Cayenne pepper is used as both food and medicine. One of its active components, capsaicin, has potent pain-relieving properties and makes up a major ingredient of many topical pain relief creams. It has also been used in supplement form for a variety of purposes, including digestive health. For the most part, no official standard dosages exist. If you have an interest in using cayenne pepper, you should consult a doctor who is well-versed in herbal medicine for guidance on dosages and other aspects of safe usage.
According to Drugs.com, a website that compiles information from various medical databases, recommended dosages for cayenne pepper have not been established due to a lack of clinical research. If taking cayenne to improve digestion, the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking 30 mg to 120 mg one to three times a day.
Cayenne pepper supplements might irritate the gastrointestinal tract, and use could prove problematic if you suffer from heartburn or ulcers, though the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center notes that research indicates it does not appear to aggravate ulcers. Other potential side effects include sweating, flushing, tearing and a runny nose. Excessive use could also cause kidney damage, making it especially important to consult a health care professional about appropriate dosages.
Cayenne pepper can increase the absorption of the asthma medication theophylline, which could result in toxic levels building up in the bloodstream. If you take ACE-inhibitors such as captopril to control your blood pressure, using this herb can increase the risk of coughing associated with this class of drugs. Using cayenne at the same time as blood-thinning medications such as warfarin can increase the risk of bleeding. It might also interact with MAO-inhibitors, blood pressure medications and stomach acid reducers.
Other Considerations for Use
While generally safe to eat during pregnancy, UMMC cautions against using cayenne in supplement form. It can pass into breast milk, so you should avoid supplements while breastfeeding. If you have an allergy to bananas, avocado, kiwi, latex or chestnuts, you could potentially suffer a reaction from using cayenne.