The hottest chilies in the world

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The hottest chillies in the world have a reputation for making even the strongest man cry. Not surprisingly, the substance responsible for the acerbity of chilies is also used as an active ingredient in pepper sprays. We'll explain why chilies are so spicy and what five varieties are currently topping the global hotspot ranking.

That's why chilies are so spicy

Chilies owe their sharpness to the so-called capsaicin, a natural alkaloid that is contained in the plants in varying degrees of concentration, depending on the variety. The human pain receptors in the mouth, nose and stomach respond immediately and relay signals to the brain. This in turn mobilizes a body's own defense mechanism, which manifests itself with the typical symptoms of the consumption of chillies: sweats, tachycardia, watery eyes and a burning sensation in the mouth and on the lips.
Why many predominantly male persons still can not be prevented from eating increasingly hot chilli, is probably due to the fact that the brain releases pain-killing and euphoric endorphins - which can trigger an absolute kick in the body and make it addictive. It is not without reason that chili contests and fiery eating competitions take place worldwide.

Man with chili

Chilies are not for cowards!

But beware: Completely harmless is the consumption of chillies not. Particularly spicy varieties can lead to circulatory collapse or severe stomach discomfort, especially in inexperienced eaters. In high concentrations, capsaicin is even toxic. However, the deaths mentioned in the media at regular intervals are unconfirmed. Incidentally, professional chili eaters train for years: The more chili you eat, the better your body gets used to the heat.

Where is the sharpness?

Despite the general view, the acuteness of the chilli is not in the seeds, but in the so-called placenta of the plant. This refers to the white, spongy tissue inside the pod. However, since the seeds sit directly on them, they absorb much of the sharpness in themselves. The concentration is distributed unevenly throughout the pod, usually the top is the mildest. The sharpness varies but also on the same plant from pod to pod. In addition, not only the variety decides how spicy a chili is. The location conditions also play an important role. Chilli, which are little watered, are usually sharper, but the plants grow weaker and the harvest is significantly lower. The temperature and solar radiation to which the chilies are exposed also intensify the sharpness. The brighter and hotter, the sharper they become.

Interior view of a chili

The sharpness is distributed differently in the chilies

Capsaicin protects against predators

Researchers suspect that the pungency of chilies serves as a natural protective function against predators. Interestingly enough, however, capsaicin only affects mammals, which include humans - birds that are essential for seed dispersal and plant survival can easily eat chilli pods and seeds. Mammals that degrade the seeds in their digestive tract and thus render them useless are prevented from eating away by the fiery taste.

Degree of severity of chilies

Already in 1912, the American chemist and pharmacologist Wilbur Scoville (1865-1942) developed a method to determine and categorize the acuteness of chillies. In the process, test persons had to taste chili powder dissolved in sugar syrup until the pungency was palpable for them. From the degree of dilution results then the degree of severity of the chilli, which is since then in Scoville units (short: SHU for Scoville Heat Units or SCU for Scoville Units) is given. If the powder is diluted 300,000 times, that means 300,000 SHU. A few comparisons: Pure capsaicin has an SHU of 16,000,000. Tabasco is between 30,000 and 50,000 SHU, while normal sweet peppers equal 0 SHU.
Today, the degree of severity of chilies is no longer determined by test persons, but determined by means of so-called high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). It provides more reliable and accurate results.

The five hottest chilies in the world

1st place: As still the hottest chilli in the world, the variety 'Carolina Reaper' with 2,200,000 SHU applies. She was bred in 2013 by the American company "The Pucker Butt Pepper Company" in South Carolina. She is the current Guinness Book World Record Holder.

'Carolina Reaper'

'Carolina Reaper' is officially the hottest chili in the world

Note: Since 2017, the rumor is circulating on the Internet of a new variety of chili called 'Dragon's Breath', which allegedly blew the 'Carolina Reaper' from the throne. With 2,400,000 SHU, it is considered deadly and is warned before consumption. However, reliable information about Welsh breeding does not exist - which is why we do not take the report too seriously for the time being.
2nd place: 'Dorset Naga': 1,598,227 SHU; British variety from Bangladesh variety; elongated shape; intense red
3rd place: 'Trinidad Scorpion Butch T': 1,463,700 SHU; also an American breed from a Caribbean variety; the fruits are similar in shape to scorpions with erect sting - hence the name
4th Place: 'Naga Viper': 1,382,000 SHU; British breeding, which for a short time in 2011 was considered the hottest chili in the world
5th place: 'Trinidad Moruga Scorpion': 1,207,764 SHU; American breeding of a Caribbean variety; botanically belongs to the type Capsicum chinense


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