Description - These are tender annuals or perennials from South America.
They have straight, woody stems and single, star-shaped, white flowers in the
axils of the leaves. The flowers are followed by juiceless berries or pods,
which vary in shape and size. They are green at first and change to red, yellow
or purple. They contain many flat, kidney-shaped, white seeds, which are very
hot tasting. Kinds that are commonly grown are varieties of C. frutescens, which
are the Peppers grown in the vegetable garden and include those from which red
pepper, cayenne pepper, Tabasco and paprika are made. In tropical countries it
is a perennial and will form a shrub as high as 8 feet, but when it is grown in
gardens it is treated as an annual and is raised from seeds every year. This is
true of the kinds that are grown as potted plants as well as those grown in the
garden. There are many varieties of garden Peppers. They are divided into two
groups; the Sweet peppers or mild-flavored varieties, which are used for
stuffing, salads and garnishing and the hot Peppers, which are mainly used in
sauces and flavoring.
Cayenne, hot pepper, Capsicum species
Genus - Capsicum is a member of the Solanaceae family that includes tomato, potato, tobacco, and petunia. The genus Capsicum consists of approximately 22 wild species and five domesticated species (Bosland 1994): C. annuum, C. baccatum, C. chinense, C. frutescens, and C. pubescens. Capsicum. Capsicum is a perennial small shrub in suitable climatic conditions, living for a decade or more in tropical South and Central America. Capsicum probably evolved from an ancestral form in the Bolivia/Peru area (Heiser 1976). Chile fruits are considered vegetables, but are berries botanically. Chile types usually are classified by fruit characteristics, i.e. pungency, color, shape, flavor, size, and their use
Medicinal use - Capsicum species has been used as a carminative, digestive irritant, stomachic, stimulant, rubefacient, and tonic. The plants have also been used as folk remedies for dropsy, colic, diarrhea, asthma, arthritis, muscle cramps, and toothache. Cayenne acts internally as a circulatory stimulant and is used to stimulate digestion. Several over-the-counter products for external use in arthritic and rheumatoid conditions contain capsaicin, the hot principle in the oil of capsicum, as the active pain relieving ingredient. Topical capsicim preparations are also used for the relief of pain associated with herpes zoster ("shingles").
Contrindications - Prolonged contact with the skin may cause dermatitis and blisters, while excessive consumption can cause gastroenteritis and kidney damage. Paprika and cayenne pepper may be cytotoxic to mammalian cells in vitro. Consumption of red pepper may aggravate symptoms of duodenal ulcers. High levels of ground hot pepper have induced stomach ulcers and cirrhosis of the liver in laboratory animals. Body temperature, flow of saliva, and gastric juices may be stimulated by capsicum peppers.
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