Cayenne pepper has been an integral part of my medicine cabinet for fifty years. It’s always been referred to as The Master Herb, and I confer. Upon discovery of its benefits, I avoided more than one perilous trip to a medical office, especially for sinus, ear, and throat issues, frequent complaints in my youth. Doctors are not above The Harvey Weinstein Syndrome, especially then, and trust in their profession became hard-earned. But their prurience drove me to a body of knowledge in self-care, and an eventual healing practice.
For emergencies in travels, a bit of cayenne is worth the space it t consumes in a curated-down-to-the-ounce suitcase. Traveling in the former Yugoslavia, early nineties, my friend and I met a local writer along our unplanned route, and before we gave it much thought, we were sitting on the deck of a freighter, traveling to the pastel island of Cres in the Istrian Sea. After checking into an austere room in someone’s house, I changed into my swimsuit and jumped in the water. Within seconds, a blast of wind circled my head and resulted in an earache and a raw throat.
Our new friend possessed a natural ability in languages, and eventually understood I was asking for cayenne for a concoction. After going into a number of grocery stores on my behalf, he said, “We don’t use cayenne in this country.”
Remembering a chicken dish from nearby Hungary, I said, “I’ll try paprika.”
Also a member of the capsicum (pepper) family, I later learned paprika has many of the same anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant properties as cayenne. He went back in the store and came out smiling. I squeezed the juice of a lemon into a water bottle, put in a pinch of paprika and drank it down, repeating hourly until bedtime. By the next morning, my fellow travelers no longer peered at me from the front seat of the car as if they were plotting a drive-by/drop-off at the nearest hospital.
This series of shorts is not meant to be an herbal medicine guide, so only a few basics of cayenne’s benefits are addressed above. But in writing this, I recalled that in addition to lowering blood pressure, it can be mixed with water for an effective bug repellent in vegetable gardens. And cayenne is used in self-defense in the form of pepper spray.
In all these years, I’ve never carried it in my purse, and now I don’t really need it. Well, maybe for general safety, but it’s certainly no longer necessary to repel unwanted sexual advances. Personally, at this stage in life, being referred to by a man as wise, glamorous, intelligent, or strong, are all preferable to the minimizing label of ‘hot.’