How to Make Cayenne Salve

Every two months we feature a different herb on so that we can really dive into learning particular plants on a deeper level.

During this cold and dark time of the year we are learning more about one of the hottest and most popular spices in the world: cayenne.

The health benefits of cayenne are truly astounding!

From its heart-protective qualities to boosting the immune system, it will even stop bleeding from a cut or wound!

If you master only one herb in your life, master cayenne pepper.
It is more powerful than anything else. —Dr. Richard Shulze

In this article we are going to look at one of cayenne’s many benefits: easing pain.

History of cayenne
Cayenne comes from the Capsicum genus that also includes bell peppers, chilies, paprikas and habaneros.

This genus is from the Americas and has been cultivated for use for at least 7,000 years. Some of the early european explorers brought the seeds from South America back to Europe and they quickly spread around the world.

The etymology of the word Capsicum is believed to have been derived from Greek, meaning “to bite”.

What makes it bite?
Cayenne has a hot and acrid taste. This “bite” or heat is caused by the constituent capsaicin. The more capsaicin a pepper has the more heat or bite to it. This amount varies greatly between species and varieties.

One method of measuring this bite or heat is the Scoville heat units (SHU). Cayenne has around 30,000 – 50,000 SHU. In contrast, bell peppers have 0 and habaneros have more than 100,000.

Cayenne for Pain
Cayenne is famous for reducing many types of pain. It works by effecting your nervous system. Substance P is a neurotransmitter that relays information and results in what we call pain. Capsaicin, a major constituent of cayenne peppers, blocks substance P and therefore reduces pain.

When cayenne is used topically it can relieve many different types of pain, from diabetic neuropathy, shingles, migraine headaches, back aches, arthritis, menstrual cramps and bruises.

Cayenne Salve
Today’s recipe is a super simple salve that can be made up very quickly and bring big-time pain relief.

For this recipe you’ll need…

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of cayenne powder (or 15 grams).
    (Just pick this up at the market if you don’t have any.)
  • 1/2 ounce of beeswax
    (Available at Mountain Rose Herbs, along with cayenne)
  • Double boiler
    (Don’t have one? Try a local thirft store.)
  • Cheesecloth
    (Available in supermarkets.)

Begin by infusing the cayenne into the olive oil over a double burner.

I heat the oil and cayenne until it is warm, turn off the heat and let it sit (warmly) for about 20 minutes, then turn the heat on again.

I do this for at least one hour to a couple of hours, you could do it for 24 hours if desired.

Once the cayenne and olive oil have been infused, strain off the powder through a cheesecloth. Reserve the infused oil.

Heat the beeswax until it is melted. Stir in the infused oil until the beeswax and oil have been thoroughly melted together and combined.

Immediately pour this mixture into jars or tins. (Makes roughly 4 ounces).

Let it cool and then label it.

Using your cayenne salve
This cayenne salve can be used on aches and pains, from sore muscles and joints to bruises and even nerve pain.

It is best for closed wounds and may sting a bit on open wounds. Even on closed skin you may feel a bit of burning or heat in the area where it is used. It should be applied externally only and used within 6 months for the best results.

If using it for arthritic pain it may take up to a week or two to see results. In this case you want to use it daily to decrease chronic pain.

Caution: When cayenne comes in contact with your mucosal membranes or eyes it will burn! Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after touching cayenne or use gloves to apply the salve to the desired area. If you are using the cayenne salve on your hands, consider applying it at night and then sleeping with gloves on.

We’d Love to Hear From You!
Do you use cayenne for pain relief?

We’d love to hear how it works for you in the comments below. Or perhaps you are using cayenne in some other way. Please feel free to share!

  1. Mary Himmer says:

    I wonder if it would be a problem for those folks who have arthritis or migraines aggravated by nightshades? Has anyone heard of this as a problem?
    It looks beautiful though. I think I will try it on myself for my next sore muscles.

    • JanetLawson says:

      Can I use fresh cayenne peppers from my garden and fresh ginger too in making this salve?
      How long to infuse with fresh herbs?
      THANK YOU!

  2. Christine Champoux says:

    I had chosen cinnamon for my monthly herb study. I’m wondering if the addition of cinnamon would be beneficial for arthritis pain (and make the salve smell better)? Hmm…or maybe just using cinnamon in a salve instead? I think it’s time to experiment, though I would be thankful for any guidance anyone would have. :)

    • Shellye C says:

      Lip plumping products use ingredients cause some stinging to bring blood to the surface. So, cinnamon can work for that and maybe taste good too. Just an idea.

  3. Lynn Bromley says:

    I made this salve for my husband who has arthritis in his knees and hands. He has used it 2x/day for two weeks now and says the pain has diminished. He’s extremely careful with leaving it on his hands as to not touch his eyes. I’m confident that with long term use the pain will lessen.

    • LisaEllis
      LisaEllis says:

      That’s good to hear. I’m making some right now for my hubby’s hands and wrists and I’m hoping it works for him like it’s been working for yours.

  4. Erin Ballard says:

    Can one use different carrier oils other than olive? I have some sunflower oil that I would like to use if it is possible.

    • Christine Champoux says:

      I was thinking this as well. I also wonder if you could infuse a different oil (grapeseed, sunflower, almond) and cayenne and let the mix sit for a while instead of heating it? Of course, this would no longer be a ‘quick’ salve.

  5. Dusty Bailey says:

    My mom has had many carpal tunnel surgeries on her arms and is battling the many pains and problems associated with diabetes. She has to take a pain killer everyday and she hates having to take medication. I made her this salve and she rubs it on her hands and arms it in the morn, at lunch and before she goes to bed and she doesn’t have to take anything else for pain. I’m soooo glad I found this recipe!! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  6. Monica Menchero says:

    Does anyone know if infusing the cayenne in oil for 1 hour versus many hours makes a huge difference in it’s quality??

  7. Debi Mann says:

    How do I get a HOT Capsaicin oil? I want an oil that is a warming product on the skin. Any ideas?

    Thanks much

  8. Elizabeth Burlock says:

    I’ve been wanting to thank you profusely for this recipe for several months. My husband swears by this salve for his diabetic neuropathy. Of course, I get to be the hometown hero under this roof but Herb Mentor gets all the accolades in my book. I just followed the recipe, bless you all.

  9. Dusty Bailey says:

    I make this for my mom, she has diabetes and has had many carpal tunnel surgeries on her arms and hands. She uses it and loves it. She hates to take pills so I was so excited to find this recipe! Thanks so much Herb Mentor!

  10. says:

    I add turmeric powder to my cayenne ointment formula for a very healing salve. Herb mentor is the best!

  11. JanetE says:

    I am so excited to try this out. I love what we can make and do for ourselves. I am so grateful.

  12. Lelia C. says:

    Hi everyone! Has anyone added menthol crystals to this salve and if so, how much? Thanks in advance. ;-)

    • MaryHernandez says:

      I have made this cayenne balm and I usually put menthol crystals in it. I also add rosemary essential oil and lavender essential oil. The menthol is a nice addition! I usually put a heaping tablespoon in and it melts along with the beeswax.

  13. LisaEllis
    LisaEllis says:

    If you use this salve at night on the hands or wrists, I’ve found it’s much nicer if you wear a glove or mitten. You want the salve on your hands not on the blankets or in the spouse’s face! :D
    I also found another use for it: if you suffer with cold feet, rub some cayenne salve on them before putting your socks on. :)

  14. Stephanie Low says:

    My husband has arthritis pain in his hands and suffers from knee and hip pain as well. I am beginning to have pain in my toes due to uncontrolled diabetes for the past few years. I was in denial about the diabetes. I am now controlling my sugars and begun taking cayenne tablets. The pain has lessened so I’m exited about this salve. I will try making it tomorrow and applying to my husbands hands at night. Next winter I will try it on my feet before putting on sock as I suffer from cold feet and they hurt when they get too cold. Thanks so much for sharing. I am fairly new to the group and am excited about all I’m learning. Currently we are working on finding a place in our budget for me to become a Master Herbalist.

  15. Debbie says:

    I have always used dried peppers or powder for my oil but was wandering if anyone has used fresh peppers and if so what were the results?

  16. KirstinJensen says:

    When I weighed 15 grams of cayenne, it actually came out to be four very heaping teaspoons. If I use the 15 grams, is that going to be twice as much, or if I use the two heaping teaspoons, is that going to only be half as strong? Did anyone else compare the 15 gram weight to the 2 teaspoon volume? I wonder which amount is intended by the recipe.

  17. PatsyMerrell says:

    Could you use this for migraines? Where would you apply it… temples, neck, ??? (or is this not the best way to use cayenne for migraines)

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