Aug 27, 2009

How to Cool Burns from Chili Peppers

Chili peppers, such as jalapeno, cayenne, and habanero peppers, contain capsaicin, which is the main ingredient in pepper spray. Capsaicin can add flavor and spiciness to food, but can also cause an extreme burning sensation which can last for minutes or even hours. If your mouth is burning up, here's how to cool off. These tips will likely work on your skin, too!


1. Drink milk. There's a protein found in milk called casein that acts like a detergent against capsaicin. It'll actually pull the capsaicin compounds away from the nerve receptor binding sites in your mouth. Drink at least a half cup, making sure you rinse your mouth well first.[1] You can spit it out, but you won't get as much relief in your throat that way.

* The colder the milk is, the more effective it is against the burning sensation.
* If you don't have any milk, you may be able to soothe your mouth with the casein in cottage cheese, cold plain yoghurt or ice cream.
2. Drink sugar water. Mix a tablespoon or more of sugar with a cup water and use it to rinse out your mouth. Cold sugar solution (10%) at 20°C/68°F is about as effective as whole milk at 5°C/41°F[2] but the relief only lasts while the mixture is still in your mouth so you'll need to keep rinsing and spitting until the pain subsides.
3. Drink alcohol. Capsaicin is soluble in alcohol, so drinking a beer or a shot can help wash it away. It's not nearly as effective, however, as milk.[4]
4. Rinse your mouth with oil. Capsaicin is also soluble in vegetable oils[4] so swishing some around in your mouth might help. Keep in mind that oil has been found to be only slightly more effective than water in relieving pepper burns, so use it only if nothing else is available.[1]

5. Eat some chocolate. The capsaicin in peppers is more soluble in fat than aqueous based solutions (ie beer, water, even low-fat milk). The high fat content of most chocolate bars will help to remove some of the capsaicin from your mouth. Milk chocolate generally has a higher fat content than dark chocolate and therefore should give better relief.

Unverified Folk Remedies

1. Try any of the following folk remedies, but keep in mind that these methods have not been verified in a reliable third party source.
* Cheese, for the same reason as milk.
* Eat some cucumber. This is in fact a common way to deal with too much heat in the food in Indonesia and Thailand.
* Curries and other hot dishes are almost always accompanied by copious amounts of rice in India, because all starchy foods combat the burning sensation. Potato will work as well, as will bread. Chew well, so that the tongue is "washed" by the rice, potato or bread.
* Use salt. Salting the food or eating salty chips can soothe the burn.
* Try honey. Sopapillas with honey are served with spicy foods in some restaurants.
* Pepto Bismol may stop the burn.
* Try taking a tablet of Benadryl.
* Try eating a raw carrot. There's no trick to swishing it around. Just take a bite and the burn will significantly diminish.
* White toothpaste can significantly reduce the burning from habaƱero oils on the skin. It will likely work in the mouth and/or with other peppers.
* Coconut milk works very well to cut the burn and modulate the heat level of a spicy recipe.
* Bite into a slice of lemon, orange or other citrus fruit or drink a citrus juice. The acid in the fruit will relieve the burn.


* The burning sensation will fade away on its own over time (6-8 hours).


* Avoid getting peppers in your nose, eyes, or any other openings, which is a very painful experience. Pepper spray is made from chili peppers, so if you have happened to have been sprayed in the past, you know what this feels like.
* Avoid getting on open cuts.
* Wash your hands before (and after, of course) using the bathroom (no explanation needed).
* Be careful handling eye contacts after handling spicy peppers. Capsaicin is difficult to fully remove and does not completely wash away with soap and water. If you wear contacts, it is best to use gloves while handling peppers.


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