Chilling Out With Chilies

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.


Sign in an obviously Hispanic store in Santa Fe, New Mexico (courtesy of ZA Yusof)

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.Chilli Scale2For 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!


The Naga Jolokhia -the World's Hottest Chili

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5 responses

  1. Doc,

    Yes, that Indian Chili (Naga Jolokhia) is real hot. One could actually get that kind in Sarawak that even those seasoned “chili padi” munchers/eaters would find it very (sometimes too) hot to “handle”.

    I need few clarifications:
    (1) What do you mean by stomach irritation?
    (2) Could eating chili cause stomach ulcer?
    (3) Does H pylori cause stomach ulcer?

    Doctor2008 replies: At one time, peptic ulcers were thought to be due to stress and spicy foods; nowadays they are all attributed to the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. At the most, chili irritates the stomach and intestines causing a burning sensation,gas build-up and diarrhoea.

  2. I guess once you’re exposed to spicy foods, you’ll keep coming back for more. Never knew that capsaicin stuff can be so addicting!!

    Doctor2008: Its the endorphins! Those regular joggers will know how it feels when they miss out on their daily ‘fix’!

  3. Great post on chili! And I’m glad you clarified that chili can help kill H.pylori, something which I’ve been telling my friends for a while! It’s perfectly okay to eat chili!Do you have a Twitter account?
    Doctor2008 replies: Thanks for the thumbs up! Don’t use twitter though as I think its a telco plot, but that’s another story..

  4. Oh gosh, and an even better “cure” for that cough! LOL
    Doctor2008: On the contrary, it makes cough worse!

  5. i like my chillies done in any style- esp sambal belacan-as it prep up my appetite, too!

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