The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 09-20-2007, 08:03 PM
Epimetheus Epimetheus is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Capsaicin, Antibacterial and Anti-Parasite

Several sites online citing various studies that I have not personally read have suggested that capsaicin, the chemical in red peppers can kill bacteria and parasites. I've not found one that says the dosage though.

Anybody have any ideas on how reliable this is? A couple I used to work with were from Ethiopia and said that they ate raw meat that was treated with some spicy additive (probably had a bunch of salt though) that "killed" off all the bacteria and parasites and made eating the raw meat safe.

So I was wondering if I could eat raw eggs with some cayanne pepper or something all mixed in or something and if it would be safe? What about raw pork? How deadly is this chemical to bacteria and parasites?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 09-21-2007, 08:35 AM
Swallowed My Cellphone Swallowed My Cellphone is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
I was under the impression that capsaicin is just an irritant to mammals. A quick check on Wiki lists its uses just as that: for balms like A5-35, and spicing up food (NOT preserving it), and some studies that suggest it may have some uses for cancer treatment (by causing apoptosis in cancer cells).

It says nothing about killing bacteria and I'd be very doubtful that it would do anything to non-mammal parasites.

ETA: Then again, I just read an experiment that suggested it has the ability to kill off bacteria such as H. pylori which help prevent stomach ulcers.

Last edited by Swallowed My Cellphone; 09-21-2007 at 08:37 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 09-21-2007, 08:52 AM
ShibbOleth ShibbOleth is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by Epimetheus
Several sites online citing various studies that I have not personally read have suggested that capsaicin, the chemical in red peppers can kill bacteria and parasites.

Capsaicin is what causes the "hot" in chili peppers (hot peppers). Not all red peppers are hot - most common being bell peppers which are zero Scoville units - and not all hot peppers are red. We grow thai chilis on our front porch and they start life as a dark green but do eventually turn red. They have plenty of capsaicin before they turn red.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 09-21-2007, 08:53 AM
Szlater Szlater is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Epimetheus
What about raw pork?
Isn't pork in the US safe to eat raw/rare already?
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 09-21-2007, 09:32 AM
WhyNot WhyNot is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
It's possible, but you have to wonder what levels of capsaicin would be required and if one could, practically speaking, consume meat or eggs that spicy. And then, of course, what would happen to the good bacteria lining your gut? As anyone who's eaten a really spicy meal can attest, capsaicin is not broken down in the gut - it will burn your anus going out just like it burned your mouth going in. If you're eating a topical antibacterial level of it, it's going to kill off at least some of the gut flora that helps you digest your food and absorb some nutrients.

Also, of course, just because capsaicin kills H. pylori doesn't tell us anything about whether it kills salmonella and/or trich. (Although, yes, pork in the US is practically safe to consume raw anyway, IF you can ensure that it was butchered cleanly and recently. Officially, it's not, but if you're not immune compromised, elderly or an infant...)

I use capsaicin as a topical counter-irritant mostly. There are other, safer and time tested things to use for anti-bacterial properties on food. Like, y'know, refrigeration and heat. And, in the case of eggs, in-shell pasteurization. But if I have a cold? Oh, yeah, I'll dose myself with some cayenne pepper to clear my head and fight the sniffles, and if it fights the cold virus or secondary bacterial infections directly? Bonus!

For internal parasites, I'd be much more likely to reach for black walnut and spilanthes than capsaicin, although I might use some capsaicin as well; I just wouldn't use it alone. (Although this is mostly theoretical for me; people in urban US just don't tend to pick up parasites, so I haven't personally treated a diagnosed case.)

WhyNot,
herbalist
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 01-14-2011, 05:13 AM
anayku anayku is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by Epimetheus View Post
So I was wondering if I could eat raw eggs with some cayanne pepper or something all mixed in or something and if it would be safe? What about raw pork? How deadly is this chemical to bacteria and parasites?
While I don't exactly know the answer to your question, I have some important information for you:

Eating raw egg whites will give you biotin deficiency! So, yeah, keep that in mind—even if you manage to get raw sterile eggs.

I have heard that cayenne pepper if eaten in a certain amount for a certain amount of time will reveal the presence of tapeworms in one's stools (by causing segments of the worm to be discharged). However, I've heard that this method isn't strong enough to remove the worms completely. I've also heard that eating about 8 dry red chili peppers a day for six weeks is a great way to remove parasites (although I don't know how true this is; I've only seen one person testify to the truth of this).

I strongly discourage eating any kind of raw pork. Even if you could kill all the parasites in the pork, there are always eggs to consider. Some things will kill the parasites, but not their eggs.

It's possible they may have cleansed the meat somehow, I suppose, but I wouldn't bet money on it. I don't think there's any hard proof verified by the scientific method that will tell you this can be done—not yet, anyway. Let me know if you find out.

Also, you should know that parasite infestations are very often asymptomatic. So, just because people are living, breathing and seemingly healthy after eating stuff like this, that doesn't mean they're parasite-free. Parasites are more of a problem than people realize, but they're also less dangerous (a lot of the time) than people realize (although the danger level depends on a lot of things and some parasites are much more dangerous than others).

Last edited by anayku; 01-14-2011 at 05:14 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 01-14-2011, 05:20 AM
anayku anayku is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by Szlater View Post
Isn't pork in the US safe to eat raw/rare already?
Um, no! Few things are further from the truth. Eat untreated raw (or rare) pork and you're bound to get parasites, no matter where it's from. They do try to deworm livestock, but if you know much about deworming, you know it's not 100% effective 100% of the time. Pork tapeworms are a lot more dangerous than beef tapeworms, by the way (they can dig around your whole body, and even get in your brain; you can get cysts in your eyes and all kinds of things). Also, you can get trichinosis from pork, which is pretty bad. I'm sure there are loads of other parasites, too.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 01-14-2011, 05:31 AM
anayku anayku is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by anayku View Post
… Eat untreated raw (or rare) pork and you're bound to get parasites …
Well, I don't exactly know your odds here, but from what I've heard on the subject, if the pig had parasites in its flesh, then eating its meat raw or rare will pretty much guarantee that you get them. Parasites are a big problem with livestock, even in the USA. They employ a lot of methods to get rid of them, but I haven't heard of many farmers who can claim their stock is 100% worm-free. We are commonly encouraged to cook pork so that it is well-done. We are not as commonly encouraged with beef, although you can still get parasites from rare beef, however less dangerous those parasites may or may not be. Raw fish is also a problem (fish tapeworms and liver flukes commonly come from fish).

Eating rare meat is probably better than raw, though, but I can't tell you how much. I don't know how hot the eggs and parasites have to be to die. I'm guessing lots of salt would help somewhat, though, but I don't know how much.

Last edited by anayku; 01-14-2011 at 05:34 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 01-14-2011, 05:43 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by anayku View Post
Um, no! Few things are further from the truth. Eat untreated raw (or rare) pork and you're bound to get parasites, no matter where it's from. They do try to deworm livestock, but if you know much about deworming, you know it's not 100% effective 100% of the time. Pork tapeworms are a lot more dangerous than beef tapeworms, by the way (they can dig around your whole body, and even get in your brain; you can get cysts in your eyes and all kinds of things). Also, you can get trichinosis from pork, which is pretty bad. I'm sure there are loads of other parasites, too.
I suspect your information is outdated. Yes, there is a risk of parasites such as trichinosis, but it's exceedingly small nowadays. Dishes made from raw eggs, beef, pork, and lamb are quite common in many regions, including developed ones where food safety laws are quite stringent and vigorously enforced. It seems unlikely that the food safety authorities would permit restaurants to openly advertise and serve such dishes where there was any significant risk of infection.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 01-14-2011, 07:14 AM
UncleFred UncleFred is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
As a side note - my two Australian friends use Capsicum (note slightly different spelling) to describe the fruit (?) of any pepper plant; red or green, hot or not.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 01-14-2011, 08:43 AM
Francis Vaughan Francis Vaughan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Some years ago a friend of mine gave me a bag of a mix of dried chillies. They were pretty hot, and a superb set of flavours. I forgot about the bag, and some time later found it again in a drawer in the kitchen. The chillies had clearly been set with some insect eggs, the whole bag was squirming with grubs. They were not white - they were quite pink. Given their entire diet had been dried chillies, I suspect they would have had a very interesting flavour, but I threw the bag out. The grubs were very healthy.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 01-14-2011, 12:51 PM
purplehorseshoe purplehorseshoe is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by anayku View Post
...Eating raw egg whites will give you biotin deficiency! ...
Wait, wait ... whaaaaaa?
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 01-14-2011, 01:00 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by Francis Vaughan View Post
Some years ago a friend of mine gave me a bag of a mix of dried chillies. They were pretty hot, and a superb set of flavours. I forgot about the bag, and some time later found it again in a drawer in the kitchen. The chillies had clearly been set with some insect eggs, the whole bag was squirming with grubs. They were not white - they were quite pink. Given their entire diet had been dried chillies, I suspect they would have had a very interesting flavour, but I threw the bag out. The grubs were very healthy.
Yeah, I was surprised to see some larva thriving inside a can of very hot Cayenne pepper.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 07:08 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.