Chemical Capsaicin making Chillies superhot cause burning sensation in mouth

Chemistry of superhot Chillies

Article on Chemistry of Chillies

Did anyone thought how

Chillies will get hot flavour?

Burning sensation on your tongue after having chillies? And

Why do we passionate to eat chillies even though they are hot?


When you’ve eaten spicy food in precise chillies you will get tears in your eyes, and your mouth feels burning sensation and as a course of action spontaneously you will have a glass of water to suppress the hotness. But still after having a glass of water you feel to drink more water! All this kind of taste, burning sensation and heat on your tongue is due to a chemical named ‘Capsaicin’ which is present in chillies.

Why do we passionate to eat chillies even though they are hot?


The reason behind why people are passionate to eat chillies even though they are hot is when nerve cells release substance p ( neuropeptide functions as a neurotransmitter and as a neuromodulator ) and these act on brain cells in the same way that opium-derived drug morphine does, as a result, you feel good. The degree of heat produced by chillies can be measured by ‘Scoville scale’. The number of Scoville heat units (SHU) indicates the amount of capsaicin present.


Chemical Scoville heat units
Capsaicin 16,000,000
Dihydrocapsaicin 15,000,000
Nordihydrocapsaicin 9,100,000
Homodihydrocapsaicin 8,600,000
Homocapsaicin 8,600,000
Nonivamide 9,200,000




Capsaicin is a capsaicinoid, a family of chemicals found in these peppers which induce the feeling of heat upon ingestion. There are five other major capsaicinoids; however, capsaicin is the most prevalent and strongest. Capsaicin retains its original potency despite time, cooking, or freezing. Capsaicin is a chemical compound which stimulates chemoreceptor nerve endings in the skin, especially the mucous membranes.

There are six types of capsaicinoids

  • Capsaicin
  • Dihydrocapsaicin
  • Nordihydrocapsaicin
  • Homodihydrocapsaicin
  • Homocapsaicin
  • Nonivamide




Capsaicin is an odourless, flavourless, lipophilic substance. It belongs to alkaloids, is a derivative of vanillylamide and has three function groups.


  Fig. 1) Capsaicin structure


History of capsaicin


The molecule was first isolated in 1816 in crystalline form by P. A. Bucholz and again 30 years later by L.T. Thresh, who gave it the name "capsaicin". The structure of capsaicin was partly elucidated by E. K. Nelson in 1919. Capsaicin was first synthesized in 1930 by E. Spath and F. S. Darling.


Capsaicin is an irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact. Capsaicin and several related compounds are called capsaicinoids and are produced as a secondary metabolite by chili peppers, probably as deterrents against certain herbivores and fungi.



Capsaicin, as a member of the vanilloid family, binds to a receptor called the vanilloid receptor subtype 1 (VR1). VR1 can be stimulated with heat and physical abrasion and thereby it 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.


  Fig. 2) Capsaicin mechanism


The VR1 ion channel is member of the superfamily of TRP ion channels i.e., TRPV1. There are a number of TRP ion channels that have been shown to be sensitive to different ranges of temperature and probably are responsible for our range of temperature sensation. Thus, capsaicin does not actually cause a chemical burn, or indeed any damage to tissue but it causes only the sensation.


  • Capsaicin applications in food sector
  • Capsaicin applications in medical sector
  • Capsaicin applications in pest control
  • Capsaicin applications weight loss and regain


Capsaicin applications in Food sector


It is used in food products to give them added spice or heat.


In high concentrations capsaicin will also cause a burning effect on other sensitive areas of skin


To get experience the pleasurable and even euphoriant effects


Capsaicin applications in Medical sector


  • Capsaicin is being used in
  • Topical ointments
  • High-dose dermal patches
  • In pain relieving treatment
  • In post-herpetic neuropathy
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Hernia repair and
  • Osteoarthritis


Capsaicin applications in pest control


Capsaicin is also used to deter mammalian pests and to improve crop security.


Capsaicin applications weight loss and regain


It causes a shift in substrate oxidation from carbohydrate to fat oxidation as a result of this there is a decrease in appetite as well as a decrease in food and fat intake. The reduction in fat intake will have changes in weight of the person.



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Image reference

Fig. 1) Capsaicin structure © From

Fig. 2) Capsaicin mechanism © From


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