(Capsicum frutescens, Capsicum minimum, and Capsicum annuum)
Mmm - spicy, hot peppers on a cold winter’s day warms a body from the inside
out. Capsaicin is the substance which gives peppers their heat. This spicy heat,
called pungency, is measured in Scoville units. As a rule, the smaller the pepper’s
size the stronger its fire; with scorpion, ghost, habanero, Thai, and cayenne being
at the top of the Scoville chart. Capsaicin is more concentrated in the ribs and
seeds of the fruit than in its flesh. So remove them, if you prefer the flavor with
These colorful jewels were originally native to the tropical areas of the Americas, where they grow up to 6 feet tall as perennial
plants. The early explorers brought dried peppers back to Europe for trade. Chilies eventually spread to every continent where
they found their way into cultural kitchens, gardens and medicine chests.
As a fruit, capsicum peppers are rich in vitamins A, C and P, carotenoids, flavonoids and some B vitamins. The larger chilies
peppers, such as pablanos, Anaheims, and jalapenos can be stuffed, baked, sautéed or fried and eaten as a vegetable. The
smaller hotter peppers, including Thai, habanero and cayenne, are typically added to foods as a seasoning for their flavor and
These peppers are favored in tropical climate cuisine. For when ingested, their pungency causes the body to sweat, which is a
natural cooling mechanism for humans. Hot peppers aids digestion by stimulating the release of digestive acids, which will
subsequently digest any parasites in the foods being eaten at that time.
Be careful when handling hot peppers. They can cause irritation and burning to the skin, eyes and other delicate body parts. Use
them judicially, for the pungency you enjoy when eating the peppers can also burn when they come out of the other end of the
Those with ulcers and acid reflux may want to avoid hot peppers for in some individuals they can cause more irritation. Pregnant
and lactating women should use them sparingly, if at all. Remember to check for all contraindications and interactions before
using any herb medicinally.
As an herb, capsicum peppers are excellent for cardio-vascular health. Their high vitamin C and P content strengthens and repairs
the blood vessel walls. The active component capsaicin increases circulation, dilates blood vessels and lowers blood lipids (fats).
Topical ointments infused with capsaicin peppers are used as an antiseptic, to increase circulation, for their warming effects and
long-term to alleviate arthritic pain.
Here on the Front Range of Colorado, I start my pepper plants indoors from seeds in mid-February. Most varieties are
transplanted into the garden by mid-May. However, the long growing season, small chili peppers are planted in pots, placed
around the garden for the summer, and then brought indoor before the first freeze. This extends the harvest of the peppers well
into the snowy days of winter. As house plants, these chili peppers will grow and produce for years.
Click onto my Facebook page (add link) for a delicious hot pepper and egg recipe to serve for breakfast or your next brunch.
Sharon Tilgner, Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth (Creswell, OR: Wise Acre Press, Inc., 1999).
Merrily Kuhn and David Winston, Herbal Therapy and Supplements (Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, 2000).
George Mateljan, The World’s Healthiest Foods (Seattle, WA: George Mateljan Foundation, 2007).
Sarah Garland, The Complete Book of Herbs and Spices (NY, NY; Viking Press, 1979).
Copyright 2017 Donna Wild
434 W. 6th Street
Loveland, CO 80537