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Chilli Peppers: The Spice That Makes Masochism Feel So Nice

Consider this: sane human beings do not bathe their eyes in lemon juice or stab themselves in the stomach. So, how is it that inflicting pain in one’s mouth is considered delicious?

Credit: Karolina Grabowksa/

Here’s a riddle for you: what is as painful as being stung in the tongue, yet addictive as sugar? What happens to sound cold yet happens to be hot? What is used in weapons, yet we eat with our mouths? Well, Chilli peppers of course!

It is understated that Chilli Peppers are some of the most beloved treats in the world. Spice is pain, yet chilli peppers have compelled people to torture themselves for decades. Yet, how is it that something so painful has become a source of enjoyment? Just because it hurts so good, does it mean it’s good for you? 

The Science of Spice

Consider this: sane human beings do not bathe their eyes in lemon juice or stab themselves in the stomach. So, how is it that inflicting pain in one’s mouth is considered delicious?  

Scientists accredit the chili pepper’s effect to Capsaicin. Capsaicin can in other words be interpreted as the pepper’s spiciness. A hot spice like this does not actually activate our taste buds, both rather our pain receptors. That is why spiciness did not become considered a flavor until umami made the cut. 

To keep it short, according to scientists, as Capsaicin reaches our pain receptors, it also activates a part in our brain that releases endorphins, otherwise known as “happiness hormones.” While eating spice is painful, it chemically compels us to enjoy it even more. 

Yet, just because it makes us “happy,” does it mean it is healthy? Well actually, yes! Aside from improving a person’s longevity, it is considered to be a general health antidote within its native Mexico. 

In a recent Vice article, writer Alejandra Sánchez Inzunza had this share about Chili peppers:

“In Mexico, we say chilli peppers cure everything – from hangovers to skin blemishes. We say they have anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and antimicrobial properties, and that they help clear your airways.”

The Pride of Spice

Chilli peppers originated in Mexico and have been used by their indigenous peoples for decades. However, Chili peppers have never been exclusive to foods, but also have held spiritual value. 

According to Botanist Araceli Aguilar-Meléndez, rather than use chili’s as condiments, to this day many indigenous communities smoke peppers during funeral rites. Likewise, they also use them to rid their homes of bad energies, like the Evil Eye, or keep pests like snakes or mice away. 

Overall, the Chilli pepper is a great symbol of pride and culture that has been able to make an impact both in the individual and international level. 

Chili peppers sure do make the burning spice feel so nice. Now we know why the joy outweighs the pain. 

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