Family: Solanaceae, Capsicum species
Capsicum annuum L.
Capsicum frutescens L.
Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984.
Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature
on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate
Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.
Capsicum pepper refers primarily to Capsicum annuum L.
and Capsicum frutescens L., plants used in the manufacture
of selected commercial products known for their pungency and color.
Capsicum annuum L. is a herbaceous annual that reaches
a height of one meter and has glabrous or pubescent lanceolate
leaves, white flowers, and fruit that vary in length, color, and
pungency depending upon the cultivar. Native to America, this
plant is cultivated almost exclusively in Europe and the United
States. Capsicum frutcens L. is a short-lived perennial
with woody stems that reach a height of two meters, glabrous or
pubescent leaves, has two or more greenish-white flowers
per node, and extremely pungent fruit. This plant is cultivated
in the tropics and warmer regions of the United States.
The reported life zone for capsicum peppers is 7 to 29 degrees
centigrade with an annual precipitation of 0.3 to 4.6 meters and
a soil pH of 4.3 to 8.7 (4.1-31). Capsicum species
are cold sensitive and generally grow best in well-drained,
sandy or silt-loam soil. Plantings are established by seeding
or transplanting. Flowering usually occurs three months after
planting. Hot and dry weather is desirable for fruit ripening.
Fruit is generally handpicked as it ripens, and then allowed to
dry in the sun, although artifical drying is often employed in
Europe and the United States. The fruit may be ground intact or
after the removal of seeds, placenta parts, and stalks, increasing
the fruit color and lowering the pungency (4.6-66, 4.6-67).
The level of pungency of the Capsicum species depends upon
the concentration of capsaicinoids, primarily of capsaicin, in
the fruit. Capsicum peppers are classified comnercially by the
concentration of capsaicinoids, since confusion about the biological
identities of some varieties has made other methods unreliable.
Paprika comes from plants with 10 to 30 parts per million capsaicinoids,
chili peppers from plants with 30 to 600 parts per million, and
red peppers from plants with 600 to 13,000 parts per million (1.5-152).
The chemical composition of the Capsicum species includes
a fixed oil, pungent principles, volatile oil, and carotenoid,
mostly capsanthin, pigments (6.1-65, 2.8-45). An oleoresin
is obtained by solvent extraction. Capsicum frutescens
L. is much more pungent than Capsicum annuum L.
Capsicum species are used fresh or dried, whole or ground,
and alone or in combination with other flavoring agents. Capsicum
annuum L. is used in sweet bell peppers, paprika, pimento,
and other red pepper products. Capsicum frutescens L. is
used in tabasco, tabasco sauce, and other red chili pepper. Fruits
of Capsicum annuum L., paprika types, are widely used as
coloring agents. The extracts of Capsicum species have
been reported to have antioxidant properties (11.1-126).
Paprika is derived from Capsicum annuum L. and is used
prinarily in the flavoring of garnishes, pickles, meats, barbecue
sauces, ketchup, cheese, snack food, dips, chili con came, salads,
and sausages (11.1-128). Spanish paprika is called pimento
and is generally used for coloring purposes (14.1-10). Chilies
and chili pepper from cultivars of Capsicum annuum L. and
Capsicum frutescens L. are employed as a flavoring
in many foods, such as curry powder and tabasco sauce. Chili powder
is a blend of spices that includes ground chilies. Red or hot
peppers from Capsicum annuum L. and Capsicum
frutescens L. are the most pungent peppers and are used
extensively in Mexican and Italian foods. Cayenne pepper is the
ground product derived from the smaller, most pungent Capsicum
As a medicinal plant, the Capsicum species has been used
as a carminative, digestive irritant, stomachic, stimulant, rubefacient,
and tonic. The plants have also been used as folk remedies for
dropsy, colic, diarrhea, asthma, arthritis, muscle cramps, and
toothache. Capsicum frutescens L. has been reported to
have hypoglycemic properties (7.1-21). Prolonged contact
with the skin may cause dermatitis and blisters, while excessive
consumption can cause gastroenteritis and kidney damage (11.1-101).
Paprika and cayenne pepper may be cytotoxic to mammalian cells
in vitro (7.8-25). Consumption of red pepper
may aggravate symptons of duodenal ulcers (7.8-55). High
levels of ground hot pepper have induced stomach ulcers and cirrhosis
of the liver in laboratory animals (6.1-65). Body temperature,
flow of saliva, and gastric juices may be stimulated by capsicum
Other Capsicum species of some importance include Capsicum
chinense, Capsicum pendulum, Capsicum pubescens,
and Capsicum minimum. Black and white pepper come from
Piper nigrens L., of the Piperaceae family. The name pimento
is sometimes used in reference to allspice, Pimento dioica
(L.) Merrill, a native of the West Indies and a member of the
Capsicum annuum L. and Capsicum frutescens L. are
generally recognized as safe for human consumption as spices/natural
flavorings and as plant extracts/oleoresins (21 CFR sections 182.10,
[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in
full in the original reference].
Last modified 6-Dec-1997