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Capsicum annum is a botanical genus that includes several varieties of peppers commonly found in many kitchens and gardens: bell peppers, cayenne peppers, jalapenos, and other hot peppers. Capsaicin is the ingredient that gives hot peppers their heat, and this substance is beneficial for medical uses as well as flavor. The hot members of Capsicum annuum have been used by various cultures to treat a wide range of afflictions, including bronchitis, arthritis, diabetes, fatigue, and sore throats. They have also been used to relieve the symptoms of migraines, colds, psoriasis, and kidney disorders.
Bell peppers are the mild members of Capsicum annuum because they don’t contain capsaicin. They provide flavor without heat, and they have medical benefits as well. Like all members of Capsicum annuum, they have powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants destroy the free radicals that promote aging and degenerative diseases. The antioxidant constituents in Capsicum annuum promote eye health since their effectiveness at removing free radicals helps prevent macular degeneration.
All colors and varieties of bell peppers contain more vitamin C than oranges, with the red and yellow bell peppers having the highest amounts. Used as a medicinal plant in traditional Chinese medicine, bell pepper was commonly prescribed to stimulate appetite, reduce swelling, improve blood circulation, and relieve indigestion. It is still used to treat those afflictions today.
Paprika is a spice made from the mild Capsicum annuum peppers. It is packed with nutrients, including vitamins A, B6, E, C, and K, and is a good source of the essential minerals iron, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. Paprika can be used as a stimulant to treat fatigue and improve circulation. It can be sprinkled on food, taken in capsule form, or boiled in water to make tea.
The capsaicin in Capsicum annuum has an analgesic effect when used topically to relieve a sore joint or muscle. The same heat that gives jalapenos and cayenne their spiciness is absorbed into the skin and stimulates the circulation of blood in the capillaries around the inflamed area. It also heats up the area where it is applied, and can warm cold extremities.
Capsicum annuum in the form of cayenne and other hot peppers is a common ingredient in ointments used by arthritis sufferers and athletes to ease pain, swelling, and stiffness in muscles and joints. Its high capsaicin content makes the cayenne pepper one of the most frequently used members of the Capsicum annum genus to be used in herbal medicine. Like paprika, it is ingested in powdered form in a tea, a capsule, or sprinkled on food.