CHILI PEPPERS are available throughout the year to add zest to flavorful dishes around the world and health to those brave enough to risk their fiery heat. Chili peppers, despite their fiery ‘hotness’, are one of very popular spices known for their medicinal and health benefiting properties. The chili, actually, is a fruit pod from the plant belonging to the nightshade family (Solanaceae), within the genus, capsicum. This is the plant that puts fire on your tongue and maybe even a tear in your eye when you eat spicy Mexican, simmering Szechuan, smoldering Indian, or torrid Thai food. Chili peppers belong to the family of foods bearing the Latin name Capsicum annum.
Chili pepper is one of the vegetables in the nightshade (Solanaceae) family, which also includes eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers and white potatoes. Anecdotal case histories link improvement in arthritis symptoms with removal of these foods; however, there are no scientific studies to date that confirm this information.
It’s not surprising that chili peppers can trace their history to Central and South America, regions whose cuisines are renowned for their hot and spicy flavors. Chili peppers have been cultivated in these regions for more than seven thousand years, first as a decorative item and later as a foodstuff and medicine. It was not until the 15th and 16th centuries that chili peppers were introduced to the rest of the world. The chili plant is native to Central American region where it was employed as one the chief spice ingredients in Mexican cuisine for centuries. It was later introduced to the rest of the world by Spanish and Portuguese explorers during 16th and 17th centuries, and today grown widely in many parts of the world as an important commercial crop.
There, they were used as a substitute for black pepper, which was very expensive since it had to be imported from Asia. Explorer Ferdinand Magellan is credited with introducing chili peppers into Africa and Asia, continents that have since incorporated them into their cuisines and pharmacopeias. Chili peppers are now grown on all continents; however, China, Turkey, Nigeria, Spain and Mexico are among the largest commercial producers.
Chilies have a strong spicy taste that comes to them from the active alkaloid compounds: capsaicin, capsanthin and capsorubin.
Chilies are excellent source of Vitamin, A, B, C and E with minerals like molybdenum, manganese, folate, potassium, thiamin, and copper. Chili contains seven times more vitamin C than orange. Chilies have been used as a medicinal plant since pre-Colombian times. Today, chilies are one of the most widely used of all natural remedies. It is these reasons why the indigenous peoples of the Americas started to domesticate chilies all those years ago. Ever since its introduction to India in 1498, chilies have been included in Ayurvedic medicines and used as tonic to ward off many diseases. Chilies are good for slimming down as it burns the calorie easily. Chilies stimulate the appetite, help to clear the lungs, and stimulate digestive system.
Capsaicin: Chilies have vitamin C and Vitamin A containing beta-carotenoids which are powerful antioxidant. These antioxidants destroy free radical bodies. Usually, these radical bodies may travel in the body and cause huge amounts of damage to cells. These radical bodies could damage nerve and blood vessel in diabetes. The antioxidants present in the chili wipe out the radical bodies that could build up cholesterol causing major heart diseases such as atherosclerosis. Chilies have antioxidants that can destroy cholesterol which could cause major disease like atherosclerosis and other heart diseases. Other disease like cataract and arthritis like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is also dilates airway of lungs which reduces asthma and wheezing.
Detoxicants: Chilies acts as detoxifiers as they remove waste products from our body and increases supply nutrients to the tissues. It also acts as gastrointestinal detoxicants helping in digestion of food. Chilies are excellent for your immune system because they are rich in both vitamin A (said to be the anti-infection vitamin) and vitamin C.
Chili peppers’ bright red color signals its high content of beta-carotene or pro-vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for healthy mucous membranes, which line the nasal passages, lungs, intestinal tract and urinary tract and serve as the body’s first line of defense against invading pathogens. Just two teaspoons of red chili peppers provide about 6% of the daily value for vitamin C and more than 10% of the daily value for vitamin A. The US Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database lists red capsicum as having 143.7mg of Vitamin C per 100g, while oranges contain only 45mg per 100g. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant used by the body to soak up free radicals. Chilies also contain other anti-oxidants: lutein is found in red chilies, while alpha-carotene is found in yellow and orange chilies as well as capsicums. Other vitamins found in chilies include the vitamin B group (mainly B6) and vitamin E. They are also high in potassium, magnesium and iron.
Pain killer: Chilies stimulates the release of endorphins that are natural pain killers. It relieves pain caused due to shingles (Herpes Zoster), bursitis, diabetic neuropathy and muscle spasm in shoulders, and extremities. It also helps in relieving arthritic pains in the extremities. Chilies can be used as natural pain killers, and topical capsaicin is now a recognized treatment option for osteoarthritis pain. Reviews of recent studies of pain management for diabetic neuropathy have also listed capsaicin as being helpful with the full-on pain associated with this condition. Similarly, pain associated with psoriasis has also been shown to be abated with regular capsaicin consumption. Pain relief occurs because the chili stimulates the release of endorphins.
That burning sensation you get when you eat chilies is what is triggering the release of these famous feel-good chemical neurotransmitters in our brains. After the pain of the heat, you get what is generally described as an improved sense of well-being. For a bigger endorphin rush, the hotter the chili, the better! The chili is often described as addictive, but this is not entirely true since no deep cravings develop and they do not induce a chemical dependency. However, over time your tolerance will increase and you need hotter and hotter chilies to get the same effect.
Antibiotic: Chilies brings fresh blood to the site of the infection. The fresh blood fights infection. The white blood cells and leukocytes present in the fresh blood fights viruses.
Brain: Capsaicin stimulates brain to excrete endorphin and gives a sense of pleasure when ingested. This is the reason people get addicted to chili.
Cancer: It has been noted that vitamin C, beta-carotene and folic acid found in chili reduces the risk of colon cancer. Chilies such as red pepper have carotenoid lycopene, which prevents cancer disease.
Heart Attack: Chilies have vitamin B6 and folic acid. The vitamin B reduces high homocysteine level. High homocysteine levels have been shown to cause damage to blood vessels and are associated with a greatly increased risk of heart attack and stroke. It also converts homocysteine into other molecules which is beneficial to lower cholesterol level.
Lung disease: Chilies gives relief from nasal congestion by increasing the metabolism. It also dilates airway of lungs which reduces asthma and wheezing. It relieves chronic congestion in people who are heavy drinkers. Cigarette smoke contains benzopyrene which destroys the vitamin A in the body. Finally, cigarette smoke contains benzopyrene which destroys the vitamin A in the body. The Vitamin A present in chili reduces inflammation of lungs and emphysema caused due to cigarette smoking. They’re packed with organically grown chilies all grown in Aotearoa blended with all local ingredients and they all have BITE! The vitamin A present in chili reduces inflammation of lungs and emphysema caused due to cigarette smoking.
Chilies have a wonderful impact on cardiovascular functioning. Red chili peppers, such as cayenne, have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and platelet aggregation, while increasing the body’s ability to dissolve fibrin, a substance integral to the formation of blood clots. Spicing your meals with chili peppers may also protect the fats in your blood from damage by free radicals us a first step in the development of atherosclerosis. In cultures where hot pepper is used liberally, the populations have a much lower rate of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism. In 2006, a pilot study in Tasmania found people may sleep better if they eat chilies regularly and as quality of sleep is important for cardiovascular health, this is also good news. It must also be great news to the millions of insomniacs and frequent flyers around the world.