Hot peppers may add fiery flavor to your favorite foods, but they can also cause your lips and mouth to feel on fire after eating them. The reason for this burn is capsaicin, an active ingredient found in a wide rage of peppers -- particularly the hot ones. When capsaicin latches on to nerve receptors located in the mouth and on the lips, they signal heat and pain. Interestingly, your mouth isn't really hot, but this reaction provides the sensation of pain -- sometimes extreme pain. Taking the right steps to treat your discomfort is essential for fast and effective relief.
Capsaicin is an oil-like compound that prefers to fat to water. While you may instinctively want to place water on your lips to treat the burning sensation, water actually spreads the heat instead of providing relief. Neutralize this burning sensation by dabbing some cold whole milk on your lips, and go ahead and drink some to sooth your mouth. If you don't have these products on hand, try yogurt, sour cream or cottage cheese. The protein and fat from milk products bind and neutralize the capsaicin, relieving the burn.
Research on effectiveness of other approaches is limited. A small, older study published in the April 1990 issue of "Physiology and Behavior" found a 10 percent sucrose solution was as effective as whole milk in reducing capsaicin mouth burn. So placing a solution of table sugar and water on the lips may be worth a try. In addition, dabbing cooking oil or petroleum jelly on the lips has been suggested to treat this burning lip sensation, as the oils presumably draw the capsaicin away. But research isn't available to determine effectiveness of these approaches.
Other suggested home remedies involve applying acidic substance to the affected area, such as orange or lemon juice or vinegar. These acidic substances are thought to neutralize or counteract the alkaline capsaicin. While there is anecdotal evidence or testimonies that this works, research hasn't put these liquids to the test.