The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > Comments on Cecil's Columns/Staff Reports

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 06-19-2010, 10:41 PM
Alexov Alexov is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
The best antidote to chilli overdoses

It may seem a bit silly to create a thread to comment on one of Cecil's classics from 1983, but it was included in the latest weekly email and other readers may have clicked on the link to read the rest of the story, since hot and spicy food still abounds on the taste buds of many people. And I can attest that the last comment online is absolutely correct: salt is the best antidote. But no explanation was given, so I thought if I provided one here, it would be all the more plausible.

Why is salt so effective? Chemistry. How so? The hot part - the chemical - in chillis that causes the agony is powerfully acidic, and so it burns just like any other strong acid. Salt, on the other hand, is strongly alkaline and neutralises the acidity of the chilli. Think of the Thai and other asian people, who love chillis more than most, but who flood their food with very salty fish and soy sauce.


* * * * *
LINK TO COLUMN: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/...spicy-hot-food

Last edited by C K Dexter Haven; 06-20-2010 at 10:34 AM.. Reason: Added link -- CKDH
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 06-20-2010, 02:14 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: England
Posts: 51,917
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexov View Post
...Salt, on the other hand, is strongly alkaline...
No, it isn't. Table salt is more or less neutral PH.

ETA:
Quote:
The hot part - the chemical - in chillis that causes the agony is powerfully acidic
This bit is also incorrect.

Last edited by Mangetout; 06-20-2010 at 02:18 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 06-20-2010, 08:04 AM
Canadjun Canadjun is online now
Non sum ergo non cogito
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Alberta Canada
Posts: 3,719
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexov View Post
Salt, on the other hand, is strongly alkaline
You've clearly forgotten your high school chemistry.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 06-20-2010, 08:51 AM
snailboy snailboy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Nor is capsaicin acidic. It's alkaline. Milk works well because it's acidic and neutralizes it. I've never used salt, but I find a shot of vodka works well since it's an organic solvent.

Nevermind. I see Mangetout said this in his edit. I must've just read over it in his post.

Last edited by snailboy; 06-20-2010 at 08:52 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 06-20-2010, 10:37 AM
qazwart qazwart is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Is there a link to this story? I searched under "chili" and "chilli" and even did a search on capsaicin, but couldn't find the article.

Capsaicin doesn't work because it is acidic or basic. It triggers the heat pain receptors on our tongue via a chemical process. Eating something acid or basic won't really help. You need to wash it off the surface of the tongue.

In Texas, we used dairy fat like in butter or sour cream to help deaden the pain. Or, some people ate bread. Not sure why this helps. Maybe capsaicin is fat soluble, or that the bread and sour cream triggered you to produce more saliva that helped wash away the capsaicin. Or, maybe it gave us something to do besides whining about it instead of taking it like a man as a good Texan would.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 06-20-2010, 12:12 PM
entropae entropae is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Chilli Antidote

Perhaps I am remembering a delusional episode, but aren't spicy foods measure of "heat" rated in Scoville units? And also, if I remember correctly, the rating was based on how many spritzes of sugar water it took to deactivate the heat. Therefore, why not use sugar as an antidote? I can see why people would think milk would work as it has some natural sugars. Perhaps the amylase in the saliva works with the carbohydrates in the tortilla or tequila to make some simple sugar. I don't know where salt works in this equation. But in the end, what works for you is what works.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 06-20-2010, 12:21 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 55,201
The Scoville scale is a matter of dilution, not of antidote. A very hot pepper has a Scoville rating in the hundreds of thousands, which means that to dilute it away to the point where you couldn't detect it any more you'd need hundreds of thousands of times the volume of the pepper in water.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 06-20-2010, 04:14 PM
Drew Kit Drew Kit is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2010
Gargle with milk, spit it away without swallowing it, then gargle with vodka, and spit it away. Repeat as necessary.
You are trying to wash away an inflammatory agent that mixes in fat and alcohol but not in water.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 06-20-2010, 07:57 PM
Canadjun Canadjun is online now
Non sum ergo non cogito
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Alberta Canada
Posts: 3,719
Quote:
Originally Posted by snailboy View Post
Nor is capsaicin acidic. It's alkaline. Milk works well because it's acidic and neutralizes it. I've never used salt, but I find a shot of vodka works well since it's an organic solvent..
No cites, but I thought milk worked better than water because of the butter fat, and the capsaicin is fat soluble but not especially water soluble. Or am I mistaken?
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 06-21-2010, 08:45 AM
snailboy snailboy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by Canadjun View Post
No cites, but I thought milk worked better than water because of the butter fat, and the capsaicin is fat soluble but not especially water soluble. Or am I mistaken?
Well I know I read once that it was because the milk was an acid, but it was probably an unreliable source so I'm not going to swear it's right. I've had lemon juice do a fair job of removing the taste, though maybe it just overwhelmed the taste buds with sour.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 06-22-2010, 05:04 PM
Irishman Irishman is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
A link to the column has been added.

Capsiacin is an oil. Milk has fat content and thus binds to the oils and removes them. Alcohol is a solvent and strips the oil away. Water does not mix with oil, and so is a poor solvent for oil.

Bread will soak up oil, especially if it is buttered bread.

Lemon juice will act as a solvent, as well as overwhelm with sour.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 06-22-2010, 08:34 PM
coremelt coremelt is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
No one has mentioned yogurt (or lassi as its known in India). A small dish of lassi and cucumber is server with hot curies in India for this purpose. Works much better than milk or any of the other suggestions from my own experience.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 06-22-2010, 08:44 PM
RndmTaco RndmTaco is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
The chemistry of it has to do with the polarity of molecules, lots of fun stuff like that. Basically capsaicin is non-polar and water is polar, polar and non-polar things don't mix, so water doesn't wash away the capsaicin. Fats and oils are non-polar, so they dilute the capsaicin.
</science>

Personally, I like sour cream to take away the burn.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 06-23-2010, 09:37 AM
silenus silenus is offline
Hoc nomen meum verum non est.
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: SoCal
Posts: 41,131
Take away the burn? What kind of (deleted reference to girly-men and sissy-marys) are you people? The burn is where the fun is. Gimme that endorphin rush, baby!
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 06-23-2010, 09:47 AM
Alpha Twit Alpha Twit is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Best method I've found to take away the burn is a nice buttered roll or slice of bread. I can't prove this of course, but I believe more than anything else the abrasive properties of the bread help to dislodge the capsaicin from the tongue while the butter and additional saliva help to dissolve it.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 06-23-2010, 10:00 AM
EvilTOJ EvilTOJ is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
OK now how about ideas on how to keep the burn away the second time you meet the chili?
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 06-23-2010, 10:08 AM
glowacks glowacks is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
Capsiacin is an oil. Milk has fat content and thus binds to the oils and removes them.
Does this mean skim milk is worthless for removing it then?
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 06-23-2010, 10:22 AM
silenus silenus is offline
Hoc nomen meum verum non est.
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: SoCal
Posts: 41,131
It isn't the fat, it's the protein. Specifically casein.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 06-24-2010, 06:19 AM
Panurge Panurge is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by coremelt View Post
No one has mentioned yogurt (or lassi as its known in India). A small dish of lassi and cucumber is server with hot curies in India for this purpose. Works much better than milk or any of the other suggestions from my own experience.
[nitpick]What you are thinking of is called raita. Lassi is a yoghurt-based drink that is also commonly served with curry - and it does pretty much the same thing.[/np]

I agree that raita or lassi does a pretty good job of removing the burning sensation. I have never found (nor looked for) anything that removes the pain immediately.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 06-24-2010, 09:09 AM
Sparky812 Sparky812 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Great White North
Posts: 3,089
We've had a similar discussion before.
I wonder how well a degreaser would work? Say... like a a shot of diluted dish soap like Dawn or Palmolive? I mean, sure it might taste awful ...but in an emergency, who cares?
I mean it's got to be better than Loyd and Harry's ketchup and mustard cure right?

Last edited by Sparky812; 06-24-2010 at 09:11 AM..
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 10:21 AM.


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.