Originally from Cayenne in French Guiana, cayenne pepper is a member of the plant genus, capsicum, which includes the bell pepper, paprika, and green chilies. Cayenne pepper, also known as red pepper, is now one of the hundreds of varieties of chilies grown in Mexico, and known to be one of the hottest pepper spices.
In fact, due to the "heat" that it generates, cayenne pepper is being tapped by natural therapy experts to ease arthritis and rheumatic pains as well as promote toxin-eliminating perspiration during fevers and colds. Because of its vitamin C and beta-carotene content, it helps improve eyesight; and because of its alkaloid component, caipsicin, and other essential oils, cayenne pepper is considered a good stimulant for the release of digestive enzymes, tone-up of the nervous system, and relief of pain and inflammations.
Cayenne pepper is a favorite ingredient in Cajun cooking, and the main spice in chili con carne recipes. Most dishes that are called "deviled" are spiked with this red-orange powder. It goes into many types of gravy that are served with duck and other roasted game birds, and blends well with meat sauces, goulash, and seafood dishes and soups.
The powdered spice labeled cayenne pepper is usually made from dried, ground chili pepper pods and seeds. However, fresh whole red peppers are also used for many exotic hot dishes. When using fresh peppers, you can drop the whole pepper into the dish or, for less heat, remove the seeds and ribs beforehand (the hot taste primarily comes from the peppers' insides).
When handling or cleaning fresh chili peppers, avoid touching your eyes or nose because there is a risk of severe burns. The smell and sting can also linger on your fingers even after washing, so gloves are recommended. If you accidentally bite on a whole pepper, relieve the burning sensation by taking a bit of salt, or munching on a piece of bread or some coconut.
If you discover that your dish has become too hot to enjoy, add potatoes, noodles, or some coconut milk to absorb and neutralize the spiciness.