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Capsicum

( Capsicum annum )

 

Family

Solanacea

 

Synonyms

Cayenne, red pepper, African pepper, bird pepper, bog flower pepper

 

Character

Antibacterial, antiseptic, aromatic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, hemostatic, hypertensive and hypotensive, stimulant, stomachic, rubefacient, tonic, catalyst

 

Description

Over thirty species of capsicum ( red chili pepper ) grow in Central and South American forested regions. Capsicum is a small woody shrub that grows in tropical climates. It is a perennial plant, but can also be raised as an annual. Valued as a source of red pepper and capsaicin, capsicum has a long history of use among local peoples. Since the beginning of recorded history in South America, the capsicum plant has been respected. Archeological excavations have discovered red chili pepper seeds among the ruins of Tehuacan and Tamaulipa civilizations.

 

Phytochemistry

Alkaloids ( capsaicin ), flavonoids, steroidal alkaloids, glycosides, volatile oil

 

Traditional rain forest use

The Mayna Jivaros of Peru used capsicum fruit directly for toothaches. The Waorani tribe used capsicum to treat stomach ailments and to relive pain in the abdomen. The raw fruit was also consumed by other tribes to treat intestinal gas and its dried powdered form as used as a nose inhalant ( snuff ) for congestion. The Kamsa shaman used capsicum to disguise other distasteful ingredients in liquid medicinal concoctions. One very interesting use of capsicum involved putting it on the nipple of nursing mothers in order to wean an infant off the breast. Whole plant decoctions were used in a warm bath for muscle and stomach aches. It is not uncommon to find a long history of capsicum use among South American natives for both culinary and therapeutic reasons.

 

Modern medicinal applications

Capsicum is regularly used to treat arthritis, bronchitis, colds, fatigue, respiratory disorders, fevers, tonsillitis, hoarseness, migraines, obesity, circulatory disorders, indigestion, lack of appetite and ulcers.

 

Authentication

Capsicum enables ingested foods to be better assimilated. Its stimulatory action boosts circulation and saliva production which inevitably results in better digestion. It also increases perspiration, thus helping to remove toxins from the blood. Capsicum can inhibit gas and GI tract spasms and also works to promote the coagulation of blood. For this reason, it has been used to prevent external and internal hemorrhaging. Clinical studies have also documented the ability of capsicum to stimulate the heart and to lower blood serum cholesterol. Additional studies have indicated that capsicum has the ability to slow fat absorption in the small intestines and increase the metabolic rate ( thermogenesis ). Capsaicin ointments are effective against arthritis and nerve pain.

 

Safety

If pregnant or nursing, check with your physician before using capsicum. Avoid contact with the eyes and use in recommended dosages only.

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