How Hot Chili Peppers Trick Your Brain

Cooking up delicious spicy food can come at a price... a price many of us have paid! If you've ever cut up some jalapeƱos and scraped out the seeds with your bare hands, you know the symptoms: excruciating pain. This pain is caused by an oil-soluble substance called capsaicin (pronounced cap-say-sin). Capsaicin is the active component found in all hot peppers. It's what makes them so delicious to eat (provided you can take the heat) and causes the burning pain on your skin. The good news is that capsaicin doesn't actually cause any tissue damage. This may be of little comfort to you if your hands feel burnt and the only way to sleep is by clutching an ice pack. But if we dig a little deeper, we'll discover a fascinating world involving neurotransmitters, pain signals, and a brain tricked into thinking your skin is engulfed in flames.

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