The chilies are part of the family Solanaceae, specifically the genus Capsicum of which includes peppers, aromatic plant very popular in Italy, especially in the south, imported after the Discovery of America along with tomatoes, potatoes, and tobacco.
The chili is the fruit (berry specifically) obtained from plants of the genus. Capsicum and is often used as a seasoning in various recipes. The chili even if it is of the same kind as the pepper has a substantial difference in the presence of capsaicin which determines its spiciness according to the level present in the berry, measured by the Scoville scale.
The capsaicin also called capsaicin or capsaicin. It is a derivative of metabolism of a moninsaturo fatty acid, produced by glands located between the wall of the berry and the placenta (ie the part which supports the seeds), the placenta is the part that contains more. The seeds are coated with a capsaicinoid surface but lack capsaicin. Capsaicin and capsaicinoids have the property of being durable over time. They remain unchanged even after long periods and even after freezing or cooking.
Properties of red pepper
The benefits of chili pepper are different and vary depending on the type of intake, that is, orally or externally as in the case of capsaicin cream.
Let’s start with the macro properties of capsaicin, this can be:
Antibacterial: it is a substance that allows counteracting the growth. And multiplication of metabolically active bacteria.
Digestive: helps digestion.
Antioxidant: helps fight the oxidation of other substances, oxidizing reactions can create free radicals, which trigger a reaction that damages cells.
Rubefacient (creates a slight skin redness as it is a substance that vasodilates creating temporary congestion).
Note: Not all listed effects have been scientifically proven.
Now let’s look specifically at the individual properties of red pepper and capsaicin in particular.
Red pepper and aches
Chilli is used as a pain reliever in both Asia and America, especially to counteract menstrual pain, toothache and muscle aches. The Food and Drug Administration – FDA has approved the demonstration of local pain-relieving effects of chili pepper for shingles, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, osteoarthritis, and diabetic neuropathy. The treatment varies according to the areas in which to intervene. It can be for external use or orally.
The pain-relieving effect of chili is not definitive, studies have shown that the pain reappears after about 3 days.
Chilli and cardiovascular benefits
The spicy chili reduces triglycerides and cholesterol levels in the blood, according to some studies, while reducing the formation of blood clots. One of the specific features of capsaicin would be to help eliminate fat deposits that lead to narrowing of the arteries. Thus giving beneficial effects to blood circulation.
Some studies and statistics have shown that in countries where red pepper is used a lot, the rate of heart disease is very low. In practice, capsaicin can be used to combat cardiovascular difficulties. Such as high cholesterol values, circulation problems, and in general to prevent heart disease.
Beneficial effects of chili indigestion
According to some, the ingestion of chili peppers would lead to an increase in salivation which helps digestion as it stimulates the glands responsible for the production of saliva that is necessary to start the digestive process. Others believe that the chili is able to promote the production of gastric juices that serve to digest the nutrients of the food ingested in the body.
These gastric benefits of chili are present in two studies but not widely consolidated at a medical scientific level.
Capsaicin and weight control
One study shows that regular consumption of capsaicinoids increases energy expenditure by about 50 kcal/day, resulting in significant weight loss over a year or two. Another aspect shown is that regular consumption of chili peppers resulted in a significant reduction in abdominal adipose tissue levels and decreased appetite and energy intake. It is not clear what is mechanism leads to these results, for sure capsaicin is not a magic bullet that serves to make you lose weight but it can simply be an aid in weight loss within a weight management diet well balanced. Logically, the intake of chili can be done by all those subjects who have no problems with eating chili.
Diabetes and red pepper
The following paragraph is an excerpt from the Herbal Therapies for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Chemistry, Biology, and Potential Application of Selected Plants and Compounds page of the US National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health site automatically translated with Google Translate, with the term T2D means Type 2 Diabetes :
Chilies, the fruits of Capsicum plants, are commonly used as food and medicine. The chili pepper extract exerts an insulinotropic action, implying its action on β cells . Capsaicin, a pungent component of chili, activates AMPK in 3T3-L1 preadipocytes . The data suggest that chili and its active ingredients prevent T2D by regulating resistance to insulin and possibly β cells. However, there is a discrepancy in the use of capsaicin in the treatment of T2D. Capsaicin could cause T2D through impaired insulin secretion . Therefore, precautions should be taken when using capsaicin for T2D.
Chilies have anti-inflammatory properties, which is why they are indicated as expectorants in the case of cough or hoarseness. Another application is in the case of chronic rhinitis, logically not resulting from allergy or infections, capsaicin can relieve symptoms for periods of up to 6-9 months if used nasally.
The presence of vitamin A in chilies causes it to perform an antiseptic and antifungal function.
Curiosity: precisely because of these properties, chili is used as a natural pesticide for plant care.
Muscle and joint pain: capsaicin cream
There are capsaicin creams on the market to help treat areas affected by muscle or joint pain, capsaicin ointments facilitate the blood flow in the treated area, therefore, they are used to heat the part and release the substance P from the nerve endings, in this way the vasodilatory and pain-relieving activity helps to counteract pain.
To combat orange peel and cellulite you can use chili packs or creams. As this stimulates blood circulation tends to increase the heat so as to counteract these two problems that often afflict women and beyond. You have to pay close attention to the recommended dosage because in the case of delicate skin excess of this cream can cause irritation.
There are also plumping lip creams on the market in which pepper is present. In this case, this spice is used to tone the tissues and to have more turgid and beautiful lips.
Another cosmetic use that is made with red peppers is that of treatments for the scalp, the property of being a vasodilator would help the hair bulbs on the scalp to have a longer life.
The chemical composition of red pepper per 100 grams (approximate average value. The values change depending on the species and whether dry or fresh):
- Water 87.7-88.0 g
- Carbohydrates 8.8-9.5 g
- Protein 1.9-2.0 g
- Fats 0.2-0.4 g
- Energy value 40 kcal (167 kJ)
In addition to these compounds, various vitamins are present in fresh chili: A, B, C, E, K. This fruit is rich above all in vitamin C which helps the immune system, is involved in the synthesis of collagen. And is crucial to allow red blood cells to assimilate iron. To make a comparison, in 100 g of orange there is 50 mg of vitamin C, while in 100 grams of chili there is 229 mg.
Polyphenols are also present in chilies, i.e. antioxidant substances that help health.
Red pepper contraindications and side effects
As seen above, red pepper has many properties and beneficial effects on health. But you must still be careful in its intake. In fact, its use in a massive way can lead to side effects that can create discomfort.
Among the contraindications of excessive use of chilies is that it can be irritating to the gastric mucosa. So for those who suffer from ulcers, gastritis, or gastro-oesophageal reflux. It is not recommended to take it.
In the intestine, the use of chili pepper is not recommended for those who have inflamed hemorrhoids, suffer from anal fissures or irritable bowel syndrome.
So while chilies help prevent some diseases, taking them during the inflammatory state can lead to a worsening, as in the case of hemorrhoids. Another aspect to consider is the habit of eating hot peppers. People who normally have this food in their diet suffer less from side effects than those who take it occasionally. In children under the age of 12. It is not recommended to ingest it, except in very small and occasional quantities. Since their digestive system is more delicate than that of an adult.
The red pepper is also not recommended for those suffering from cystitis and hepatitis.
As for the external use of capsaicin or chili extracts. This should be avoided by those suffering from very sensitive skin. Certainly not to be applied where the skin shows lesions.
Ingestion by lactating and pregnant women is not recommended. It is fine in very small doses to avoid any side effects of the spice.
Whatever the reason for starting to take red pepper, the advice is to consult a doctor. Especially if you are undergoing medical treatment. In fact, this spice can interfere with some medicines, limiting their effect.