CAPSICUM, a genus of plants, the fruits of which are used as peppers (see Cayenne Pepper for botany, etc.). As used in medicine, the ripe fruit of the capsicum mimum (or frutescans), containing the active principle capsaicin (capsacutin), first isolated by Thresh in 1876, has remarkable physiological properties. Applied locally to the skin or mucous membrane, it causes redness and later vesication. Internally in small doses it stimulates gastric secretions and causes dilatation of the vessels; but if used internally in excess for a long period it will cause subacute gastritis. In single doses in excess it causes renal irritation and inflammation and strangury. The administration of capsicum is valuable in atony of the stomach due to chronic alcoholism, its hot stimulating effect not only increasing the appetite but to a certain degree satisfying the craving for alcohol. It is also useful in the flatulency of the aged, where it prevents the development of gas, and has a marked effect on anorexia. It has been used in functional torpidity of the kidney. Externally capsicum plaster placed over the affected muscles is useful in rheumatism and lumbago. Capsicum wool, known as calorific wool, made by dissolving the oleoresin of capsicum in ether and pouring it on to absorbent cotton-wool, is useful in rheumatic affections.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)