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The effect of Capsaicin

The effect of Capsaicin
The effect of Capsaicin on the human body - background information Why do chilies burn our... more

The effect of Capsaicin

The effect of Capsaicin on the human body - background information

Why do chilies burn our mouths? Why do we begin to sweat? And why do we feel good about it, as if we`re almost in a state of euphoria?

Capsaicin is the generic term for 5 alkaloids. The confusing thing about these 5 spicy subgroups is that one of these alkaloids in turn is called Capsaicin, and is the spiciest of them all. Each of the alkaloids has a different effect. Some burn your mouth immediately, some later, and more long-lasting. As described, different alkaloids are responsible for this.

How does Capsaicin react in our mouth?

Don`t worry, intensive enjoyment of chilies cannot destroy your taste buds. Instead, you can achieve that through smoking and drinking alcohol. Capsaicin is detected by our nerves, and not our taste buds. The body sends interesting information on to our brain: Our mouth is burning! The brain quickly releases Endorphins (happy hormones) to help us endure the pain. These are the same hormones released when participating in extreme sports.

If you then take a sip of cold water after eating chilies and hold it in your mouth, the pain quickly disappears, but then strikes again with full force. Why? The burning feeling is positively influenced by water, and the body reacts to the short-term pain relief. As the alkaloid Capsaicin is not water-soluble, the cause of the pain remains in the mouth and causes further pain. The only means to relieve it are foods containing fat and alcohol such as milk, cheese, oil or simply alcohol in all forms. Bread also works because the act of chewing manually "scrapes" the Capsaicin away. For this reason, fresh chilies which have been chewed burn particularly strongly. Through chewing, the Capsaicin is intensively massaged into the tongue and the oral mucosa.

We get used to the spiciness

The body gets used to the Capsaicin, and with time doesn`t react so strongly to it, so one can eat spicier and spicier foods. In one experiment, rats were treated with Capsaicin from birth, and eventually could receive drops of pure Capsaicin extract in their eyes without having even the slightest reaction.

So the normal consumption of chilies is anything but dangerous. The body is only confused, and is definitely not injured. But don`t forget - this is with normal consumption. For example: Chocolate isn`t dangerous, but if you eat 2kg per day then you`ll be for the high jump. A Habanero eating contest is therefore not entirely harmless, and we do not recommend taking part in one.

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