Why chillis are hot and mint is cold

Taste is the sensation produced when a substance in the mouth reacts chemically with taste receptor cells located on our tastebuds. The heat sensation in chilli peppers is caused by capsaicin, a colourless, odourless, oily chemical found in chilli peppers.

Capsaicin binds with sensory neurons which trick your body into thinking that it is experiencing excessive amounts of heat in the area that the capsaicin comes into contact with, even though no actual physical burning is taking place.

Conversely the chemical in mint, menthol, makes us think the area of skin touching the menthol is cold, by binding with cold-sensitive receptors, and tricks your brain into thinking you are feeling a cold sensation when in fact everything is more or less the same temperature as before.

For more information go to the chilli peppers page or the fresh herbs and garnishes section on mint.

Reference Dr Jocelyn Eason, NZ Herald February 16, 2015

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