Chili is the Aztec name for Capsicum annuum. It has been used both as a food and a medicine by Native Americans for over 9000 years. The Capsicum family includes bell peppers, red peppers, paprika, and pimento, but the most famous medicinal members of the family are cayenne and chile. The tasty hot peppers have long been used in many of the world’s cuisines, but their greatest use in health comes from, surprisingly, conventional medicine.
The burning sensation of hot peppers is a reaction of the central nervous system to capsaicin; unlike horseradish, wasabi, garlic, ginger, and mustard, capsaicin only causes the sensation of damage, not real damage to tissues.