Our tongues have taste buds that are sensitive to specific tastes. However, could we say the same for spiciness? When you eat ghost peppers, your entire mouth feels on fire, and what’s more, the pain prevents you from trying to detect what part of your mouth burns.
Ghost peppers burn the back of your throat because the phytochemical ‘capsaicin’ responsible for their spiciness releases slowly through the mouth and across your pain receptors. Ghost peppers are not initially hot when you eat them, and their spiciness creeps up slowly, causing a delay or time-lag long enough for you to swallow and feel the burn.
Believe it or not, your mouth has
Where in Your Mouth Is the Heat of Ghost Pepper Localized?
The heat of ghost pepper is localized to the back of the throat. As weird as it might sound, there is a scientific explanation. The reason is that ghost peppers are slow to give off their heat-containing phytochemicals.
When you eat ghost peppers, you will notice that you do not initially feel the burn until after some time. Ghost peppers take about a few seconds to three minutes for their capsaicin to kick in. As a result, the delay in releasing their phytochemicals creates more than enough time for you to start already swallowing, causing you to feel the burn more in the back of your throat.
The wave of heat sweeps through your throat in a reverse direction back to the surface of your tongue to interact with more heat/pain receptors, ‘TRPV1’. Ghost pepper burn is renowned for its staying power or lingering effect for about 30 to 45 minutes, enough to trigger several physiological responses.
Fun Fact: Besides the English translation from the native Indian, ghost peppers are so named because their gradual heat release sneaks up on you before you know it.
Factors Responsible for Ghost Pepper Burn
Ghost peppers do not just burn because they are a species of hot chili peppers. Several factors are responsible for the heat they bring. These hot factors are why the ghost pepper is one of the world’s hottest chilis and won the genius book of records in 2007. The hot elements constitute the heat profile of ghost peppers. Here they are!
- Ghost Peppers Scoville Scale Heat Units: It refers to the value of the pepper on the Scoville scale. Interestingly, ghost peppers measured 1000000 to 1200000 Scoville heat units and were the first pepper species to meet the hot pepper SHU requirement.
- Heat Development in Your Mouth: It refers to how soon you feel the kick of spiciness. Whether the heat kicks in when you eat the pepper, or it takes a while like the ghost peppers.
- Heat Duration or Staying Power: Heat duration explains how long the pepper burn lasts after it kicks in. If it lingers, or if it is fast and fleeting, like Wasabi’s heat?
Do All Hot Peppers Burn the Same?
Not all peppers are equally hot, which explains why the Scoville scale exists. As different as most peppers appear, they also give off varying degrees of heat that you can feel in other parts of your mouth. Essentially, pepper heat intensity ranges from mildly hot and hot to super hot as they vary on the Scoville scale.
Oral Heat Localization of Hot Peppers
Essentially, heat profile locations also count for most peppers and serve as a differentiating factor. Sometimes you can tell what type of pepper you are tasting if blindfolded by the part of your mouth that burns when you eat them.
Here is a tabular representation of various chili peppers and the exact points their heat is localized in your mouth.
Oral Localization of Chili Peppers as Part of Their Heat Profile
|Type of Chili Pepper||Oral Heat Localized Area|
|Habanero pepper||Back of the throat|
|Ghost pepper||Back of the throat|
Moves to the tongue and lips
|Poblano pepper||Side of the tongue|
|Tabasco pepper||Lips and tongue|
|Jalapeno pepper||The tip of the tongue|
Front of the mouth
|Aji pepper||The tip of the tongue|
|Cayenne pepper||Front and middle of the mouth|
|Bird pepper||Dissipates on tongue and mouth|
Lingers on the lips
|Rocoto pepper||The whole mouth|
|Sataka pepper||The tip of the tongue|
Front of the mouth
Are Ghost Peppers Seeds the Source of Their Hotness?
You almost find most people argue about discarding ghost pepper seeds and the seeds of most peppers, too, because they feel they are the spiciest part of the pepper. It seems logical to feel ghost pepper seeds are the spiciest part of the fruit. Perhaps because the life essence of a fruit or plant is in the seeds and plant seeds constitute the most common part for propagation.
However, the hottest part of ghost peppers is the white pith within the pepper fruit that houses the seeds. The reason is that capsaicin production, the element responsible for chili hotness, begins in the core as an evolutionary response to preserve the seeds from mammals. There is no capsaicin in the pepper seeds, but they can absorb capsaicin from the surrounding tissues.
Therefore, while pepper seeds are not the source of heat, they can end up with it by absorption. Instead, ghost pepper seeds are bitter to taste and can be pretty unpleasant if consumed in isolation.
Fun Fact: Chili Pepper seeds contain no capsaicin but can absorb some phytochemicals from the pepper’s internal walls and surrounding tissues.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Ghost Peppers Actually Burn Your Mouth?
Ghost peppers do not burn your mouth. Instead, your brain’s interpretation of the interaction between your mouth’s heat-sensitive receptors, TRPV1, and the ghost pepper’s phytochemicals, capsaicin, creates pain and a burning sensation.
How Can I Eat Ghost Peppers Without Them Burning My Mouth?
Eating ghost peppers with milk reduces the burning sensation and, in most cases, stops it. The reason is that casein, the milk protein, mops capsaicin off your tongue’s heat/pain receptors. Starchy and rough foods also keep your tongue from absorbing the capsaicin.
What Happens if I Swallow a Ghost Pepper Whole Instead of Eating It?
Swallowing a ghost pepper whole might temporarily prevent the mouth burn since the capsaicin bypasses interaction with your tongue’s heat/pain receptors. However, your gut might be at risk when the ghost pepper undergoes digestion to release the capsaicin directly into your intestinal lining, which could cause diarrhea.
In the same way, not all peppers taste the same; they also do not burn the same. Essentially the different localized sensations of various peppers influence how, when, and how people consume them. Now that you know what part of your mouth burns when you eat ghost peppers, we hope it helps you decide when and how much of them to consume.