Chili Facts

Benefits of Chili

Chilies are excellent source of Vitamin, A, B, C and E with minerals like molybdenum, manganese, folate, potassium, thiamin, and copper. Chili contains seven times more vitamin C than orange.

Ever since its introduction to India in 1498, chilies have been included in Ayurvedic medicines and used as tonic to ward off many diseases. Chilies are good for slimming down as it burns the calorie easily. Chilies stimulate the appetite, help to clear the lungs, and stimulate digestive system.

  • Capsaicin : Chilies have vitamin C and Vitamin A containing beta-carotenoids which are powerful antioxidant. These antioxidants destroy free radical bodies. Usually, these radical bodies may travel in the body and cause huge amounts of damage to cells. These radical bodies could damage nerve and blood vessel in diabetes.  The antioxidants present in the chili wipe out the radical bodies that could build up cholesterol causing major heart diseases such as atherosclerosis.  Chilies have antioxidants that can destroy cholesterol which could cause major disease like atherosclerosis and other heart diseases. Other disease like cataract and arthritis like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It also dilates airway of lungs which reduces asthma and wheezing.
  • Detoxicants : Chilies acts as detoxifiers as they removes waste products from our body and increases supply nutrients to the tissues. It also acts as gastrointestinal detoxicants helping in digestion of food.
  • Pain killer : Chilies stimulates the release of endorphins that are natural pain killers. It relieves pain caused due to shingles (Herpes Zoster), bursitis, diabetic neuropathy and muscle spasm in shoulders, and extremities. It also helps in relieving arthritic pains in the extremities.
  • Antibiotic : Chilies brings fresh blood to the site of the infection. The fresh blood fights infection. The white blood cells and leukocytes present in the fresh blood fights viruses.
  • Brain : Capsaicin stimulates brain to excrete endorphin and gives a sense of pleasure when ingested. This is the reason people get addicted to chili.
  • Cancer : It has been noted that vitamin C, beta-carotene and folic acid found in chili reduces the risk of colon cancer. Chilies such as red pepper have cartonoid lycopene, which prevents cancer disease.
  • Heart Attack : Chilies have vitamin B6 and folic acid. The vitamin B reduces high homocysteine level. High homocysteine levels have been shown to cause damage to blood vessels and are associated with a greatly increased risk of heart attack and stroke. It also converts homocysteine into other molecules which is beneficial to lower cholesterol level.
  • Lung disease : Chilies gives relief from nasal congestion by increasing the metabolism. It also dilates airway of lungs which reduces asthma and wheezing. It relieves chronic congestion in people who are heavy drinkers. Cigarette smoke contains benzopyrene which destroys the vitamin A in the body. The vitamin A present in chili reduces inflammation of lungs and emphysema caused due to cigarette smoking.

General Facts

  • When landed in South America, Columbus discovered chilly and mistook it for pepper, naming it “Chile Pepper.”
  • Chilly was used from 7000 BC in Mexico and was cultivated from 3500 BC.
  • There are nearly 400 Varieties of chili.
  • There is great confusion in the spelling of the chilly. In USA, it is called chile or chile pepper; in UK, it is known as chilly or chili; and in India, it is known as chilly, or mirchi (Hindi), marchu (Gujarati), and molzhukai (Tamil).
  • Fishes could not feel pungency of the chilly because they do not have pain receptors.
  • Chilies belong to same family as tomatoes and potatoes.
  • India is largest producer of chilly.

Chilly Pungency

  • The pungency of the chilly is due to capsaicin present in the membrane placenta.
  • To store and make the chilly powder more pungent, mix it well with oil.
  • The hottest chilly ‘Naga Jolokia’ in the world is found in Tezpur, India. It is 855,000 in Scoville Scale.
  • The chilly’s pungency is measured by Scoville scale which was named after Wilbur Scoville. With invention of computers, the pungency of chilly can be measured by HPLC.
  • To get rid of burning feeling, it is advisable to take fat or greasy content like milk, curd, sugar, or ice cream. Drinking water will not relieve the burning of your mouth because capsaicin is insoluble in water.

Scoville Scale

Scoville scale is used to determine the pungency of the chilly. The Scoville Organoleptic Test was invented by a pharmacist, Wilbur L. Scoville, in 1912 while working in Parke Davis Pharmaceutical Company. Since that time, this method of measuring the pungent property of chilly is now used widely across the world as it was found to be systematic in approach.

Basically the pungency of the chilly depends on the location in which chilly is grown and the genetic structure of the chilly. The pungency of the chilly is due to the capsaicin, a chemical compound found in placenta of the chilly. Capsaicin stimulates the nerve endings in the tongue which transmits to brain making the body release endorphin.

Wilbur Scoville tried many different methods to measure the pungency of the chilly, but he found that the readings were not precise and consistent. He tried to mix the chilly extract with different chemical but was not successful. He found that subjective test were more successful. The tongue being sensitive reacted to the pungency of the chilly. He soaked the chilly in alcohol. The capsaicin is soluble in alcohol.

The quantity of the soaked extract is noted. Water mixed with sugar is added to the extract and given to the human subjects to taste the sample for pungency. Usually, there are five people who taste the sample. To achieve the rating, three people out of five must agree on the taste. If there is still pungency found, then the samples are further diluted with solution of alcohol and sweetened water until there is no heat felt by the tasters.

High Performance Liquid Chromatograph

The Scoville test is now done by High Performance Liquid Chromatograph, a modern machine which has replaced the human tasters. This machine is very sensitive to pungency of the chilly just like the human tongue. In this method, the capsaicin is extracted from the dried and grounded chilly pods. The sample is injected to HPLC machine to detect the pungency. The test done by high performance liquid chromatograph is less time consuming, inexpensive, and eliminates inaccuracy.

The ratio of dilution is considered as Scoville Unit. For example, the bell pepper has zero in the scale of Scoville scale. Given below are some of the examples for varieties of chilies :

  • Pure Capsaicin———-16,000,000
  • Naga Jolokia ————– 855,000
  • Red Savina Habanero——580,000
  • Red Habanero ————- 150,000
  • Tabasco ——————–120,000
  • Tepin———————— 75,000
  • Chiltepin ——————– 70,000
  • Thai Hot ——————— 60,000
  • Jalapeno M —————–  25,000
  • Aji Escabeche—————-17,000
  • Cayenne ———————-8,500
  • Pasilla ———————— 5,500
  • Serrano————————4,000
  • Mulato ————————-1,000
  • Bell Pepper———————— 0
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