Why the Heat of Wasabi Is Different From the Heat of Chili

I love hot peppers, but I hate wasabi. Both can be described as “spicy” or “spicy”, but they create this sensation in different ways. Here’s how.

You may have heard of capsaicin , an oily chemical found in jalapenos, hot sauce, chili powder, and other hot pepper-derived foods and condiments.

Wasabi, mustard, and horseradish contain another chemical called allyl isothiocyanate . (This has nothing to do with the chemical in mustard gas , which has nothing to do with it, but got its name from the fact that the first drugs reportedly smelled like mustard.)

Both chemicals do us the same harm: they bind to receptors in our mouth or nose that alert our brains to painful stimuli. In fact, your language is not damaged, but your brain gets the signal, as if it was.

Two chemicals primarily target different receptors: capsaicin is best known for stimulating TRPV1, which also responds to heat, and allyl isothiocyanate, which binds to TRPA1, which also responds to various chemical stimuli. So, they trick your brain in slightly different ways.

There is another reason the two chemicals are different: capsaicin is an oil molecule found on your tongue, so leftover chili peppers may remain until you have fatty foods like yogurt or milk to help you. wash them off. Allyl isothiocyanate, meanwhile, is more volatile, which means it is likely to make its way to your nose. Plus: by irritating the receptors, it can fly away, which means that the pain from wasabi is short-lived.


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