Every year the International Herb Association (http://www.iherb.org/117-2/) celebrates the herb. The purpose of the herb of the year is to develop and coordinate national attention on herbs, herbal uses, herb businesses, and the IHA. This year's herb is the very popular Capsicum annuum pepper plant. You maybe familiar of Capsicum annuum plant in hot sauce if you from the South or in Pepper Spray if you are in Law Enforcement. The interesting thing about this herb is its powerful ingredients and its verstility particularly in cooking.
Capsicum annuum otherwise known as the Cayenne plant has a very rich history since the time of Columbus coming to the new world. Capsicum annuum (Cayenne) plant was first introduced to Europe with the return of Christopher Columbus from the New World. The cayenne pepper plant is a hot biting taste of a fruit and has been cultivated for hundreds, even thousands of years in the tropical regions of the world such as the Americas, Africa and India (Kowalchick, 1987). The South American Indians were enjoying hot pepper meals by 5000 B.C. (Keville, 1996). Columbus was the first Westerner to take conscious note of food flavored of this pungent herb (Kowalchick, 1987). The doctors that accompanied Columbus on his 1492 voyage noted their uses by the Native Americans as pain relievers, toothache remedies and for flavoring food (Houdret, 2002). The name cayenne is derived from the Greek word meaning to bite (Kowalchick, 1987). Cayenne first appeared in the history books was in 1493, when Peter Martyn wrote its arrival in Italy after Columbus's voyage. Later in the sixteenth century the a London herbalist John Gerard reported its cultivation in Great Britain (Kowalchick, 1987). The Portuguese were responsible for their spread to India in 1611 and then Cayenne spread throughout the world (Houdret, 2002). There are over 90 varieties of cayenne that were hybridized and adapted by each culture (Keville, 1996). Cayenne from Sierra Leone in Africa is said to be the most pungent and medicinal (Keville, 1996). When Carolus Linnaeus named the genus Capsicum in the mid-1700s, he identified only two species. The number of species identified by botanist slowly increased. By the 1900s, more than 100 cultivated species of Capsicums had been described and named (Keville, 1996). Mexican Indians and the Hunan and Szechwan Chinese, steep their meals in hot peppers have been known to have less chronic obstructive lung disease than the British with their blander diets (Keville, 1996).
Next week we will discuss the medicinal purposes of Capsicum.