Monday, October 17, 2011

Elizabeth Blackwell: Guinea Pepper




This engraving from Elizabeth Blackwell's A Curious Herbal shows what she calls a Guinea Pepper, which I take to be Capsicum annuum. My black and white facsimile copy of the Herbal is less interesting than this colored version, which I retrieved from the Images from the History of Medicine, a project of the National Institutes of Health, which is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

A few facts about Elizabeth Blackwell (c. 1707-1758)

A few facts about Capsicum annuum
1. The "anuum" part of the plant's botanical name is because the plant is not hardy. But in favorable climates, it is perennial.
2. Fruit of the plant are used both fresh and dried.
3. Capsicum is an ingredient in both prescription and over the counter medications that treat a number of conditions, including arthritis and shingles. However, take too much and liver or kidney damage can result.
4. Superstitious? Peppers are used in folklore to ward off "evil eye".

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