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Capsicum Peppers - Uses and Benefits

Scientific Names: Capsicumfrutescens L., Capsicum annuum L., or any of a large number of hybrids or varieties of the species, Family: Solanaceae

Capsicum pepper refers primarily to Capsicum annuum L. and Capsicum frutescens L. These plants are generally used in the manufacture of selected commercial products known for their pungency and color.

Most common in south America are the varieties of C baccatum grown close to the Andes, but also into Paraguay, Northern Argentina and southern Brazil. These are usually called ají, or kellu-uchu , from the Inca, when fresh, and cusqueno when dried. This pepper with cream colored flowers and seeds, adds heat but also a distinct flavor to foods.

Capsicum Peppers Plant Description

Capsicum Pepper i.e. Capsicum annuum L. is a herbaceous annual that reaches a height of one meter and has glabrous or pubescent lanceolate leaves, white flowers, and fruit that vary in length, color, and pungency depending upon the cultivar. Native to America, this plant is cultivated almost exclusively in Europe and the United States.

Uses and Benefits of Capsicum Peppers

Although capsicum may cause heartburn for many individuals, its most common oral use is to treat digestive complaints such as colic, gas, indigestion, and poor appetite. Chemicals in capsicum have been shown to increase not only the amount of acid the stomach produces, but also the blood flow in the lining of the stomach and intestines. Both these effects may improve digestion, but they may also irritate the stomach.

Dosage for Capsicum Peppers

Oral dosages of 30-120 mg of cayenne pepper or 1-2 mg of the oleoresin up to three times a day are usually recommended, although larger doses may be tolerated. Oral products are usually available as capsules. Capsaicin can be used in topical products; commercial creams that are well known (e.g., Zostrix) contain 0.025% or 0.075% capsaicin. Some patients tolerate and require higher concentrations, which they can make themselves. Cayenne powder can be mixed into vegetable oil or a topical cream to give concentrations of 0.1 % to 0.5% for application several times a day. If tolerated, higher concentrations up to 5% can be tried. In all cases, small or dilute amounts should be used initially, because excessive amounts will irritate the skin and cause pain.

Adverse Side Effects of Capsicum Peppers

People who are not conditioned to using peppers in large amounts will find oral or topical exposure to be unpleasant. Topical use causes increased pain for the first few days of use; patients must be counseled about this effect. Oral intake of peppery preparations can lead to gagging, coughing, inability to speak, dyspnea, and vomiting. Some patients with dyspepsia may find oral capsaicin increases discomfort and can induce gastroenteritis, diarrhea, and proctitis. Smaller doses of enteric capsules can prevent these dose-dependent consequences of capsaicin ingestion. It is still unclear whether peppery products can cause stomach ulcers, and some studies have lound chili peppers to be protective.

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