Names: Nahuatl: Chil, Caribbean/Peru: Aji. Chile is the Hispanisized name, Chili is an Anglisized name, Sanscrit: Marichi-phalam meaning the fruit of the sun. Cayenne is the name of a city in French Guinea, and was sometimes called Guinea pepper. Pepper is a misnomer from the colonizer, as ignorant as calling the natives “Indians” because they thought they were in India. The Europeans called Aji or Chil “pepper” because it reminded them of black pepper.
Parts used: Fruit
Constituents: Albumin, pectin, gum, starch, capsaicin volatile oil, and minerals including calcium carbonate, iron sesquioxide, potassium phosphate, alum and magnesium. (MW) World of chiles: However, the chili is also an excellent source of vitamin A, B, C and E with minerals like molybdenum, manganese, folic acid, potassium, thiamin, and copper. It is one of the foods with the highest content of vitamin C, important for the proper functioning of the immune system. It is rich in carotenoids, which exert protective effects against various diseases due to the neutralization of free radicals.
Actions & Energetics: Stimulant, carminative, tonic, astringent, rubifacient, antiseptic. Hot; spicy. (JG) Stimulant, diaphoretic, expectorant, carminative, alterative, hemostatic, anthelmintic.(YH) Sialagogue, tonic, rubifacient, antiseptic. (BB) KV– P+
Tissue State: depression
Taste: pungent, hot, diffusive
Systems: digestive, circulatory, respiratory; Tissues: plasma, blood, some action on marrow, nerves and reproductive
The Fruit of the Sun contains lots of solar energy. Its energy is rajasic, the principle of energy, activity, emotion and turbulence. All capsicum plants originate in the lower Amazon basin, near modern Bolivia. They are propagated by birds who have carried the seeds around the Americas. After Columbus raped the Caribbean, the Aji went to Europe (and maybe Africa? at this time) where it was widely accepted. Once the Europeans got to naming plants in their botanical categories, chiles from China were mistakenly thought of as originating from China and named Capsicum chinese. Researchers believe there were at least two separate domestication events. One in South America around Bolivia and the other in present day Oaxaca. These occurred around the same time, somewhere between 6,000 and 7,500 years ago. It is thought that Mexico and Central America are the center of origin for C. annuum and C. frutescens while C. chinese, C. pubescens and C. baccatum originate in South America.
Big news: this year researchers in China and the US reported on a 7 years study of 485,000 people in China who tracked their diets, particularly use of spicy foods, alcohol, red meat and vegetables. Controlling for other factors, the researchers found a 10% lower rate of mortality for those who ate spicy foods twice a week and 14% lower mortality among those who ate spicy foods 3 or more times a week. That’s a huge statistical margin. Those who didn’t drink alcohol had an even lower risk of dying. When they honed in on specific causes of death, spicy foods were linked to a lower incidence of cancer, ischemic heart disease and respiratory diseases.
One reason for this may be found in the high antioxidant content which clears free radicals and reduces cholesterol. It has powerful effects on the heart and blood vessels. World of chilis reports that the Vitamin B6 and folic acid protect the capillaries and blood vessels. It is excellent for improving blood circulation and blood pressure. It increases the hearts activity (not necessarily the heart rate, at least not for long), giving it strength, power and energy. (Webmd) The heart does not pump the blood all by itself. The arteries are made of muscles and pump blood in syncopation with the heart. By improving the action of the heart and arteries, capsicum improves distribution of nutrients throughout the body.
Samuel Thompson, the godfather of Western Herbalism in the US, introduced capsicum as an herbal remedy. He observed this ability to distribute blood throughout the body and his followers came to describe it as “diffusive” (John Thacher) and as “equalizing the circulation” (Wooster Beach). Matthew Wood describes this action of distribution by giving examples of overeating, smoking, or alcohol use which will cause blood to pool in and around the organs that have been affected by the abuse/toxins. This creates a differential in the vasculature and taxes the heart. Capsicum evens out the blood flow and creates a more even distribution, which relieves the burden on the heart. This line of thinking lead Thompson to apply it during heart attacks, reasoning that blood was pooling around the heart. The 20th century herbalist Christopher Hobbs championed capsicum and said it never once failed him when treating heart attack. He also used it for high and low blood pressure, hemorrhaging, heart troubles, varicose veins and hypoglycemia.
Traditional Jamaican healers have used capsicum chiles to treat diabetes as it lowers blood sugar levels. This may be because it stimulates insulin production. Western studies have also looked at its hypoglycemic effects, and while the exact mechanism is not conclusive, the effect is certainly pronounced.
One of the most astounding uses for capsicum is in treating cancer. Capsicum promotes apoptosis, or cell death, the natural process through which an aged cell kills itself. Cancer cells don’t kill themselves, which is why they are cancerous. Capsaicin has been shown to promote apoptosis in several kinds of cancer. It seems to be most effective against pulmony, gastric and hepatic cancers and some prostrate cancers. (organicfacts.net) One reason for its effectiveness in preventing lung cancer is that cigarette smoke contains benzopyrene which destroys vitamin A in the body. The vitamin A present in chilli reduces inflammation of the lungs and emphysema caused by cigarette smoking.