The Sweet Lack of Burn

Remember the first time you picked up a bottle of hot sauce. More than likely, you didn’t start with Mad Dog, we know. Most of our hot sauces are for the truly dedicated out there. People tend to start with sauces in the 2000 to 5000 Scoville range.

We can’t even register that as heat any longer.

And, we’re the only sort of kidding.

We’re happy if that’s all we can get. But, just like you, we don’t mind the sort of burn that makes your mouth feel as though you’ve got a sauna going on in there.

Where Does It Burn (So Bad)?

We all know that chili peppers unless they’re freshly out of the oven (or another heat-inducing device), aren’t physically hot.

But, they’ll still take your face off if you’re not careful.

That’s the capsaicin on the inside. This chemical compound triggers your TRPV1 receptors. (Don’t worry; we’re not going to get very deep into the sciences here.) These are the sensors that detect heat. If you take a swig of scalding hot coffee, the same receptors react. (And you should know that it’s almost impossible to sue someone for this now.) And, if your body is really and truly on fire… then the chances of you reading this are slim.

Basically, capsaicin activates these sensors without your body actually being on fire. But, your brain doesn’t know that. (We’re not saying your brain doesn’t work; everyone’s brain is like this.)

Your brain reacts in a number of ways. The first is the delivery of a pain sensation, so you can stop doing what you’re doing! We realize that most people who are actually on fire tend to have little choice in the matter, but brains like to believe otherwise.

Then, you get a release of all sorts of brilliant, brain-inspired chemicals, like endorphins, to help you cope with the pain.

And, that’s why people continue eating hot sauces and chili peppers even though their brains tell them to STOP already!

What If It Didn’t Burn at All?

Go back to those mild hot sauces (that you make fun of most of the time), think about the flavors. We bet you can do a good job of describing the flavors at play. You may be able to discern whether a pepper is fruity or more like the peppercorn spice that Columbus was after all those years ago.

Imagine if you could taste the flavor of a reaper or ghost pepper. You know, without the frightening pain that follows. How incredible would that be?

One day, you might be able to do just that.

Actually, if you were a pharmaceutical researcher, you could probably do it now. You would just need to have access to capsazepine, a synthetic compound that neutralizes your TRPV1 receptors. Seeing as how this hasn’t yet been deemed safe for human consumption, the ethical question of borrowing it from the lab is secondary to personal health concerns.

Capsazepine works to prevent the trigger of all those sensors that tell your brain that you’re on fire. It won’t work to stop the pain once it’s started. You’ll need some milk and about 15 minutes of time for the urgency to subside.

And that’s okay.

This compound is being developed to make better use of capsaicin for all the good it does in the body. People using capsaicin for medicinal purposes might soon be able to reap the benefits without the painful side effects. Indeed, one day, certain nagging pains may not be an issue anymore. (The underlying cause of those pains, however, we’re not certain about; that requires a deeper dive into the scientific world.)

Who Wants to Stop the Burn?

Unless you’re suffering from pains that are treated by capsaicin, the question isn’t, “when can I get my hands on capsazepine?” Besides the ability to taste chili peppers for their flavor every now and again, we’re pretty sure you’re not interested. You want the burn, don’t you?

We certainly do. That’s half the fun… Maybe more than that.


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