Depending on respective regions in Thailand, it is variably known by different names, depleee, prik khee noke, prik tay or muck hed. A small bushy plant, it has its origins in South America and is generally found in tropical and semi-tropical climes.
Hot chili plants have long, wavy-edged leaves that taper into sharply pointed ends; each fruit is a round, elongated shape also with a sharply pointed end. Young chilies are green in color but turn red or yellow when they ripen. Propagated by seeds, chili plants blossom with white or purple flowers into single or dual blooms.
Apart from being a cooking ingredient, the chili also possesses medicinal properties thanks to its substance which give the fruit its hot and spicy characteristics, long used for treating aches, bruises and joint or back pains. However, the substance of chili can cause skin irritations that induce the enlargement of blood vessels and help ease blood circulation. Chili also disrupts and checks nerve ends that receive messages of pain as a result preventing inflammation or erythema by stopping the dilatation of blood vessels.
Chili boasts another outstanding property: relief from pain caused by insect bites. Fresh chili is crushed and diluted either with a little alcohol or water and the mixture applied lightly to the affected area for pain relief.
Used as a cooking ingredient, chili enhances the appetite as it induces saliva flow that, in turn, improves food digestion in the mouth in addition to improving the taste, although only the appropriate amount of food intake is recommended.
Like Thais, foreigners too use chili to treat different kinds of illnesses. For example, it is used to relive pain caused by inflammation of the neck; pain and inflammation of the tonsils; gas discharge in cases of indigestion, foot cracks, wounds and ulcers.
Nevertheless, the reputation of Thai cuisine, which is popular with people the world over, confirms the role of the chili as an indispensable ingredient in the preparation of Thai dishes.