When it comes to healing chillies are hot stuff!

Are Fresh Plaza: chillies good for you? Well, if only a one word answer were permitted then it would have to be yes. They are, after all, low in calories and full of nutrients, however, research also suggests that they have a range of qualities not often realised. For a start they can clear nasal congestion, which makes them a good choice for those suffering with a cold. They are also very good for people with diabetes. This is because they help to regulate insulin. Capsaicin, the natural chemical responsible for the spiciness of a chilli, helps to do this, meaning that there is less chance of an insulin imbalance after a spicy meal, in comparison with a less heated meal. What may come as a surprise is that chillies are also able to reduce pain. They are most often associated with delivering a sting, but this is the spicy heat of the capsaicin and not really pain at all. Chillies suppress so called Substance P, responsible for pain sensation. They have even been suggested as a treatment for osteoarthritis, as they can reduce the pain caused by calcium deficiency in the joints. It is also suggested that, as chillies help to thin the blood, they can help prevent the incidence of strokes. Perhaps more peculiarly still, it is suggested that they can help with weight reduction. This is because they are thermogenic, which means they generate heat. By doing this they act as a kind of internal sauna, encouraging the body to shed excess pounds. Sticking with a theme, the New Mexico State University's chilli pepper institute know a thing or two about the spicy little vegetables. Located in Las Cruces, the Chilli Pepper Institute is a non-profit, science-based organization dedicated to everything chilli pepper. It conducts research on disease resistance, higher yield and better flavour of the crop. It also fields hundreds of questions a week from growers, producers, researchers and home gardeners. "We get a huge range of questions, from fertilizer for a specific variety to culinary questions about what type of chilli pepper is used in what dish," says Danise Coon, senior research specialist.  In 2007, the institute declared the Bhut Jolokia the world's hottest pepper, and Guinness World Records certified it. Upon hearing the news, a few others claimed there was an even hotter chilli, prompting many in the spice industry to ask the institute to settle the dispute. "I received at least 500 e-mails about this alone," says institute director Paul Bosland, a renowned pepper expert and professor at New Mexico State.  More recently, in February, as reported by FreshPlaza, the institute proclaimed the Moruga Scorpion the hottest chilli pepper in the world, and already, the title has proven a draw for chilli enthusiasts and the spice industry.  John Hard of CaJohn Fiery Foods has been quick to create a sauce and salsa from the chilli and the institute has sold out of seeds.  During the research conducted before the hottest chilli could claim its title, handling the peppers involved researchers wearing gas masks, goggles, full-body Tyvek suits and two layers of latex gloves. Still, the Moruga Scorpion's heat seeped through to their hands, says graduate student Gregory Reeves, who was a part of the study. For most chilli lovers, including Bosland, a small sampling of the Moruga Scorpion was all they needed. "There's two ways of trying it," Bosland says. "We tasted it just to see what kind of flavour and aroma it has, but then there's the folks you'll see on YouTube, - who I'd say are a tad crazy - who'll eat the whole thing." John Hard says he has a good tolerance for spice, but even he can get through only seven or eight chips with his Moruga-based salsa before calling it quits. The heat builds after the initial bite, resulting in an all-over-the-mouth-and-throat burn that lasts at least eight minutes, he says. "We have people saying, 'Well, I like hot,' but they're talking about Frank's RedHot hot sauce," Hard says. "This is a thousand times hotter from a Scoville rating standpoint." But there is more to the Moruga Scorpion than just its excruciating heat, according to those who have tried it. It has a fruitlike flavor, which makes it a unique sweet-hot combination. "Chilli is probably as complex as wine grapes," Bosland says. "It's like learning to taste wine. You can learn all the different flavours and aroma." Bosland founded the institute in 1992 when he realized he was spending a significant amount of time as a horticulturist answering questions about peppers. He says he is fascinated by the crop because it is not just a vegetable but a spice, an ornamental and a medicinal plant. The institute houses two farms equalling 300 acres where chillies are grown and tended by researchers, a 3,000-square-foot greenhouse for making hybrids, and laboratory space where testing is done.Source: Fresh Plaza

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