Thought to have originated in Cayenne, French Guiana, cayenne is a spice derived from several varieties of dried hot peppers in the Capsicum species. Cayenne is a relative of the mild bell pepper used in salads and also of the fiery peppers found in chili powders and hot sauces, but it has no connection to black table pepper. Used for centuries by cooks around the world to add “heat” to traditional dishes, cayenne has gained a solid reputation both as a painkiller and digestive aid.
From its bristly stems to its blue star-shaped flowers, virtually all parts of the borage plant (Borago officinalis) have been used over the centuries for their healing properties and as a flavoring for foods. As early as the 1600s, Europeans mixed borage leaves and flowers into a wine that was renown for relieving boredom and dispelling melancholy.
The prickly stemmed, flowering blackberry bushes that grow wild across parts of Europe and North America yield plump, blue-black berries for eating as well as for healing. Ancient Greeks called the plant “goutberry” because it was relied upon to lessen gout-related joint pain. Traveling salesmen of yore were known to tuck a flask of blackberry brandy into their bags to treat the loose stools that often occurred after eating unfamiliar foods. Today, blackberry is probably best known for this very use–as a soothing remedy for diarrhea.