig) Ltd introduced to the Nigerian market a cayenne roll-on product from its master herbalist series of about 52 products. A related use for cayenne is in rheumatism. Jethro Kloss says “it is effective when used as a poultice for rheumatism, inflammation and pleurisy, and is also helpful if taken internally for this”. Dr.  Hoffman agrees: “Externally, it is used as a rubefacient in problems like lumbar and rheumatic pain”.

 Antibacterial

Dr. Edward suggests that cayenne “is an excellent preservative” which “has been used traditionally to prevent food contamination from bacteria”. Many Nigerian women would be at home with this information. They keep one or two cayenne peppers in packages of rice or beans or other grains to prevent weevils or other insects from invading them.

 Weight loss

Many people nowadays wish to shed excess weight. Their doctors often warn them to do so if they wish to get over knee joint problems caused by high load bearing and heart conditions which would require to pump blood to a larger body area.

Dr. Edward writes that, “at the Laval of Quebec scientists found that participants who took cayenne pepper for breakfast were found to have less appetite leading to less caloric in take throughout the day. Cayenne is also a great metabolic booster aiding the body in burning excess amount of fat.” Cayenne pepper is surrounded by a controversy over whether it is a spice or a herb. One of the defenders of cayenne as a herb put up a website named cayenne Pepper Benefits Website in which he eulogised the pepper as king of Medicinal  Herbs.” Writing to defend this claim, Patrick Quillin says in a 1998 article titled THE HEALING POWER OF CAYENNE PEPPER. “About five months ago, a man from Naperville, Illinois emailed me telling me he had read an article about cayenne pepper while on his business trip to Atlanta, Georgia. The article said cayenne would help with improving energy and weight loss. He was intrigued. He started taking a few capsules at a time and says he has more energy than before. He takes it and that it has had an equalising effect on his whole system. He is still using it and combined with aerobic exercise, has lost about 15 pounds.”

Antioxation

In rural India, the staple of many people is bread with a paste of Cayenne Pepper in place of butter or margarine or fried egg. Cayenne contains Vitamins A,  C and E, which are antioxidants, the complete B. Complex vitamins, Vitamin K, which stops bleeding, and a source of calcium, potassium and dietary fibre. There is also a stock of beta carotenoids which are antioxidants and helpful in asthma situations.

 Congestion

Capsaian, an abundant substance in cayenne, promotes secretions. This supports clearance of mucus from the nose and lungs when it clears the sinuses and induces sweating. Nose, lung and chest congestion are treated in some Indian villages with the addition of some extra cayenne to the vegetable diet of the sufferer(s). Cayenne added to tea is believed to be good, also, for these conditions. But too much cayenne may cause burning sensations in the throat, stomach or rectum. It may also cause the blood to become too thin if it is taken excessively along with other blood thinners, natural or pharmaceutical.

•Digestion

•Antifungi properties

•Anti migraine

Headache, Migraines

Some authorities believe that smelling cayenne alone may resolve certain headaches. It has been suggested that this may be caused by Cayenne’s capacity to cause a pain response in another part of the body. This may divert the brain’s attention to the new site, says the hypothesis. It may be that the initial headache was a signal that the nerve fibres were depleted of substance P, the nerve’s pain chemical, which Cayenne may have stimulated. Some people claim that cayenne takes their migraine away. An explanation given from this possibility is that, by equalising blood pressure, one of the causes of headaches or migraines may have been resolved by cayenne.

According to Cayenne Pepper health Benefits: “In clinical studies conducted in Japan, England and the United States, Capsaicin, the critical secondary metabolite compound found in cayenne pepper, has been shown to cause cancer cells to undergo apoptosis, a cell of cellular self-termination or suicide, if you will. What does it mean in practical terms? It means that cayenne pepper and other hot peppers with capsaicin, has been proven in medical studies to kill leukemic, lung, pancreatic and prostate cancer cells. This is important for people to know. One study, as conducted by the American Association for Cancer Research, reports capsaicin is able to kill prostate cancer cells by forcing them to undergo apoptosis. The study says capsaicin, … has a profound anti-proliferative effect on prostate cancer cells, including the apoptosis of both androgen receptor positive and negative prostate cancer cell lines… Furthermore, the study also says, In summary, our data suggests that capsaicin or related analogue may have a role in the management of prostate cancer”.

According to Dr. Edward: “Studies done at the Loma Linda University in California found that Cayenne pepper may also help prevent lung cancer in smokers. This may be again related to cayenne’s high quantity of capsaicin, a substance that might help stop the formation of tobacco tumours. Other studies have also shown a similar reaction in cayenne’s resistance to liver tumours.” Because Cayenne is now gaining reputation in the research community, the Alternative Medicine and food industry sectors are showing more than a passing interest in it. I feel inclined to suggest it be used together with Serrapeptase in conditions for which both are indicated. Its potential to provide energy has led, for example, to the emergence of a product named BONAVITA, to which cayenne is added. I add cayenne to pap, to which I may also add HAWTHORN BERRY powder for my heart. Sometimes, I add it to a drink of cocoa or a boiled rice or yam sauce. In drinks, it is certainly better than all those caffeine – loaded energy drinks. For men who are ever on search of aphrodisiacs, cayenne may be a true friend. By increasing metabolism and causing better blood and oxygen flow to the penile shaft, it may promote better erection and staying power. E mi n’imoran that Ibadan butcher who in the 1960s taught a whole generation of his customers that people who avoid eating peppers will become health-fragile people, may be long gone. But many people in the south-west of Nigeria today recite his signature tune, emi ti o j’ata, emi yepere without recognising the importance of cayenne pepper. If I may now let the cat out of the bag, how many Yoruba people know cayenne pepper is ata sombo?