“These sparkling eyes are just a mirror for the sun.” ~ Red Hot Chili Peppers
As I’ve been preparing for the Balance Detox starting in January, I’ve been hearing from a lot of you who are already feeling the effects of holiday indulgence. You’re ready to do something NOW, but still want to enjoy your holiday traditions.
Here’s an assignment for you: cayenne!
The cayenne pepper is a member of the chili pepper or Capsicum family of vegetables and is grown all around the world. It is most commonly used as a powder to add spice to dishes. As a child, I remember the spiciness of cayenne pepper clearly as my dad would add liberal amounts to tacos and chili, causing me to request a separate, less-spicy batch. As an adult, I’ve realized that a little cayenne goes a long way and have developed a habit of adding small amounts to all kinds of dishes and even consuming a pinch daily in my morning tonic!
But how will cayenne help you?
Let me count the ways!
- Detoxification. Cayenne is known as a circulatory stimulant and it increases the pulse of our lymphatic and digestive rhythms. By heating the body, the natural process of detoxification is streamlined. Cayenne causes us to sweat, another important process of detoxification.
- Weight loss. All that heat you feel after eating hot chili peppers takes energy – and calories to produce. Even sweet red peppers have been found to contain substances that significantly increase thermogenesis (heat production) and oxygen consumption for more that 20 minutes after they are eaten.
- Optimal digestion. Cayenne is a well-known digestive aid. It stimulates the digestive tract, increasing the flow of enzyme production and gastric juices. This aids the body’s ability to metabolize food (and toxins).
- Gas and bloating. Cayenne pepper is helpful for relieving intestinal gas. It stimulates peristaltic motion, aiding in both assimilation and elimination.
- Protein digestion. Cayenne helps the body create hydrochloric acid, which is necessary for good digestion and assimilation of nutrients, especially proteins.
- Immune support. Cayenne pepper has been used to kill bacteria and aids in breaking up and moving congested mucus. Once mucus begins to leave the body, generally relief from flu symptoms follows.
- Oral health. Cayenne stimulates the production of saliva, an important key to excellent digestion and maintaining optimal oral health.
- Reduced risk of stomach ulcers. Chili peppers like cayenne have a bad (and undeserved) reputation for contributing to stomach ulcers. Not only do they not cause ulcers, these hot peppers may help prevent them by killing bacteria you may have ingested, while powerfully stimulating the cells lining the stomach to secrete protective buffering juices that prevent ulcer formation. The use of cayenne pepper is actually associated with a reduced risk of stomach ulcers.
Such a simple spice can have a profound effect on the digestive system, allowing us to absorb more nutrients from the foods we eat. This is extremely significant when we realize that the digestive system plays the most important role in mental, emotional and physical health, as it is through the digestive system that the brain, glands, muscles and every other part of the body are fed.
Cayenne pepper does more than just support digestive health, it has also been known to have beneficial effects on:
- heart disease
We’ll make liberal use of cayenne in the Balance: A New Year’s Detox, but you can get an early start by beginning your day with this simple, but powerful morning tonic.
- 1 cup hot, filtered water
- squeeze of lemon (about 1 Tbsp.)
- pinch of cayenne pepper (about 1/4 tsp. – you can add more if you’re adventurous!)
Note: Cayenne pepper is a member of the nightshade family, which has been known to cause adverse reactions in sensitive individuals. If you notice any unusual symptoms, use ginger in your tonic instead!
*Choose organic dried cayenne pepper and store it in a tightly sealed glass jar, away from direct sunlight.
Other uses for cayenne:
- Add a pinch of cayenne to spice up your vegetable sauté
- Keep a container of cayenne on the table with your salt and pepper so you can add a pinch to your meals
- Give your hot cocoa a traditional Mexican flair by adding a tiny bit of cayenne pepper
- Canned or homemade beans take on a whole new dimension when cayenne is added to them
- Cayenne and lemon juice make great complements to cooked bitter greens such as collards, kale and mustard greens