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Interesting Facts About Chile Peppers

Updated on January 14, 2014

How hot is a 'red hot chile pepper'?

The enticing color of a hot chile pepper...
The enticing color of a hot chile pepper... | Source

Fun Facts about chile peppers:

How hot is a habanero? The Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University measured the capsaicin of the habanero and over 100 other varieties of peppers. You’ll be surprised at the results.

Watching the History channel’s segment of ‘Modern Marvel’s’ I was amazed at what I learned from the segment. Not an avid pepper popper, I was intrigued enough to investigate the institute on my own. Here is what I discovered:

Chile peppers originated from South America in a remote region of Brazil. This location is considered the ‘nuclear area’. These peppers were small and round, similar to a berry. Eaten by birds, the seeds were then carried out of the area into first Central, and then North America.

Birds are unaffected by the heat of the pepper. Since they do not have receptors in their mouths the way mammals do, they can consume the berry without difficulty. The heat of the pepper deterred rodents and other mammals from consuming the peppers thus allowing them to flourish.

There are now over 30 species of chile peppers: five domesticated and twenty-five wild; and hundreds of varieties of these species. They are part of the ‘nightshade’ family, whose members also include tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant and are high in both Vitamin A and Vitamin C.

Capsaicin creates the heat of a pepper

The placenta, or inner lining of the pepper, holds alkaloids called ‘capsaicinoids’ . It is this colorless chemical, capsaicin that gives the pepper its heat. Since there are over one dozen different alkaloids, there are countless combinations that can be created for flavor and heat.

The ‘fire’ from a chile pepper is caused when the capsaicin touches the tissues of the hands, mouth, and tongue. When eaten, the hydrochloric acid from the stomach used in digestion is released. Some of the acid can leak back into the esophagus causing heartburn. In the meantime, the body reacts by increasing the blood circulation, causing a person’s face to redden and the body to sweat. Taking a histamine-2 blocker prior to the consumption of hot peppers can help to deactivate some of the heat by blocking the signal to release the acid.

Warning: Drinking water does not put out the heat of a hot pepper, and in fact, causes it to increase by spreading the capsaicin. Dairy products are the ‘antidote’ to squelching the fire from a hot pepper. The protein in milk or ice cream binds with the capsaicin and washes it away.

The Scoville Heat Unit

In 1912, scientist Wilbur Scoville devised a way to test the heat index of chile peppers. The measurement is now known as a ‘Scoville Heat Unit’, or SHU. Accordingly, the hotter the pepper, the higher the SHU rating. In later years a more sophisticated testing method was developed. It uses a high pressure liquid chromatography test. The rating for some commonly used chile peppers is as follows:

Comparison chart of variations of chile pepper's heat index

Name of Pepper
Heat Index
Bell Peppers
Bell Pepper
Red Savina Habanero
Bhut Jolokia
Know your chile peppers heat index BEFORE you take a bite

The Chile Pepper Institute of New Mexico

The Chile Pepper Institute is devoted to the research, education and propagation of new developments and information regarding chile peppers. Thus far, New Mexico leads the United States in the production of hot chile peppers.

The ongoing research of the CPI has brought new discoveries. Paul Bosland, co-founder and director of the CPI, is being credited for bringing the ‘hottest chile pepper in the world’ out of its home country of India. After years of meticulous testing, the Bhut Jolokia is confirmed as the hottest pepper found to date, with a SHU rating of over one million.

It is reported that in India, the Bhut Jolokia pepper is smeared onto fences and added to smoke bombs to ward off wild elephants.

In 2006 the Guinness Book of World Records listed Paul Bosland as the discoverer of the ‘hottest chile pepper’ in the world. The other Guinness Book record is for the hybrid grown at the CPI’s Teaching and Demonstration Garden at New Mexico State University’s campus. This chile pepper, known as NuMex holds the record for the longest pepper, measuring at 13.5 inches.

Fun products about hot chile peppers.

Cajohn’s, a retail shop in Ohio that specializes in distributing hot sauces, holds some of the hottest chile products ever produced, including sauces that carry the Bhut Jolokia ingredient. John and Sue Hard, proprietors, donate a portion of their hot sauce sales, Holy Jolokia, to the Chile Pepper Institute to support the valuable ongoing research. It’s fun to explore their website if for no other reason than to read some of the creative names for their sauces. Visit their website at

In 2010 Rand McNally’s Best of the Road listed the Chile Pepper Institute as a ‘must see’ destination while in New Mexico.

New Mexico State University hosts an annual chile pepper conference. This year the two day event will be held January 31 through February 1.

You can investigate the CPI’s research and activities by going to their website: CPI also offers an educational page for children and teachers.

Guacomole Recipe

2 avocados

1 T lemon juice

2 T lime juice

1 T finely chopped onion

1 tsp salt

½ tsp chile pepper

Dash of cayenne pepper

1 ripe jalapeño pepper, finely chopped without seeds

1ripe tomato, chopped (optional)

Corn chips

Mash avocados. Add other ingredients and mix well. Serve with corn chips.

Chile Pepper Institute is 'Best of the Road' by Rand McNally

1780 E University Ave, Las Cruces, New Mexico, 88003:
1780 E University Ave, Las Cruces, NM 88003, USA

get directions

New Mexico State University: Chile Pepper Institute


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    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Audrey, funny you commented on this today-I was going through a pile of old papers and came across my notes on this hub. :) Yes, I found myself making that same connection with the capsaicin. It was a very interesting research. I see you are doing well in the challenge-good for you. I've hardly touched any writing lately. Keep up the great work.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      8 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      My son, Randy, loves these peppers. Too hot for me though. While reading your hub I began to understand why capsaicin is the main ingredient in the "hot packs" used for pain relief. It all makes sense. Good information Denise!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks ME for reading this hub and adding that interesting information. Have a wonderful day and enjoy!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      that is good info, we ethiopian powdered red chili peppers daily for cook

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi btom-thanks for reading and commenting. I've been away for several days, without access to a computer. I became interested in chile peppers, not because I eat them, but because I was watching Modern Marvels one afternoon, and became very interested in the information they shared.

      Intrigued, I decided to research the subject and found out all sorts of interesting facts.

    • btom profile image


      9 years ago from Chicago

      As much as I love hot peppers, I never learned anything about them. So, I really enjoyed reading this hub, very interesting, thank you for sharing.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      You are a lucky man to have an avocado tree growing in your yard and LOTS of avocadoes for FREE! YUM. Thanks for visiting the hub and commenting.

    • mannyrolando profile image


      9 years ago

      Hi Denise, I really enjoyed reading this hub, very informative! I do enjoy some hot foods with the right amount of hotness, not sure that I could ever attempt the indian super hot pepper... the guacamole recipe is very similar to the one that I usually prepare which is delicious! I happen to have an avocado tree in my backyard, and last year we had tons of avocados!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Docmo-what a nice surprise to see you hear this Sunday afternoon. So, you are into the 'hotties' LOL Well, my advise is to go online and order up a bottle of that 'Holy Jolopia' or, they have others like the one called, 'Kiss my Bhut'. I'm planning to order some for gifts. Thanks for your vote.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      9 years ago from UK

      I love chilli peppers and really liked this hub, Denise. It is detailed and informative. I have tried some real 'hotties' ( ahem!) from India and South America and have lived ot tell the tale. I like the little birds eye ones for daily cooking and have come close to the jholokia but didn't dare taste it.voted up & awesome!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Erin, thanks. I appreciate your enthusiasm for the hub and the peppers, LOL I myself am a pepper wimp! It was a fascinating segment of the history channel that initiated the hub research. Bhut Jolokia can be ordered for you daring pepper lovers. Just follow the website for the shop. I'm thinking of ordering some for gifts.

    • Erin LeFey profile image

      Erin LeFey 

      9 years ago from Maryland

      Denise, I love hot peppers and absolutely love this hub. Read it from beginning to end! Great research and it was the first time I had ever heard about the pepper from India that is off the charts in hotness!! I love to add Habanero to my chili. Thanks so much for a super hub, voted you up and awesome!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi AliciaC-I did try the guac recipe and it was wonderful. Hope you enjoy it. I'm like you-too chicken for the hot stuff! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      9 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      There was lots of interesting information in this hub! I’m not brave enough to try the very hot peppers, but it was fun to read about them. I’m looking forward to trying the guacamole recipe.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Darski-I'm with you, I do NOT eat hot and spicy! Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      9 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Oh Denise, I can't eat anything spicy, never have. Yet, I do have many friends that the hotter the better. I think it nuts. This was a fasinating hub and I enjoyed it very much. Rate up and good & peace darski rate up

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Dirkkk-thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Nice to see you here.

      Hi Acaetnna-I've been so busy I've not been over to see your hubs...but I promise I will later this week. :) Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Sarah! Hi...what a great surprise. I bet you're having fun reading Cardelean's work also. LOL Thanks for reading and commenting. I couldn't believe it but someone told me there is an even HOTTER one now than the Bhut...called the Viper...I cannot even imagine it!

    • profile image

      Sarah Webster 

      9 years ago

      This hub got my mouth watering. I love hot peppers, but I have never heard of bhut jolokia. Not sure I could handle that kind of heat. Habanero? Yes. More than three times as spicy as the habanero? Nope. Thank you for the interesting information.

    • acaetnna profile image


      9 years ago from Guildford

      Great information Denise. I love chilli and we definitely try your recipe. Thank for sharing. I shall bookmark this page. Voted up and useful.

    • profile image


      9 years ago from North Carolina

      very good hub. I found the succinct hub full of interesting facts and information. Also included are recipes that I cannot wait to try. Good job Denise!


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