1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cayenne Pepper

CAYENNE PEPPER (Guinea Pepper, Spanish Pepper, Chilly), a preparation from the dried fruit of various species of Capsicum, a genus of the natural order Solanaceae. The true peppers are members of a totally distinct order, Piperaceae. The fruits of plants of the genus Capsicum have all a strong, pungent flavour. The capsicums bear a greenish-white flower, with a star-shaped corolla and five anthers standing up in the centre of the flower like a tube, through which projects the slender style. The pod-like fruit consists of an envelope at first fleshy and afterwards leathery, within which are the spongy pulp and several seeds. The plants are herbaceous or shrubby; the leaves are entire, and alternate, or in pairs near one another; the flowers are solitary and do not arise in the leaf-axils. There are about thirty species, natives of Central and South America. They are now grown in various parts of the world, both for the sake of the fruit and for ornament. In England the annual sorts are sown from March to the middle of April under a frame. They can be planted out when 2 or 3 in. high, and in June may be transferred to a light rich soil in the open garden. They flower in July or August, and produce pods from August till the end of September. The perennial and shrubby kinds may be wintered in a conservatory. Several species or varieties are used to make cayenne pepper. The annual or common capsicum (C. annuum), the Guinea pepper plant, was brought to Europe by the Spaniards, and was grown in England in 1548. It is indigenous to South America, but is now cultivated in India, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Turkey, with the other species of capsicum. It is a hardy herbaceous plant, which attains a height of 2 or 3 ft. There are numerous cultivated forms, differing in the shape and colour of the pod, which varies from more or less roundish to narrow-conical, with a smooth or wrinkled coat, and white, yellow, red or black in colour. The principal source of cayenne pepper is C. frutescens, the spur or goat pepper, a dwarf shrub, a native of South America, but commonly cultivated in the East Indies. It produces a small, narrow, bright red pod, having very pungent properties. C. tetragonum, or bonnet pepper, is a species much esteemed in Jamaica; it bears very fleshy fruits. Other well-known kinds of capsicum are the cherry pepper (C. cerasiforme), with small berries; bell pepper (C. grossum), which has thick and pulpy fruit, well adapted for pickling; and berry or bird pepper (C. baccatum). The last mentioned has been grown in England since 1731; its fruit is globular, and about the size of a cherry. The West Indian stomachic man-dram is prepared by mashing a few pods of bird pepper and mixing them with sliced cucumber and shallots, to which have been added a little lime-juice and Madeira wine. Chillies, the dried ripe or unripe fruit of capsicums, especially C. annuum and C. frutescens, are used to make chilly-vinegar, as well as for pickles. Cayenne pepper is manufactured from the ripe fruits, which are dried, ground, mixed with wheat flour, and made into cakes with yeast; the cakes are baked till hard like biscuit, and then ground and sifted. The pepper is sometimes prepared by simply drying the pods and pounding them fine in a mortar. Cayenne pepper is occasionally adulterated with red lead, vermilion, ochre, salt, ground-rice and turmeric. The taste of the pepper is impaired by exposure to damp and the heat of the sun. Chillies have been in use from time immemorial; they are eaten in great quantity by the people of Guiana and other warm countries, and in Europe are largely consumed both as a spice and as medicine.

The dried ripe fruit of Capsicum frutescens from Zanzibar, known as pod pepper and Guinea pepper, is official in the British Pharmacopoeia under the name Capsici Fructus. The fruit has a characteristic, pungent odour and an intensely bitter taste. The chief constituents are a crystallizable resin, capsaicin, a volatile alkaloid, capsicine and a volatile oil. The dose is ½–1 grain. The British Pharmacopoeia contains two preparations of capsicum, a tincture (dose 5–15 minims) and an ointment. Externally the drug has the usual action of a volatile oil, being a very powerful counter-irritant. It does not, however, cause pustulation. Its internal action is also that of its class, but its marked contact properties make it specially useful in gastriatony and flatulence, and sometimes in hysteria.