Capsaicin is a chemical substance. It is responsible for the sense of spiciness or hotness found in chili peppers. In mammals, it causes a sensation of burning of the tissues it comes in contact with. Capsaicin, and other similar substances called capsaicinoids are produced by chili peppers and other plants, probably as a protection against being eaten. Pure capsaicin is a hydrophobic, colorless, odorless, crystalline to waxy compound.
Capsaicinoids are added to food to make it have a hot taste, but it can also be used as an analgesic, a painkiller. Such painkillers are often directly used on the skin. The burning of the capsaicin will mask the real pain. Capsaicin is also the main agent in pepper spray.
- It is likely that the effects work on any other kind of herbivore, but on mammals it certainly does.
- What made chili peppers so spicy? Talk of the Nation, 15 Aug 2008.