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How to Make Hot Peppers Stop Burning

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Charleston hot peppers at various stages of maturity.

Charleston hot peppers at various stages of maturity.

Scott Bauer, USDA

I like the burn of hot peppers, but you can get too much of a good thing. From a chemistry standpoint, what can you do that actually stops the burning of hot peppers? What doesn't work? Here's what you need to know:

Why Hot Peppers Burn

Hot peppers contain a compound called capsaicin or any of the related compounds called capsaicinoids which produce a burning sensation when they comes into contact with mucous membranes. Although capsaicinoids produce a feeling of heat, they won't actually attack your tissue or cause a chemical burn. The molecules bind to a pain receptor, so you may suffer excuciating agony, but your body isn't being harmed by the chemical. Capsaicin is an alkaline oil. If you keep its chemical properties in mind, you'll have a better chance of soothing the burn.

Water Does Not Help

Drinking water doesn't stop the burning because the oil-based capsaicin won't dissolve in water. If anything, water spreads the burning to parts that weren't previously affected.

Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol is useless against the heat of a hot pepper. Chasing hot food with alcohol will magnify the burn because the capsaicin will dissolve in the alcohol, but won't be neutralized by it. You'll spread the burn around. The exception here would be if you've had enough alcohol to dull pain reception.

Drink Acid

No, I'm not talking about sulfuric acid or anything like that, but if you follow the hot peppers with an acidic food or drink you can neutralize some of the activity of the alkaline capsaicinoid. Good choices include cold lemonade, a lemon or lime, orange juice, anything tomato-based, or drinking milk (which is acidic).

Do Dairy

Milk, yogurt, and sour cream are acidic, which helps to combat the burning. The milk protein called casein acts as a natural detergent, breaking up the capsaicin. Many dairy products also contain fat which can help to dissolve the capsaicin. To get the most benefit from dairy, go for an acidic product that contains fat. In other words, sour cream or ice cream will help you more than skim milk.

Add Carbohydrates

If you eat your hot peppers with bread, rice, tortillas or any other starchy carbohydrate you'll lessen the burning from the peppers. This works by providing a physical barrier between your mouth and some of the capsaicin so less of it contacts your tongue, lips, etc. The sugars in the carbohydrates may also help lessen the activity of the capsaicinoids.

Other Remedies

Do you know of other hot pepper remedies that work? Any that definitely do not help? Post a reply and share your experience.

Comments

May 17, 2010 at 8:17 am

(1) Rose Johnson says:

For pepper burn my husband and I dissolve a sugar cube in our mouth (or a teaspoon of sugar) . This also helps to stop hiccups.

May 17, 2010 at 9:52 am

(2) David Bird says:

Thanks for this. Up to now the only remedy that has ever worked for me was to bang my head really hard against a wall. Doesn’t directly alleviate the burning but takes my mind off of it until it passes.

May 17, 2010 at 9:54 am

(3) Mike Borrello says:

I’ve found that sucking on a lemon or lime such that the juices flow over the affected area of the tongue can provide immediate relief for the burning sensation caused by peppers. The citric acid rapidly neutralizes the alkaline pH.

May 17, 2010 at 11:12 am

(4) Qudratullah says:

Oil and ghee has done good to me.

May 17, 2010 at 1:58 pm

(5) Bill Horvath says:

MythBusters did an episode covering folk remedies for neutralizing hot peppers. This site seems to have an accurate summary: http://mythbustersresults.com/episode91

May 17, 2010 at 2:02 pm

(6) Bill says:

Vinegar — acetic acid; topically or internally

May 17, 2010 at 3:56 pm

(7) marly says:

Sugar can help, although its sometimes disgusting with the taste of the pepper

May 17, 2010 at 6:48 pm

(8) keith says:

this is gross , but it works. Get a teaspoon of salt, swish it in your mouth for a minute and spit it out (don’t swallow , even if you could , that much is toxic). The salt draws the hot oils out of your mouth and it seems to work.

May 18, 2010 at 6:43 pm

(9) jenn says:

i once was slicing some rather juicy peppers, and got sprayed in the face, just a drop on my forehead, and the burning sensation slowly crawled across my face and eyeballs. I actually put my face in a bowl of milk, but it was useless. I ended up just waiting it out.. what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Any suggestions about what I COULD have done?

May 26, 2010 at 8:26 am

(10) mc collins says:

when i was young my grand mum will always tell us to go and bite the stem of a plantain each time we eat scorching pepper.We did this and found some relief.But this is absurd to me now.Vinegar can be the best remedy

July 14, 2010 at 5:01 pm

(11) sysarc says:

Acetic acid is an easy solution, so following up an ethnic meal with a tablespoon of Spanish Olives along with a bit of the juice provides enough vinegar to sooth the mouth and more importantly, heartburn. I keep a large jar in the frig for just such an occasion.

August 14, 2010 at 11:04 pm

(12) pepperqueen says:

I have had a few instances with peppers…. cubenelle and jalapenos destroy me (more topically than internally…) I dip my hands in white vinegar if the burning starts, and within minutes, the pain is gone!! Hope this helps….

September 15, 2010 at 8:00 pm

(13) mike says:

I got the juice from some very hot peppers in my eyes,I poured apple cidercider vinegar on a paper towel and rubbed it on my eyes and face..the burning started going away in seconds!!!!!!!

April 2, 2011 at 10:13 pm

(14) Straightedgebill says:

An ex gf used to cut up lemon wedges and stick them in a bowl of sugar . She swore by it. I always wanted to be Mr. tough guy so would not use them because hot foods actually release pain reducing hormones and help elevate your mood naturally. But one day I was given some hot sauce called “BURN YOUR A$$” hot sauce, and there was a guy on the bottle sitting with his pants down on a block of ice with flames shooting out.
Needless to say I was gobbling sugar lemons. I wasn’t so tough after all lol. But they work great for hot peppers it took nearly all the burn away instantly. That’s not even the hottest one the sell either, they keep the locked up in a special wood vault and can only be opened by a store employee , you also have to be at least 18 to buy them. There are dozens of varieties to choose from with very graphic and funny pictures to go along with the name on the bottle . They can be found at a place called Jungle Jims, in Cincinatti Ohio. That place is bigger than a walmart with foods from all over the world .

April 9, 2011 at 12:17 pm

(15) Randy Harper says:

I’ve been growing a wide variety of peppers for over 11 years now including some of the mildest and some of the hottest. I’m glad to find a chemistry perspective of it. Don’t be fooled into thinking capsium is harmless. It can cause blistering and chemical burn in adequate concentration, although most people will never be exposed to that high a level.

Water soluable oils and acids are the best for dispersion and neutralizeng. Starches are pretty good and absorbing and can pull even deeply imbedded oils from the skin, but will not neutralize the oil. Probably the toughest area for a pepper burn is the eyes. While sour cream or fresh avacado may be effective at dispersion and neutralizing, there is a risk to stuffing organic matter into your eyeballs. Generally the best approach to an eye burn is face downward and let your natural tears clean it out. If it’s a problem burn the tears will come and the water soluable oils will dissolve and flush out the capsium. Just remember to avoid rubbing it over your face.

For in the mouth burns I’ve found nothing works better or faster than avacado, pineapple second. then sour cream, then citrus. Also soaking a piece of non-oily bread is a great way to slowly draw the oils from the mucus membrain. Vinegar is only somewhat effective and can create problems with your internal acid level. Alcohol is useless.

For external skin I typically wash with soap and water then soak in corn starch for 45 minutes sometimes repeating up to two more times for heavy exposure. And have a beer in the meantime.

If you use the oil concentrate follow saftey instrusctions, wear your ppe and keep neutralizing agents (plural) on hand. The burns can cause adequate tissue dammage to expose you to infection risk and can lead to permanent scar buildup in the eyes.

In summary always remember “If it works, do it”.

June 25, 2011 at 8:08 pm

(16) Kari says:

So, I was using the new ICY HOT Naturals…that contains capsaicin. I started working in the yard, working up a sweat. WRONG!! The capsaicin felt like acid; I was in horrible pain and couldn’t find a way to relieve it. I tried to rub and wash it off, even putting yogurt on my skin. It didn’t work.

A gardening website recomended rubbing alcohol! Pour onto a cloth and wipe across the skin. It absolutely worked…within seconds! I don’t know how, but it completely stopped the pain and the pain did not return.

(This goes without saying, but please do not ingest rubbing alcohol. I used this externally, on my skin only).

Go to your local dollar store and stick in your medicine cabinet for future use.

August 30, 2011 at 10:41 pm

(17) zeno says:

I find that a handful of salty nuts helps

October 14, 2011 at 9:57 pm

(18) kp says:

Ok, I know this would never be a first choice, but if u get hot peppers on your hands & don’t have anything handy to stop the burn or nothing else is working then you could use urine. I know it’s nasty but it works instantly. Just make sure you wash up extra, extra good! Then buy gloves for the future.:)

October 28, 2011 at 6:59 am

(19) norma says:

why would you want the good oils of the pepper not to work is a natural thing .just feel pain for your own good .

November 19, 2011 at 8:15 pm

(20) lisa says:

I made some sauce with haberno peppers ,what worked to stop the burning was gojo {hand greese cleaner} the thing u used to clean grease off after you work on a car and then I washed it off with bleach then after i rinsed it with vinegar and then put some aloe vera gel. definitely help stop the burning. Also only use bleach if it is something you are use to using otherwise it will also burn your skin.

November 24, 2011 at 12:19 am

(21) Frank says:

I ate some Doritos Flamas (a new flavor, that I kid you not, is hotter than hell!) and drank Diet Pepsi to neutralize the peppers.

December 24, 2011 at 5:58 am

(22) csd says:

for an external pepper burn dissolve a antacid in a little bit of water then soak the area in it. It works

December 29, 2011 at 11:45 pm

(23) Dana says:

I read that the spicy molecule is oil based, so I tried washing my mouth out and gargling with soap. It reduced the burn faster than vinegar.

February 26, 2012 at 9:12 pm

(24) James says:

Well I just ate 2 habeneros and figured out that peanut butter is the way to go

February 27, 2012 at 11:26 pm

(25) Tommy Vu says:

I found that hot sauce can be ceased by a pinch of salt as well or two pinches.

March 19, 2012 at 4:02 pm

(26) chance says:

I think that if you put flour on your tounge it would stop the burn. Since capsaicin is made of oil it should soak it up. We use cat litter to clean up oil in our garge floor so the principle should apply.

April 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm

(27) maria says:

well my friend burned mouth do what

April 22, 2012 at 2:28 pm

(28) Erika says:

I’m not sure if this would work for peppers but I know that when I give myself a facial peel and it starts to burn I mix baking soda in water and put it on my face and the burning stops immediately..

May 2, 2012 at 3:12 pm

(29) Carrie says:

This was a huge help because we had a pepper eating contests for Cinco de Mayo at work…and my tounge would not stop burning…it was terrible.

May 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm

(30) Carol Masotta says:

Thanks so much! It worked instantly!

June 13, 2012 at 12:09 am

(31) Terry Duncan says:

Honey will stop the burn like nothing else I have ever tried. Take a teaspoon of honey into your mouth and swirl it around to cover everywhere the pepper is burning you. Swallow when you finish.

July 3, 2012 at 12:09 am

(32) Susie says:

I have never heard it before but I have found that I can drink coffee with my Bojangles chicken and it will not burn me. I drink coffee with cream and Sweet n Low or Splenda. Why does it work? Milk does not help but coffee does. Crazy, huh?

August 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm

(33) katie says:

I tried all of the solutions in previous comments. Some worked for about 30 seconds, then the heat came back! I finally used “Monky Butt” a powder that absorbs sweat. I coated my hands and left it on for about 5 minutes. I sprayed Shout on my hands and added more Monkey Butt and rinsed. It really helped reduce the pain to a very low level

August 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm

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September 4, 2012 at 2:01 pm

(35) Ida says:

My husband taught me to eat butter along with hot sauces or peppers years ago, and the pain will not even attack, or it will alleviate the pain if it starts. It probably has something to do with the fat in the butter which explains why avocados work as well. It sure is a better option than getting rid of the pleasant taste of the foods I enjoy by taking a mouthful of sugar or salt.

September 5, 2012 at 3:42 am

(36) Payal says:

Honey..yes it works like miracle !!!

October 11, 2012 at 12:59 am

(37) hmmm says:

hmmm, comment 34 has nothing to do with peppers.

November 2, 2012 at 4:20 pm

(38) Nick says:

I eat a banana it worked pretty good

December 21, 2012 at 10:14 pm

(39) 5 Alarm burn! says:

Well I’ll tell ya what works because I just did an (accidental) homemade experiment! Just had a Subway veggie delight and I ALWAYS get jalapeños. Well I must have gotten one with a TON of seeds because I was about to call the fire dept, LOL. Here’s my results:
First I went for the milk. I only have skim. It only helped if I kept it in my mouth. Couldn’t drink THAT much.
Second I went for the cottage cheese. Again, it only helped while I had it in my mouth. But helped a bit more than the skim.
While shoveling cottage cheese with one hand and typing with the other, (Thank you google auto suggestions!) I found this page. I quickly scrolled thru.
Third I tried sugar. Damn! I had to try to open the new package with one hand while still shoveling cottage cheese with the other hand! Ok sugar didn’t really work.
It wouldn’t stop burning!!!!
Fourth–WE HAVE A WINNER! Straight lemon juice!!! I wasn’t going to guzzle it because of the milk and cottage cheese I just ate so I sipped from a teaspoon and swished it. Two teaspoons did the trick. Besides I only had a couple tablespoons left in the bottle.
Wow. Have never burned myself like that except when I ate too much unripe pineapple once. But that was more painful than burning.
I may nix the jalapeños next time.

January 10, 2013 at 10:24 pm

(40) Dennis says:

I would think the best thing to use on your skin would be what we use for pepper spray training. Johnson and Johnson Baby Shampoo – because of the oil base the soap will take it off and you can spray it in your eyes. This is just a suggestion.

January 12, 2013 at 2:57 am

(41) perrsephanie18 says:

was cutting a pablano chili yesterday and (dumb I know) didn’t wear gloves. I tried EVERYTHING to get rid of the burn on my left hand. Here’s what I tried: milk, ice water, Pepto Bismal, lemon juice, canola oil, alcohol, diluted bleach, cottage cheese, yogurt, apple cider vinegar, tomato juice, AND vaseline; each separately. I even soaked my hand in the canola oil for 30 minutes. What worked? The milk works INSTANTLY but only for 3 minutes at a time (then the sting comes back). The Vaseline took 30 minutes to work but had a lasting effect. Hope this is helpful for someone 

January 18, 2013 at 2:23 am

(42) Kim says:

Burning eyes! Chopped up some birds eye chili peppers and then touched my eye. A friend sent me this article and told me to flush with milk. I did and had instant relief! Thank you thank you thank you.

January 31, 2013 at 1:23 am

(43) Sandy says:

Ok, I bought Capzasin for very painful arthritis in my hands, I put cream on all over my hands and in about 3 minutes, I thought that I had gotten stung with a million red ants. It was very painful. I couldnt get rid of the pain, I tried the dish soap and the vinegar that I read here but nothing worked. So I tried the old remedy that I remembered and read here. I urinated on my hands: it stopped instantly! PLEASE wash well, but it worked after suffering 3 hours of terrible burning redness and pain.

March 31, 2013 at 12:26 pm

(44) Dr Rita Jacobsen says:

I am a chili researcher. There is no doubt that any OIL applied to the area experiencing the burning sensation, is significantly the best solution. Oil is a solvent for capsaicin, the chemical responsible for the pain. Our research has shown the even when eyes have been in contact with the ‘Trinidad scorpion’, the Guiness world record hottest chili on the planet, washing the eye out with OIL removes the pain within a few minutes. It is best to wipe off the first application with paper, then refresh the oil etc. Keep well away from water, which only spreads the capsaicin and worsens the pain. Any OIL may be used including olive oil, sunlower oil etc. If the mouth is burning, swirl a tablespoon of oil in the mouth, then swallow it or spit it out. Interestingly, in India, chilis are used to treat stomach ulcers. Similarly, one may safely work by bare hand with raw chillis, without pain, if the hands are dipped in oil before handling. When finished, wipe oil off with a paper towel, then wash with soap to remove the oil. It is also handy to know that the sensatuon of burning is intensified with heat, e.g. taking a hot shower, or having a hot drink. Cold lessens the sensation.

 

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