Most North Americans associate chile peppers with Mexican cuisine, but the cultivation of the flavorful pods originated south of the equator. Chile peppers are native to the Amazon jungle, with a history dating back more than 6,000 years. Capsaicin, which gives chiles their heat, has anti-inflammatory properties; it's used to alleviate arthritis symptoms and chronic pain. Anti-inflammatory compounds prevent clots from forming and help prevent strokes and heart disease.
Choose It & Use It
All chiles contain capsaicin, but flavor and heat vary by type. Smaller peppers are generally spicier. Capsaicin is found in the inner membranes and seeds, so include or omit these in recipes to adjust heat. Avoid touching your face while preparing chiles, and wear gloves to protect your hands while working with hotter varieties.