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Have You Got the “Hots” for Hot Peppers?


Cinco de Mayo and Hot Peppers

Cinco de Mayo (May 5) is just a couple of weeks away. It’s a festive day when people enjoy spicy Mexican food. To get that kick in Mexican food, hot peppers are used. The heat in “hot” peppers is from a chemical compound called capsaicin.  It causes a mild burning sensation in the mouth and throat.

How often have you reached for a glass of water to “cool” your mouth down with no success?  That’s because capsaicin is a fat soluble compound, not water-soluble. You need to drink or eat something that will attract the capsaicin and bind it. Once bound, it can’t continue the burning sensation.

Getting Relief

For relief, scientists suggest milk. Milk contains the protein, casein, which is a lipophilic  or fat-loving compound. It binds to the capsaicin, inactivating its burning properties. While casein may be fat-loving and therefore attracted to the capsaicin, it’s the protein component of casein that does the trick.  So even skim or low-fat milk works just fine.

Are Hot Peppers Good For You?

From the plants point-of-view, capsaicin is a valuable chemical to contain acting as a deterrent against certain mammals and fungi.   While the seeds within chili peppers do not produce any capsaicin, the white pith of the inner wall where the seeds are attached contain a large amount of capsaicin. That’s why seeding and removing this pith will tame the beast a bit. But make sure you wear gloves as you do it because it’s too easy to work with peppers and then rub your eyes with your hands.  A very nasty experience.

Some people say that they get an endorphin-high from eating hot peppers, finding the experience pleasurable.

When used in a cream, it can relieve muscular and neurological pain for a short time. It’s even proposed that it could relieve the symptoms of shingles.

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