Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Power of Capsicum

Capsicum...aka; peppers.  We've been growing them for years.  All kinds, sizes and shapes, sweet, hot and in-between.  They are a rewarding plant to grow as they usually produce lots of fruit.  Especially banana peppers...they always make me feel like a garden genius. 

But what's inside of these savory fruits that make them so powerful?  One thing for sure is taste...they've been imported from all over the world and valued in many cuisines.  They are reported to have been in existence for 9000 years and cultivated for over 7000 years.  That's pretty amazing staying power for one vegetable!

"Capsicums are believed to have originated in regions of South and Central America. It was Christopher Columbus who collected capsicums from the West Indian regions in the 1492 and took them to Spain. It was from there that capsicums spread through the regions of Africa, Asia and Australia. Owing to the adaptable nature of these bell peppers, they grew well in tropical and temperate climates. Today, China, Turkey, Italy, Spain, India, Romania and Mexico are among the leading producers of capsicum with almost 20-27 species grown across the world." 1

Taste isn't the only thing that makes peppers powerful; they are also high in nutrition...especially once they turn red.  Remember, the green peppers are the unripened state of a pepper.  They have lots of Vitamin A, E as well as niacin and many other vitamins and minerals.  A really good vegetable to include in your diet.

So what about health benefits?  Peppers  "contain antioxidants like beta carotene (carotenoid), lutein and zeaxanthin (phytochemicals) and vitamin C. After consumption of capsicum, the body converts beta carotene into retinol, which is one of the most usable forms of vitamin A." 2

"Capsicums are known to lower the fat stored in blood corpuscles, called triglycerides, and thus help in burning calories. This can vastly improve the body metabolism." 3

"Apart from these benefits, capsicums promote cardiac health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It has anti-inflammatory properties, stimulates stomach secretions and improves digestion." 4

But that's not all.  The reason I wrote this post is to share about a component in peppers; capsiacin.  This chemical is the one responsible for the "hot" in hot peppers.  It's also been found to help relieve pain when applied topically.  I have used commercial preparations containing capsaicin for a good 15 years. 
   "Topical ointments and creams containing capsaicin are helpful in relieving pain from many different conditions, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, nerve pain and lower back pain, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center. While capsaicin is not a cure for pain caused by these conditions, it does lower the amount of substance P, a chemical that helps transmit pain signals to the brain, when applied directly to the skin." 5
I have used capsaicin faithfully for years and I feel like it's been a life saver during bouts with pain.  Capsaicin is not for the faint of heart though.  It packs a whollop of heat and needs to be used sparingly.  If my pain is intense, I am able to use quite a bit, but it's important to follow directions when using.  

However you slice them, capsicums are a powerful, pain-relieving plant that deserve a place in your garden, diet AND medicine cabinet.  Blessings!!

Have you used capsicums or capsaicin?

2. Ibid.
3. Ibid, 
4. Ibid.

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1 comment:

  1. Love this post, Nancy. We love peppers of all kinds and wouldn't want to be without them. Also, I make a cough remedy which is very tasty and contains red pepper flakes.