Tips To Get Rid Of A Spicy Mouth
We all know that spicy food is downright delicious and is worth a little afterburn. But if you like your dishes with extra jalapenos, super-fiery chilies or top up everything with hot sauce then you will be more than familiar with the culinary condition, commonly known as ‘spicy mouth’. Lasting from moments to hours depending on the ferocity of the chili used, the intense burning can bring tears to your eyes and turn a delicious meal into a painful experience.
Once a chili has taken hold of your pain receptors, you are going to feel it but you can take measures to dampen down that spicy mouth while you ride out that chili heat. Check out our guide to taming the spicy afterburn and you’ll soon be putting out the fire when the next spicy dish you eat bites back.
What Brings On That Burn
The kick in that spicy dish or hot sauce is most likely from capsaicin – which are molecules found in most chili peppers. The burn fires up when the capsaicin makes contact with pain receptors in your mouth, tricking the nerves cells into thinking there is physical heat and triggering a fiery response.
And, unlike other hot foods such as ginger and wasabi which only give a short-lived burning sensation, the chain reaction caused by capsaicin can linger for quite some time, giving rise to the lingering spicy mouth we are all familiar with after eating a hot chili dish.
What Not To Use!
When your mouth feels like it is on fire, your natural reaction is to dowse it with water but that is actually the worst thing you can do. The initial cold may help but as capsaicin is a natural oil you will soon find out the hard way that oil and water don’t mix, especially when it comes to eating a spicy chili! Water-based products (and that includes a cold beer, sorry) actually spread the capsaicin around your mouth, taking the fire with it to even more of your pain receptors. Ultimately glugging water will just make the spicy burn even more ferocious.
So, if water is off the menu when it comes to getting rid of a spicy mouth, what can you use? We take the heat out of your search with the best solutions for that chili burn.
Drink A Glass Of Milk
Yes, it is a liquid but unlike water, milk contains proteins that help to break the bond between the chili and your pain receptors, effectively wrestling that tricky capsaicin away from your fired-up nerves. The fat and oil in milk also helps to dissolve the capsaicin and dampen down the burn. And the beauty is, if you don’t have milk to hand, other dairy products such as plain yoghurt or sour cream can help too. The calming effect of dairy is also a reason why it is often used in Indian and Mexican cuisine.
Take A Shot
OK, beer may be off the menu when it comes to calming a spicy mouth, but you could always take a shot with alcohol to put out the chili fire. A shot of high proof alcohol, mind.
Liquor such as tequila, rum or vodka can help to dissolve the capsaicin, but it does need to be of a quality, eye-wink inducing strength. You will certainly feel the edge being taken off that tongue burn but have one too many and it is more likely to be numbing effect of the liquor that is taking your mind off the burning pain!
Use Your Loaf
The starch in carbs can help with a spicy mouth by not only absorbing some of the chili heat but also by acting as a barrier. When eating a spicy meal, make the most of the bread basket if the heat is suddenly on by chewing on a piece of bread or tortilla. Other starchy foods such as rice or pasta which accompany a hot dish can also help to dampen down the fire in your mouth. The carbs don’t mop up as much of the capsaicin oil as say dairy, but they do help to make a hot meal enjoyable by toning down the heat.
Try Some Sweet Stuff
If you have a bit of a sweet tooth you are going to like this next remedy for a spicy mouth – sprinkle a little sugar on it. Sugar can work in a heated situation by absorbing some of the spicy oil and so neutralizing the burning sensation in your mouth. For a quick fix, a teaspoon of sugar held in your mouth for a few moments can rein back the effect of the capsaicin. A teaspoon of runny honey works just as well and can act as a soothing lubricant in the mouth as well. Or go for a couple of squares of milk chocolate.
And if you needed more reason to opt for the sugar-coated antidote to a spicy mouth, then we will leave you with a geeky chili fact – the heat scale for chili (known as the Scoville) was originally based on how much sugar was needed to dilute a chili pepper.
Lime Or Lemons
It may seem a little painful but adding a natural acid to your mouth can really calm a chili burn. Acidic drinks such as orange, tomato or lemon work in a similar way to milk by binding to the tricky little capsaicin molecules, to calm them right down. Acidic drinks can also calm your spicy mouth by neutralizing the PH of the hot food you are eating. And if you are short of juice, suck on the slices of lime or lemon that are in your Margherita for a quick, spice-calming fix.
A Spoonful Of Oil
Instead of water, add some oil to the fire in your mouth and you should quickly feel it start to burn out. Olive oil or peanut butter are the best to use, and work by binding to the oil in the capsaicin, to turn down its spicy heat. A slug of olive oil will go directly to the root of the heat problem, but if you can’t stomach the idea then a hearty spoonful of peanut butter should work just as well.
- Why Are Chillies Hot? – Science Made Simple