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Concept: Capsaicin


The genus Capsicum is New World in origin and represents a complex of a wide variety of both wild and domesticated taxa. Peppers or fruits of Capsicum species rarely have been identified in the paleoethnobotanical record in either Meso- or South America. We report here confirmation of Capsicum sp. residues from pottery samples excavated at Chiapa de Corzo in southern Mexico dated from Middle to Late Preclassic periods (400 BCE to 300 CE). Residues from 13 different pottery types were collected and extracted using standard techniques. Presence of Capsicum was confirmed by ultra-performance liquid chromatography (UPLC)/MS-MS Analysis. Five pottery types exhibited chemical peaks for Capsicum when compared to the standard (dihydrocapsaicin). No peaks were observed in the remaining eight samples. Results of the chemical extractions provide conclusive evidence for Capsicum use at Chiapas de Corzo during a 700 year period (400 BCE-300 CE). Presence of Capsicum in different types of culinary-associated pottery raises questions how chili pepper could have been used during this early time period. As Pre-Columbian cacao products sometimes were flavored using Capsicum, the same pottery sample set was tested for evidence of cacao using a theobromine marker: these results were negative. As each vessel that tested positive for Capsicum had a culinary use we suggest here the possibility that chili residues from the Chiapas de Corzo pottery samples reflect either paste or beverage preparations for religious, festival, or every day culinary use. Alternatively, some vessels that tested positive merely could have been used to store peppers. Most interesting from an archaeological context was the presence of Capsicum residue obtained from a spouted jar, a pottery type previously thought only to be used for pouring liquids.

Concepts: Mexico, Capsicum, Capsaicin, Chili pepper, Black pepper, Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Mexican cuisine, Jalapeño


The ghost pepper, or “bhut jolokia,” is one of the hottest chili peppers in the world. Ghost peppers have a measured “heat” of > 1,000,000 Scoville heat units (SHU), more than twice the strength of a habanero pepper. To our knowledge, no significant adverse effects of ghost pepper ingestion have been reported.

Concepts: Capsicum, Capsaicin, Chili pepper, Scoville scale, Cayenne pepper, Chili peppers, Bhut Jolokia pepper, Habanero chili


A number of factors likely affect the liking of capsaicin-containing foods such as social influences, repeated exposure to capsaicin, physiological differences in chemosensation, and personality. For example, it is well known that repeated exposure to capsaicin and chilies can result in chronic desensitization. Here, we explore the relationship between multiple personality variables - body awareness/consciousness, sensation seeking, and sensitivity to punishment, and sensitivity to reward - and the liking and consumption of capsaicin-containing foods. As expected, a strong relationship was found between liking of spicy foods and frequency of chili consumption. However, no association was observed between frequency of chili consumption and the perceived burn/sting of sampled capsaicin. Nor was there any association between perceived burn/sting of capsaicin and any of the personality measures. Private Body Consciousness did not relate to any of the measures used in the current study. Sensation Seeking showed positive correlations with the liking of spicy foods, but not non-spicy control foods. Sensitivity to Punishment showed no relation with frequency of chili consumption, and nonsignificant negative trends with liking of spicy foods. Conversely, Sensitivity to Reward was weakly though significantly correlated with the liking of a spicy meal, and similar nonsignificant trends were seen for other spicy foods. Frequency of chili consumption was positively associated with Sensation Seeking and Sensitivity to Reward. Present data indicate individuals who enjoy spicy foods exhibit higher Sensation Seeking and Sensitivity to Reward traits. Rather than merely showing reduced response to the irritating qualities of capsaicin as might be expected under the chronic desensitization hypothesis, these findings support the hypothesis that personality differences may drive differences in spicy food liking and intake.

Concepts: Scientific method, Food, Sense, Capsaicin, Chili pepper, Dissociative identity disorder, Black pepper, Spice


Compared to proprioceptive afferent collateral projections, less is known about the anatomical, neurochemical and functional basis of nociceptive collateral projections modulating lumbar central pattern generators (CPG). Quick response times are critical to ensure rapid escape from aversive stimuli. Furthermore, sensitization of nociceptive afferent pathways can contribute to a pathological activation of motor circuits. We investigated the extent and role of collaterals of capsaicin-sensitive nociceptive sacrocaudal afferent (nSCA) nerves that directly ascend several spinal segments in Lissauer’s tract and the dorsal column and regulate motor activity. Anterograde tracing demonstrated direct multi-segmental projections of the sacral dorsal root 4 (S4) afferent collaterals in Lissauer’s tract and in the dorsal column. Subsets of the traced S4 afferent collaterals expressed transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1), which transduces a nociceptive response to capsaicin. Electrophysiological data revealed that S4 dorsal root stimulation could evoke regular rhythmic bursting activity, and our data suggest that capsaicin sensitive collaterals contribute to CPG activation across multiple segments. Capsaicin’s effect on S4 evoked locomotor activity was potent until the lumbar 5 (L5) segments; and diminished in rostral segments. Using calcium imaging we found elevated calcium transients within the Lissauer’s tract and dorsal column at L5 segments when compared to the calcium transients only within the dorsal column at the lumbar 2 (L2) segments which were desensitized by capsaicin. We conclude that lumbar locomotor networks in the neonatal mouse spinal cord are targets for modulation by direct multisegmental nSCA, subsets of which express TRPV1 in the Lissauer’s tract and the dorsal column. J. Comp. Neurol., 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Spinal cord, Action potential, Ion channel, Module, Motor skill, Proprioception, Capsaicin, Collateral


Nanotechnologies are being employed to enhance the stability and the oral bioavailability of lipophilic substances such as capsaicin. This study aimed to examine the pharmacokinetic properties of the formulated capsaicin-loaded nanoemulsions. Pharmacokinetic study was carried out using double-layer nanoemulsions fabricated with alginate and chitosan polymers and triple-layer nanoemulsions fabricated with chitosan/alginate polymers. Capsaicin nanoemulsions and capsaicin control (oleoresin capsicum) were administered to the rat at a dose of 10 mg/kg. Statistically significant difference was found in AUC(inf) among formulations (P < 0.01). Compared to control group, the relative bioavailability of formulated nanoemulsions was up to 131.7. The AUC(inf) increased in a nano size-dependent manner; as nano size decreased, AUC(inf) increased. Compared to the double-layer nanoemulsions, the triple-layer nanoemulsion showed significantly increased volume of distribution resulting in the increased clearance and decreased AUC(inf). It was concluded that the formulated nanoemulsions could significantly enhance the bioavailabilty of capsaicin.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Statistical significance, Distribution, Pharmacokinetics, Bioavailability, Capsicum, Capsaicin, Pepper spray


The national Capsicum germplasm bank of Peru at INIA holds a unique collection of more than 700 Capsicum accessions, including many landraces. These conserved accessions have never been thoroughly characterized or evaluated. Another smaller collection exists at UNALM, and CIDRA provided taxonomically characterized fruits from the Amazon region of Ucayali. Out of these collections, 147 accessions have been selected to represent the biodiversity of Peruvian C. annuum, C. baccatum, C. chinense and C. frutescens by morphological traits as well as by agronomic characteristics and regional origin. All fruits from the selected accessions have been oven-dried and grinded in Peru and analyzed in Germany. Results are reported for each accession by total capsaicinoids and capsaicinoid pattern, total polyphenol content, antioxidant capacity, specific flavonoids (quercetin, kaempferol, luteolin, apigenin), fat content, vitamin C, surface color and extractable color. A wide variability in phytochemical composition and concentration levels was found.

Concepts: Nutrition, Antioxidant, Amazon River, Flavonoid, Amazon Basin, Capsicum, Capsaicin, Chili pepper


Transient receptor potential vanilloid (TRPV) channels are found throughout animal kingdom where they play an important role in sensory transduction. In this study we combined physiological studies with in vivo behavioral experiments to examine the presence of a putative TRPV-like receptor in the medicinal leech, building upon earlier studies in this lophotrochozoan invertebrate. The leech polymodal nociceptive neuron was activated by both peripheral and central application of the TRPV1 activator capsaicin in a concentration-dependent manner, with 100 μM being the lowest effective concentration. Responses to capsaicin were inhibited by the selective TRPV1 antagonist SB366791. The polymodal nociceptive neuron also responded to noxious thermal stimuli (>40°C) and this response was also blocked by SB366791. Capsaicin sensitivity was selective to the polymodal nociceptor with no direct response being elicited in the mechanical nociceptive neuron or in the non-nociceptive touch- or pressure sensitive neurons. Capsaicin also elicited nocifensive behavioral responses (withdrawals and locomotion) in a concentration-dependent manner and these behavioral responses were significantly attenuated with SB366791. These results suggest the presence of a capsaicin-sensitive TRPV-like channel in the medicinal leech CNS and are relevant to both the evolution of nociceptive signaling.

Concepts: Action potential, Pain, Nociception, Nociceptor, Sensory receptor, Capsaicin, TRPV, TRPV1


The chili pepper is a very important plant used worldwide as a vegetable, as a spice, and as an external medicine. In this work, eight different varieties of Capsicum annuum L. have been characterized by their capsaicinoids content. The chili pepper fruits were cultivated in the Comarca Lagunera region in North of Mexico. The qualitative and quantitative determination of the major and minor capsaicinoids; alkaloids responsible for the pungency level, has been performed by a validated chromatographic procedure (HPLC-DAD) after a preliminary drying step and an opportune extraction procedure. Concentrations of total capsaicinoids varied from a not detectable value for Bell pepper to 31.84 mg g-1 dried weight for Chiltepín. Samples were obtained from plants grown in experimental field and in greenhouse without temperature control, in order to evaluate temperature effect. Analysis of the two principal capsaicinoids in fruits showed that the amount of dihydrocapsaicin was always higher than capsaicin. In addition, our results showed that the content of total capsaicinoids for the varieties Serrano, Puya, Ancho, Guajillo and Bell pepper were increased with high temperature, while the content of total capsaicinoids and Scoville heat units (SHU) for the varieties De árbol and Jalapeño decreased. However, the pungency values found in this study were higher for all varieties analyzed than in other studies.

Concepts: Capsicum annuum, Capsicum, Capsaicin, Chili pepper, Scoville scale, Bell pepper, Pepper spray, Chili peppers


Both gingerol and capsaicin are agonists of TRPV1 which can negatively control tumor progression, this study observed the long-term effects of oral administration of 6-gingerol alone or in combination with capsaicin for twenty weeks in a urethane-induced lung carcinogenic model. We showed that lung carcinoma incidence and multiplicity were 70% and 21.2±3.6 respectively in Control vs 100% and 35.6±5.2 in capsaicin group (P<0.01), 50% and 10.8±3.1 in 6-gingerol group (P<0.01). The combination of 6-gingerol and capsaicin reversed the cancer-promoting effect of capsaicin (carcinoma incidence 100% vs 20% and multiplicity 35.6±5.2 vs 4.7±2.3, P<0.001). The cancer-promoting effect of capsaicin was due to increased epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) level by decreased transient receptor potential vanilloid type-1 (TRPV1) level (P<0.01) . The capsaicin-decreased EGFR level subsequently reduced levels of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) and cyclin D1 that favored enhanced lung epithelial proliferation and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) during lung carcinogenesis (P<0.01). In contrast, 6-gingerol promoted TRPV1 level, drastically decreased the levels of EGFR, NF-κB and cyclin D1 that favored reduced lung epithelial proliferation and EMT (P<0.01). This study provides valuable information for the long-term consumption of chili pepper-rich diets to decrease the risk of cancer development.

Concepts: Cancer, Oncology, Lung cancer, Epidermal growth factor receptor, Epidermal growth factor, Growth factor, Carcinoma, Capsaicin


Chile peppers are one of the most important vegetable and spice crops in the world. They contain capsaicinoids that are responsible for the characteristic burning (pungency) sensation. Currently, there are 22 known naturally occurring capsaicinoids that can cause the heat sensation when consumed. Each produces a different heat sensation effect in the mouth. A need exists for a standard and new terminology to describe the complex heat sensation one feels when eating a chile pepper. A comprehensive set of descriptors to describe the sensory characteristics of chile pepper heat was developed. It was validated with trained panelists tasting samples representing the five domesticated species and 14 pod-types within these species. Five key attributes that define and reference a lexicon for describing the heat sensation of chile peppers were determined to describe the heat sensation in any product, and importantly, can be used in the food industry worldwide.

Concepts: Fruit, Characteristic, Capsicum, Capsaicin, Chili pepper, Attribute, Scoville scale, Black pepper