The Healing Powers of Hot Peppers: Part 3, Chile for Your Head

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True Story

Lael Littke of Pasadena says her “flesh cringes” when she thinks of her mother’s remedy for chest colds: flannel plaster bags smeared with a concoction of dry mustard, water and cayenne pepper.

“She smeared this mess inside the two bags at bedtime, then fitted them onto the unfortunate child,” Littke recalls. “After a couple tablespoons of cod liver oil…the child was deposited to bed, covered with heavy quilts, and left to fry gently all night.

“In the morning, our small chests were fiery red and close to blisters from the heat generated by the concoction, but we were free from congestion. Or, at least we claimed we were, to avoid a second night’s cooking.” Quoted from the Los Angeles Times, January 16, 1994.



The next three recipes appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, January 16, 1994.


For Fever

“This recipe was given to me by a Hawaiian acquaintance,” says Norma Kalina of Van Nuys, California.

Take one thumb-size piece of ginger root, washed and peeled, and boil it in a cup or so of water for two or three minutes.

Add a pinch of cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon honey and the juice from half a lemon. Drink as hot as possible, as quickly as possible.

Serves: 1


The Nasty Tea

“This recipe was handed down from a singer who swears she has stopped numerous sore throats by drinking this tea regularly upon any hint of a cold,” says Brenda Roes of Glendale, California. “I’ve since added to it, and it has helped me combat the winter nasties. It tastes horrible.”

3 cups water

10 teaspoons cayenne pepper

3 cloves crushed garlic

3 tablespoons honey

3 lemons

3 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped

Brew all the ingredients together. Squeeze the juice from the lemons, but leave the rinds floating in the tea. While simmering, put your face directly over the steam and inhale. Sip the tea and make a horrible face. Repeat as often as necessary.

Yield: About 4-5 cups


Sore Throat Remedy
“This has helped generations of our family,” says Liz Anderson of Los Angeles, who contributed this recipe.

Part One–Gargle deeply and often within the first 24 hours of symptom onset, alternating between solutions of lemon juice mixed with very warm water, then salt mixed with very warm water. Try this four times an hour.

Part Two–Alternately drink the following brews every two hours. Hot water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and one clove; hot water, apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper and one clove. Make these brews to taste–as strong as possible but not too much sweetener (only use honey).


For Influenza and Sore Throat

This recipe is found in Medicinal Plants of the West Indies by Edward S. Ayensu.

2 tablespoons small red peppers or 3 cayenne peppers

2 tablespoons fine salt

1 cup boiling water

1 cup very sharp vinegar

Beat the peppers and the salt together into a paste and infuse this in the boiling water. Strain. When the mixture has cooled, add the vinegar.

Yield: 2 cups


Decongestant Soup

This soup is an adaptation from Dr. Ziment’s own chicken soup recipe, which first appeared in Health Magazine in February 1992.

1 head of garlic, separated and peeled

1 4-pound stewing chicken

2 onions, cut in half

4 celery stalks, diced along with the leaves

4 carrots, diced

3 parsnips, diced

3 quarts water

1 teaspoon hot curry powder

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne powder, or more to taste

1 teaspoon dried basil

6 sprigs cilantro, minced

5 sprigs parsley, minced

Salt to taste

Place the garlic cloves and the whole chicken and half of the vegetables in a stockpot. Add 3 quarts of water and the spices, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered for 2 hours.

Skim the fat off the top of the soup and strain. Remove the chicken and refrigerate for later use (in salads, casseroles or your other favorite chicken dishes).

Add the remaining vegetables to the broth. Simmer for another 10 minutes and serve.

Heat Scale: Medium

Yield: 12 1-cup servings


Cayenne Pepper Taffy

This recipe, developed at Yale, has had much success but is currently not FDA approved.

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

2/3 cups water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Butter a square 8x8x2 pan, and set aside. In a 2-quart sauce pan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, cornstarch, butter and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, to 265 degrees on a candy thermometer (or until small amounts of the mixture dropped into very cold water forms a hard ball). Remove from the heat; stir in the vanilla and cayenne pepper, and pour into the greased pan.

When the taffy is just cool enough to handle, pull the taffy until it is satiny, light in color, and stiff. If the taffy becomes sticky, butter your hands lightly. Pull into long strips, 1/2 inch wide. Cut the strips into 1-inch pieces. Wrap the pieces individually in waxed paper, and store them in an airtight container.

Heat Scale: Medium

Yield: About 1 pound


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