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Science School – Why Chillies are Hot


OK guys, so a really interesting question is, why are chillies hot, even though they’re cold?  I’m sure you guys have had a curry or whatever and you’ve tasted a chilli and it feels like your mouth is on fire.  What’s going on?  Because that chilli itself isn’t hot.

Well, it’s basically a trick that your brain is playing on you.  Inside that chilli is a chemical called capsaicin, and when you eat that chilli the receptors in your mouth actually sense temperature, that’s what they’re doing and that capsaicin actually lubricates those sensors so that your brain thinks that you’re eating something hot.

So normally those sensors, they’d only be activated by something that was physically hot, temperature hot, but that capsaicin tricks them into thinking that maybe, just whatever, a bit of bread, a bit of chicken curry, that’s really hot, because it lubricates up those sensors.  And that is why, well, you can try to tell yourself, hey, it’s a trick of the brain, I’m going to try not to…just eat it and be fine, but your brain literally thinks you’re on fire so you sweat and everything else happens. 

The best way to get rid of it: there’s no point drinking water because the water is not going to sweep away that capsaicin, it’s going to stay bonded in there and you’re going to keep having that experience.  Bread does help, they think that bread does help a little bit, but the real key is milk; milk is the key because there’s a protein in milk that will actually dissolve away that capsaicin and wash it away.  Just like when you use detergent and you’re washing away grease in the sink.

So, milk is the key.  Just one thing to warn you, don’t go trying a chilli challenge!  I tried it head to head with my mate and I was in agony the next day because what goes in must come out and that capsaicin affects stuff on the way out as when it comes in.  Just saying…