Tabasco Pepper

About ten wild species and four or five domesticated species of shrubby annuals, biennials, and perennials are included in this tropical American genus. Capsicum peppers were first described in 1493 by Dr. Chauca, a physician on Christopher Columbus's voyage, and were introduced from S America to India and Africa by the Portuguese. Today, peppers rank second in importance to black pepper (Piper nigrum) among the world's spices, and hundreds of different cultivars are grown in warm regions, and under cover in temperate parts. China and Turkey are the world's largest producer of chili peppers, and most major producers (including C and S America, the West Indies, the United States, Japan, Thailand, Hungary, and Italy) have cultivars adapted to local growing conditions and cuisines. Fruiting plants are often ornamental, and a number of compact, dwarft cultivars with upward-pointing fruits have been developed for the pot plant industry. Capsicum may be derived from the Latin capsa, "box", from the characteristically hollow fruits. Most cultivated capsicums belong to C. annuum and may be divided into five main groups: Cerasiforme (cherry); Conioides (cone); Fasciculatum (red cone); Grossum (pimento, sweet, or bell pepper); and Longum (cayenne, chili). They are rich in vitamin C. Pungency is due to a bitter, acrid alkaloid, capsaicin, which is the main therapeutic and flavoring compound in hot peppers. Its presence depends on a single gene, and cultivars lacking the gene have sweet fruits. Capsicum annuum has both pungent and sweet cultivars, used respectively for cayenne or chili powder, and paprika. Hot peppers are known as chillies in Europe, and chiles or chilis in N America.

The cayenne plant, a close cousin of bell peppers, jalapeños, paprika and other peppers, contain a chemical called capsaicin that relieves pain and itching. It does this by temporarily stimulating the release of various neurotransmitters from the affected nerves, leading to depletion of these neurotransmitters. Without them, pain messages can no longer be delivered. Although capsaicin in cayenne was once thought to trigger cancer, studies have indicated that is may actually interfere with certain biochemical processes needed to activate cancer cells.

Spreading, shrubby perennial with white to yellow flowers, about 1cm (3/8in) across, marked beige or green at the base, and spotted yellow to tan. Small red fruits are held erect and contain cream to yellow seeds.

Common Name:
Tabasco Pepper
Other Names:
African Pepper, Bird Pepper, Capsicum Chili Pepper, Cayenne, Chili Pepper, Goat's Pepper, Goat's Pod, Hungarian Pepper, Paprika, Red Pepper, Zanzibar Pepper.
Botanical Name:
Capsicum minimum
Tropical America
Rich, well-drained soil in sun. Capsicum baccatum var. pendulum and C. pubescens withstand cooler conditions. Capsicum pubescens may be espaliered or pruned. Plant bugs may damage growing points and leaves; plants under cover may be affected by spider mite, whitefly, and aphid.
By seed sown in early spring.
Unripe fruits are picked as required and used raw, pickled, or cooked. Ripe fruits are picked in summer and used fresh, pickled, or dried for condiments, decoctions, ointments, powders, tinctures, tablets and oleo-resin.
1.5m (5ft)
50cm-2m (20in-6ft)
Is a New Mexican pod type, early, with tapering, pointed, mildly pungent, dark green fruits. 15-20cm (6-8in) long and up to 5cm (2in) wide, turning scarlet when ripe. Excellent for stuffing. Dried and ground into paprika when ripe.
Height: 60cm (24in)
Width: 38cm (15in)
Has medium hot, heart-shaped, thin-walled, fruits, 8-15cm (3-6in) long and 7cm (3in) wide, known as poblanos; used in Mexian mole sauces and chiles rellenos (stuffed chilis).

Has moderately hot, thin-walled, rounded, shiny fruits that ripen brown with a fruity flavor. Dried whole and often used with seafood.

Is a pod type originating in Cayenne, French Guiana, with highly pungent, slender, often crescent-shaped pods, 13-25cm (5-10in) long, and 1-2.5cm (3/8-1in) wide, that may be green or yellow, ripening red. Commercially used for hot sauces and flaked chili pepper.
Height: 75-90cm (2½-3ft)
Chiltepin syn. C. annuum var. glabriusculum, C. annuum var. minimum. Chile piquín
(Bird Pepper)
Bears fiercely hot, bullet-shaped fruits, up to 2.5cm (1in) long and 1cm (3/8in)wide. Often harvested from the wild in Mexico
Height: 2m (6ft)
Width: 1-1.2m (3-4ft)
Forms and erect, tree-like plant, bearing narrow fruits, 5-7cm (2-3in) long, with a smoky flavor, which are usually ground into powder.

Has moderately hot, thin-walled, translucent, burgundy fruits, 13cm (5in) long, and tapering from 3.5cm (1 3/8in) wide. Fruity flave is ideal for red enchilata sauce.
Height: 90cm (3ft)

Is a compact Mexican cultivar with usually vrey pungent, thick-walled, cylindrical, green fruits, 6-10cm (2½-4in) long, that ripen red and typically develop crackes or netting, called corkiness. A main ingredient in salsa. Mature red fruits are smoke-dried as Chipolte
Height: 60cm (24in)
Width: 45cm (18in)
Has a spreading, much-branched habit and ornamental clusters of erect, pointed, red fruits, 8-10cm (3-4in) long, and 1-2cm (3/8-¾in) wide. Dried for chili powder.
Height: 1.2m (4ft)
Width: 1.2m (4ft)

Is a similar pod type to ancho, with late-maturing, tapering, blunt-ended fruits 10-15cm (6-12in) long, and 7cm (3in) wide that ripen brown and have a moderately hot, chocolate-like flavor. Used for stuffing when fresh, or dried for mole sauces
Height: 90cm (3ft)
Width: 1.2m (4ft)
Is a vigorous, late-maturing type with cylindrical, moderately hot, dark green pods, 15-30cm (6-12in) long and up to 2.5cm (1in) wide, that ripen brown and have a smoky, raisin-like flavor. Green fruits, known as chilaca, are eaten raw or cooked; mature fruits are dried for mole sauces.

Purple Tiger
Is compact, with foliage variegated white and purple, and small, extremely pungent, tear-shaped fruits that ripen through red to deep purple.
Height: 70cm (28in)
Width: 50cm (20in)

Is an upland Mexican pod type with hairy leaves and cylindrical fruits, 5-13cm (2-5in) long, which ripen red, orange, yellow, or brown. Good for salsa known as pico de gallo.
Height: 90cm (3ft)
Width: 45cm (18in)
Thai Hot
Is an Asian pod type, with a compact habit and prolific, highly pungent, cone-shaped fruits, 2.5-6cm (1-2½in) long, that ripen red and are used fresh or dried in Thai and other Asian dishes.

Certain pod types have names that are not strictly cultivar names, but are often (as here) treated as such. Most pod types have a number of cultivars. For example, Jalapeño is a pod type that originated in the town of Jalapa, Mexico. Cultivars of the jalapeño type include 'Nu Mex Primavera', and 'Jumbo Jalapeño'.
Min. 4-21°C (39-70°F)
Unlike many of the herbs in this book—whose use can be traced back at least to ancient Rome and Greece—cayenne did not appear on the Western herbal scene until the late fifteenth century, after Columbus visited the Americas and his Portuguese sailors brought the plant back to Europe. It is not clear whether cayenne was native to other subtropical and tropical climates, such as India and Africa, or whether it migrated to those continents with European explorers. Even the origin of the plant's genus name is unclear—since there are no references to the herb in early Greek, Roman, Middle Eastern, Egyptian, or Indian herbals. Some scholars believe Capsicum is a derivation of an old Greek word meaning "to bite"—a reference to the plant's hot taste. Others believe the plant's name is from the Latin capsa, for "box"—and refers to the plant's small, hollow fruits. We do know that fifty years after Columbus returned from the Americas, cayenne was already being cultivated in Britain—where it purportedly came from India. Both the sixteenth-century herbalist John Gerard and his seventeenth-century counterpart Nicholas Culpeper wrote extensively about cayenne in their respective herbals. What we also know is that herbalists took the pungent, fiery cayenne to heart—in many instances quite literally: Surprisingly, one of the red-hot herb's uses is as a cardiotonic.
Parts Used:
Pungent-fruited cultivars have tonic and antiseptic effects, stimulate the circulatory and digestive systems, and increase perspiration. They also irritate the tissues, increasing blood supply to the area, and reducing sensitivity to pain.
Vitamin Content:
Vitamin A, Thiamin
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for the cold stage of fevers, debility in convalescence or old age, varicose veins, poor circulation, asthma, and digestive problems. Externally for sprains, arthritis, unbroken chilblains, neuralgia, lumbago, and pleurisy, and combined with Commiphora myrrha (see myrrh) as a gargle for laryngitis. Pungent-fruited peppers are important as a gastrointenstinal detoxicant and food preservative in the tropics.

To treat frostbite, sore throats, "clogged arteries", muscle spasms, and seasickness. Topically, in the form of capsaicin cream, it is used to ease joint pain. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of cayenne to treat muscular tension and rheumatism.
Cayenne is a blood stimulant and a warming tonic. It improves digestion, stimulates the appetite, promotes blood circulation, boosts energy, and relieves pain. (Cayenne contains capsaicin, a natural stimulant and analgesic.) The herb is taken internally for exhaustion (mental or physical), flatulence, indigestion, laryngitis, sore throats, and poor circulation. It is applied externally, in creams, gels, and ointments, to relieve arthritic, joint, muscular, and rheumatic pain, and to stimulate blood circulation to the skin to heal sprains and relieve spasms. Small amounts of cayenne cream or gel can be rubbed on the bridge of the nose and the temples to relieve headache pain, sinus pain, and sinus congestion.
Some traditional herbalists prescribe cayenne as a preventative heart tonic. A typical tonic consists of ¼ teaspoon of cayenne mixed with 1 cup of tomato juice. Three cups a day is said to tone and strengthen the heart, promote good blood circulation, relieve heart palpitations, and help prevent heart attacks and stroke.
Cayenne is widely available in commercial powders, oils, creams, gels, and ointments. It also is available as powder and tincture. To make a tea, pour 1 cup boiling water over ½ teaspoon of powder and steep for 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the tea to 1 cup of hot water, stir and drink as needed.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of cayenne used internally is approximately 400 to 500 mg in capsule form taken three times a day. Topically a 0.025 to 0.075 percent capsaicin concentration may be applied to the affected area up to four times a day.
No serious side effects are associated with cayenne taken in small doses. But cayenne is hot! Use it sparingly, both externally and internally. Large intestinal doses, may cause stomach cramps and vomiting. Even the tea, when taken at prescribed doses, may cause mild nausea at first. Always use cayenne at the smallest amount possible to get the desired effect.
Possible Side Effects:
When cayenne is taken internally, its side effects include gastrointestinal irritation and flushing of the head and neck. When used topically, cayenne may cause burning and inflammation of the skin.
Drug Interactions:
Taking cayenne internally with these drugs may increase the risk of bleeding and bruising:
Abciximab,(ReoPro) Alteplase,(Activase, Cathflo Activase) Antithrombin III,(Thrombate III) Argatroban,(Argatroban)
Aspirin,(Bufferin, Ecotrin) Aspirin and Dipyridamole,(Aggrenox) Bivalirudin,(Angiomax) Clopidogrel,(Plavix)
Dalteparin,(Fragmin) Danaparoid,(Orgaran) Dipyridamole,(Novo-Dipiradol, Persantine) Enoxaparin,(Lovenox)
Eptifibatide,(Integrillin) Fondaparinux,(Arixtra) Heparin,(Hepalean, Hep-Lock) Indobufen,(Ibustrin)
Lepirudin,(Refludan) Nadroparin,(Fraxiparine) Reteplase,(Retevase) Streptokinase,(Streptase)
Tenecteplase,(TNKase) Ticlopidine,(Alti-Ticlopidine, Ticlid) Tinzaparin,(Innohep) Tirofiban,(Aggrastat)
Warfarin,(Coumadin, Jantoven)
Taking cayenne internally with these drugs may trigger a cough:
Benazepril,(Lotensin) Captopril,(Capoten, Novo-Captopril) Cilazapril,(Inhibace) Delapril,(Adecut, Delakete) Enalapril,(Vasotec) Fosinopril,(Monopril) Imidapril,(Novarok, Tanatril)
Lisinopril,(Prinivil, Zestril) Moexipril,(Univasc) Perindopril Erbumine,(Aceon, Coversyl) Quinapril,(Accupril) Ramipril,(Altace) Spirapril,(Spirapril) Trandolapril,(Mavik)
Taking cayenne internally with these drugs may reduce absorption of the drug:
Aminosalicylic Acid,(Nemasol Sodium, Paser) Aspirin,(Bufferin, Ecotrin)
Choline Magnesium Trisalicylate,(Trilisate) Choline Salicylate,(Teejel)
Salsalate,(Amgesic, Salflex)
Taking cayenne internally with these drugs may trigger a hypertensive crisis (a rapid and severe increase in blood pressure that can trigger a heart attack, stroke, and other problems):
Iproniazid,(Marsilid) Moclobemide,(Alti-Moclobemide, Nu-Moclobemide)
Phenelzine,(Nardil) Selegiline,(Eldepryl)
Taking cayenne with these drugs may be harmful:
Sucralfate,(Carafate, Sulcrate)—interferes with action of the drug. Theophylline,(Elixophyllin, Theochron)—may trigger theophylline toxicity.
Disease Interactions:
May worsen gastrointestinal ailments involving inflammation or infection.
Culinary Uses:
Both pungent-fruited and sweet-fruited cultivars are used ripe or unripe, fresh or dried, as vegetables (raw or cooked), stuffed, and in curries, pickles and chutneys, in many parts of the world, especially in S and C America, Mexico, India, and SE Asia. Ripe fruits are dried to make cayenne, chili powder, or paprika. Pungent-fruited peppers may cause painful inflammation in excess, or other accidental contact with eyes or broken skin.
Capsicum oleo-resin is subject to legal restrictions in some countries.
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pp 153-155
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD PP.135-137
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp. 47-48