So many people like it hot! Yes, chilli is popular as ever. Spice fans frequently use chili as a cooking ingredient for a variety of foods from curry to ice cream. In India, Sri Lanka, West Indies, and Mexico have many of their national dishes with chilli as the key cooking ingredient.
This versatile spice is also used as a common table condiment.It is said that one-third of the world eats chilies on a daily-basis.
The heat is on!
The Scoville scale was invented by the American chemist Wilbur Scoville to measure the pungency of chillies or anything derived from chilli peppers. For example, Bell peppers have a Scoville rating of 0, while Tabasco sauce is around 2,500. The hottest variety of chilli is the Carolina Reaper developed by a grower Ed Currie of West Indies which has a maximum pungency of about 2.2 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU).
Capsaicin is the naturally occurring alkaloid derived from chilli plants that is responsible for its hot and spicy flavour. The capsaicinoids in chilli bind to receptors in the lining of the mouth. It is these receptors that register pain from heat, thus the effect is a burning feeling.
Chillies have also been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Chillies contain an abundance of nutritional supplements such as:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin K1
- Vitamin A
- Violaxanthin (the major carotenoid antioxidant in yellow chilli peppers)
- Lutein (mainly in green chillies)
- Capsaicin (responsible for their pungent (hot) flavour)
- Sinapic acid
- Ferulic acid
These nutritional ingredients make chilli an effective natural cure and remedy for a variety of ailments.However, it is the capsaicin that makes it an antioxidant, anti-mutagenic, anti-carcinogenic, and immunosuppressive activities having the ability to inhibit bacterial growth and platelet aggregation. It is also used as an anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory agent.
The biological effect of capsaicin as a nutritional supplement is through the interaction with the TRPV1 receptor. This has ananalgesic, anti-inflammatory or apoptotic effects that are important in the pathophysiology of arthritis, neuropathic pain, gastrointestinal disorders or cancer.
The humble chilli has changed the way we eat and heal ourselves naturally.