Chillies have been used as a medicinal plant since pre-Colombian times.
Today, chillies are one of the most widely used of all natural remedies.
It's these reasons why the indigenous peoples of the Americas started to domesticate chillies all those years ago.
Chillies are excellent for your immune system because they are rich in both vitamin-A (said to be the anti-infection vitamin) and vitamin-C.
Chilli-peppers' bright red colour signals it's high content of beta-carotene or pro-vitamin-A.
Vitamin-A is essential for healthy mucous membranes, which line the nasal passages, lungs, intestinal tract and urinary tract and serve as the body's first line of defense against invading pathogens.
Just two teaspoons of red chili peppers provide about 6% of the daily value for vitamin-C and more than 10% of the daily value for vitamin-A.
The US Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database lists red capsicum as having 143.7mg of Vitamin-C per 100g, while oranges contain only 45mg per 100g.
Vitamin-C is an anti-oxidant used by the body to soak up free radicals.
Chili's also contain other anti-oxidants: lutein is found in red chillies, while alpha-carotene is found in yellow and orange chillies as well as capsicums.
Other vitamins found in chillies include the vitamin-B group (mainly B6) and vitamin-E.
They're also high in potassium, magnesium and iron.
Eating chillies can help with the common cold as they clear congestion.
Capsaicin’s peppery heat stimulates secretions that help clear mucus from your stuffed up nose or congested lungs.
Chillies are great for diabetics as when you digest a meal which has chili in it, your body doesn’t need as much insulin to break down the food.
Chillies reduce the amount of insulin the body needs to lower blood sugar levels after a meal by up to 60%.
When chili-containing meals are a regular part of the diet, insulin requirements drop even lower.
Plus, chili's beneficial effects on insulin needs get even better as body mass index (BMI, a measure of obesity) increases.
In overweight people, not only do chili-containing meals significantly lower the amount of insulin required to lower blood sugar levels after a meal, but chili-containing meals also result in a lower ratio of C-peptide/ insulin, an indication that the rate at which the liver is clearing insulin has increased.
It's the capsaicin, the antioxidants, and the carotenoids in the chillies which are thought to help improve insulin regulation.
And finally, chillies have been shown to influence glucose levels, which also impact on diabetes.
Chillies have a wonderful impact on cardiovascular functioning.
Red chili peppers, such as cayenne, have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and platelet aggregation, while increasing the body's ability to dissolve fibrin, a substance integral to the formation of blood clots.
Spicing your meals with chili-peppers may also protect the fats in your blood from damage by free radicals—a first step in the development of atherosclerosis.
In cultures where hot pepper is used liberally, the populations have a much lower rate of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism.
In 2006, a pilot study in Tasmania found people may sleep better if they eat chillies regularly and as quality of sleep is important for cardiovascular health, this is also good news.
It must also be great news to the millions of insomniacs and frequent flyer's around the world!
Due possibly to the high level of anti-oxidants found in chillies, they have also been proven to help fight bowel cancer and prostate cancer.
A study printed in “Cancer Research” magazine in March 2006 claims capsaicin pepper extract actually causes human prostate cancer cells to undergo cell death.
Chili-peppers have a bad, and mistaken, reputation for contributing to stomach ulcers.
Not only do they not cause ulcers, they can help prevent them by killing bacteria you may have ingested, while stimulating the cells lining the stomach to secrete protective buffering juices.
Chili-peppers can be used as natural pain killers, and topical capsaicin is now a recognized treatment option for osteoarthritis pain.
Reviews of recent studies of pain management for diabetic neuropathy have also listed capsaicin as being helpful with the full-on pain associated with this condition.
Similarly, pain associated with psoriasis has also been shown to be abated with regular capsaicin consumption.
Pain relief occurs because the chili-pepper stimulates the release of endorphins.
That burning sensation you get when you eat chillies is what is triggering the release of these famous feel-good chemical neurotransmitters in our brains.
After the pain of the heat, you get what is generally described as an improved sense of well being.
For a bigger endorphin rush, the hotter the chilli, the better!
The chilli is often described as addictive, but this is not entirely true since no deep cravings develop and they do not induce a chemical dependency.
However, over time your tolerance will increase and you need hotter and hotter chillies to get the same effect.
Chillies are also good for losing unwanted weight.
All that heat you feel after eating hot chili-peppers takes energy--and calories to produce.
Even sweet red peppers have been found to contain substances that significantly increase thermogenesis (heat production) and oxygen consumption for more than 20 minutes after they are eaten.
Chili-peppers are also good for fighting inflammation as the capsaicin is a potent inhibitor of substance P, a neuropeptide associated with inflammatory processes.
Finally, cigarette smoke contains benzopyrene which destroys the vitamin-A in the body.
The vitamin-A present in chili-peppers reduces inflammation of lungs and emphysema caused due to cigarette smoking.
The Healing Power
Sinuses and relieve congestion
Reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
According to an old saying, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
This might be the perfect motto.
Not only can many people withstand the heat, they actually enjoy it.
Chili pepper fans savor the heat at every opportunity, not just in traditional favorites like tacos and burritos but also in foods such as omelets, stews and even salads.
More is involved than just a little culinary spice.
These thermogenic morsels are prized around the globe for their healing power as well as their firepower.
Hot chilies have long been used as natural remedies for coughs, colds, sinusitis, and bronchitis.
There's some evidence that they can help lower low-density lipoprotein (LOL) cholesterol, the type associated with stroke, high blood pressure and heart disease.
There's also some evidence that chili-peppers can help prevent, of all things, stomach ulcers.
Heat Up A Cold
Chili-pepper lovers have long asserted that hot chili-peppers, from Serranos to Jalapenos, are the ultimate decongestant, clearing a stuffY nose in the time it takes to gasp "Yow!"
In fact, the fiery bite of hot chili-peppers (or chili-based condiments like Tabasco sauce) can work as well as over-the-counter cold remedies.
Some of the foods used to fight respiratory diseases for centuries, including hot chili-peppers, are very similar to the drugs we now use.
The stuff that makes hot peppers so nose-clearing good is capsaicin, a plant chemical that gives hot peppers their sting.
Chemically, capsaicin is similar to a drug called guaifenesin, which is used in many over-the-counter and prescription cold remedies such as Robitussin.
Of course, eating a chili pepper has more of an immediate impact than taking a spoonful of medicine.
When a hot pepper meets your tongue, the brain is slammed with an onslaught of nerve messages.
The brain responds to this "Ow!" message by stimulating secretion-producing glands that line the airways.
The result is a flood of fluids that makes your eyes water, your nose run, and the mucus in your lungs loosen.
In other words, chili-peppers are a natural decongestant and expectorant.
It doesn't take a lot of pepper to get the healing benefits.
Adding 10 drops of hot chili-pepper sauce to a bowl of chicken soup can be very effective.
We recommend treating a cold with a warm-water gargle to which you've added 10 drops of Tabasco sauce.
This remedy can be quite effective, particularly if you want to clear your sinuses.
Rub Away the Pain
You love the fiery bite of chilies in your salsa.
But how about on your skin?
When applied as a cream, capsaicin, the stuff that gives chili-peppers their heat, has been shown to ease the discomfort of psoriasis, nerve pain, and arthritis.
Capsaicin creams are thought to work by depleting nerve cells and receptors of substance P, a chemical that transmits pain and itch sensations to the brain.
When capsaicin cream is applied to the skin, the nerves release a flood of substance P.
Over time, the nerves are unable to replenish their supply.
The less "fuel" they have, the less pain you feel.
Incidentally, you can't use capsaicin cream for simple muscle aches.
The pain has to stem from the nerves, not the muscles themselves.
Capsaicin cream is available over the counter.
But make no mistake.
This stuff is strong.
So consult your doctor before using it.
Once you have your doctor's okay, follow our tips.
Try a milder concentration first.
Zostrix has a concentration of 0.025 percent.
Zostrix HP has three times the power, with a concentration of 0.075 percent.
Apply the cream with a rubber glove or a rubber finger guard.
"If you don't and you accidentally put your finger in your eye, it can be bad news."
Use a very small amount of cream.
If you can see it on your skin, you've used too much.
Don't apply the cream within two hours of a hot bath or shower.
Heat increases the cream's effect and can cause even more pain.
Don't give up.
Your skin may burn for a few days as it gets used to the cream.
The pain will diminish quickly and in most cases, the cream will begin working in about two weeks.
Help For Heart and Stomach
Besides unblocking clogged airways, chili-peppers may also cut blood cholesterol.
When laboratory animals were fed a diet high in capsaicin and low in saturated fat, it helped reduce their 'bad' LDL cholesterol.
Eating chili-peppers also appears to have a blood-thinning effect.
Researchers at Max Planck Institute in Germany found that chilies can hinder the formation of blood clots by increasing the amount of time it takes for blood to coagulate.
This could play a role in helping prevent blood clots that lead to heart attack and stroke.
For years, doctors advised people prone to ulcers to abstain from spicy foods.
Research now suggests the opposite: that chili-peppers may help prevent ulcers from occurring.
Capsaicin appears to shield the stomach lining from ulcer-causing acids and alcohol by stimulating the flow of protective digestive juices.
Researchers at National University Hospital in Singapore found that people who consumed the most chili powder had the fewest ulcers, leading them to speculate that chili, or capsaicin, was the protective factor.
Getting more hot chili-peppers into your diet may strengthen your personal anti-aging arsenal.
That's because they're a rich source of the antioxidants vitamin-C and beta-carotene (which is converted into vitamin-A in the body).
These anti-oxidants help protect the body by "neutralizing" free radicals, harmful oxygen molecules that naturally accumulate in the body and cause cell damage.
Upping your intake of antioxidant vitamins, researchers believe, may help prevent damage that can lead to cancer, heart disease and stroke as well as such things as arthritis and a weakened immune system.
One red chili packs 3 milligrams of beta-carotene, between 30 and 5O percent of the amount recommended by most experts.
Studies show that people who consume more beta-carotene-rich foods get less cancer and heart disease.
In Your Kitchen
Cooking with hot peppers is like riding a Harley.
You have to do it very carefully.
Approach hot peppers with respect.
Varieties of chili-peppers:
There are countless variations of peppers, but there are only about ten that you need to know about because of their popularity.
Three of the greatest variations between chili-peppers are their color, their origin, and their spice level, measured in Scoville units.
For reference, Tabasco contains 5 thousand to 10 thousand Scoville heat units (SHUs), while ghost peppers can have as many as 1 million SHUs.
A good rule of thumb is, the smaller the pepper variety, the spicier.
The majority mentioned here will fall somewhere between 1 thousand to 100 thousand Scoville units...don't worry, we'll let you know which are on the higher end of that spectrum.
Cayenne peppers are often used in dishes like chili and salsa, and are named for a region in South America, Guiana.
In it's purest form, it can be rated as high as 50 thousand SHUs, but it is far less spicy in its powdered form, which is where it is commonly found.
It is also a key ingredient in many hot sauces.
Jalapeños are the most readily available peppers and are used for mild dishes like green salsa.
When smoked and dried, they are called chipotles.
Thai chiles, also known as the bird's eye chile in its dried form, is commonly found in Southeast Asia, and measures around 100 thousand Scoville units.
It's used extensively in Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, in curries, stir-fries, and Thai salads.
Serranos are similar to jalapeños but are crisper and spicier.
They're often used in Mexican cuisine in dishes such as pico de gallo and guacamole.
Poblano, also known as ancho chiles when dried, are much larger than other pepper variations and are very mild.
They can often be found in dishes like mole and chiles rellenos.
Habaneros are extremely spicy, so only use them if you have an appetite for heat.
They can be delicious in salsas, just don't eat one whole.
And then there are the incredibly spicy chiles for thrill-seakers, like the ghost pepper, or bhut jolokia, and the Carolina Reaper.
Both have enjoyed the title as the spiciest pepper in the world, and are used, highly diluted, in some hot sauces and dishes by the truly brave
To enjoy the heat of peppers without getting burned, follow our tips.
Protect your hands.
When you're cooking with very hot peppers, "anything hotter than a jalapeno," put on a pair of disposable plastic gloves.
(If you have sensitive hands, you may want to wear gloves even when working with milder peppers.)
When you're done, thoroughly rinse the tips of the gloves with soapy water before taking them off to avoid transferring the pepper oil to your fingers.
Then immediately wash your hands.
Use plenty of soap.
Chili oil sticks to the skin, and water alone won't get it off.
You need to use plenty of soap as well.
You might want to wash your hands more than once, depending on the kind of pepper you were working with and how much of it you handled.
Protect against pepper dust.
When grinding or crushing dried hot peppers, wear a dust mask and goggles.
The dust can get in your throat and eyes.
Crush them by hand.
It may be convenient to grind dried hot peppers in a blender or coffee grinder but you won't appreciate the aftershocks.
"How thoroughly can you wash a coffee grinder or blender, anyways?"
If you use them to grind peppers, you're going to have some nice hot coffee or super hot teas.
At the very least, you may want to consider getting a separate grinder to use on dried hot peppers only.
Getting the Most
Enjoy the raw.
Although raw chilies can be uncomfortably hot for some people, that's the best way to get the most vitamin-C; cooking destroys the stores of this vitamin.
On the other hand, capsaicin isn't affected by heating, so if that's what you're after, to help relieve congestion, for example, cook the peppers to your taste.
Munching the Membrane
Inside the chili is a thin membrane that connects the seeds to the flesh.
Most of the capsaicin in chili peppers is located in the membrane, experts say.
Preserve the powder.
Storing chili powder at room temperature will eventually deplete its betacarotene.
Keep chili powder in a dark, cool place, like in the freezer.
Eat for comfort.
The hottest chili pepper isn't necessarily the most healing, so don't make yourself suffer.
From wild to mild, here are a few chili-peppers you may want to try.
· Habanero pepper and Scotch bonnet are among the most mouth-blistering peppers.
· Jalapeno and Fresno peppers weigh in at 50 percent firepower, compared to the habanero.
· Hungarian cherry and Anaheim peppers emit more of a glow than a flame and are a good choice for tamer palates.
Fiery Chili Pepper Salsa
2 med. tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 small jalapeno peppers, cut in half lengthwise and very thinly sliced (wear plastic gloves when handling)
1/4 c. minced red onions
2 Tbs. minced fresh cilantro
2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/8 tsp. salt
In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, peppers, onions, cilantro, lime juice, and salt.
Let the salsa stand for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
Makes 1-1/3 c.
Cook's Notes: The salsa can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for several days.
Serve with non-fat corn chips or as a condiment for baked potatoes, omelletes, scrambled eggs or grilled poultry or meat.
Per 1/3 c. serving.
Total Fat 0.2 g.,
Saturated Fat 0 g.,
Cholesterol 0 mg.Tweet
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