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Archive for the ‘Pepper Biology’ Category

Unless you’ve been encased in ice the last few weeks, you’ve all already heard of the dreaded Naga Viper from http://www.chileseeds.co.uk/.   Currently listed as the hottest chile pepper in the world (For now), testing by Warwick University at a whopping 1,359,000 SHU.  Where did this beautiful little pod species come from you might ask?  Well no place other than England of course.   Gerald Fowler of the Chilli Pepper Company has created this beast by cross breeding Naga Jolokia strains and Trinidad hybrids.  No wonder it’s so hot.  Before I start my rant I have to give the Chilli Pepper Seed company and Mr. Fowler a big shoutout for this creation.  I have not had the opportunity to try one. YET.  Believe me, as soon as I get my hands on some I will have an extensive and pain filled review for you all.

Now, the media has been amazed by this and as written numerous articles online about this strain’s abilities.   One of these being that this pepper is “so hot” it can strip paint.  Do these reporters just like to add these myths into their articles for popularity or have they never actually researched anything and actually believe this?  I’ve read this statement on numerous news sites and even saw the quote “The chemical (capsaicin) is so strong that it is used as a paint stripper.”

Derrrrr…. FALSE!

Capsaicin chemically carries no properties that would allow it to “Strip Paint” and has NEVER been used in old or modern paint strippers.  Capsaicin is merely an irritant produced by the plant to protect itself from hungry mammals like ourselves and other animals.  Birds are the only exception to its irritating properties.  It’s an irritant to mucosal tissue because it binds to a specific receptor that also send signals of heat and physical abrasion to the brain.  It goes through no chemical reaction whatsoever.  Regardless of how bad your mouth felt like it was being sliced open by a rusty knife, that was merely a perceived feeling by neurons in your brain.

Paint strippers work by using an active ingredient which work to penetrate the paint molecules causing them to swell and are then easily removed from the surface.   Capsaicin will not penetrate paint molecules and will NOT allow the paint to be stripped any easier than if using nothing at all.

So… here’s to you very unintelligent reporters who seem to like to scare the masses with your poorly researched articles and fear driving rhetoric.   Next time, do some real research so the entire world will not be in a tizzy of misinformation.

Now, on a lighter note, as soon as I can get my hands on seeds of this strain I will be attempting to grow this little monster.  I’ve heard it has great flavor 🙂

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Some of you might be curious to why your mouth gets that wonderful (or not so wonderful) burning sensation whenever you eat a chile.  The answer comes from chemicals found inside all chile peppers. These chemicals are all based from Capsaicin, or Capsaicinoids.  This chemical is an irritant to mammals and is produced as a secondary metabolite by chile peppers.  Most likely this is done to deter herbivores and certain fungi.

Capsaicin binds to sensory neurons causing a painful burning sensation.  It binds to the Vanilloid receptor subtype 1 (VR1).  VR1, which can also be stimulated with heat and physical abrasion, permits cations to pass through the cell membrane and into the cell when activated. The resulting depolarization of the neuron stimulates it to signal the brain. By binding to the VR1 receptor, the capsaicin molecule produces the same sensation that excessive heat or abrasive damage would cause, explaining why the spiciness of capsaicin is described as a burning sensation

Birds, on the other hand are not susceptable to the irritation making them a nuisance for any chile grower because they love eating them.

The chemical, in it’s pure form, is colorless and odorless and has the physical traits of a crystalline waxy compound.

Pure capsaicin in the main capsaicinoid in peppers along with dihydrocapsaicin.  Minor capsaicinoids are also found, such as nordihydrocapsaicin, homodihydrocapsaicin, and homocapsaicin.  These minor capsaicinoids are only half as potent as pure capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin.

Capsaicin is mainly produced in the white fleshy placental tissue that holds the seeds in place inside the berries.  Most people think that the seeds of pepper carries capsaicin although in actuality it does not.

Capsaicin is also harvested and used Medicinally.  It is used in topical ointments to treat the pain of peripheral neuropathy and neuralgia caused by shingles.   The cream can also be used on patches to treat minor aches and pains.

In homeopathy, capsaicin may help treat ear infections such as otitis.  There is some evidence that capsaicin may help treat heartburn and circulatory problems such as heart disease from atherosclerosis or plaque that block the arteries to the heart. Capsaicin may also help in reducing risks of arrhythmia.

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