The chilli is much more than a tasty spice for dishes. Their health-promoting effects make them a true all-rounder. You can find out from us what and how you can use the chili.
Worth knowing about chili
Surely you have already used the chili for seasoning and know it mainly because of its hot taste. The reason for the typical burning sensation in the mouth and throat is the active ingredient capsaicin , which varies in intensity depending on the type of chili and the cultivation.
The chilli belongs to the nightshade family and has the botanical name Capsicum . It originally comes from Central and South America and was probably first brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus. It has been bred by humans for almost 6,000 years and used by Native Americans for osteoarthritis and toothache for much longer .
The sweet-tasting sweet pepper also belongs to the chilli family, but we call it paprika because of its mild flavor. In contrast to the hot chilies, the paprika contains the active ingredient capsaicin as well as not at all. Chili varieties with a noticeably high concentration of capsaicin are also called hot peppers .
There are now over 4,000 types of chili all over the world, which in turn are divided into five different types of Capsicum:
- Capsicum baccatum
- Capsicum chinense
- Capsicum frutescens
- Capsicum pubescens
The best-known and most widespread variety is the Capsicum annuum , which includes the popular Jalapeño , for example.
Hottest chillies in the world
More than 100 years ago, the different degrees of spiciness of chilies could only be subdivided according to subjective assessments. Today it is much easier and less painful. The chemist Wilbur Scoville developed the Scoville rate of the same name , or SHU for short, specifically for this purpose. This measures the amount of water needed to neutralize one unit of chili. A small example: It takes 5,000 units of water to blur one unit of jalapeños . This makes them edible and bearable, but a strong burning sensation in the mouth area is guaranteed.
Almost all of the hottest chilies belong to the subspecies Capsicum chinense. In recent years, new varieties have been developed that have outperformed each other in terms of heat. Ten years ago, the habanero chilli was still the leader with 1 million SHU . Then she was surpassed by the Carolina Reaper with almost 2 million SHU . Anyone who eats this chilli will feel numbness in their face and hands after a few minutes.
In the meantime, however, a completely different variety is considered the hottest chili in the world : the record is held by Dragon’s Breath , which really lives up to its name. It’s said to be unbearably sharp at 2.4 million SHU , but understandably no one has really tried it yet. There is also a good reason for this: With such a high amount of capsaicin, it is not unlikely that you will suffer a circulatory collapse and even die as a result.
Why the chili is hot
Surely you have already had the feeling that your entire mouth area is on fire after biting into the pepperoni. In fact , the alkaloid capsaicin itself does not burn . Instead, it stimulates the pain receptors in our mucous membranes, which then send stimulus signals to the brain. So the only reason you feel pain when eating chili is because your brain is sending you the “hot” and “spicy” signals.
If you have eaten a chili that is too hot, reaching for a glass of water will unfortunately not help you. Capsaicin does not dissolve in water but binds to fatty foods and drinks . So, should this situation arise, butter, milk, or cheese will definitely provide relief.
Capsaicin as a medicinal substance
So far it is clear that the active ingredient capsaicin is to blame for the burning pain. However, it is anything but dangerous or harmful to health (at least in the right dosage). Capsaicin has long been part of numerous investigations and studies and has been proven to be a true miracle spice in terms of healing effects. It has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect.
Medicinal properties of chili
Not only the capsaicin makes the chili so valuable. The pod also contains essential oils, carotenoids, flavonoids and vitamin C. All these ingredients are very valuable for our body and contribute a lot to our health. Capsaicin is actually responsible for most of the healing effects. It is the reason why our body is fooled into believing that it is burning and therefore reacts with the release of endorphins and increased blood circulation , among other things.
Fights cancer cells
Especially in the field of cancer research, the chilli has proven to be a real miracle cure. Even in early studies, scientists recognized the cancer-inhibiting potential of capsaicin . The active ingredient specifically attacks the mitochondria and triggers the natural cell death of the cancer cells – without damaging the healthy cells. The mitochondria, which capsaicin fights so effectively, are the energy plants of the cancer cells, so to speak. They have a completely different biochemical composition than healthy cells. This is also the reason why these remain protected.
Incidentally, the cancer-inhibiting effect has been proven in various and independent studies – and in very different types of cancer. Accordingly, capsaicin proved to be enormously effective in prostate, breast, pancreas and lung cancer.
Strengthens the heart
Heart health also benefits greatly from a spicy diet. In a lab test, Hong Kong scientists fed two groups of hamsters a high -cholesterol diet . In addition, the researchers gave a group of hamsters the active ingredient capsaicin. After the test, the scientists examined the blood of the animals and were able to directly demonstrate two positive effects. Capsaicin was able to support the intestines in breaking down and excreting cholesterol and thus significantly lowering cholesterol levels . The bad cholesterol, also known as LDL cholesterol, is responsible for deposits in the blood vessels and clogs the arteries. LDL cholesterol can cause strokes and heart attacks.
Capsaicin can not only lower the level of cholesterol in the blood – there is also evidence that it reduces deposits in the blood vessels. On the one hand, chilli ensures better blood flow and at the same time prevents civilization diseases such as heart attacks.
Stimulates the metabolism and supports weight loss
When we eat a chili, our body thinks it is burning itself on the food. He therefore tries to compensate for the increase in body temperature by sweating. The moisture evaporates on our skin and cools the body down again. However, the whole process requires a lot of energy, which boosts metabolism , increases energy consumption and burns calories faster . No other spice can shed pounds as quickly as chili – the effect has even been proven on mice.
And not only that: the miracle drug capsaicin also curbs cravings and ensures a reduced desire for sweet, fatty and salty foods. For quick weight loss, all you need to do is season your dishes with a little chili. By the way, chilli capsules are not recommended, because the positive effect on weight loss is mainly due to the burning in the mouth area and the irritation of the mucous membranes.
Promotes digestion and reduces the sensation of pain
Maybe you’ve already thought that you’ve just killed some of your nerve cells when eating spicy food. The good news: commercially available chili is not able to do this. The fact that after a while you no longer perceive spicy food as so burning is because the nerve cells can get used to the sharpness . The reason for this is also the chilli itself: Since your body misinterprets the situation as a burn, it releases endorphins and adrenaline . These happy hormones, in turn, ensure that you perceive pain as less intense. Especially after a heavy meal, chilli relieves nausea and feelings of fullness.
In addition, capsaicin improves blood circulation and digestion . Its pungency kills bacteria and viruses in the digestive tract , preventing diarrhea . Spicy food also causes the stomach to produce more gastric acid, thereby inhibiting the spread of pathogens .
For a good mood
The all-rounder chili not only ensures a strong heart and good digestion, it can also lift your spirits . And that’s worth a lot: if you’re happy , you sleep better, you’re fitter in everyday life and, above all , more balanced . Endorphins are the reason for the good mood. These are endogenous opiates that are released in the body by eating chilies. At the same time, they also ensure a higher pain tolerance .
When to Avoid Chilies
Even if the chili has a lot of positive properties and is good for your health, it is not always recommended or for everyone. This applies, for example, to children under the age of six , they should generally avoid spicy food.
Just like any other food, the chilli can trigger an allergy . Although this happens very rarely, you should stop eating immediately if you experience the typical symptoms.
Chili can also be used wonderfully for external use. Nevertheless, you should never apply chili, for example in the form of an oil, directly to injuries . In general, the following applies to external use: Never longer than two days. In the worst case, continuous use can damage your nerves in the long term .
If you’ve cut the chili into small pieces, you probably know that the chili can cause a painful burning sensation, and not just when you eat it. To save yourself worse, do not touch your face or rub your eyes after cutting . By the way, the likelihood of accidentally rubbing your eyes is significantly lower when wearing gloves.
You will come across chilli products in pretty much every supermarket. They are offered in a wide variety of varieties on the spice shelf, from habanero to cayenne pepper. You can also grow and use the chilli yourself at home – in simple steps.
Chilies can be planted wonderfully in your own garden or on the balcony. However, since they need a humid and warm climate to grow, they will do best in the greenhouse or on the south-facing balcony . Chilies need a lot of space, which is why the small varieties are more suitable for your balcony. But you should know that the germination rate in the greenhouse is significantly higher. The average growth height will be around 150 cm.
When buying, make sure that the seeds are really fresh. You can grow plants for the balcony or the sunny garden as early as February.
The chili prefers the greenhouse, since a humid and warm climate of around 20° Celsius is most likely here. Plant the seeds 0.5 – 1 cm deep , with up to three seeds in a single hole. After that, all you have to do is make sure the soil doesn’t dry out . However, the seeds will also not germinate if the soil is too wet and the temperature is too low. To avoid mold, you should ventilate the greenhouse regularly . After about 10 – 21 days your chillies will germinate.
If you have finally been able to harvest your own chillies or want to make the freshly bought peppers last longer, you can easily dry them in the oven. The loss of water will make it almost impossible for bacteria to multiply. That’s why it’s worth drying after a high-yield harvest, for example.
You have to take about 3 to 5 hours for the whole procedure . You can dry pretty much any type of chili, depending on how hot you want it later. First you have to wash the chillies thoroughly and dry them well. Then you cut off the stems – think of the gloves here. The chillies can now be dried as a whole, but not everyone likes the seeds in the pods. You can easily remove them by cutting the chilies in half and removing them with a knife. A slightly easier method is to move the pod back and forth between your thumb and forefinger until the seeds separate from the pepper.
Next, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the chili peppers, cut side up , on the sheet. They need about 3 hours to dry in the oven at 50° circulating air , but you should turn them in between. When drying, it is important that you leave the oven about two centimeters open, for example with the help of a wooden spoon. This way the moisture can escape better. Incidentally, when drying chili, hot vapors are often produced , which can lead to irritation of the respiratory tract and severe coughing. So don’t stay in the kitchen all the time and leave all the windows open.
When the pods have dried after 3 hours, you can process the chillies into powder or flakes.
Make your own chilli oil
A delicious alternative to spices is chili oil, which you can easily make yourself at home. To do this, wash about 4-5 chili peppers and cut them into small pieces. Depending on the variety and preference, you can remove the seeds beforehand. Put the chopped pods in a boiled bottle and fill it up completely with olive oil . If you like, you can also add a pinch of salt, a sprig of rosemary , or other herbs.
After these simple steps, the oil is already ready, it only has to be left to soak in a dry and sun-protected place for a few days. The sharpness gradually disappears. Once the oil has the right flavor for you, all you have to do is strain out the chili peppers. The oil tastes particularly good with pasta, risotto or pizza.