Capsicum and Calotropis are the two irritant vegetable poisons that are commonly found in almost every corner of the globe. They are very familiar to human beings and have been in their utility for ages, even after knowing their poisonous properties.

In this article, we have described every aspect of capsicum and calotropis from the perspective of forensic toxicology in detail.

Capsicum Annum

Plant of Capsicum annum
Plant of Capsicum annum

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Angiosperm
Class: Asterids
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Capsicum
Species: annum

Common name: Chili, red pepper, mirch


  • This small shrub bears tapering fruits that become red when ripe.
  • The fruit contains small and flat yellowish seeds. The seeds resemble Datura seeds. 
  • Toxic part of a plant: Fruit and seed
  • Toxic Principle- Capsaicin, Capsicin

Medicinal Use

  • Capsaicin has analgesic effects.
  • It has been utilized as a counter-irritant or “treating like with like” homeopathic treatment to cure searing pain.
  • It has been utilized to treat a range of chronic pain and other illnesses.
  • Numerous carotenoids, including capsanthin, capsorubin, beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, phytofluene, and xanthophyll, as well as steroids, such as capsicoside, can be found in chili pepper.
  • One of the key ingredients is capsaicin, which gives peppers their scorching flavor and causes an acute burning sensation when it comes into contact with the skin, eyes, or mucous membranes.
  • Capsaicin is applied externally to treat unbroken chilblains and used internally for several ailments, such as colic and to improve peripheral circulation.
  • The pain of postherpetic neuralgia and other pain syndromes has been treated using a topical cream.

Mechanism of Action

The vanillyl acid present in pepper causes depletion of substance P at nerve terminals. This results in local swelling and pain due to the dilatation of blood vessels and intense excitation of sensory nerve endings.

Clinical Manifestations

1. Dermal exposure: Burning sensation, pain

  • Chilli burns: A person occupationally exposed to chili powder may have pain, irritation, and erythema.
  • Human hand: Contact dermatitis caused due to chili

2. Ocular exposure: Causes pain, lacrimation, conjunctivitis, blepharospasm
3. Inhalation: Cough, irritation. Chilli worker’s cough occupational exposure results in coughing.
4. Ingestion:

  • Burning pain in the mouth
  • Salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea (burning)


  • Dermal or ocular exposure: Irrigation with plain water, application of cold water/ice, analgesia for pain
  • Ingestion: Sips of cold water/ice cubes, analgesia

Fatal Dose and Fatal Period

The fatal dose is uncertain and fatality is unlikely.

Autopsy Findings

  • Congestion of organs
  • The stomach may contain remnants of seeds/fruit

Medicolegal Importance

1. Occupational hazard
2. Datura seeds may be mistaken for chili seeds 
3. Chilli powder is used for

  • Torture
  • Extortion
  • Forced confession
  • Child abuse
  • Robbery
  • Rape

Calotropis sp.

Plant of Calotropis sp.
Plant of Calotropis sp.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Angiosperm
Class: Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Genus: Calotropis

Calotropis plants are of two varieties:

1. Calotropis gigantea — It has purple color flowers

2. Calotropis procera — It has white color flowers

Common name is Madar, Akdo


  • The plant grows wildly with thick green oblong leaves.
  • The stem or leaves, when broken or incised, yield thick, acrid, milky juice.
  • Toxic part of a plant: All parts are toxic
  • Toxic Principle- Calotoxin (Calotropis procera), Calotropin (Calotropis gigantea), Calactin, Uscharin

Medicinal Use

  • The leaves are used as an external poultice
  • The roots are used as emetics
  • The flowers are used as digestive stimulants
  • The milky juice of Calotropis is used as a vesicant, depilatory, and also for treating chronic skin illness.

Mechanism of Action

The alkaloid calotropin when entering the human body inhibits the sodium/potassium pump to generate signals or impulses in the nervous system, which causes toxic effects on organs like the heart.

Clinical Manifestations

  • Skin Exposure: Irritation on the skin and redness with vesicles
  • Ocular Exposure: Fulminating conjunctivitis which may lead to permanent vision impairment
  • Oral Administration: Burning pain in throat and stomach, nausea, vomiting, and tetanic convulsions, that may lead to death
  • If the roots of Calotropis are snuffed, immediate death ensues.


  • Gastric lavage
  • Demulcents
  • Supportive measures
  • Diazepam/lorazepam for convulsions
  • Dermal or ocular exposure: Wash the affected area with water.

Fatal Dose and Fatal Period

  • Fatal Dose: There is no certain or fixed dose for Calotropis poisoning
  • Fatal Period: Twelve hours after administration of poison.

Autopsy Findings

  • Froth at mouth and nostrils
  • Stomatitis
  • Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract

Medicolegal Importance

  • Accidental poisoning
  • Used in folk medicine
  • Used to fabricate wounds — malingers may apply the juice to produce artificial bruises or conjunctivitis
  • Used in abortion stick to procure criminal abortion
  • Infanticide
  • Cattle poison


Capsicum is the common bell pepper or chili pepper which we use in our food as a vegetable and condiment. Along with food, it has also been used for medicinal purposes. However, surprisingly it is an irritant vegetable poison that has been encountered in cases of physical torture.

Calotropis or madar is another irritant vegetable poison easily found in any barren land. In India, this plant has medicinal as well as religious importance. It is used as an infanticide, abortifacient, and arrow poison and is most commonly encountered in accidental or homicidal poisoning.

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Categories: Toxicology


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