Capsicum

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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Resins

Capsicum consists of the dried, ripe fruits of Capsicum minimum and Capsicum annum Linn., belonging to family Solanaceae.


CAPSICUM

 

 

Synonyms

 

Chillies; cayenne pepper; red peppers; Spanish pepper; mirch (Hindi); capsicum fruits; Fructus Capsici.

 

Biological Source

 

Capsicum consists of the dried, ripe fruits of Capsicum minimum and Capsicum annum Linn., belonging to family Solanaceae.

 

Geographical Source

 

Capsicum is native of America and cultivated in tropical regions of India, Japan, southern Europe, Mexico, Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone), and Sri Lanka.

 

Cultivation and Collection

 

Capsicum is cultivated mostly as a rainfed crop. In the Gangetic area, it is a cold weather crop. The crop is raised on a variety of soils, for example, ordinary red loams, black soils and clayey loams. Good drainage is essential and water-logging is detrimental. Seedlings are first raised in a nursery. Seeds obtained from selected pods and mixed with ashes are sown by broadcasting. Germination occurs in about a week. The field is ploughed and manured with compost. The field is irrigated once a day until the plants are established. Flowering starts when the plants are 2.5–3.5 months old. Dew and heavy rain at flowering time are injurious. Ripe and nearly ripe fruits are picked at intervals of 5, 10, and 20 days.

 

The fruits are picked as they become fully ripe. The quality of the drug is in part determined by its colour. The unripe fruits fade to pale buff upon drying. The fruits are dried in sun, graded by colour; occasionally oil is rubbed on the fruits to give glossiness to the pericarps. Most of the calices and pedicels are removed.

 

Characteristics

 

Capsicum is 5–12 cm long, 2–4 cm wide, globular, ovoid, or oblong in shape, pericarp is shrievelled, orange or red in colour, pedicel is prominent and bent. The calyx is toothed. The amount of calices and pedicels should not exceed beyond 3%. Internally the fruits are divided into two halve parts by a membranous dissepiment to which the seeds are attached. The seeds are reniform, flattened, 3–4 mm long, with a coiled embryo and oily endosperm. Capsicum has characteristic odour and an intense pungent taste.

 


               Capsicum fruit


Chemical Constituents

 

Capsicum contains fixed oils (4–16%), oleoresin, carotenoids, capsacutin, capsico (a volatile alkaloid), thiamine, volatile oil (1.5%), and ascorbic acid (0.2%). The resin con-tains an extremely pungent principle, capsaicin, (decylenic vanillyl amide) (about 0.5%). Capsaicin retains its char-acteristic pungency in a dilution of 1 part in 10 million parts with water. Capsanthin is the main carotenoid of red fruits. It also occurs as monoester and diester along with cryptocapsin. Other carotenoids include zeaxanthin. capsorubrin, rubixanthin, phylofluene, capsanthin-5,6-epoxide, capsanthin-3.6-epoxide, lutein, cryptoxanthin, α- and β-carotenes, capsorubin, and few xanthophylls. The carbohydrates reported in chilies are fructose, galactose, sucrose, etc. Tocopherol (vitamin E) is present in trace amounts (~2.4 mg/100 g).

 


 

Uses

 

Capsicum has been used externally as stimulant, counter irritant, rubefacient, in sore throat, scarlatina, hoarseness, and yellow fever; internally it is used as carminative, stomachic, dyspepsia, and flatulence. In the form of ointment, plaster and medicated wool it is used for the relief of rheumatism and lumbago. Capsaicin is used for the treatment of migraine and cluster headache, and for some patients with neurogenic ladder dysfunction.

 

Allied Drugs

 

Japanese Chillies (C. frutescens) are about 3–4 cm long. They are usually free from pedicels and calices and have a bright red pericarp. They possess about one-quarter of the pungency of the African Chillies.

 

Bombay Capsicums (C. annuum). The pericarp is thicker and tougher than in the chillies, and the pedicel is frequently bent. They are much less pungent than African chillies.

 

Natal Capsicums are larger than the Bombay variety, being up to 8 cm long. They have a very bright red, transparent pericarp. They are much less pungent than chillies.

 

 

Marketed Products

 

It is one of the ingredients of the preparations known as Deepact (Lupin Herbal Laboratory) and Capsigyl-D (Shalaks), a topical antirheumatic cream.

 

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