If you’ve ever wondered what exactly it is that makes hot peppers so hot, look no further than capsaicin. It’s the active component in hot peppers that brings on the intense heat. For people, or mammals for that matter, it’s the capsaicin that’s responsible for the burning sensation. First coined in the 1800s, capsaicin is colorless, yet highly pungent. You’ll find the majority of it in a pepper’s placental tissue, the place where you also find the seeds. Interesting enough, pepper seeds don’t produce any capsaicin, yet the spot where the seeds attach, the white pith of the inner wall of a pepper, is where you’ll discover the highest amount of capsaicin. You’ll also find it in the internal membranes, with a reduced amount of it found in the plant’s fleshy fruit.
Birds aren’t affected by capsaicin, perhaps because they help spread pepper seeds, while mammals are affected. That’s why mammals, other than humans, seem to be repelled by hot peppers, again perhaps further ensuring the plant’s survival. Insects don’t like it either, which is why capsaicin is sometimes used in pest sprays. While the capsaicin in hot sauce often makes it more desirable to people, capsaicin can cause a burning sensation if it comes in contact with your skin and eyes. Researchers, however, have been able to capitalize on some of that. Capsaicin is now used in some topical ointments and creams to help with the relief of muscle pain, sprains and strains, plus even arthritis and shingles.
If you’re hoping to lose weight, there seems to be a connection between capsaicin and an increase in your metabolism too, helping you feel fuller, thereby curbing overeating and possibly helping you slim down. Capsaicin doesn’t have any calories or nutrients either. So, if you’re hoping for a temporary cure to what ails you, or simply want to spice things up, capsaicin may just do the trick.