Capsicum

Capsicum annuum

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers; Fruit; Leaves.

Edible Uses: Colouring; Condiment.

Fruit - raw or cooked. Some varieties are very hot (the chilli and cayenne peppers) and are normally used as a pungent flavouring whilst milder varieties (the sweet peppers) have a very pleasant flavour with a slight sweetness and are often eaten raw in salads etc. The dried fruits of chilli and cayenne peppers is ground into a powder and used as a pungent flavouring called paprika. The powder from the dried ground fruit of some cultivars is added to food as a colouring. The fruits range widely in size and shape, from a few centimetres long to more than 30cm. Young leaves are said to be edible but some caution is advised. They are steamed as a potherb or added to soups and stews. The leaves contain about 4 - 6% protein. Seed - dried, ground into a powder and used as a pepper. Flowers - raw or cooked.

Medicinal Uses

Antihaemorrhoidal; Antirheumatic; Digestive; Irritant; Rubefacient; Sialagogue.

The fruit of the hot, pungent cultivars is antihaemorrhoidal when taken in small amounts, antirheumatic, antiseptic, diaphoretic, digestive, irritant, rubefacient, sialagogue and tonic. It is taken internally in the treatment of the cold stage of fevers, debility in convalescence or old age, varicose veins, asthma and digestive problems. Externally it is used in the treatment of sprains, unbroken chilblains, neuralgia, pleurisy etc. It is an effective sea-sickness preventative. For toothaches, make an Oil out of Cayenne and make a plug out of cotton saturated with the oil. Press into the affected tooth cavity.

Capsicum is safe if used in moderation but can cause problems in people with stomach problems and ulcers.

Capsaicin (active component) contains over 100 distinct volatile compounds. It also contains capsacutin, capsantine, and capsico. It is analgesic, antibacterial, antioxidant, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, astringent, blood thinner, cardiovascular tonic, carminative, circulatory stimulant, diaphoretic, hemostatic, herbal accentuator, nerve stimulant, stomachic and tonic. Body Systems Targeted: cardiovascular, circulatory, gastrointestinal, nervous, integumentary, skeletal, metabolic Forms: loose dried powder, capsulized, tincture, infused oil, ointment or cream

Capsicum is a remarkable whole body stimulant that can boost blood flow, tone the nervous system, relieve indigestion, promote sweating, help to cauterize and heal ulcers, ease persistent pain and fight off infection. Capsicum’s regular ingestion is highly beneficial in hemorrhoids, varicose veins, anorexia, liver congestion and vascular conditions . . .the indigenous inhabitants of Africa and of the Antilles are remarkably free form all of these conditions as they use capsicum fruit in their diet. Most of the therapeutic actions of Capsicum are attributed to the alkaloid or glucoside content of the herb.

Despite some being quite hot, all peppers are valued for their soothing effects on the digestive system, and as hangover remedies. Nutritionally, fresh peppers are an excellent source of calcium and vitamin C.

Herbal Catalyst;

Because Capsicum boosts peripheral circulation and stimulates organ secretion, it expedites the therapeutic delivery and action of other herbs. In other words, the medicinal benefits of these herbs reach infected or inflamed tissue more rapidly due to enhanced blood flow. Cayenne will insure the rapid and even distribution of the active principles of the rest of the herbs to critical function centers of the body, including those involved in cellular respiration, metabolism, data transmission, and neural-hormonal activation. Cayenne is included in several other blends for this reason. In extremely small quantities it can dramatically increase the efficiency of most other herbs. Many health practitioners believe that the key to healing is Capsicum stimulation. Capsicum stimulates everything from blood flow to peristaltic action in the stomach, to intestinal transit time. The remarkable ability of Capsicum to stimulate organ secretion and even heart action makes it one of the strongest natural stimulants known. Several different kinds of herbal blends targeting various body systems will utilize Capsicum to boost the formula’s efficacy.

Cardiovascular Tonic;

Capsicum is said to be unequaled for its ability to boost circulation and increase heart action. Interestingly, cultures who consume significant amounts of cayenne pepper in their diet have much lower rates of cardiovascular disease. Capsicum exerts a variety of desirable actions on the entire cardiovascular system. It has the extraordinary ability to enhance cardiovascular performance while actually lowering blood pressure. Capsicum has also been shown to prolong cardiac action potential in atrial muscle. Capsicum and Cayenne pepper should be recommended as a food for its beneficial antioxidant and cardiovascular effects. Herbalists have considered Capsicum as a superior "food" for the heart. In fact, in cases where a heart attack is suspected administering capsicum in hot water has been thought to help lessen the severity of the attack. Capsicum can also be placed on or under the tongue in emergencies involving heart attack, stroke or hemorrhaging. Using Capsicum in combination with Hawthorn is a particularly good cardiovascular tonic. Note: Capsicum for any heart-related problem, especially a suspected heart attack, should be used with caution.

Blood Cholesterol Reducer;

Capsicum reduces the risk of developing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) by reducing blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. When cayenne is ingested along with dietary cholesterol, the typical rise in liver and blood serum cholesterol levels was significantly inhibited. In addition, bile acids and free cholesterol were subsequently eliminated from the body through the stool. Interestingly, using Capsicum is actually more effective in reducing cholesterol than Capsicum alone.

Blood Pressure Equalizer;

While an added bonus of Capsicum’s capability to lower blood serum cholesterol is a decrease in blood pressure, additional evidence strongly suggests that the herb initiates other mechanisms that fight hypertension. Cayenne also reduces the blood pressure in an even more direct manner: Capsicum acts in a reflexive manner to reduce systemic blood pressure. Adding Garlic to Capsicum creates an even better therapeutic blend for treating hypertension.

Blood Detoxification;

Cayenne is a kind of catalyst in the blood purification process. It acts as a diaphoretic, stimulating the excretion of wastes in the sweat. Because Capsicum stimulates organ secretion and boosts peripheral blood flow, it would only stand to reason that it would also facilitate the faster removal of toxins from the bloodstream and lymphatic system. You may have already noticed that Capsicum is frequently added to blood-purifying herbal combinations.

The simulating action of Capsicum on surface capillaries can help to prevent cold hands and feet. For this reason, it may be helpful for Reynaud’s Syndrome. Old remedies using Capsicum have even recommended placing it in socks to warm the feet and to help prevent frostbite. An old folk cure for a chilled body was a steaming hot cup of Capsicum tea. The rich flavonoid content of Capsicum gives it significant antioxidant capabilities. Capsicum has a higher ascorbic acid content than chiles from the jalapeno or serrano varieties.

Vitamin C and bioflavonoids can scavenge for dangerous free radicals which cause tissue damage and can predispose organs to degenerative diseases. Free radicals are found everywhere and are created as by-products of metabolic processes including the act of breathing itself. Pollutants can expose the body to free radicals. Capsicum extract is able to modulate the mutagenic activity of urban air samples. In other words, these potentially dangerous nitro-aromatic compounds found in polluted air were kept from mutating by red chile extract. Chemical breakdowns of Capsicum have also found that the sweet pepper is high in Provitamin A, which significantly contributes to its healing ability and immune fortification. It is an anti-carcinogenic compound, demonstrating anti-cancer properties by inhibiting certain enzymes which can initiate the mutation of cells, implying that taking Capsicum can afford the body some protection against the cellular mutation which occurs in malignant growths. Capsicum inhibits the formation of dangerous metabolites under conditions where they should have normally been activated. This implies that Capsicum may have many more sophisticated bio-chemical actions than previously thought.

An Impressive Pain Killer;

Capsicum has recently emerged as a remarkably effective pain reliever. Applying Capsicum in cream or ointment form to painful joints, scar tissue or other painful conditions involving peripheral nerves confuses pain transmitters. In other worlds, Capsicum temporarily disrupts sensory nerve cell biochemistry there by impeding the relay of pain sensations from the skin surface. It does this by inhibiting a neurotransmitter called substance P. This specific compound is thought to be the main mediator of pain impulses from peripheral nerve endings. Substance P has also demonstrated its ability to inhibit inflammatory pain generated in arthritic joints in much the same way. Several topical preparations utilize Capsicum for the pain of arthritic joints. The ability of Capsicum to control severe and unresponsive pain is significant, to say the least. Capsicum may offer significant relief for a number of painful conditions including: diabetic neuropathy, cluster migrain headaches, post-amputation pain, post-mastectomy pain, shingles and painful scar tissue.

Post-surgical Pain

Individuals who had suffered from chronic pain in post-surgical scars (heart bypass, arterial grafts, etc.) were successfully treated with topical preparations containing Capsicum. Capsicum holds profound value for various kinds of pain which do not respond to other medical treatments. Typically surgical scars and regions around them can produce persistent pain or can be very sensitive to the touch even when completely healed. This type of pain phenomenon seems to respond well to Capsicum ointments and creams.

Post-Mastectomy Pain

When Capsicum preparations were applied following mastectomy or breast reconstruction, pain was significantly relieved. Capsicum creams four times daily for 4 to 6 weeks results in much less frequent occurrence of sharp, jabbing pain, with a 50 percent or greater improvement. Various unpleasant sensations other than pain also improved with topical applications of Capsicum creams.

Mouth Sores From Radiation or Chemotherapy

Capsicum can very significantly lessen pain caused by mouth sores which frequently develop after chemotherapy or radiation. Apparently delivering the Capsicum in the form of soft candy (taffy) enabled the substance to be retained in the mouth long enough to desensitize the nerve endings causing the pain. Each one of the eleven case studies reported that their pain had decreased and in two patients, it stopped entirely.

Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is a painful nerve condition which can develop in cases of prolonged diabetes. Capsicum creams help relieve the pain associated with this disorder. The results of a controlled study using Capsicum for severe cases of diabetic neuropathy which did not respond to conventional therapy were published in 1992. A cream containing Capsicum is applied to painful areas four times a day. In a study, approximately 50 percent of the subjects reported improved pain control or were cured. Note: While there is a burning sensation when the Capsicum cream is first applied, its magnitude and duration lessened with continued application.

Shingles

Capsicum-based ointments are used for the treatment of pain that results from diseases like shingles. The general consensus derived from tests were that approximately 50 percent of people suffering from shingles responded well to Capsicum creams, some even after 10 to 12 months. Note: If blisters accompany a shingles outbreak, it is better to wait until they have healed before using any Capsicum-based ointments or creams.

Releif For Burning Feet

Frequently an uncomfortable “burning” sensation in the feet will occur in many people, particularly in diabetics. As ironic as it may seem, using Capsicum creams may actually alleviate this burning. In various studies, diabetics who treated their burning feet with Capsicum got greater improvement and were able to walk more easily than those not using the cream. In addition, using topical applications of Capsicum as opposed to strong, oral drugs is much more preferable.

Arthritis Pain

Topical Capsicum ointments substantially alleviate the miserable pain that characterizes osteoand rheumatoid arthritis. Using 0.075 percent Capsicum cream reduces tenderness and pain. 70 patients with osteoarthritis and 31 with rheumatoid arthritis received Capsicum or placebo for 4 weeks. The patients were instructed to apply 0.025 percent Capsicum cream or its placebo to painful knees four times daily. Significantly more relief of pain was reported by the Capsicum-treated patients than by the placebo patients. You need to apply it three or four times a day on the affected area for at least two weeks before you’ll see any improvement. An initial burning sensation at the site is not unusual for the first few days, but this goes away with continued application. Note: Capsicum is also useful for tennis elbow due to its ability to block the transmission of pain.

Migraine Headaches (Cluster Type)

Topical applications of Capsicum ointments intranasally may also help to relieve the pain of a specific kind of migraine headache called cluster headaches. Cluster headaches are characterized by severe pain which typically radiates around one eye. The term “cluster” refers to the fact that these headaches tend to occur in clusters of one to three per day and can recur at intervals. Headache pain and severity are reduced using intranasal Capsicum. There is also some speculation that Capsicum may be more effective in preventing migraines before they develop into a full blown attack. Warning; this type of treatment should be used with caution.

Infection and Immune Power;

Capsicum not only stimulates organ secretion and circulation, it has a tonic effect on the immune system, making the body less vulnerable to microorganism invaders. Natives of Coyoacan, Mexico seemed to be particularly resistant to intestinal infection due to the amount of raw chile peppers in thier diet, which they eat in tremendous quantities.

In addition to intestinal infections, Capsicum has significant value for upper respiratory ailments including colds, influenza, sore throats etc. Because it can increase blood flow to peripheral tissues, it insures the better deliver and assimilation of nutrients which are required by infected areas in order to heal quickly. This same action enhances the removal of waste material and toxins from inflamed areas thereby facilitating faster recovery. Whatever area of the body is afflicted, it is imperative that blood supply is adequately infused over the region. The constituents of the immune system which include macrophages, T-cells, etc., are blood-borne, therefore the better capillary delivery of blood, the faster the healing process can occur.

A study found that Capsicum even had the ability to exert an anti-giardia effect in vitro. The effect of Capsicum was so impressive that a notation was made that its performance was considered superior to Tinidazol (the pharmaceutical drug used to treat Giardia).

The Preventive Power of Capsicum;

Taking daily doses of Capsicum can help to protect the body from colds, flu, sore throats, other bacterial or viral infections, heart disease, indigestion and fatigue. Capsicum is frequently combined with Garlic to create a potent immune system fortifier. Capsicum for Fatigue and Depression The natural stimulatory action of capsicum can provide better performance under conditions of stress. Although it is not as effective taken two to three days prior to stress, so its results are short-lived.

The ability of Capsicum to stimulate circulation and respiratory reflexes may help to enhance physiologic performance under periods of stress or fatigue. Cayenne or Capsicum helps to stimulate circulation and has an energizing effect on the system. It has traditionally been used for overcoming fatigue and restoring stamina and vigor. It is considered a natural stimulant without the side effects of most stimulating agents.

The following are specific actions associated with capsicum and the conditions it can help relieve;

• can help to stop both internal and external hemorrhaging
• facilitates the healing of ulcers
• high flavonoid content makes it a good antioxidant
• boosts heart action without raising blood pressure
• improves the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol
• supports vessel and capillary elasticity
• helps to protect against heart disease and stroke
• may help to minimize damage from heart attack or shock
• works to re-build and heal injured stomach tissue
• rich in vitamin C, it strengthens the immune system
• promotes better digestion by boosting HCL secretion
• acts to equalize blood pressure
• may help to increase thermogenesis or the burning of fat
• topical use relieves pain of arthritis, surgical scars, shingles etc.
• used on the skin, may help to protect against frostbite
• serves as a powerful catalyst for other herbs
• helps to relieve psoriasis

Primary Medicinal Aplications;

• appetite stimulant
• arthritis
• asthma
• atherosclerosis
• bleeding (internal and external)
• blood pressure
• bronchitis
• burning feet
• chills
• circulatory disorders
• colds
• congestion
• depression
• diabetic neuropathy
• fatigue
• frostbite (prevention)
• heart ailments
• heart attack
• hemorrhage
• indigestion
• infection
• laryngitis
• migraines (cluster headaches)
• mouth pain
• nausea
• nosebleeds
• general pain
• phlebitis
• pleurisy
• psoriasis
• rheumatism
• shock
• sore throat
• strokes
• tennis elbow
• tonsillitis
• toothache
• ulcers
• varicose veins
• wound bleeding

Substances that Complement Capsicum;

As previously mentioned, Capsicum is frequently added to herbal combinations in order to boost and potentiate their action. The following herbs create particularly good herbal complements with Capsicum: garlic, ginger, hawthorn berry, peppermint, myrrh, yucca, gotu kola, parsley, rosemary, echinacea, kelp, ginseng, ginkgo, bayberry, slippery elm, black walnut, papaya, fennel, St. John’s Wort, and lobelia.

Recipes;

To make a medicine, especially with the hottest varieties, dry the peppers and grind into a powder. Use one or two tablespoons in warm water for relief of symptoms. Alternatively, pack the powder into capsules for use when making a tea is not convenient. Dried Capsicum can be mixed in hot water or can be used in tincture form, which can be added to water or juice.

To make a liniment for external use, gently boil 1 tablespoon of hot pepper in 1 pint of cider vinegar. Do not strain, and bottle while hot.

Cultivation details

Requires a very warm sunny position and a fertile well-drained soil. Sun and warmth is very necessary. Prefers a light sandy soil that is slightly acid. If a very warm sheltered position outdoors is chosen then reasonable crops could be obtained in good summers. They are good companions for basil and okra. They should not be grown near apricot trees, however, because a fungus that the pepper is prone to can cause a lot of harm to the apricot tree.

Propagation

Seed - sow late winter to early spring in a warm greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 3 - 4 weeks at 20°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of reasonably rich soil and grow them on fast. If trying them outdoors, then plant them out once warmer weather arrives and give them the protection of a cloche or frame at least until they are established and growing away well.