At the Food Trucks, Power of Peppers:

Why do people's bodies seize up or take in gasps of air after they eat the Carolina Reaper?

by Ja'Na Copeland

Some of you may not know what the Carolina Reaper is, but you might know what the hot chip challenge (the Paqui) is. You know the challenge, when people eat a chip in a casket box. Then they turn red and start drinking milk, even cry. I know what you are thinking, "Why do they react like that?" I was thinking the same thing! Well, I guess that’s why you are here. You’re also thinking they react like that because it is HOT. No, but I am going to tell you why…

So let’s talk about the molecule that makes it hot. Capsaicinoids and Capsaicin are the same thing, but there in a family and Capsaicinoids is like the dad and Capsaicin is the son. They both give off the same amount of hotness. The chemical formula is C18H27NO3. The molecule of Capsaicinoids or Capsaicin ‘’looks like a key with a round end and a tail coming out of it.’’ It has a chain of carbon.

Ed Currie the creator of the Carolina Reaper was not trying to make the hottest pepper. He was trying to make a pepper with Capsaicinoids that had Pharmaceuticals in it to help arthritis and he was thinking people with arthritis and cancer might get better by eating the pepper.

Now I know you are also wondering about what happens after you eat the Reaper and ways to make the hotness go away. The Capsaicin is the cause of the crazy amount of hotness in the Carolina Reaper. The reason why the people react like that is because the capsaicin molecules “act directly on the pain receptors in the mouth and throat.’’ When the molecule lands on the pain receptors, the pain receptors give a signal to the brain that it is hot. The temperature in your mouth is not actually going up, but the brain signal is making you feel like the temperature is going up.

Now the effect is you are overwhelmed with hotness. What are you going to do? When you drink water to stop the burning, “the molecule is ineffective, as the nonpolar Capsaicin is unable to dissolve in the polar water molecules.’’ It is recommended that you drink a lot of milk because ‘’milk contains Casein, a fat-loving compound that binds with Capsaicin oil and then washes it away.’’ The chemical formula for Casein is C38H57N9O9. Casein has some non-polar parts and polar parts. The non-polar parts help the capsaicin dissolve. As you can see the Casein molecule overpowers the Capsaicin molecule in order to cool your mouth down. Don’t forget, you don’t eat more Carolina Reaper than you can handle unless you have a weird large amount of milk.

If for whatever reason, you want to avoid this effect, you could not eat the pepper or you could drink a lot of milk. So next time if you want to eat the Carolina Reaper or do the hot chip challenge have a lot of milk on sight. By the way don’t drink water because ‘’water is made up of polar molecules so it can’t provide a cooling effect and it spreads the Capsaicin molecules around, making your mouth feel hotter’’.


Capsaicin/Capsaicinoids: The compound that makes peppers "hot".

Pharmaceuticals: A compound for medical drugs.

Arthritis: Inflammation of the joints.

Receptor: A organ or cell able to respond to a signal from the nerve.

Deterrent: Stops something or someone from doing something.

Casein: The protein in milk and cheese.

Polar: Bonds that are partly ionic are called polar covalent bonds.

Nonpolar: Covalent bonds, with equal sharing of the bond electrons, leading to molecules that don't have one part more "charged" than another.