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How to deal with a spicy mouth

capsaicin chilli facts

Have you ever taken a bite of something, and realised that camouflaged under some unsuspecting vegetable was actually a big piece of chilli that was about to blow your mouth off? Or maybe you had a Dr. Pepper moment and just went straight in and bit off the end of a chilli pepper thinking "what's the worst that can happen"? 

Don't worry, you're not alone. Every so often a rogue chilli creeps onto your plate and by the time you realise what's happening your mouth is aflame and won't return to normal for at least 10 minutes. Perhaps, like some of those less knowing, you grabbed the nearest glass of water only to find that the burning got worse instead of better? 

As it happens, drinking water when you've just eaten something really spicy is one of the worse things you can do. And here's the science behind why:

In one of our earlier blogs we spoke about capsaicin and what the hell it actually is. As it turns out, capsaicin is what's called non-polar, which means that it isn't soluble in water. It's kind of like trying to wash oil off your hands without using soap - the oil doesn't wash off because it isn't soluble in water.

A similar thing happens on your tongue when you eat chilli. Even though your mind tells you that water will make everything better, the capsaicin sits on your tongue laughing at you because water doesn't wash it away at all.

In fact, you're in for a bit of trouble, because water has the opposite effect: rather than washing away the chilli, it actually washes around the chilli, spreading it to other parts of your mouth that weren't affected in the first place!

The real experts know that if you want to end your burning pain ASAP, you need to drink some milk. The proteins and molecules in milk and other dairy products are non-polar, so they do in fact wash away the chilli, leaving your tongue as good as new.

So next time you challenge your friends to a chilli off, make sure you keep a bottle of milk close at hand.

In the meantime, stay hot, stay saucy!


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