Capsaicin- Capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) is the pain producing component of plants belonging to the genus Capsicum. Chilli peppers are the classic example. Capsaicin is an irritant humans and other mammals, causing a burning sensation in the tissues with which it comes into contact. Capsaicin and other related compounds are called capsaicinoids. These are produced by chili peppers, probably through the ages, for deterant for consumption by herbivores.
capsaicin was first isolated during the early 1800's, although its' spiciness and pain producing properties have been known to cultures for thousands of years. and again 30 years later by L.T. Thresh, who gave it the name "capsaicin."During the late 1800's, Dr Endre Hogyes isolated capsaicin (calling it capsecol back then) and demonstrated the burning sensation caused when it came contact with mucous membranes in additon to the increased secretion of gastric juice. Over time, The chemical structure of capsaicin was elucidated and could be identically synthesized in the laboratory setting. Substances similar to capsaicin have also been isolated from chilli peppers, and thus, termed capsaicinoids (-oid, "like").
Although capsaicin is the main type of capsaicinoid produced in the genus Capsicum, others are produced. Dihydrocapsaicin, homodihydrocapsaicin, nordihydrocapsaicin, and homocapsaicin are other capsaicinoids, although capsaicin and dihydrcapsaicin are the most potent in terms of the burning sensation they elicit. Vanillylamide of n-nonanoic acid (VNA) is a synthetic (man-made) chemical and classified as a capsaicinoid. VNA is employed as a reference for assessing the pungency of other capsaicinoids.
In plants of the genus Capsicum, capsaicin is distributed around the seeds (not inside), and other parts of the flesh.Unlike many fruits, which have evolved to seed dispersal with the zoochory, the seeds of Capsicum plants are predominantly dispersed by birds, in which capsaicin has analgesic rather than irritant properties. Chili pepper seeds consumed by birds pass through the digestive tract unharmed, whereas those consumed by mammals do not germinate at all. The presence of capsaicin in the fruits therefore protects them from being consumed by mammals. In 2006 it was discovered that tarantula venom activates the same pathway of pain as is activated by capsaicin, the first demonstrated case of such a shared pathway in both plant and animal anti- mammal defense.[
Chilli peppers and other members of the genus Capsicum are added to foodstuffs to give them a spicy or pungent flavor and aroma. Physiologically (related to our body functions), this spicy sensation occurs because the capsaicin present, stimulates or rather irritates the nerve endings in the mucous membranes to which it comes into contact with.
Chew on a jalapeno pepper, and you will personally be able to attest to the high concentration of capsaicin present, as it stimulates the nerve endings on the surface of your tongue and other mucous membranes in your mouth. When one of your friends or colleagues claims to be the "toughest" amongst your cohorts, claiming to be able to eat "any" hot pepper without shedding a tear, no worries. Just turn up the heat. Give them a small chunk of Naga Jolokia (the Ghost Chilli, found in Northeastern India), the highest capsaicin-containing pepper on the planet, falling just under the rating for pure capsaicin (used in pepper spray for self defense), and watch them run for the nearest fire extinguisher!
Being a good friend, after letting your comrade suffer a while, you can offer the antidote to his or her anguish. Casein, a protein found in milk helps somewhat, by causing the separation of capsaicin from the nerve endings that it binded to. Make sure you hide the glass of milk under the table though. Contrary to popular belief, a glass of water does not relieve the pain caused from eating hot chillies and other capsaicin-containing plants. capsaicin does not dissolve in water, so you cannot wash it away. Cold water fools the mouth, by providing a cold temperature, and temporarily making you forget about the pain. However, when you stop drinking, the pain returns until the capsaicins effect naturally wears off.
Capsaicin can also stimulate other sensitive areas of skin, thus, its medicinal uses of pain relief from other causes. Although capsaicin doesn't actually cause a physical rise in body temperature, the nerves that it stimulates, fool the brain into thinking so. Hot peppers have been known throughout history to invoke euphoria and other desired effects. This is probably because capsaicin causes pain. Painful stimuli cause the brain to release endorphins, opiates produced by the brain.
Capsaicin in ointment or cream form can relieve the pain associated with peripheral neuropathies such as post-herpetic neuralgia caused by shingles (herpes zoster virus). Note however, that capsaicin may precipitate the reactivation of oral cold sores if placed around the mouth, by stimulation of local nerves. capsaicin doesn't cause cold sores. You must already be infected with HSV (herpes simplex virus), in which a large percentage of the population are. Of course, we normally don't rub chilli peppers on the lips and other areas on the face. However, this is something to note, since allowing pepper juices on the lips, etc., stimulates sensory nerves, in a similar format to other stimuli causing reactivation of cold sores (UV light, biting lips, stress, excess heat, excess cold, and other chemical stimuli).
Capsaicin creams and ointments may be used for the easing of local pains caused by muscle cramps, joint pain, and certain skin conditions. Note that certain conditions, such as eczema (dermatitis) may be worsened because of capsaicins irritant affects on tissues, especially if the skin has been debrided, or is weeping.
Capsaicin works as a pain killer because it causes a percieved burning sensation, although there is no actual increase in temperature. The burning sensation sometimes overrides the pain caused by other sources, making capsaicin the ideal pain releiver. Capsacain may also overstimulate other nerves, causing their fatigue and thus, reducing the nervous pain impulse that they transmit to the brain. This is similar in respect to putting your elbow on your thigh while sitting. At first, you feel the presence of the pressure caused by your elbow resting on the thigh. Soon, you forget that it's there. capsaicin works for a limited amount of time. Therfore, timed applications may be necessary, depending on the type of pain you are experiencing. Since scientists try everything, you can bet that they are trying to introduce capsaicin as an addition to other anesthetics during surgery to decrease pain.
In medicine, capsaicin has been suggested to reduce the amount of certain types of cancers. In countries (Mexico and Thailand) and cultures that consume diets containing large amounts of spices, there is a lower incidence of gastrointestinal cancers. It has also been noted that
capsaicin is well-known to women around the globe as pepper spray. This small spray can is kept in handbags or in the pocket, in the case that an unwarranted male predator is present. One spray in the face (particularly, the eyes) and the capsaicin immediately goes to work, irritating the eyes and causing copious tearing, enabling the woman to escape to safety. The capsaicin does not cause blindness, only extreme burning, and local irritation. Pepper spray is banned in some countries, so take note before you travel. Otherwise, you may be able to carry a gun. This usually deters them.
Capsaicin can also be used in the garden, or farm setting. It deters plant predators, and thus saves your vegetables. Birds, however, don't mind, and will still pluck at your corn. Remember, the seeds of peppers are spread by birds, eating them, and the undigested seeds passing through them. Other animals don't care to eat capsaicin, ahd this makes it ideal for gardening.
capsaicin can be fatal in large quantities. Symptoms of overdose include difficulty breathing, convulsions, and changes in skin color. Capsaicin can also cause lung damage (lung irritation, sensitization) if inhaled. There are treatment for illness and symptonms caused by capsaicin toxicity. Capsaicin on the skin can be washed of with detergents, and oils (petroleum jelly, vegetable oil). Systemic toxicity can be treated with corticosteroids, nebulized bronchodilators (in the case of an asthmatic attack) and antihistamines. However, these treatments should only be undertaken by a doctor. Chronic exposure to eating chillies can cause stomach and intestinal irritation and small amounts of bleeding, probably through damage to the microvasculature to the affected area. The old adage "moderation," is thus, the key to enjoying these much enjoyed foods, while avoiding the long-term risks associated with them. Don't worry about overdosing on capsaicin through eating too many chilli peppers. You'd have to eat a bucket full. However, as with any home remedy, or capsaicin-containing product, due care should always be taken.