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Friday, June 08, 2007


The fruit of Capsicum frutescens L., C. annum L. and their hybrids are commonly known as capsicum. They can also be referred to as red pepper, cayenne pepper, chili pepper or hot pepper (see our earlier post on hot pepper for more detail). Properties include rubefacient, stomachic, appetizer, carminitive, circulatory stimulant, gastrointestinal stimulant, general tonic, antiinflammatory, and analgesic. The most common traditional uses of this herb are as a digestive aid, flatulence, colic, cramps, diarrhea, and toothache (all internal uses). It is also used externally as a counterirritant in arthritis and rheumatism, chilblain, frostbite, sprains, hematomas, and poisonous snake bite.

Capsicum is rich in vitamins (A, C, beta-carrotene, etc.) and other nutrients. It is a favorite of Western herbalists who frequently use it in herbal formulas as a catalyst to enhance the effects of other herbs.

The major active constituent in capsicum is capsaicin, which has pain-relieving and antiinflammatory activities. It is also very irritating to mucous membranes and will cause intense pain when inadvertently rubbed into the eyes.

The traditional use of capsicum in treating arthritis and rheumatism now has a scientific basis in capsaicin, which is presently used in numerous external pain-reliving balms. The major drawback to these otherwise highly effective remedies is that extreme caution needs to be exercised in order to avoid accidental contact with mucous membranes, especially in and around the eyes.

Dr. Albert Leung’s book, Better Health with (mostly) Chinese Herbs and Food discusses the use of 60 different herbs as healing foods, including capsicum, on page 12. For more information about Dr. Leung and his writings, visit http://www.earthpower.com/.

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