What is Cayenne Pepper

The use of cayenne pepper to spice up a dish or boost circulation has a long history in many cultures around the world. There is sometimes confusion from the fact that a cayenne pepper is always a chili pepper, but a hot chili is not always a cayenne. So what is it?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, cayenne is a type of “hot pepper especially: any of several cultivated peppers of a variety (Capsicum annuum longum) with very long twisted pungent red fruits”. Cayenne is a hotter variety of the same chili pepper species as sweet bell peppers.

There are other hot chili peppers which contain the same active ingredient capsaicin which creates the heat, and beneficial effects, as cayenne. Sometimes they are all referred to under the blanket of cayenne, but actually these are all species of the genus Capsicum. Some of the other species of hot peppers are Capsicum frutescens, which includes African Bird peppers and Thai peppers, and the hotter Capsicum chinense, which include habeneros and Scotch bonnet peppers.

Cayenne peppers get their name from the city of Cayenne in French Guiana but their use didn’t start there. According to an article from BBC News, evidence was found by Archeologists in Ecuador that chili peppers were used in cooking over 6,000 years ago! This makes chili peppers one of the oldest domesticated foods in the western hemisphere.

Dedicated farmers continue to grow chilis that are so hot it’s unreal. In February 2012 the New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute declared the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion the hottest chili pepper in the world. It rated up to 2 million Scoville heat units (SHU). The number of SHU in a pepper indicates the amount of capsaicin present which is the chemical that gives peppers their heat. To give you an idea of how hot that is, habanero chili peppers are in the range of 100,000–350,000 on the Scoville scale.

Southern Botanicals doesn’t use peppers as hot as the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion in our formulas, but our Cayenne Blend Powder and Cayenne Concentrate are still hot enough you can feel the affect. Using organic habanero, Scotch bonnet and African bird peppers, Southern Botanical’s Cayenne Blend preparations are rated at 200,000 SHU.

Read more about Cayenne pepper:


Cayenne Pepper.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2012. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cayenne%20pepper>.

Collyns, Dan. “Chillies Heated Ancient Cuisine.” BBC News. BBC Lima, 16 Feb. 2007. Web. 14 Aug. 2012.

BRYAN, SUSAN MONTOYA. “Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Wins Hottest Pepper Title.” Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 16 Feb. 2012. Web. 14 Aug. 2012.

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