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Depression and Heart Disease

Why Do Hot Peppers Cause Pain?

You’ve had this before (show jalapeno). You know that mouth on fire experience. The sweat, the tears, the pain. All from something so little
and friendly looking. So what is it about one of
these little guys that can bring a person to tears? Well it all comes down to chemistry. [SPLASH INTRO] We’re going to cut to the chase. It’s capsaicin. Capsaicin is a colorless, odorless substance most heavily concentrated
around the tissue of a pepper that gives you that mouth on fire feeling
when eating something spicy. Capsaicin is not hot. That’s right. Hot peppers are not hot, at least not of a thermal persuasion. We just perceive them as being hot. So maybe they are hot…we’ll save that debate for a philosophy video. Anyway, capsaicin in hot peppers or
spicy foods binds to TRPV1 receptors that live in your mouth and
in other tissues in your body. Among other things, this pain receptor
detects HOT substances like boiling water or piping hot food as well as
acidic and some bitter substances that could cause damage to our. But capsaicin molecules
fit into TRPV1 receptors. So when eating a jalapeno or
something with capsaicin in it, the capsaicin binds to the TRPV1
receptors of neurons in our mouth, which send neural signal to
our brain telling us we’re eating something that we shouldn’t be. The capsaicin is perceived as pain
causing our brain to send chemical signals to our body to get
this out of our system ASAP. This is why when we eat something
spicy our noses start running, tears stream from our eyes and we want to drink something cold. Our body is doing everything it can to get this substance OUT or at least
to squelch the heat we’re perceiving. The higher the amount of capsaicin in
a pepper, the more there is to bind to your TRPV1 receptors and the more intense your reaction is to that pepper. This is measured on the Scoville scale. Say you just bit into a ghost pepper. The capsaicin binds to TRPV1
receptors all over your mouth and you feel like you’re on fire. Everyone is telling you to
reach for milk to alleviate this hell but why milk? Let’s look at the molecules. Capsaicin has an end with a long
hydrocarbon tail, meaning it’s nonpolar and one thing about nonpolar molecules is they dissolve
in other nonpolar substances. Like dissolves like. Water is a polar substance so
drinking water after eating a hot pepper is like mixing oil and
water, it won’t work out that well. Water will spread the capsaicin around
your mouth intensifying the pain. But milk contains nonpolar molecules
so the capsaicin will dissolve in the milk and wash out of your
mouth, giving you sweet sweet relief. In addition to their nonpolar
powers, dairy products contain the protein casein which attracts capsaicin molecules. So milk or ice cream actively pulls the capsaicin molecules off your
TRPV1 receptors and dissolves them. And there is good news for those of
you who can barely handle the pain: the more capsaicin you eat, the
more of a tolerance you build. This is because the TRPV1 receptors on your tongue become desensitized as you eat more and more spicy foods. SO go on, eat up. Oh, and one more thing. It’s that gift giving time of year
again–and we want to give you one of our infographic posters. Let us know your favorite
chemical reaction and why in the comments section. We’ll pick three winners at random
to get a coffee, tequila or moon infographic sent to you. The winners will be picked December
7th so get commenting! And don’t forget to hit
the subscribe button on your way out to the grocery
store to buy more milk.

100 thoughts on “Why Do Hot Peppers Cause Pain?

  1. Hmmmm, my favourite reaction has to be either burning of hydrogen gas or oxidation of basically anything. First one because it's so simple yet explosive, second one because I study graphical design and print technology and oxidation is fundamental in many chemical processes that occur during printing or preparation of the printing plate.

    For example, in modern offset printing, it relies upon having different hydrophobic and hydrophilic areas, hydrophobic ones will attract the oily paint while the hydrophilic areas will attract the water based separating fluid. The trick is that the photopolimer is hydrophobic and the revealed aluminium base get's coated with a thin layer of aluminium-oxide which is hydrophilic. It's a major stepping stone that made offset printing the dominant printing technique.

  2. The Maillard reaction by far! Without it, meat just wouldn't be the same. Delicious, delicious meat…mmmmm.

    Least favorite would probably be the action of polyphenol oxidase to make fruits brown 🙁

  3. @3:00 I though you dont build a tolerance, you only just get tougher and can handle more pain, just to get that sweet sweet adrenaline

  4. My favorite reaction is one drop of AgNO3 solution in dilute thiosulfate solution giving a beautiful color change from yellow to brown to black like sunset.

  5. O2+C6H12O6–>CO2+H2O
    For me its an incredible reaction because not only gives the animals energy, also, in the case of humans it balances our pH in the blood so well, one of the best buffers in the nature. And also the inverse reaction is the one of most importants for the planet
    It produces O2 from the UV radiation and helps to make the planet more green! :DDDD

  6. What about the Carolina Reaper isn't that like the hottest pepper there is now? also your videos are amazing always awesome to learn new things about the world using chemistry keep up the good work!!

  7. Inspired by this video, I must say my favorite reaction is the hydrophobic effect. This "like dissolves like" concept is everywhere and could be argued as the guiding force behind life (protein folding, membrane formation, etc.). However, the underlying thermodynamics are an unintuitive, complex entropic effect where nature for some reason lowers the Gibb's free energy by minimizing how ordered the water molecules are by minimizing the well-known hydration shell formed around nonpolar bonds. Intuition tells you the dipoles just want to interact with eachother (it is enthalpic) but experimentation actually supports otherwise (it is entropically driven). In other words "like dissolves like" because "interfaces of difference don't let water do its thing."

  8. Love the reaction to the peppers! Is capsaicin the only chemical that gives the burning feeling, or can some other compounds do the same?

  9. As a teacher, I also appreciate the versatility of baking soda and vinegar because I can use it to teach about half the course. However, my students most like when I add calcium carbide to water and then ignite the acetylene.

  10. My personal favorite chemical reaction is the nitration of 2,2'-bipyridine-N,N'-dioxide. It was one of the first reactions I fed when I first started researching, and one of the ones that taught me lab work can be just plain fun sometimes. It involves everything you see in middle school chemistry videos that never actually happens in lab (except it does in this reaction): color changes involving literally every color of the rainbow except purple; pouring two beakers of fuming liquid (nitrogen) into a larger beaker simultaneously; and bubbles from neutralization if you use baking soda. 🙂

  11. The only thing that I have found to work, taught to me by Parsi chef, is granulated sugar right from the spoon – 100% effective every time.

  12. My favourite reaction is actually the one presented in the video above. I used to hate spicy food, but i gradually got used to it and LOVE them now. I feel like it was something to prove that you are not a kid anymore

  13. My favorite chemical reaction is this one, because now I can train to have the hottest mouth in the world. HA HA HAAAAA

  14. My favorite reaction is the hydrolysis of ATP:
    ATP + H2O –> ADP + P + energy

    because it gives us energy to do everything we need to do. ATP is love. ATP is life.

  15. Favourite chemical reaction: sugar in sulfuric acid. each item individually looks mundane, but mix them together and you get steam and a big chunk of spongey carbon. It looks like something you'd see in a horror movie. Very cool to watch, even if it has no practical use other than showmanship 🙂

  16. I grow habanero and ghost peppers. Yeah, they're an acquired taste.

    Where I used to work, there was a gluteal pore who liked to steal lunches from the fridge. He stole my lunch twice on a Monday and a Tuesday. So wednesday I brought in a ham and habanero sandwich, which got stolen.

    Never lost a lunch again after that.

  17. Actually, swishing your mouth out (like you do with Listerine) with hot water (the type of hot you'd take a shower in/wash your hands with) and then spitting it out will grant IMMEDIATE relief from the heat.

    The hot water will open pores and loosen the capsaicin oils in your mouth/tongue and clear when you spit the water out.

    Your mouth will be VERY sensitive at first, due to the capsaicin, and the shower-warm water will feel blisteringly hot in your mouth. But after the first clear, you'll noticed immediate relief. And after a second swishing, the pain will be nothing more than a near-distant memory.

    Try it out.

    Thank me later.

    I do this with Ghost Peppers all the time. People wonder how I can deal with the heat and pain. It's funny.

  18. If the TRPV1 receptors, that detects hot substances on the tissue, become desensitized the more capsaicin they are exposed to, will they also desensitize in regard to other hot substances (such as drinking coffee that is too hot)?

  19. Does tolerance to peppers make you less sensitive to actual heat? Also, what should
    lactose intolerant people do?

  20. why did i watch this video 🙁 there was no knew information everything was way to general and you thought a jalapeno was spicy! (jalapenos are capsicum annuum) i think chiliheads can relate…

  21. My favourite reaction is when tequila hits the brain while eating food spiced with habanero sauce… and I'd REALLY like one of those tequila posters!

  22. Neutralization reactions are my favourite because it completely ruins my childhood thoughts of the word "Neutralization"
    I always thought it was a word meant for destruction or disintegration as a kid… but 10th grade Science ruined it for me.


  23. My favourite chemical reaction is combustion. I especially like it when it is used to light up the sky in an explosion of iron, magnesium or copper.

  24. Piping hard? I think you meant "hot". There is an "o" in there. Also I think you meant "body" rather than "bardy". Quite uncomfortable listening to it.

  25. My favourite reaction? For sure copper and nitric acid… I just love watching the brown-orange NO2 that is forming and the green copper left

  26. I like the reaction of Nitrous Oxide and Carbon Di-sulfate being set on fire. The first time I love the color of the flame it produces along with the famous bark sound it gives.

  27. My favorite reaction is maillard reaction because it is responsible for producing delicious flavor compounds that occurs during the browning of foods like dulce de leche, brown butter, short ribs, etc.

  28. don't understand why people like to eat extremely hot foods, a bit of spice is nice, but why does anyone enjoy sitting sweating and burning up with a mouth on fire? what's the appeal? Often if I eat food that's really really hot all I 'taste' is the spice/hotness.

  29. My favourite chemical reaction – by a long shot – would be photosynthesis. Why? Because it's such an amazing and vastly important reaction that greatly benefits all living creatures 🙂 Merry Winter solstice!

  30. Favorite reaction..hmmm..well it goes to burning of glucose in our body cells (cellular respiration)
    C6H12O6 (s) + 6 O2 (g) → 6 CO2 (g) + 6 H2O (l) + heat

  31. My favorite chemical reaction is the Briggs-Rauscher reaction. I think it's great, because it is a chemical reaction within a chemical reaction. By adding the catalyst Mn2+ to a solution of hydrogen peroxide, sulphuric acid, iodine, malonic acid and starch as an indicator for the iodine, you get the amazing colour changing reactions. From amber to dark blue to colourless to amber again, I just love to see how the colours keep changing, until the reaction is exhausted.

  32. I am not prepared to think to explain my favorite, but one of my favorite phenomenon is solvatochromism!
    solvatochromism describes the color changing effect that solvents have on certain solutes. iodine is a good example. in poor Lewis bases, the olor doesn't change very much, but in stronger Lewis bases, it starts requiring higher energy wavelengths to excite electrons. The change in absorption spectra give different colors being transmitted. so you can see iodine as purple, yellow and pink, while in solvents such as cyclohexane, methanol, and dichloromethane…I think, my memory isn't very good…

    it's one of my favorites because it gives off awesome colors as well gives a great opportunity to talk about molecular orbitals and all 😀

  33. Hey, so I have a very very high tolerance to eating spicy foods, however I have a very low tolerance to temperature hot foods as opposed to other people. How can this be explained?
    I'm confused since the video said that the TRPV1 receptors are responsible for both scenarios…

  34. Thanks Reaction for the great video. Thanks for using chem n bio to explain instead of just talking about it. You rock!

    Quick question, is it true that eating too many spicy food in the long run will give you a stomach ulcer? I mean if capsaicin is just mimicking heat n not really doing anything, i find it hard to believe that it actually causes ulcers .

  35. So guys in Reactions, I have a couple questions for you:
    I have also noticed, that I'm getting used to capsaicin and heat. But that isn't like so in black or white pepper [Piper nigrum], and it's alkaloid piperine. Ordinary black pepper has the same heat, despite eating a load of it. So I wonder, how can that be?

    And I also wonder about a wild plant in Europe, named "water pepper" [Persicaria hydropiper synonym with Polygonum hydropiper], and a mushroom named [Lactarius rufus]. They has the hotness as pepper, the mushroom even feels like have a more pungent burn to it. Together with that "water pepper" has also a flavour not very unlike the one in black pepper. How are these burning chemicals, when you looking at the burning effect, and that numbing down effect?

    "Water pepper"

    Lactarius rufus:

  36. hahhahaha i have quite a high tolerance now i guess but my stomach's tolerance doesn't xD chemical reaction that i love? ofcourse when i taste the hotness and the spiciness hahahaha xD

  37. You say that tolerance is built up by desensitising the TRPV1 receptors, and make out like this is a good thing? Surely decensitising receptors that are there to keep our body safe from harmful substances isn't good! OK the chillis might be harmless, but as you said at the beginning of your video the TRPV1s are there for other things not just chilli.

  38. would like to know why the psychoactive properties in cannabis such as Tetrahydrocannabinol do to he human brain and the reactions of the other cannabinoids in cannabis

  39. For some reason, after I drink milk, eating spicy foods causes MUCH more pain than if I ate it without drinking the milk beforehand.

  40. Pardon me if i'm wrong, but you do not build tolerance to capsicin, the receptors will not get desensitized, what will happen is that the receptors will internalized causing a minor perception of pain as a defense mechanism, although a chronic intake in high doses will damage this receptors leading to a decrease in sensitivity from other endogenous and exogenous ligands (like hot food above 43·C)

  41. My favorite reaction is, "How to tell if your oven is a liar", because the video show guides us how we can check whether our oven is at the right temperature we need it to be when cooking and if we don't own an oven thermometer, also considering Thanksgiving is coming up it is very helpful to me this time of the month. It's a life hack that comes in handy just like most of the reaction videos on this channel.

  42. I like the reaction between iron oxide and aluminum powder because it shows how a fairly nonreactive compound and common element can form a spectacularly reactive substance.

  43. Good video. I was hoping for an explanation as to why nature makes them hot. What evolutionary reason makes them hot? Is it a self-defense mechanism, like needles on a cactus?

  44. Funny how I was eating a bag of hot and spicy chex mix as I stumbled upon this video. Lol

  45. so in other video "how pepper spray works" you said milk is not a good solution as it doesn't dissolve capsaicin but here you said it works..

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