You’ve Probably Never Heard of Capsaicin…

…so I’m about to provide you with some random knowledge about it. (Still in the writing slump. Sorry about that. And no one-liners to share, so you get info about food instead. Hope y’all don’t mind.)

Do you like spicy food? If you do, then you’re probably attracted to the capsaicin, since that’s the stuff chili peppers are made of. Literally. Capsaicin is the chemical compound in chili peppers which makes them spicy, or more precisely, gives them piquancy.

If you don’t like really spicy food (and I’m not talking about the Taco Bell green sauce here: that stuff’s like water) you’re probably wondering why people would put themselves through the torture of eating spicy foods. (After all, can you really taste anything when your mouth feels like it’s on fire?) The following might offer a bit of an explanation as to why some of us seemingly enjoy torturing ourselves:

From Wikipedia: “It is theorized that the pain induced by capsaicin causes the human body to release endorphins. Eventually, enough are released to create a sensation that is frequently compared to ‘coke high'”.

So there you have it: people who like spicy foods are cocaine addicts. OK, they’re not really, but you see why people like the stuff. It gives them a high! Also, it causes them to sweat, usually while dancing in pain, pretending like they really enjoy the sting.

Anyway, so how do we know how piquant (spicy/hot) something can be? By using Scoville units. Here’s a comparison chart:

  • 0-100 – most Bell/Sweet pepper varieties.
  • 500-1000 – New Mexican peppers
  • 1,000-1,500 – Espanola peppers
  • 1,000-2,000 – Ancho Pasilla peppers
  • 1,000-2,500 – Cascabel Cherry peppers
  • 2,500-5,000 – Jalapeno Mirasol peppers
  • 5,000-15,000 – Serrano peppers
  • 15,000-30,000 – de Arbol peppers
  • 30,000-50,000 – Cayenne Tabasco peppers
  • 50,000-100,000 – Chiltepin peppers
  • 100,000-350,000 – Scotch Bonnet Thai peppers
  • 200,000 to 500,000 – Habanero peppers
  • Around 16,000,000 Scoville Units is Pure Capsaicin

By the way, for those of you who think yourselves “manly” and “tough” because you put some Tobasco sauce in your soup, remember that the Tabasco sauce you get in restaurants rates at around 1,000 – 2,000 Scoville Units. Wuss.

So, how do you get some of that “pure capsaicin” stuff? A friend of mine once told me about something called Dave’s Insanity Special Sauce which boasts a rating of 14,000,000 Scoville units. That, it seems, is about the closest you can get to pure capsaicin. (If I’m wrong, soneone correct me here.) A couple of drops will easily spice up an entire cauldron of your best gumbo. More than two drops and you could accidentally start killing people off, or at least scare the neighborhood animals (and most humans) away, unless you happen to live in Thailand or India. (Any readers from any of those places? Give a shout out if you are.)

Here’s a recommendation: after handling any of these peppers or sauces, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands before making the horrible, horrible mistake of, say, taking a wiz or scratching your eyes. I can tell you, from experience, that neither is a fun situation. Make sure to wash well. In fact. you may want to rub your hands in the dirt for a while after handling the hotter peppers and sauces, then washing them (then playing in the dirt again, then washing them again), just to make sure every trace of the stuff is gone. Last think you want to do is give yourself an accidental pepper spraying. Especially in the genitals.

Anyway, that’s about it. Now you know something new, so go and scare someone with your new-found knowledge.

3 thoughts on “You’ve Probably Never Heard of Capsaicin…

  1. I *used* to be really good on eating the peppers, but as of late — when I started eating less and losing weight — I’ve only been able to handle low-end Serrano. Wouldn’t mind trying some of those Scotch Bonnet Thai, though. Eventually. Sometime. Not now.

  2. Talk about pepper sprays. My boyfriend bought me one quite some time ago, and when I was going somewhere far (not very recently), he insisted that I took it with me.

    But since I didn’t know whether it was still functioning, I test-sprayed it at my wash basin. And the next thing we knew, we were sneezing alternately. So I was packing my luggage and sneezing at the same time, I said, “Why am I suddenly sneezing? Is it going to rain or something?” to which he said, “It’s the pepper spray, honey, it’s still functioning.”

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