Hot Stuff: Chile Pepper, Herb of January and 2016

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, Herb Society of America

Jan2016_screensaver_1440The chile pepper is hot.

It’s January 2016 Herb of the Month for The Herb Society of America AND 2016 Herb of the Year for  the International Herb Association.

I’ve been herb gardening since 1990 and never would have considered the chile to be an herb. Piper Zettel, assistant to the curator of the National Herb Garden, says I’m mistaken. And, I’m OK with that.

“Chile peppers are considered an herb because they’re used to enrich human lives,” she says. “Herbs are plants used to enrich lives in ways that are not strictly edible or ornamental. Chile peppers are used medicinally and industrially.”

Thus, an herb.

“There are more than 30 species and probably a couple 100 different varieties,” she notes. “The National Herb Garden plans to grow 100 varieties to celebrate the herb.”

Chile peppers may be one of the most global of herbs. Consider their use across cultures – starting in South America thousands of years ago and traveling around the world during the last 500. Today, Americans are fascinated by the chile-pepper-spiked foods such as  hot wings, hot sauces, chili,  infused vodka, flavored cocktails.

I recently had a jalapeno-cucumber mojito. The heat of the pepper with the cool of the cucumber created a balance that was delish.

Food fascination aside, chile peppers are being studied for medicinal uses.

A February 2015 news article in The Scientist notes:

“Initially causing a burning hot sensation, the compound [capsaicin] is used as a topical pain medication because, when applied regularly, results in numbness to local tissue. Despite being widely used, researchers have previously not known how capsaicin exerts its pain-killing effects.”

While medicinal uses may be significant, some folks use them to torture themselves and, perhaps, unsuspecting exes.

Fear holding you back? Search “Hot Pepper” on YouTube to watch capsaicin masochists in action..  Apparently, you’ll find popular videos reaching millions of viewers. One chilehead has gathered more than 34 million – yes, million — views.

While the hottest pepper of  2016 hasn’t yet been determined, the hottest pepper in 2015 was the Carolina Reaper, checking in at more than 2.2 million Scoville units.

For the initiated, the Scoville scale measures ‘hotness’ of a chile pepper or anything made from chile peppers. Developed in 1912, it’s named after founder William Scoville.

Pure capsaicin – which determines the hotness of peppers – is 15 to 16 MILLION Scoville units. No pepper has gotten even close. And, that may be a good thing.

Several sources agree the 10 hottest peppers are

 1 Carolina Reaper 1,200,000 ~ 2,100,00
2 Moruga Scorpion 1,200,000 ~ 2,009,231
3 Choclate 7 Pot 1,169,000 ~ 1,850,000
4 Trinidad Scorpion 1,029,000 ~ 1,390,000
5 Naga Jolokia “Ghost Pepper” 1,020,000 ~ 1,578,000
6 Naga Gibralta 900,000 ~ 1,086,844
7 Naga Viper 800,000 ~ 1,382,118
8 Infinity 800,000 ~ 1,067,286
9 Dorset Naga 800,000 ~ 970,000
 10 Naga Morich 770,000 ~ 1,034,910

For the record, the jalapeno checks in between 2,500 and  8,000 Scoville units. That’s hot enough for me.

Get Fast Facts and recipes from HSA. Or share yours in the comments below.


6 thoughts on “Hot Stuff: Chile Pepper, Herb of January and 2016

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      • Hi Paris, The recipe for Chili Seed Tiger Balm is below. Just an FYI I can only find the Chili Seed Essential Oil at New Directions Aromatics. I have an extra tin of it so I’ll pop it in the mail to you. – Jen

        Chili Seed Tiger Balm

        Camphor 0.18 oz
        Cajeput 0.21 oz
        Menthol (Peppermint or Eucalyptus) 0.18 oz
        Cassia 0.07 oz
        Peppermint 0.14 oz
        Chili Seed Essential Oil 0.14 oz
        Cocoa butter 0.92 oz
        Beeswax 0.92 oz
        Totals 2.75 oz

        Combine essential oils in heat safe glass container like a Pyrex measuring cup or mason jar. Warm oils by placing jar on stove in a hot water bath. Keep temperature on low.
        Combine the cocoa butter and beeswax in a small saucepan and melt. Don’t let burn and cool to a temperature that is 140 degrees or less.
        Once the cocoa butter and beeswax have just melted, remove the essential oils from their hot water bath and dry the outside of the container (be careful, it’s hot!).
        Pour the beeswax mixture directly into the essential oils, swirling and stirring to combine. You may have to pop the glass container back into the hot water bath to ensure everything melts.
        Once blended pour or ladle into containers, capping the container once poured to prevent any loss of essential oils. Cool.

        Liked by 1 person

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