Capsicum annuum. Cayenne Pepper.
Nat. Ord. — Solanaceae. Sex. Syst. — Pentandria Monogynia.
Description. — This is an annual plant, with the stem herbaceous, crooked, smooth, somewhat angular, branching above, and growing from one to three feet high ; the leaves are ovate or oblong, acuminate, smooth, entire, sometimes hairy on the veins underneath, of a dark-green color, and supported on long petioles. The flowers arc white, solitary, and stand on long, curved, axillary peduncles. The calyx is persistent, tubular, and five-lobed ; the corolla is monopetalous, wheel-shaped, with a five-cleft limb. The stamens are five, with dark colored, oblong anthers. The ovo.ry is ovate, supporting a filiform style, and terminating in a blunt stigma. The fruit is a long, pendulous, inflated pod or berry, light, smooth, shining, of a bright scarlet, orange, or yellow color, with two or three cells, containing a spongy pulp, and numerous whitish reniform seeds.
History. — There are several species of Capsicum, as the C. Annuum, C. Frutescens, C. Baccatum, C. Minimum, etc. They are natives of the East and West Indies, and of most hot climates throughout the globe, and are cultivated in this country. They all agree in producing c shining vesicular berry of a greenish, yellowish, cherry-red, or most generally scarlet color, consisting of a thin, fleshy, inflated, bilocular, or trilocular capsule, and many small, flat, reniform seeds. The Bird Pepper, C. Minimum, is usually deemed the best ; the C. Annuum and C. Baccatum are the most extensively used. The flowers appear in July and August, and the fruit ripens in October. The long, conical, pointed, recurved fruit is that usually employed in medicine.
All the varieties of Capsicum have a faint, peculiar odor, and a hot, acrid taste, which in some is so intense that the smallest fragment, when chewed, will excite an insupportable glow of pungency and heat over the whole mouth and throat. This acridity is imparted to hot water, ether, spirit, vinegar, and fixed oils. Powdered Cayenne Pepper, of good quality, is of a bright color, varying from a beautiful red to a brown or yellow, which fades on exposure to light — the color will assist much in judging the quality of the article. The active principle is termed Capsicin. It may be obtained by freeing the fruit from the seeds, submitting it to the action of alcohol, and evaporating the filtered tincture. During the evaporation a red-colored wax separates, and the residuary liquor by further evaporation affords an extract, to which sulphuric ether is to be added. This dissolves the capsicin, which may be obtained by evaporating the ether. It is a yellowish-brown, or reddish-brown oleaginous substance, of an overpowering acrid taste, volatilizes at a moderate elevation of temperature, and disengages so acrid a vapor, that half a grain will cause every person in a large room to cough and sneeze violently. It is slightly soluble in water and vinegar, and very soluble in alcohol, ether, oil of turpentine, and the caustic alkalies, which it renders reddish-brown. The other constituents of capsicum are coloring matter, an azotized substance, gum, pectic acid, and saline matters. It is frequently adulterated with sawdust, cantharides, and red-lead. This last may be detected by placing a portion of the suspected powder in some dilute nitric acid, allow it to digest, then filter, and if any oxide of lead be present, the addition of a solution of sulphate of soda, will throw down a white precipitate.
Properties and Uses. — Capsicum is a pure, powerful stimulant. The infusion is much used in colds, catarrh, hoarseness, etc. In dyspepsia, it stimulates the nerves of the stomach, promotes the secretion of the digestive juices, and assists peristaltic motion. It forms an excellent addition to quinia in intermittents, where there is a deficiency of gastric susceptibility. It has been also used in spasmodic affections, passive hemorrhages, especially uterine, and when combined with the compound powder of ipecacuanha, will, in many instances, arrest hemorrhage after parturition, promptly. It has been used successfully in Asiatic Cholera. A preparation made by adding one ounce of powdered Capsicum, and two ounces of salt to one quart of vinegar, has been found an excellent anti-emetic, in all cases of vomiting or nausea. To be given in tablespoonful doses, as often as required. It has received the name of Antiemetic drops. Capsicum may be used wherever a pure stimulant is indicated, in all cases of diminished vital action, and maybe combined beneficially with other remedies, in order to promote their action, as emetics, cathartics, diaphoretics, tonics, etc. Dose of the powder, from one to six grains ; of the tincture, from half to one drachm.
Externally, the infusion and tincture have been found valuable as a stimulant gargle in the ulcerated throat of scarlatina, or in chronic cynanche tonsillaris ; also as a counter-irritant, as an application to indolent ulcers, and in chronic ophthalmia. It enters into various tinctures and liniments. The concentrated tincture of capsicum has been highly recommended in the treatment of chilblains and toothache. In the former a piece of sponge or flannel must be saturated with it, and rubbed well over the seat of the chilblain, until a strong tingling and electrical feeling is produced. This application should be continued daily, until the disease is removed ; relief will be experienced on the very first application, and frequently there will be a total removal of the disease after the second or third application. This, however, will depend upon the severity of the case. This medicine possesses an extraordinary power in removing congestion by its action upon the nerves and circulation ; if the skin is not broken, it never causes excoriation by rubbing with it. For toothache, place a drop or two of the tincture on cotton, and apply it to the affected part, the relief will be immediate. Tinctura capsici concentrata, is prepared by macerating four ounces of capsicum in twelve ounces of rectified spirit for seven days — then filter.
The Ethereal Oil of Capsicum, prepared by the evaporation of a saturated ethereal tincture of the pods, is sometimes used as a rubefacient. It is of a brilliant yellowish color, with a peculiar odor and aromatic taste, and filled with crystals of capsicin of curious dendroid forms.
Off. Prep. — Emplastrum Calefaciens ; Linimentum Olei Compositum ; Linimentum Camphori Compositum ; Linimentum Capsici Compositum ; Pulvis Lobeliae Compositus ; Pilulae Camphorae Composites ; Pilulae Valerianae Compositae ; Tinctura Capsici ; Tinctura Lobeliae et Capsici ; Tinctura Myrrhae Composita; Tinctura Camphorae Composita; Tinctura Viburni Composita ; Vinum Hydrastis Compositum.