Stopping The Hot Pepper Burn

Hot Sauces contain many different pepper types and one thing they have in common is they contain a compound called capsaicin or capsaicinoids. If we look at it from a more scientific point of view it will be easier to understand and you’ll have a better chance of dealing with it. Capsaicin produces a burning sensation when it comes into contact with the skin but the mucous membranes are the most susceptible to feel the effect. What’s really happening is the molecules bind to pain receptors, so you may suffer excruciating agony, but fortunately, your body isn’t being harmed by the chemical. Although capsaicin produces a feeling of heat, they won’t actually attack your tissue or cause a chemical burn. Capsaicin is alkaline oil so just keep its chemical properties in mind and you’ll have a better chance of soothing the burn. The first thing to have to know is that alkaline and acid neutralize each other and the other thing to remember is that oil and water do not mix.


With all that in mind let’s start with what doesn’t help:

Water Does Not Help: Drinking water doesn’t stop the burning because the oil-based capsaicin won’t dissolve in water. It actually will make it worse because water spreads the burning to parts that weren’t previously affected.

Alcohol Does Not Help: Alcohol is useless against the heat of a hot pepper. Chasing hot food with alcohol may even be worse than water because the capsaicin will dissolve in the alcohol, but won’t be neutralized by it. You’ll spread the burn around your mouth. The only exception here would be if you’ve had enough alcohol to dull pain reception.

Carbohydrates Will Help: If you eat your hot peppers with bread, rice, tortillas or any other starchy carbohydrate you’ll lessen the effect from the peppers. This works by providing a physical barrier between your mouth and some of the capsaicin, so less of it contacts your tongue, lips, etc. The sugars in the carbohydrates may also help lessen the activity of the capsaicin.

An Acidic Will Help: If you follow hot peppers with an acidic food or drink you can neutralize some of the activity of the alkaline oil in capsaicin. Some of the good choices include cold lemonade, a lemon or lime, orange juice or anything tomato-based. These will help the problem but it will take a little while.

Dairy Will Work Best: Milk, yogurt, and sour cream are acidic, which helps to combat the burning. The milk protein called casein acts as a natural detergent, breaking up the capsaicin. Many dairy products also contain fat which can help to dissolve the capsaicin. To get the most benefit from dairy, go for an acidic product that contains fat. In other words the thicker or creamier things like sour cream or ice cream will help you more than skim milk.

There are other remedies that people have reported like sugar cubes, but if you find that nothing you try helps you, keep the old adage in mind: If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

Jeff Schmidt