Capsicum. Capsicum frutescens.

Botanical name: 

Synonym—Cayenne pepper.

Capsiacin, Capsicin, volatile oil, resin and fixed oil.
Extractum Capsici Fluidum, Fluid Extract of Capsicum. Dose, from five to sixty minims.
Oleoresina Capsici, Oleoresin of Capsicum. Dose, from one to five minims.
Emplastrum Capsici, Capsicum plaster.
Tinctura Capsici, Tincture of Capsicum. Dose, ten to sixty minims.

Physiological ActionCapsicum is a pure stimulant, both local and general. In large doses it causes vomiting, purging and inflammation of the stomach and bowels, with dizziness, intoxication and feebleness of the nervous power. Locally applied, it is a powerful rubefacient. It produces rapid capillary determination of the blood to the part, and if taken into the stomach it promotes its own absorption and thus continues its further influence through the nerve centers. Belonging as it does to the solanaceae, its influence upon the nerve centers, although insidious and not in all its field of exercise readily distinguishable, is nevertheless active and most important, demanding its classification among the diffusible cerebral stimulants. It produces an increase of tone and a marked and comfortable sensation of warmth in the entire system, and a glow and sensation of increased nerve influence and more active circulation.

The general or systemic influence is better obtained from the tincture or from the hot infusion, while local stomach or intestinal effects follow promptly upon the administration of the powder.

Its influence upon the circulation is more marked in its local than its constitutional or central effects, although it does influence general capillary tone. It increases the action of the heart only in extreme cases and in large doses. It barely increases the pulse beat, although it materially alters its character and it does not influence the appreciable temperature.

Specific Symptomatology—It is directly indicated in general enfeebled conditions, with impairment of nerve influence. In general atonic conditions, with relaxation of muscular fiber; in plethoric conditions and lethargic affections, with general impairment of tone, with deficiency of functional force, energy or activity—in these conditions, because of its local and general effects, it is markedly different from other stimulants.

The indications are marked nervous depression, tendency to capillary stasis; dry, harsh tongue, with brown coating; scanty and glutinuous buccal secretion, tendency to tympanitic distension, cool extremities and gastric uneasiness. Furthermore with quinine in malarial troubles, with small doses of hydrochloric acid, excellent results have been obtained in rheumatism of malarial origin, coming on periodicidly.

Therapy—Its influence upon the nervous system is shown by the fact that in general paresis, and in some cases of paralysis, local and general of central origin, it has rapidly promoted cures without the use of other agents. In one case after passive cerebral congestion, it was given in strong infusion, and the tincture applied to the paralyzed arm and muscles, and restoration of nerve influence followed in a few days with a generally improved condition of the nervous system.

It certainly deserves a more extended use in these cases, because of the possibility of its being pushed to the extreme without danger of disturbance of function or structure, or impairment or derangement of any organ. It is a harmless agent, however used; if concentrated, local irritation should be avoided.

It has long been combined with tonics, stimulants and general restoratives in seriously impaired nerve tone of the dipsomaniac, with results which were ascribed to other agents used. It has an influence in these cases which resembles that of strychnine, and yet is quite unlike it although fully as important.

In delirium tremens it produces a sedative influence, which results in quiet, rest, and frequently in deep sleep.

In these cases it is best in hot infusion combined with warm beef-tea or other hot nutritious liquid food. If its use be continued it will replace the alcohol, and in its satisfaction of the unnatural demands of the stomach, will enable the patient, with proper adjuvants, to permanently overcome the taste for liquor. It must be given in conjunction with persistent and concentrated nutrition, and may be combined with hydrastine or strychnine or other nerve stimulants and tonics.

It is also of much service in the treatment of the opium and morphine habits, and also that of cocaine. It must be pushed to the extreme limit and any local irritant influence avoided.

In languid and enfeebled states of the stomach, with inactivity of the peptic and other glands, whatever the cause, it is an immediate and direct stimulant. In atonic dyspepsia and flatulent colic, in atonic inactivity of the liver and other glandular organs which have a part in the stomach and intestinal digestion, its influence is immediate and most important.

It is a common ingredient of pills and laxative granules, and it certainly improves the capillary circulation and nerve tone of the entire intestinal tract.

In the stage of collapse of prostrating diarrheas and of exhausting fevers and in cholera, no agent is more efficient. It is useful in yellow fever, in typhus and in some cases of typhoid where there are great relaxation and muscular weakness, where there are sluggishness of the nervous system, torpor and insensibility, low muttering delirium and tendency to coma.

In relaxed and enfeebled conditions of the pharynx and post-nasal membranes, in engorged sore throats not always accompanied with active inflammatory symptoms, it will sometimes cure when other agents have signally failed. This is especially true if there be a granular condition, with dark colored membranes, or if there be a purple or discolored hue to the mucous membranes, common in some long continued sore throats. It is a valuable adjuvant in the treatment of diphtheria and in phlegmonous tonsilitis, with sluggish circulation, and also in the sore throat of scarlet fever. In these cases it may be used as a gargle and taken internally also. A most serviceable general gargle is made by combining in strong infusion, capsicum and white- oak barkquercus alba—and adding to it an active antiseptic, as boric acid or echinacea. This can be given for sore throats when no opportunity for specific diagnosis is afforded.

In its general stimulant effect this agent is a valuable one in combination with quinine in intermittents, and also when the latter agent is given as a tonic and restorative. They act most harmoniously in conjunction, and the influence of the quinine is greatly intensified. It is safe to say that one grain of capsicum, combined with three grains of quinine, will produce better antiperiodic effects than ten grains of quinine would accomplish uncombined in extreme cases of ague, especially if accompanied with general torpor and inactivity of the liver and of the nervous system, as in malignant intermittents and pernicious fever.

The old Thompsonian No. 6 is made by combining myrrh two ounces, capsicum half an ounce, and dilute alcohol two pints. Of this, from five drops to a dram may be given at a dose, and it produces a most profoundly stimulating influence. It was the main dependence of Samuel Thompson.

The old antispasmodic combination known as the Compound Tincture of Lobelia and Capsicum, unfailing with many of the old doctors as an antispasmodic and general relaxant, is made of lobelia, capsicum and skunk cabbage root two ounces, alcohol two pints. It may be made extemporaneously by combining equal parts of the tinctures of the remedies. It is given in from ten drops to one dram, and was relied upon in all spasmodic affections, including puerperal eclampsia and tetanus.

Capsicum is advised in chronic parenchymatous nephritis, in pyelonephritis and in pyelitis. Also in spermatorrhea, with general relaxation of muscular fiber and in impotence. It is an aphrodisiac of some power. It may be combined with phosphorus or nux vomica in the treatment of impotency. It is eliminated from the system through the medium of the kidneys, which it stimulates to increased action. It may produce urinary irritation and tenesmus.

It is used somewhat externally in the form of plasters, embrocations or in liniments, but it is rather slow in its action upon the skin and is replaced by more active agents. It is a valuable agent, however, in the treatment of chilblains, exceeding other better known remedies.

The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, 1919, was written by Finley Ellingwood, M.D.
It was scanned by Michael Moore for the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine.