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GUINEA PEPPER. Class V. PentanDRIA. Order I. Monogynia. Gen. Char. Corolla, wheel-shaped. Berry, without juice. Spe. Char. Stem, herbaceous. Peduncles, solitary.
The root is annual; the stem is thick, roundish, smooth, crooked, branched, and rises four or five feet in height; the leaves are elliptical or egg-shaped, pointed, veined, smooth, and placed in no regular order upon long footstalks; the flowers are solitary, white, and stand at the axillæ of the leaves, upon long peduncles; the calyx is persistent, angular, tubular, and cut at the extremity into five short segments; the corolla is monopetalous, wheel-shaped, consisting of a short tube, divided at the limb into five segments, which are spreading, pointed and plated; the five filaments are short, tapering, and furnished with oblong anthers; the germen is egg-shaped, and supports a slender style, which is longer than the filaments, and terminated by a blunt stigma; the capsule is a long conical pod, or berry, of a shining redish color, separated into two cells, which contain several flat kidney-shaped seeds. It is a native of both the Indies, and flowers in June and July.
This species of Capsicum, and nearly all its varieties, are now cultivated in various parts of Europe. Some varieties have been introduced into the United States, where it thrives equally well, but does not ripen its fruit unless in the southern parts; the fruit varies both in shape and color, that which is of a conical form, and of a redish or orange color is prefered. Its taste is extremely pungent and acrimonious, setting the mouth as it were on fire, which
sensation lasts for a considerable time. It gives out its pungency to rectified spirit, together with a pale yellowish red tincture; the spirit, gently distilled off, has but little impregnation from the Capsicum, and leaves an oily extract which is insupportably fiery.
Medical Properties and Uses. The use of this and the other species of Capsicum, which have long been employed for culinary purposes, have but lately been adopted as a medicine. Cayenne Pepper, which is now so extensively at our tables, is the fruit of Capsicum baccatum (Bird pepper) and differs not materially in its effects from that of the species here given, for which it is often substituted. In hot climates, particularly in the West Indies and in some parts of Spanish America, the Capsicum is eaten both with animal and vegetable food in large quantities, and it enters so abundantly into their sauses, that to a person unaccustomed to eat them, their taste is intolerably hot. But in the climates of which the Capsicum is a native, we are told that the free use of it is a salutary practice, it being found to strengthen the stomach and assist digestion. As an aromatic of the most acrid and stimulant kind, it certainly is highly valuable, and can be employed to great advantage in the treatment of rheumatic and gouty cases, or to promote excitement, where the bodily organs are languid and torpid. Matson says, Capsicum “is the best and most efficient stimulant known, and though freely employed, does not occasion any of the evil consequenses which flow from the use of acrid, narcotic, or poisonous stimulants. Taken into the stomach, it produces a pleasant sensation of warmth in that organ, which soon diffuses itself throughout the whole system.” It has the effect to equalize the circulation, and hence its value in fever, inflammation, and all those diseases which depend upon a morbid increase of blood in any particular part of the body. By its equalizing influence, it reduces a full and bounding pulse, or gives it force and vigor where it is threat-like and feeble.