Capsicum
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Capsicum CAPSICUM  
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Capsella  |  Caraway Seed

Botanical:   Capsicum annuum
Family:   Solanaceae (nightshade)
Other common names:   Cayenne, Red Pepper, Bell Pepper, Bird Pepper, African Bird Pepper,

Chili Pepper, Chilli Pepper

Capsicum is a pepper that will warm and improve circulation to all parts of the body, easing the joint pain of arthritis, muscle spasms and cluster headaches.  Included in many cuisines, it is a great aid for digestion and is believed to regulate heart and blood pressure and even improve athletic performance!  Recent studies promise interesting developments in the area of cancer research, particularly for the prostate; hopefully, clinical trials will prove effective.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

History:
Capsicum is a small-fruited pepper that is native to tropical and sub-tropical zones of Latin America and southern Asia.  It is a perennial shrub when grown in its native lands, but being frost-sensitive, it is an annual when cultivated outside tropical zones.   It is a tender shrub with branched stems, simple, ovate leaves and white-to-green flowers that are followed by pungent fruits.  The plant generally reaches a height of two to six feet and thrives in rich, well-drained soil in sun, at a minimum of sixty-four degrees Fahrenheit.  The Capsicum genus also includes cayenne, pimento, paprika, red peppers, tabasco peppers and bell peppers (among others) and has been cultivated for thousands of years in tropical Americas, Africa and India.  Capsicum peppers vary greatly in the amount of heat and are actually categorized from anywhere between 0 to 300,000 scovile units with green peppers at 0, while the hottest, the habaneras, weigh in at 300,000.  Capsicum peppers  have been cultivated for thousands of years in tropical Americas, Africa and India, but legend says that Columbus seems to have been the first European to take conscious note of food flavored with this pungent herb and introduced it to Europe upon his return from the New World.    Others say it was introduced into England from India in 1548.  Archaeologists have found remains of chilies in Mexican sites dating from 7000 B.C., and these potent, hot peppers played an important role in Aztec and Mayan mythology.  They are still a mainstay in Latin American and American Southwestern cuisine, but have also been adopted into cuisines around the globe.  Derived from the Greek word "to bite," Capsicum is aptly known as the "plant that bites back," and although it is frequently used in cooking, its medicinal history is long.   Capsicum has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.  Cherokee Indians in North America used it as a stimulant, and the Navajo people used it for weaning children.  It is rich in nutrients, a range of carotenes (especially beta-carotene), compounds as lutein, zeaxanthin, an alkaloid bitter, essential fatty acids, amino acids, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc,  as well as B-vitamins and the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E.  There is also an ingredient, the very potent capsaicin, a pungent phenolic compound that is structurally similar to eugenol, the pain-relieving compound found in Cloves and some other spices, and also the center of a great deal of new research in the area of prostate cancer (read below).

Beneficial Uses:
Capsicum is an overall digestive aid that stimulates the production of gastric juices that will help ease indigestion, clear excess mucus from the stomach and improve the appetite.  It also helps to alleviate stomach ulcers from within and relieves nausea from seasickness.  Capsicum is also considered a fine carminative that helps to relieve gas.

Capsicum relieves pain (taken both internally and applied topically).  It provides natural heat, and its ingredient, capsaicin, is a strong pain-relieving agent that alleviates the pain of rheumatism, muscle spasms, arthritis pain, stiff joints, cramps and bowel pain.  In addition, Capsicum triggers the release of endorphins by the brain, chemicals that relieve pain that may be helpful in treating cluster headaches.

There are interesting developments on the horizon regarding the use of the capsaisin in Capsicum in the area of cancer treatments.  In the March, 2006, issue of Cancer Research, Dr. Phillip Koeffler, director of hematology and oncology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, reported that capsaicin caused almost eighty percent of prostate cancer cells in mice to die.  Furthermore, prostate cancer tumors treated with capsaicin were about one-fifth the size of tumors in untreated mice. "Capsaicin inhibits the growth of human prostate cancer cell in Petri dishes and mice," said Dr. Koeffler, and based on the findings, Koeffler believe the next step is a trial to see if it works in patients with prostate cancer. "Capsaicin probably has several effects," Koeffler said.  Most noticeable is its effect in blocking NF-kappa Beta, a molecular mechanism that promotes cancer cell growth," he noted.  "In addition, capsaicin also was effective against leukemia, and might be effective in slowing or preventing the growth of other cancers as well," he added.  "This study does not prove that capsaicin will prove effective in the treatment of prostate cancer in humans," said Dr. David L. Katz, an associate professor of public health and director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine. "Nor does it tell us that eating peppers rich in the substance will help prevent such cancer, or forestall its growth.  But it provides a compelling argument for clinical study of capsaicin in human prostate cancer to put these questions to the test."

Capsicum is a powerful stimulant that boosts metabolism, helps to enhance athletic performance and is valuable in treating prostration.

As a cardiovascular stimulant, Capsicum helps to regulate the heart and blood pressure.   It improves blood circulation and is thought to normalize both high and low blood pressure.   It apparently increases heart action without increasing blood pressure, and Capsicum reportedly significantly lowers serum cholesterol and triglycerides.

Capsicum speeds up the metabolism of fat and may reduce weight gain due to a high fat diet by increasing the liver enzymes accountable for fat metabolism and decreases fat deposits in the liver caused by high fat diet.

Capsicum is an anti-inflammatory and may ease aspirin-induced upset stomach and damage due to alcohol.

As an astringent, Capsicum is useful in the treatment of diarrhea and may arrest bleeding from ulcers.

Capsicum is an overall tonic that is said to strengthen the immune system and believed to build up resistance to illness, sore throats, sinus infections and colds. 

As a vermifuge, Capsicum is said to be effective in destroying and expelling many types of worms.

Capsicum is called a carrier or catalyst herb that increases the efficacy of almost every other herb or herbal combination.

Capsicum is believed to counter shock, and when the powder or extract is placed on or under the tongue, it has been said to help alleviate crisis situations such as shock, hemorrhage and heart attack.

Suggested Reading
Chili's Heat Kills Prostate Cancer Cells
according to this interesting article from HealthDay News via Yahoo.com. Click on the title to read the full article.

Contraindications:
Avoid large doses of Capsicum Herbal Supplement (many times the recommended dosage) when pregnant and nursing, and large doses may cause stomach pain, kidney or liver problems.  In its bulk form, be sure to keep away from eyes and mucous membranes, and wash hands thoroughly after contact with any loose form of Capsicum.  If using as a topical pain reliever, do not apply Capsicum cream to injured skin or open wounds, and if you ingest Capsicum, and it is scorching your mouth, drink milk to neutralize the heat.  Do not take Capsicum without talking to your doctor first if you are taking high blood pressure medicine; blood thinning medicines; medicine for seizures, migraine headache, sedation or muscle relaxants (it may increase absorption).   Avoid prolonged use if you have hypertension or peptic ulcers.  Asthmatics should not inhale Capsicum fumes, which can be irritating to lungs, and Capsicum may not be appropriate for people with irritable bowel syndrome or bowel inflammation.

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