The Science Bit
The burn within hot food is usually caused by the Chilli and in particular
an oil within the fruit that contains a chemical called capsaicin.
The concentration of capsaicin is measured by the Scoville Scale, the higher
the score, the hotter the variety of chilli. Like any oil based chemical it
doesn't mix well with water. So when your throat is burning the last thing
that will cool you down is your lager. All that happens here is that it helps
to line the chemical around your bodily passages (no pictures required). In
case of pain reach for something absorbant, like a naan bread.
The methodology used to establish the number of Scoville Heat Units (SHU) in a
chilli is to grind it up in a base and then add water until the mixture no longer
burns the mouth. One unit of chilli to one million units of water would produce
1.5 SHUs. 1cc of pure capsaicin (see below) would require one billion litres to
stop the burn (which is one million cubic metres of water) OUCH !!
At present the worlds strongest chilli is the Red Savina rated at 577 000
(Guiness Book of World Records)
Pure capsaicin has a strength of c15 000 000 (yes million !) Scoville Heat
Units. Compare that with a Red Savina Chilli at 577 000 and you can see
the sheer power of this stuff. At this concentration it may be carcinogenic
and has a LD50 of <500mg/kg (that's lethal dose in fifty percent of recipients).
Pepper spray (the stuff they use on psychos and rioters) can be as hot as
150 000 - 200 000 SHUs, so remember to wash your hands first.
There is however a lot of good news about chilli's though.
1 Better source of vitamin C than oranges. A key vitamin in cleaning the body
of harmful chemical and 'free radicals'. High doses can keep a cold at bay
according to research by Dr Linus Pauling.
2 Believed to be a anti-coagulant. Good news for people with varying heart
problems as this can prevent the build up of potentially deadly clots.
3 Anti-inflammatory. Has given relief to sufferers of rheumatism and back
pain. Also has mild analgesic properties which has made it useable in
topical herbal remedies.
4 Decongestant. Helps to clear mucus from the lungs and nasal passages.
5 Triggers release of endorphines. This can give a sense of euphoria.