Medical Definition of Paprika

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Paprika: A spicy seasoning ground from a variety of sweet red pepper (Capsicum annuum), the original source of vitamin C, isolated by the Hungarian scientist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1893-1986).

The story goes that Szent-Gyorgyi did not like paprika and so took his plate of paprika pods into his laboratory, not wanting to offend his wife. As he looked at the mound of peppers, he realized that he had never tested the pepper for its compounds. The results surprised him. He found that a paprika pepper contained 5-6 times more vitamin C than an orange or lemon. For the next few weeks he had turned his place into a paprika-mashing center, involving his assistants and his entire family. He extracted and filled flask after flask, each of 50-liter capacity. In one week alone, he managed to extract half a kilogram of pure vitamin C, an unthinkable quantity at the time.

Szent-Gyorgyi named it ascorbic acid (a-scorbic) because it cured scorbutic disease (scurvy). In 1937 Szent-Gyorgyi received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, in part for his isolation of vitamin C from paprika.

Reviewed on 9/7/2018

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