Capsicum annuum Linn. /
C. frutescens C.B.Clarke /
C. purpureum Roxb. /
C. minimum Roxb.
Chilli, Red Pepper
Prehistoric Capsicum species have been found in
burial sites in Peru, indicating that the original home of
chillies may have been tropical South America. There seems
to have been diffusion from there to Mexico or an
independent origin in the latter center where a great
diversity of the genus is found. The Portuguese introduced
the chilli to India. Chilli was used as a condiment in large
quantities in India, Africa, and tropical America, where the
fruit develops greater pungency than in the cold regions. It
has since, however, become a popular condiment the world
over. In European medicine, capsicum was used to treat
rheumatic and neuralgic affections. Indians considered capsicum to
be stomachic, stimulant and as a promoter of the regular
action of the bowels. It was externally used as a
It is cultivated throughout India from sea level to 2,000
ft. height. It is not normally found in the wild. It is
sometimes found as an escape (growing through self
propagation) near cultivated fields.
Morphology Description (Habit)
It is a short-lived perennial herb but is cultivated as an
annual herb. The leaves are oblong and glabrous. The flowers
are solitary, rarely in pairs, pure white to bluish white,
very rarely violet in colour. The berries are green,
maturing into yellow, orange to red grading into brown or
purple, pendent, rarely erect, very variable in size (up to
20 cm long and 10 cm in dia.), shape and pungency and
sometimes lobed. The seeds are white or cream to yellow,
thin, almost circular, having long placental connections.
The pungent principle Capsaicin was identified from the
Capsicoside A is also identified from the fruits2.
Capsaicin (50mg/Kg, s.c.) treatment of 2-day old female rats
resulted 3 months later in 81.0% decrease in mean pain
response to tail-vein injection of HCl and 63.0 and 72.0 %
increase in noiceptive threshold in rats with normal and
inflamed paws respectively3. Capsaicin (50mg/Kg, s.c.)
treatment of 2-day old female rats resulted 3 months later
in 81.0% decrease in mean pain response to tail-vein
injection of HCl and 63.0 and 72.0 % increase in noiceptive
threshold in rats with normal and inflamed paws respectively3.
It is irritant to skin but administration of capsaicin in
sub-cutaneous or intraperitoneal administration into guinea
pigs and rats makes them tolerant to various irritants
In the form of ointment of plasters, it is used externally
for the treatment of rheumatism, lumbago and neuralgia.
Capsicum wool, prepared by dissolving the oleoresin in ether
and pouring it on absorbent cotton wool, is useful in
rheumatoid affections. Chilli, in small doses, is a powerful
stimulant and carminative.
- Chem. Abst., 1973, 79, 123698.
- Harborne, J.B., 1999, Phytochemical Dictionary, Taylor
and Francis Ltd., London.
- J.Pharm.Pharmacol. 1980, 32, 656.
- Mathew et. al., Flavour Ind, 1971, 2, 691 &
Monsereenusorn, Quart J Crude Drug Res, 1980, 18, 1.