There are several friends of mine who would not travel abroad or even eat without having chilies by their side, almost to the point of, well.. an addiction! Well, that might be the right word, as it is well-known that the active ingredient of chilies, capsaicin, has been shown to stimulate the production of endorphins, the feel-good chemical produced by your own body in response to strenuous exercise, excitement, pain and orgasm.
This probably explains why people go bungee-jumping, jump off buildings in their parachutes and return for more. Endorphins mimic the ‘hard drugs’ like opiates in their ability to produce natural pain-relief and a sense of well-being, as well as being addictive – the difference being that endorphins are produced within our bodies. Well, this same effect is produced when consuming chilies, due to this production of endorphins. So much so, while Mexico has gained the dubious reputation as a source of clandestine drugs, it has always been known for exporting the legalised form- chilies!
There are many healthy benefits in consuming chilies:
- it prevents sinusistis and blocked noses
- it has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, useful in arthritis and nerve diseases
- capsaicin can fight cancer cells from the prostate
- capsaicin, according to a Duke University study, can can also help to kill the ulcer-causing bacteria, H. pylori
- chilies are high in antioxidant carotenes and flavonoids, and contain about twice the amount of vitamin C found in citrus fruits
Are there any unpleasant effects? Apart from watery eyes, a running-nose and stomach irritation, consuming chilies do cause an irritating cough, due to the capsaicin. See here for a possible cure to the cough.
For chili connoisseurs, many are aware of the Scoville Scale, measured as Scoville Heat Units (SHU) which determines how ‘hot’ different types of chilies are.For those friends of mine who claim to have conquered the bird-eye chili (phrik thai, chili padi), they would be amazed to know that it ranks under moderately hot only (see Thai peppers in above diagram). The real challenge is in trying the world’s hottest chili, Naga Jolokhia, which comes from India. Those who have tried it claim that it is too hot to be taken au naturel and recommend it be pickled in mustard oil and taking the oil, one drop at a time!
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