Thursday, April 23, 2009
Chili peppers, such as jalepeno, cayenne, and habanero peppers, contain Capsaicin, which is the main ingredient in pepper spray. Peppers developed Capsaicin to stop animals from killing the plant by burning them. Capsaicin can add flavor and spiciness to food, but can also cause an extreme burning sensation which can last for minutes or even hours.
Wash your hands and any other areas that have touched the peppers with a dish soap or equivalent to prevent spreading. Drink any cold liquid (Milk works best) or eat cold food. The mere process of chewing and having the mouth filled also helps against strong burning sensations. Recognize that Capsaicin is fat-soluble, as well as alcohol soluble, which means that fatty foods or beverages such as milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, or avocados will release the pain-causing chemical, or a shot of your favorite tequila will do the job as well (http://sulcus.berkeley.edu/mcb/165_001/papers/manuscripts/_297.html).
Test some old-fashioned notions that call for the following; some are probably more mental than actually removing the pain but judge this for yourself:
* Eat some cucumber. This is in fact a common way to deal with too much heat in the food in Indonesia and Thailand.
* Eat bread; it'll absorb the heat content. This is an old trick amongst Italian families.
* Use salt. Salting the food or eating salty chips can soothe the burn.
* Try honey. Sopapillas with honey are served with spicy foods in some restaurants.
Be careful. If the burn is on your skin, i.e. you scratch your nose, vegetable or olive oil will stop the area burning immediately. Soaking the skin in vinegar for half an hour will also kill the burn. If using oil, soak for a full hour for guaranteed effect. If your hands are burning, try pouring Pepto Bismol on them. It will stop the burn immediately. Try swishing warm water in your mouth, then rinse. It will feel warm for a second then be cooled instantly. Curries and other hot dishes are almost always accompanied by copious amounts of rice in India, because all starchy foods combat the burning sensation. Potato will work as well, as will bread. Chew well, so that the tongue is "washed" by the rice, potato or bread. The best advice is stay away from hot foods if you cannot handle them!
The burning sensation will fade away on its own over time (5 to 20 min), all you can do is to wait and alleviate the symptoms by literally cooling down.Avoid getting peppers in your nose, eyes, or any other openings, which is a very painful experience. Pepper spray is made from chili peppers, so if you have happened to have been sprayed in the past, you know what this feels like. Avoid getting on open cutts. Wash your hands before (and after, of course) using the bathroom (no explanation needed). Be careful handling eye contacts after handling spicy peppers. Capsaicin is difficult to fully remove and does not completely wash away with soap and water. If you wear contacts, it is best to use gloves while handling peppers.