Chemical Formula: C18H27NO3
Colorless odorless waxy crystals
Capsaicin is what makes chili peppers hot. It is an irritant for mammals,
but not for birds. This may be because birds spread the seeds better than
mammals. It causes a burning sensation in any mammalian tissue it comes
into contact with.
Capsaicin is a nonpolar molecule — it dissolves in fats and oils,
not in water. This is why drinking water does not take away the burning
sensation, but drinking whole milk or other fat containing liquids or
As an ingredient in medicines, capsaicin is used to relieve pain from
arthritis, muscle aches, and sprains. It is a rubefacient, meaning
it dilates blood vessels. The "heat" effect overwhelms nerves, causing
a localized numbing sensation.
Capsaicin is also used in pepper spray.
By Simon Quellen Field