( Capsicum annum )
Cayenne, red pepper, African
pepper, bird pepper, bog flower pepper
aromatic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, hemostatic, hypertensive and
hypotensive, stimulant, stomachic, rubefacient, tonic, catalyst
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
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.
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
If pregnant or nursing, check
with your physician before using capsicum. Avoid contact with the eyes and
use in recommended dosages only.