Herbs & Plants

Capsicum minimum

Botanical Name: Capsicum minimum, Capsicum spp
Family: Solanaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Genus: Capsicum
Species: C. annuum

Synonyms: C.fastigiatum (Bl.), African chillies, chillies, red pepper, bird pepper, capsicum, hot pepper, Tabasco pepper

Common Names: African Pepper, Bird’s Eye Chilli, Bird Pepper, Cocksbur Pepper, Guinea Pepper, Spanish Pepper, Zanzibar Pepper

Habitat :This small erect shrub is indigenous to tropical America and cultivated in South America and Africa.

It is a perennial plant in its native America but is annual when cultivated outside tropical zones. Growing to a height of 1m or more, its glabrous stem is woody at the bottom and branched near the top. The leaves are ovate to lanceolate, entire and petioled. The drooping, white to yellow flowers grow alone or in pairs or threes between April and September. The ripe fruit, or pepper, is a many-seeded pod with a leathery outside in various shades of red or yellow.

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The single flowers are an off-white (sometimes purplish) color while the stem is densely branched and up to 60 centimetres (24 in) tall. The fruit is a berry and may be green, yellow or red when ripe. While the species can tolerate most climates, Capsicum minimum is especially productive in warm and dry climates.

Constituents: an alkaloid (capsaicin), carotenoids (capsanthine, capsorubin), flavonoids, volatile oil, vitamins A, B and C, steroidal saponins (capsicidons), sugars, fatty acids.

Edible Uses:
The species is a source of popular sweet peppers and hot chilis with numerous varieties cultivated all around the world.
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In British English, the sweet varieties are called red or green peppers and the hot varieties chillies, whereas in Australian and Indian English the name capsicum is commonly used for bell peppers exclusively and chilli is often used to encompass the hotter varieties. Americans call the sweet types “peppers” and the hot ones “chili peppers” or “chilies” (sometimes spelled “chiles”).

Sweet peppers are very often used as a bulking agent in ready-made meals and take-away food, because they are cheap, have a strong flavour, and are colorful. The colorful aspect of peppers increases the visual appeal of the food, making it more appetizing. Foods containing peppers, especially chili peppers, often have a strong aftertaste due to the presence of capsinoids in peppers. Capsaicin, a chemical found in chili peppers, creates a burning sensation once ingested, which can last for several hours after ingestion.

Medicinal Uses:
carminative, spasmolytic, stimulant, diaphoretic; externally as a rubefacient, counter-irritant and antiseptic.
It is used in  flatulent dyspepsia in the absence of inflammation, colic, insufficiency of the peripheral circulation; as a gargle for chronic laryngitis; externally for neuralgia, rheumatic pain and unbroken chilblains.

Capsicum is a good general tonic, specific for the circulatory and digestive system. It regulates blood flow and strengthens the heart, arteries, capillaries and nerves. It improves arterial blood supply to the tissues and toxin removal. It is a strong circulatory stimulant,  appearing to reinforce the action of certain prostaglandins, thereby increasing the flow of blood through all the tissues of the body and producing a diaphoretic effect. Capsaicin is known to mimic the effect of some of the prostaglandins. It desensitizes the sensory nerve endings to pain stimulation by depleting Substance P from the nervous system, which is the basis for its use as a local analgesic, and recent research suggests that cayenne can ease the severe pain of shingles and migraine. It is also used in digestive debility and flatulent dyspepsia in the absence of inflammation. The addition of Capsicum to a prescription will ensure that the other ingredients quickly reach all tissues even where there is poor circulation.

Applied externally it stimulates increased circulation within the subdermal tissues, reducing the need for the body to invoke the inflammatory response. It is therefore of benefit as a rubefacient for neuralgia and rheumatic pains. The ointment also helps to heal unbroken chilblains.

Hot, stimulating Cayenne peppers are like a jump start to a cold car engine on a frosty morning. It brings welcome life into sore muscles and get your heart beating faster, increasing the flow of blood all through the body. The heat of cayenne warms stiff arthritic joints and relaxes away low back pain.  The longer you use it, the better it works. Cayenne works very well for me, I use it every day, sometimes twice a day, for arthritis stiffness, sore muscles, and low back pain. Cayenne infused oil does not burn my skin as much as capsaicin creams. Cayenne salves and oils are my first recommendation to anyone who has problems with pain, however cayenne has many other varied uses that make it one of the most powerful remedies in your kitchen medicine cabinet.

Cayenne for Pain relief  Cayenne pepper extracts are an important part of herbal treatment for muscle pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and the nerve pain caused by shingles and sciatica.101 It appears to act by decreasing the concentration of substance P, the primary chemical used by nerve cells to transmit pain signals. It takes repeated use over a period of at least a few weeks to feel this benefit. Cayenne is also rich in salicylates, natural aspirin like compounds, which add to its analgesic nature. 102 Cayenne pepper balms, oils and creams are rubefacients,which means it warms the body by quickly dilating small capillaries, and  increasing circulation,  which reddens, (but does not burn) the skin. This increased circulation is the hallmark of cayenne’s effect on the body, it stimulates the heart, and the lungs as well as increasing blood circulation and warmth throughout the whole system.

Cayenne Pepper Diet: Adding cayenne to your diet plan is a no-brainer. Cayenne, along with other peppers strengthen digestion and lessen the change of bacterial infections from unsanitary food and water. Cayenne peppers also lessen the gas and bloating that comes from eating heavy, greasy foods. Cayenne helps boost your metabolism and induces the body to burn off more fat. Eating more hot spicy foods will help decrease appetite and increase satiety, so you are inclined to eat less. Seasoning with pepper lessens the need for salt and fat in cooking without sacrificing flavor.

Psoriasis Treatment: Capsaicin, the most potent constituent of cayenne, has been shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of psoriasis. Treatment does produce burning sensations, which are normal and decrease with repeated use. If you buy OTC products look for one that contains menthol, it will help relieve the itching as well. A 1999 study found that treatment with capsaicin caused a marked decrease in psoriasis activity and decreased formation of new skin plaques. 103

Heart Health: Cayenne is considered to be a valuable heart tonic. These hot peppers contain capsicum which has been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Cayenne also helps to increase circulation and keeps the blood flowing smoothly through veins and arteries. Cayenne also is high in antioxidants, rounding out its cardiovascular benefits.

Caution: Should not be used in cases of hypertension, gastric hyperacidity, peptic ulceration, or on mucous membranes. The hands should be washed after handling. Prolonged application to the skin can cause dermatitis and blistering, while excessive consumption can lead to gastroenteritis and liver and kidney damage. Only small doses should be used to avoid irritating the stomach or burning the skin. The seeds can be toxic. Therapeutic doses should be avoided during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Other Uses:
Some cultivars grown specifically for their aesthetic value include the U.S. National Arboretum’s Black Pearl and the Bolivian Rainbow. Ornamental varieties tend to have unusually coloured fruit and foliage with colors such as black and purple being notable. All are edible, and most (like Royal Black) are hot.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider


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