Accidental knife cuts and hand scalds may be more common kitchen disasters, but when hot pepper oil comes into contact with your skin, you may suffer a long, lingering burn. These festively-colored fruits evolved with tongue-tingling properties as a measure of self-protection so animals would leave them well alone, explains the University of New Mexico's Chile Pepper Institute. Mammals of a higher order who enjoy hot peppery heat on the palate can avoid and protect pepper burn on the skin with simple tips and tricks.
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Hot, Hot, Hot!
A chemical called capsaicin gives peppers their heat, according to a November 2003 Science Daily article. Capsaicin is found only in various types of chili peppers, which differ in terms of size, color, taste and heat level, depending on the breed of pepper. The Chile Pepper Institute states that the hottest pepper in the world as of July 2010 is the "Bhut Jolokia." Until September 2006, the hottest chili pepper was the "Red Savina" habanero pepper.
The Science Daily article states that capsaicin is "an extremely powerful and stable alkaloid." It's produced in the glands located between the pepper's placenta and pod walls. When capsacicin comes into contact with your skin, it stimulates circulation and invokes a response in your pain receptors. Used in pepper spray and various insect repellents, capsaicin also deters human predators, as well as the pests that threaten your garden.
Avoiding Pepper Burn
Avoid the dreaded "pepper burn" in your kitchen by wearing rubber gloves whenever you handle chili peppers or measure out hot pepper oil. If you're peeling or chopping peppers, remember not to touch your lips or eyes, advises PBS' Scientific American Frontiers. Want to get rid of some of the heat in that hot pepper you're slicing? Carefully remove the pepper's placenta, or "midrib," advises the Chile Pepper Institute.
"First Aid" for Pepper Burn
If your skin accidentally gets exposed to capsaicin, first rub it with alcohol, advises the Chile Pepper Institute, then soak it in milk. According to Science Daily, capsaicin is neutralized by fats. Another option suggested by the Jalepeno Madness website by way of Poison Control is to wash the affected area with soap and water. Apply olive oil or vegetable oil. Rinse after one minute. If you get hot pepper in your eyes, the Chile Pepper Institute indicates that the only way to treat it is to flush your eyes with water.
Treatment for Taste Buds
When hot pepper proves to be a mouthful, drink milk or eat another type of dairy product, advises the Chile Pepper Institute. According to Jalapeno Madness, your best bet might be to reach for your favorite ice cream and put out capsaicin burn with something cold and sweet.