Although most chili peppers are indigenous to South America, they are used and grown around the world. Hot peppers are used in abundance in Mexican, South American, Indonesian, African and Oriental cooking, while the milder peppers are common in European and North American recipes. And, peppers have been cultivated for thousands of years for their medicinal properties, known for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, in addition to their culinary purposes.
The one thing that all chili peppers share is the common name “capsicum” (pronounced KAP-sih-kuhm). Capsicum, from the Greek kapto meaning “to bite,” is the pepper genus. Capsicum, aptly described as the plant that bites back, is a common condiment in certain diets. The plant grows in warm climates and is added to many herbal formulas as a catalyst for the other herbs. Cayenne or Capsicum derives its name from the Greek, ‘to bite,’ in allusion to the hot pungent properties of the fruits and seeds. Cayenne pepper was introduced into Britain from India in 1548. This species appeared in Miller’s Garden Dictionary in 1771. The five big species of chili peppers are:
Capsicum annuum—including most of the common varieties like the jalapeno and bell peppers
Capsicum baccatum—including the berry-like South American chili peppers
Capsicum chinense—including the fiery habanero
Capsicum frutescens—including the bushy pepper plants like tabasco
Capsicum pubescens—including the South American rocoto peppers.
Other Common Names: Aji Dulce, Cayenne, Cayenne Pepper, Chili Pepper, Chabai Achong, Filfil, Hungarian Pepper, Kirmizi Biber, La Chiao, Mexican Chili, Paprika, Peppers, Piment Doux, Pimiento, Red Pepper, Sweet Pepper, Capsicum frutescens
It’s red color is partly due to its high vitamin A content. Capsicum has been used for decades as a catalyst for other herbs. Because Capsicum stimulants circulation and enhances blood flow, it is considered food for the circulatory system, a common condiment to the diet.
As a cardiovascular stimulant, Capsicum assists in lowering blood pressure and breaking down cholesterol buildup. The warming properties of Capsicum are useful for people suffering from poor circulation to the hands and feet and other related conditions.
Capsicum has been used as a digestive aid to ease intestinal inflammation, stimulate protective mucus membranes of the stomach, and also relieve pain caused by ulcers.
Capsicum is commonly used to buffer pain from other ailments, including arthritis, varicose veins, headaches, menstrual cramps and respiratory conditions such as asthma.