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What Pepper Makes People Sneeze And Why Do You Sneeze?

Updated on January 31, 2011
Black and White Peppercorns
Black and White Peppercorns
A Pepper Plant
A Pepper Plant
Unripe Peppercorns
Unripe Peppercorns

After setting the dinner table with plates, knives and forks I realized I was missing the seasoning: salt and pepper. I walked into the kitchen and saw the pepper shaker was dangerously low on pepper. So i took the sachet out of the cupboard and filled the shaker up. The strong scent hit my nose and i broke out in a sneezing fit. Stupid pepper, i thought. Then I started to wonder why does pepper make one sneeze?

What is pepper and where does it come from?

Normally known as black pepper, it comes off a flowering vine. It comes from the Piperaceae family, and the plant is cultivated for its fruit, known as a peppercorn. A peppercorn is about 5mm in diameter and a dark red color when it is mature and bears a single seed.

What types of pepper are there available?

There are many types of pepper available: black, white, green and simply known as pepper.

But what about red peppers and green peppers?

Red pepper and green pepper as in bell type, are also a type of pepper but related to a different kind of plant.

So where does the name "pepper" come from?

The word is derived from the Sanskrit pippali which is the word for long pepper, which comes from the Latin word "piper " which is also the source of German Pfeffer , Dutch peper and French poivre . The English word was derived from pipor . Pepper was also used as a figuartive term for "spirit" which is geist in German. Hence, poltergeist is a German word for a mischievous spirit. Back to pepper...

So where does black and white pepper come from?

Black pepper is produced from unripe beries of a pepper plant which is green in color. The berries are then cooked in hot water to clean and prepare them for drying in the sun or in a machine. Once the berry is dry, the spice is then called black peppercorn.

On the other hand, white pepper consists of the seed of the pepper once the skin has been removed. White pepper is the common one as it is in a powder form.

So why does pepper make one sneeze?

Pepper contains an alkaloid of pyridine called piperine . Piperine unfortunately irritates the nerve endings inside the nose, which triggers a sneeze. The sneeze is a natural reaction to the irritant in pepper, meant to clear it from the nasal passages. At the same time, mucous membranes activate to help wash away the offending agent.

So now you know not only why do people sneeze when they come into contact with pepper, but you know the variations of pepper and where it comes from!


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    • profile image

      Riley 5 years ago

      i found pepper at the kicthen if matthew does this but my body think s that waspepper i will go atchoo woud someone did tha5t to you

    • CiscoPixie profile image

      CiscoPixie 7 years ago from I'm in a world of my own, but aren't we all?

      thank you Winsome! It's a cute joke, thank you for sharing it with us. :)

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 7 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Great research Pixie. That was fun. When I was little, the first knock knock joke I made up went like this: Knock,knock.

      Who's there? Otch. Otch who? Gesundheit! ----Sorry, it was the piperine that made me do it.:)

    • CiscoPixie profile image

      CiscoPixie 8 years ago from I'm in a world of my own, but aren't we all?

      Aww cute compu-smart! Then again, we've all tried to get off school in some way

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 8 years ago from London UK

      Vey interesting read!!...btw..MY kitty is called Pepper!!

      Also, I am so glad pepper makes ya sneeze as it was so much better and cheaper than 'sneezing powder' to get time of skool becaause of having flu!;)

    • CiscoPixie profile image

      CiscoPixie 8 years ago from I'm in a world of my own, but aren't we all?

      We have yet to find that laughing plant :)

    • Cleanclover profile image

      Cleanclover 8 years ago from Piece of land!

      I guess it's same as onions. Onions make me cry and peppers make me sneeze. I would love to cut a vegetable which will make me laugh. :-)

      Thank you.

    • CiscoPixie profile image

      CiscoPixie 8 years ago from I'm in a world of my own, but aren't we all?

      Thanks Blaise :P i love pepper too but i hate sneezing!

    • blaise25 profile image

      Fehl Dungo 8 years ago from close to you...

      that's an interesting hub Pixie, well written! ;p

      I always love pepper especially in pizza and lasagna and I always pour a lot of it when cooking adobo..