Chili talk

One day in April 2014, 30 students in an elementary school in the United States were attacked by a peculiar “chemical weapon”. The children’s skin and eyes were painful. After investigation, the sports equipment on the school playground was smeared with chili sauce, and the police also found 6 discarded habanero peppers on the playground. The firefighters who washed the playground said that the pepper just touched people’s skin and it would make people feel unbearable, so they had to wear rubber gloves to work.

Why does chili bring a burning sensation?

Why are peppers so spicy?
Why do some hot peppers make the skin burning? This is because spicy is not a sense of taste, but a sense of pain. There is a nociceptor called “TRPV1” in human mouth and skin. They are activated by acidic solutions with a pH of less than 6, substances above 45°C, and specific molecules related to inflammation, and produce pain. Interestingly, substances such as capsaicin in hot peppers, piperine in pepper, and mustard oil in white radish skins can also activate TRPV1, which makes us feel painful. Although capsaicin does not directly damage human cells, it can make the brain feel that it is being burned through TRPV1 receptors.

What drink is the most anti-spicy?
Among all beverages, ice milk can relieve the burning sensation caused by chili most. why is that? In 1816, scientists extracted impure capsaicin from peppers for the first time. All capsaicinoids are amide compounds synthesized from branched chain fatty acids and vanillyl amines. Capsaicin molecules are repellent and lipophilic, and once attached to our mouths, it is difficult to wash away with water; and there is a lipophilic protein called “casein” in milk, which can be easily combined with capsaicin to facilitate capsaicin Washed away by milk. Therefore, drinking ice milk can quickly relieve the burning sensation caused by peppers.

Can pepper relieve pain?
You may notice that when you eat a lot of spicy food, the hot feeling of the first meal will gradually weaken. This is because the receptor’s response to capsaicin is no longer so strong at this time. This phenomenon is called “capsaicin desensitization”, and the mechanism behind it has attracted the attention of scientists for a long time. During the exploration, scientists discovered that capsaicin can actually relieve pain.

Substance P is a neurotransmitter. Without them, nerve cells cannot transmit pain signals to the brain. In 1979, scientists discovered that repeated use of concentrated capsaicin on subjects would quickly deplete substance P in subjects, making it difficult for subjects to feel pain. Many diabetics suffer from toe pain due to neuropathy. Clinical trials have shown that applying capsaicin ointment on the affected area can effectively relieve the pain of these patients.

Hometown of Pepper: America
Pepper is the general name for plants of the genus Capsicum of the Solanaceae family. Capsaicin is mainly distributed in the white placenta tissue of the pepper pulp, and the capsaicin content in the pepper seeds is not much. The history of human consumption of chili can be traced back to 8,000 years ago. Archaeologists found traces of chili peppers on fragments of cooking utensils from the ruins of ancient human settlements in the Bahamas and southern Peru. In the beginning, the Americans only added wild peppers to their consumption of potatoes, corn and grains. Beginning more than 6000 years ago, Americans began to domesticate and grow peppers, and later discovered that peppers have the miraculous effect of delaying food spoilage. The ancient Mayans incorporated hot pepper into medicine to treat wound infections, gastrointestinal diseases and earaches. Studies have shown that pepper extract can inhibit the reproduction of a variety of microbial pathogens.

Sichuanese start to eat spicy food very late
At the end of the 15th century, after Columbus discovered peppers in the Caribbean Sea, he brought them back to Europe and spread them to other parts of the world. Although chili entered China very late, today they have become one of the most widely used spices in China.

Before chili entered China, the traditional Chinese spices mainly included ginger, Chinese pepper, cornel, long pepper, etc., especially Chinese pepper, and no chili. Gao Lian of the Ming Dynasty wrote in “The Eight Notes of Zunsheng” written in 1591: “Pepper (capsicum) grows in clusters, white flowers, and the fruit resembles a bald pen head. It tastes spicy and red in color, and it is very impressive.” According to this text, we know that Pepper was probably passed to China at the end of the Ming Dynasty. This seasoning plant, native to Mexico and Peru, entered the whole of China from Fujian on Spanish merchant ships.

Chili came from America to Sichuan, China

Chili has a prominent position in the Chinese catering industry, basically after the introduction of chili into the southwestern region. During the Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty, pepper entered Sichuan for the first time. The “Chengdu County Chronicles” compiled during the Jiaqing period contains the first time that Chengdu people eat hot peppers. During the Xuantong period at the end of the Qing Dynasty, Xu Xinyu from Nantong, Jiangsu Province, wrote in “Shu You Wenjianlu”: “Weichuan people eat peppers, they must choose the extremely spicy ones, and every meal and every dish must be spicy.” It can be seen that peppers are completely conquered. The taste buds of Sichuan people. Southwestern chefs use cooking methods such as braising, frying, and braising to create spicy, simmered, fragrant, fish-flavored, pepper-flavored, lychee spicy and other dishes with various flavors.

It is healthier to eat hot peppers regularly.

Most people with the habit of eating spicy food live longer
Many studies in the past tell us that capsaicin has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-cancer and blood sugar control effects. In order to further explore the contribution of capsaicin to longevity, in 2020, scientists conducted a summary analysis of 4729 health research materials on capsaicin. The total number of research samples exceeded 570,000 (from China, Italy, the United States and other countries). The results of the analysis showed that compared with people who seldom eat hot peppers or do not eat hot peppers at all, people who eat hot peppers regularly have a 26% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and a 23% lower risk of dying from cancer, which is caused by various diseases. The overall mortality rate has dropped by 25%.

Although scientists do not know the exact reason for this, the health benefits of eating hot peppers regularly are supported by research data. However, this finding does not mean that eating more chili will definitely lead to longer life or fewer illnesses, especially cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Why do some people like to eat it?
It is human nature to seek advantages and avoid disadvantages, but as long as you walk into the night market and see faces sweating profusely, we can’t help asking: Why do some people like spicy food?

The human brain will find ways to alleviate pain. The faster heartbeat after eating spicy food is the effect of adrenaline, and the secretion of adrenaline is our body’s initial response to pain. When the pain caused by hot pepper is unbearable, the brain will further release endorphins and other “pain killers” to suppress the pain, but at the same time it will also make the brain feel happy. People who like spicy food are not that they do not respond to capsaicin, but that they are more addicted to the pleasure that capsaicin brings to the brain.

After the beetle gnaws on the pepper, the mold will take advantage of it. The higher the capsaicin content, the stronger the resistance to mold.

Chili is so hot, just to survive
A pasture in the Missoula Valley in Montana, United States, was deserted for a long time before 2014. Locals have tried to restore the vegetation of this pasture many times, but every time the grass seeds sown were swept away by hungry prairie rats. Therefore, scientists began to study how to use chili peppers to prevent grass seeds from being eaten by prairie rats in 2014. After 4 years of research, they found that wrapping grass seeds with powder made from Indian peppercorns not only does not affect the germination of the grass seeds, but also makes the prairie rats who steal the grass seeds feel unhappy, thereby increasing the number of grass seeds that are eaten. Significantly reduced. Broken soul pepper is one of the hottest peppers known at present, with a spiciness unit of up to 1 million Scoville, which is dozens of times the spiciness of millet commonly found in western China.

Birds are not afraid of spicy food. In order to spread the seeds, the pepper fruit evolved a red color that can easily attract the attention of birds. Compared with mammals, toothless birds will not chew pepper seeds. Birds have a short digestive tract, and if the pepper seeds are not fully digested, they will be excreted in the feces of the birds, completing the planting industry. For a long time, scientists have always believed that the main defense targets of peppers are mammals, including humans. But in recent years, scientists have discovered that the mechanism by which peppers evolved capsaicin is more complicated than previously thought. In 2012, the American scientist Tewkesbury and his team came to the forests of southeastern Bolivia, where the diversity of wild peppers is highest. After long-term observation, they found that birds and rodents are not the main threat to wild peppers. The real threat to peppers is a small insect of the order Hemiptera. These bugs pierce the fruit with needle-like mouthparts and suck the juice of the pepper fruit.

As insects pierce the peppers with wounds, mold can also infect the peppers from these wounds. Fusarium molds are notorious seed pathogens that affect many crops in the world, including peppers. As the number of molds visible on the seeds increases, the survival rate of pepper seeds decreases. But scientists have found that capsaicin inhibits the growth of Fusarium. For wild peppers, fungal damage on the seeds of high-spicy peppers is much less than that of low-spicy peppers. By placing Fusarium on petri dishes containing different amounts of capsaicin, scientists found that the more capsaicin in the petri dish, the more the growth of the fungus was inhibited.