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Why Are Chili Peppers Spicy and What's Capsaicin?

Why Are Chili Peppers Spicy and What's Capsaicin?

Have you ever wondered why a simple chili pepper can ignite a fiery sensation in your mouth? Well, get ready to dive deep into the science of spicy peppers and learn all about capsaicin, the compound responsible for their heat.

It's a common misconception that the seeds of chili peppers are the main source of spiciness. However, the truth might surprise you! Spice actually comes from the ribs of the peppers, not the seeds as many believe. But what exactly makes chilis spicy? Let's find out!

What is Capsaicin?

Capsaicin is a natural compound found in chili peppers and is the primary culprit behind their fiery nature. It is concentrated in the placental tissue, the ribs of the pepper, and contributes to its spicy sensation.

When capsaicin comes into contact with our taste buds, it binds to specific receptors known as transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. These receptors are responsible for our perception of pain and temperature, the feeling some hate, buy many can't get enough of. When capsaicin activates these receptors, it sends signals to our brain, fooling it into perceiving extreme heat and causing a burning sensation.

The Role of Capsaicin in Nature

While we humans might find capsaicin intense, its spiciness actually serves a purpose in the natural world. The burning sensation deters animals and insects from consuming chili peppers, allowing the seeds to pass through their digestive systems unharmed. In this way, the plant ensures its survival and propagation.

Interestingly, birds are not affected by capsaicin and can consume chilis with ease. This is due to the fact that birds do not have the same TRP receptors that humans possess. Instead of being deterred, birds contribute to the distribution of chili seeds through their waste, aiding in the plant's dispersal.

Health Benefits of Capsaicin (& essentially Hot Sauce)

While consuming extremely spicy foods might not be for everyone, capsaicin does offer numerous health benefits. Let's take a closer look at some of them:

  1. Pain Relief: Capsaicin is often used in topical creams and ointments to alleviate pain. It works by reducing the levels of Substance P, a chemical that transmits pain signals to the brain. This makes capsaicin effective in treating arthritis, muscle strains, and even nerve pain.
  2. Weight Loss: Studies have shown that capsaicin can aid in weight loss by boosting metabolism and reducing appetite. It increases the production of heat in the body, known as thermogenesis, which can help burn calories and reduce fat accumulation.
  3. Heart Health: The consumption of capsaicin has been associated with lower blood pressure levels and improved heart health. It helps to dilate and relax blood vessels, enhance blood flow, and reduce the risk of blood clot formation.
  4. Cancer Prevention: Research suggests that capsaicin may have anti-cancer properties. It has been shown to induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells and inhibit their growth, especially in certain types of cancers such as prostate, colorectal, and breast cancer.


So, the next time you bite into a spicy chili pepper or even better, try our delicious sauces and feel the gentle burn, remember that it's capsaicin working its magic on your taste buds and brain. We've uncovered the secret behind the spiciness of chilis and explored the fascinating compound that is capsaicin. Whether you enjoy the kick of some fiery peppers or prefer milder alternatives, chilis are a versatile ingredient that adds a punch of flavor to various cuisines around the world, as in both Lingon & Blueberry and Saffron & Rose. So, embrace the heat, savor the spice, and keep exploring the wonderful world of chili peppers!