We all know that unpleasant feeling that overcomes us when we get too close to pepper….
A little pepper in the nose and we are overcome by a sneezing crisis that is hard to suppress. But why does pepper have this effect on our noses?
Chemical components in pepper
Contrary to what you might have guessed, the form of the pepper makes no difference to the sneezing sensation. So whether the pepper is ground or in whole grains, the effect is always the same.
Pepper contains certain chemical ingredients. And they not only make pepper spicy but also make us sneeze. The substances responsible for sneezing are capsaicin and piperine, two molecules with a strong irritating effect.
Capsaicin and piperine
Piperine is one of the main components of pepper. It is responsible for its characteristic pungent taste.
Capsaicin contains many hot spices, such as cayenne pepper or chilli peppers. The industry also exploits the effect of capsaicin in other ways: for example, it is used as an active ingredient in pepper sprays.
Natural defence reaction
Both capsaicin and piperine stimulate the receptors in the mouth and nose, which then transmit the extremely strong stimulus to the nerve cells. What follows is a burning sensation that feels quite unpleasant. Our body then reacts to this burning sensation.
To do this, it resorts to a natural defence reaction: sneezing. Sneezing is, therefore, a protective reflex of our body, which is sometimes annoying, but it fulfills its purpose and has a calming effect. After sneezing, we feel better, and the unpleasant burning sensation subsides.
By the way, doctors warn against suppressing sneezing. This can have many serious consequences: Infections, dizziness, inflammations…. So it’s better to give your sneeze the space it needs.
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