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Capsicum (Shimla Mirch): Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Smita Barode

By Dr Smita Barode +2 more

Introduction: 

I am edible. I am green. I am yellow. I am red. Sometimes you may find me in orange too! What may this coloured food item be? Capsicum! Capsicum, with the scientific name Capsicum annuum, is a member of the Solanaceae family. Capsicums are known as bell peppers in America, shimla mirch in India, and peppers in the United Kingdom. Capsicums originated from northern Latin America and Mexico and are available in various colours ranging from green, red, yellow and orange. These varieties are not only delicious when eaten as a topping on a pizza or cooked as a veggie, but they are also very healthy. Let us find some interesting benefits of this vegetable.1 

Nutritional Value of Capsicum: 

In my view, it’s fascinating how modern studies are now catching up with the facts some cultures have known for ages! Capsaicin, a compound found in capsicum, has been traditionally used to ease pain. While studies have shown promising results, it’s important to note that more research on humans is needed to fully confirm its pain-relieving benefits.

capsicum benefits

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Capsicum (Shimla Mirch) contains various nutritional components that are given in the table below. It is rich in a variety of phytochemicals like vitamins, anthocyanins, flavonoids, phenolic acid, capsaicinoids and carotenoids. 

Nutritional components Value per 100g 
Energy (Kcal/K) 26/111 
Total carbohydrate 6.03 g 
Dietary fibre 2.1 g 
Protein 0.99 g 
Total fat 0.30 g 
Calcium 7 mg 
Magnesium 12 mg 
Phosphorus 26 mg 
Potassium 718 mg 
Sodium  4 mg 
Vitamin C 127.7 mg 
Niacin 0.9 mg 
Pyridoxine 0.29 mg 
Vitamin A 3131 IU 
Vitamin K 4.9 micrograms 
Vitamin E 1.58 mg 

Table 1 shows the nutritional value of capsicum2 

Properties of Capsicum: 

I would suggest adding capsicum to your diet if you’re looking to manage your food intake. Capsaicin, found in capsicum may have short-term effects on your body. When you consume capsaicin orally (like eating spicy foods), it might make you feel more satisfied, leading to a decrease in your food intake.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Literature has shown capsicum to have numerous properties as those mentioned below: 

  • It can act as an antioxidant. 
  • It may show antifungal properties. 
  • It may show anti-inflammatory properties. 
  • It can be an antidiabetic agent. 
  • It might have anticancer action. 
  • It can act as a potential analgesic. 
  • It may be neuroprotective. 
  • It may also have an antibacterial action. 
  • It might have immunosuppressive properties.  
  • It might also have an immunostimulant action.1,2 

Did you know?

  • Capsicum consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers, including prostate and lung cancer. Source: ncbi
  • Capsicum contains capsaicin, which has been found to boost metabolism and aid in weight loss. Source: ncbi
  • Capsicum is rich in vitamin C, with bell peppers containing up to 169% of the recommended daily intake. Source: ncbi

Potential Uses of Capsicum for Overall Health: 

Based on my observations, the application of intranasal capsaicin might help reduce nasal problems. In a study, people who received capsaicin experienced a possible decrease in nasal symptoms, such as runny nose and nasal blockage. They also showed improvement in sensitivity to cold dry air, which lasted for up to 9 months after the treatment. Thus, intranasal capsaicin might be safe and effective in reducing nasal symptoms.

Dr. Smita Barode, B.A.M.S, M.S.

Some of the potential benefits of capsicum are described as follows: 

1. Potential uses of capsicum for dyslipidemia 

Dyslipidemia is characterised by a reduction in good cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL), total cholesterol and triglycerides. Studies have shown that red capsicum and one of its important constituents, capsaicin, may potentially control the altered parameters in dyslipidemia. Zafar et al. conducted a study in 2012 on male rats to assess the effect of an aqueous extract of red pepper on the lipid profile. Rats that were administered an aqueous extract of red pepper (200mg/kg) showed a reduction in total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and triglycerides and an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL). This may indicate that the consumption of capsicum may help in managing dyslipidemia. However, more studies on humans are needed to support these claims.3 

2. Potential uses of capsicum for managing blood glucose 

Capsicum contains phytochemicals like capsaicin and capsiate (capsaicin analogue), which may exhibit a hypoglycaemic effect (reduction in blood glucose). Sanati et al. conducted a study in 2017 to assess the effect of capsaicin on blood glucose in rats with Type-I DM. The rats were administered 6mg/kg capsaicin and capsiate for 28 days. The study results showed that capsaicin and capsiate might help reduce blood glucose. This may indicate that the consumption of capsicum may help manage blood glucose. However, more studies are needed to confirm these results in humans.4 

3. Potential uses of capsicum for improving metabolism 

Capsicum has a high amount of capsaicinoids, which may help improve metabolism. Capsaicinoids are known to stimulate vasodilatation (increased blood flow) which increases thermogenesis (heat production). An increase in thermogenesis increases the rate of metabolism. This may indicate that the consumption of capsicum may help in improving metabolism. However, more studies are needed to support these claims.5 

4. Potential uses of capsicum for cancer 

Capsaicin is a bioactive phytochemical which is abundant in capsicum. A literature review by Chapa et al. conducted in 2016 states that capsaicin can alter the gene expression in various stages of cancer cell survival, angiogenesis and metastasis. Therefore, there is a certainty that the consumption of capsicum may help manage cancers, but we need more human studies to support these claims.6 

5. Potential uses of capsicum for wound healing  

Capsicum contains phytochemicals like capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin, traditionally used for wound healing. However, scientific evidence for this is limited. Ekom et al. conducted a study in rats in 2021 to assess the antibacterial potential of capsicum extract as a support to wound healing process. The results of this study claimed the use of capsicum as an antibacterial ingredient. However, more studies are needed to confirm these claims in humans.7 

6. Potential uses of capsicum for boosting immunity 

Capsicum is rich in Vitamin C, a biologically active phytochemical that can help strengthen the immune system. It may be possible that regular intake of capsicum may help boost immunity. However, scientific evidence supporting these claims is limited. Therefore, more studies are needed to support these claims in humans.1 

7. Potential uses of capsicum for anxiety 

Capsicum is a good source of Vitamin B6 and magnesium, both of which play an important role in maintaining the normal function of the nervous system. Thus, this can relieve anxiety and manage panic attacks. Additionally, magnesium in capsicum may help relieve muscle tension caused by anxiety. This indicates that the consumption of capsicum might positively impact anxiety. However, scientific evidence to support these claims is insufficient, and more studies are needed to support these claims in humans.1 

8. Other potential uses of capsicum: 

  • Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, it may help in alleviating Crohn’s disease and arthritis. 
  • It may help relieve the pain and soreness associated with yellow fever. 
  • It may help manage dysentery and diarrhoea. 
  • It may help strengthen the immune system. 
  • It may provide relief from stress. 
  • It may help fight against cataracts. 
  • It may help boost metabolism.1 
  • It may help manage increased body fat and thus may find use in managing obesity.5 

Though there are studies that show the benefits of capsicum in various conditions, these are insufficient and there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of capsicum on human health.  

Also Read: Jalapeno Pepper: Exploring Its Research-Backed Health Benefits

How to Use Capsicum? 

In my perspective, capsaicin, found in capsicum has a superpower. Capsaicin in small amounts might help protect the stomach from damage caused by alcohol or certain drugs. It does this by possibly activating the sensory nerves, which helps in case of gastric injuries.

Dr. Anuja Bodhare, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Capsicum can be used in the following ways: 

  • Capsicum is consumed raw in salads, eaten cooked in pasta, stuffed with other vegetables, and prepared into pepper sauce. Spanish dish, pisto or the classic dish ratatouille are prepared using capsicums.9 

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.   

Side Effects of Capsicum: 

A few side effects related to the consumption of capsicum include: 

  • Increased tendency of allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. 
  • Eating capsicum in excess can result in stomach pain and gastric irritation. 
  • Abnormal amount of sweating and runny nose.10 

However, if you experience any adverse reactions to capsicum, immediately contact a doctor or your Ayurvedic physician who has prescribed it to you. They will be able to guide you appropriately for your symptoms. 

Precautions to take with capsicum: 

Like every other fruit and vegetable, intake of capsicum is okay in moderate amounts. However, general precautions must be followed while consuming capsicum, most important of which are: 

  • Excess consumption of capsicum may enhance allergies in sensitive individuals. 
  • When consuming capsicums, be careful if you have a tendency of stomach discomforts. 
  • It is advised to wash capsicum thoroughly before use, to avoid any infections.9 

Interactions with Other Drugs: 

There is a lack of data regarding the interaction of capsicum with other drugs. However, you must always seek the advice of your Ayurvedic physician about the possible interaction of capsicum with other drugs, and follow the prescription thoroughly, as they will know your health condition and other medications you are taking. 

Also Read: Is Cayenne Pepper Good For You? Understanding Its Health Benefits and Uses

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

1) What are the benefits of capsicum (Shimla Mirch)?

Capsicum may help in managing blood glucose, dyslipidemia, cancers, and healing wounds. Additionally, it may help in boosting immunity, metabolism, preventing cataracts, and may provide symptomatic relief in arthritis, Crohn’s disease and yellow fever.3-7 

2) What is the scientific name of capsicum? 

Capsicum is scientifically known as Capsicum annuum. 

3) What are the side effects of capsicum?

When consumed in excess, capsicum can cause stomach pain, sweating and allergies in allergy-prone individuals.9 

4) Can capsicum help manage dyslipidemia? 

Capsicum is rich in capsaicin, although animal studies have shown consumption of capsicum has a positive impact on dyslipidemia, more studies are needed to support these claims. Therefore, it is recommended to consult a doctor for a proper treatment.3 

5) Can capsicum help prevent cancers? 

Literature studies support the use of capsicum for managing cancers. However, more studies are needed to confirm these results in humans. Therefore, it is recommended to consult a doctor for a proper treatment.3 

References: 

  1. Parmar, R. (2022) 15 health benefits of capsicum, PharmEasy Blog. Available at: https://pharmeasy.in/blog/8-health-benefits-of-capsicum/ (Accessed: November 17, 2022). 
  1. Anaya-Esparza LM, Mora ZV, Vázquez-Paulino O, Ascencio F, Villarruel-López A. Bell Peppers (Capsicum annum L.) Losses and Wastes: Source for Food and Pharmaceutical Applications. Molecules. 2021 Sep 2;26(17):5341. doi: 10.3390/molecules26175341. PMID: 34500773; PMCID: PMC8434037. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8434037/  
  1. Zafar TA, Kabir Y. Capsicum suppress postprandial blood glucose concentration, and appetite and reduce energy intake at the next meal. J Food Sci Technol. 2017 Mar;54(4):987-994. doi: 10.1007/s13197-016-2422-6. Epub 2016 Dec 8. PMID: 28303049; PMCID: PMC5336455.Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5336455/#:~:text=The%20results%20suggest%20a%20reduction,respectively%20compared%20to%20white%20bread. 
  1. Sanati S, Razavi BM, Hosseinzadeh H. A review of the effects of Capsicum annuum L. and its constituent, capsaicin, in metabolic syndrome. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2018 May;21(5):439-448. doi: 10.22038/IJBMS.2018.25200.6238. PMID: 29922422; PMCID: PMC6000222. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6000222/ 
  1. Zhang S, Ma X, Zhang L, Sun H, Liu X. Capsaicin Reduces Blood Glucose by Increasing Insulin Levels and Glycogen Content Better than Capsiate in Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats. J Agric Food Chem. 2017 Mar 22;65(11):2323-2330. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.7b00132. Epub 2017 Mar 2. PMID: 28230360.  Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28230360/ 
  1. Chapa-Oliver AM, Mejía-Teniente L. Capsaicin: From Plants to a Cancer-Suppressing Agent. Molecules. 2016 Jul 27;21(8):931. doi: 10.3390/molecules21080931. PMID: 27472308; PMCID: PMC6274000. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6274000/#:~:text=Anticancer%20Activity,-There%20is%20persuasive&text=Between%20them%20is%20capsaicin%2C%20a,18%2C37%2C38%5D. 
  1. Ekom SE, Tamokou JD, Kuete V. Antibacterial and Therapeutic Potentials of the Capsicum annuum Extract against Infected Wound in a Rat Model with Its Mechanisms of Antibacterial Action. Biomed Res Int. 2021 Oct 4; 2021:4303902. doi: 10.1155/2021/4303902. PMID: 34646883; PMCID: PMC8505066. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8505066/ 
  1. Capsicum recipes (no date) BBC Food. BBC. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/capsicum (Accessed: November 18, 2022).  
  1. Capsicum (no date) Tufts Medical Center Community Care. Available at: https://hhma.org/healthadvisor/ma-capsicum-ma/ (Accessed: November 18, 2022).  

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