• How Chilies Can Be Used to Treat Pain

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    Humans are, essentially, sadomasochists. For more 600 years we have sought out, cultivated, eaten, applied to our skin and even weaponized a chemical capable of making us feel heat and pain. Heat, it seems, is desirable. Whether in the kitchen or the bedroom, we have embraced the volcanic properties of the chili pepper to enhance our food and spice up our love lives.

    Chili peppers are a staple part of the cuisine in Central America, Asia, and India, while in the US you can find countless varieties of hot sauce, often with the words “inferno,” “insanity,” or “fire” on the labels.

    It’s this heat, of course, that draws so many to add chili peppers to their meals, and it’s also the reason for their many medicinal properties, including pain relief.

    How Chili Peppers Trick Your Brain

    Your nervous system contains heat-receptor proteins known as TRPV1 receptors. Located in cells in your skin and digestive system, these receptors remain inactive unless you’re exposed to temperatures above 107.6 degrees F (42 degrees C).

    At this point, you’ll experience heat and pain, warning you to stay away from the source of heat. When you eat a chili pepper, capsaicin binds to and activates TRPV1, so even though you’re not actually in danger, your body thinks it’s being exposed to extreme …

    This ‘heat receptor' protein is found throughout the nervous system, including in nerve cells in our skin and the digestive system. This means that, inside and out, chilies burn. Perhaps counterintuitively, eating chili can trigger a cascade of cooling effects, such as sweating and flushing – one reason why the chili is associated with the bedroom.

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