Have you ever wondered what makes your mouth burn in that sweet, delicious agony when you bite into a jalapeno pepper? There are special taste receptors on our tongue that can feel the “temperature.” For example, if you’ve ever used menthol toothpaste, you’re very familiar with the “cool breeze” sensation. And vice versa, the majority of Asian dishes will make you feel like a Charizard is using a flamethrower on your tongue, and it’s super effective. That’s the substance called capsaicin, which excites the taste buds and makes it possible to feel the spicy taste. However, aside from the fake temperature perception, this substance also causes a strong rush of blood to the spot where it was applied — whether it be the skin on your arm, tongue, or the lining of your stomach. Naturally, the latter has always been the cornerstone of many concerns and speculations about spicy food being harmful. But is it really bad for you?

Here are six unexpected effects your favorite spicy food has on your body.

1. Hot pepper helps against the common cold.

Capsaicin helps relieve spasm of the nasal mucosa, relieve congestion, and reduce discharge, so the spicier the food, the better. If you have a stuffy nose, add a pinch of chili flakes to a cup of hot tea, inhale the steam, and then take a sip. This remedy will clear your nasal passages and make breathing much easier. In addition to capsaicin, chili peppers are a great source of vitamin A, which helps to strengthen the mucous barrier that keeps germs and bacteria from entering the body.

2. A pepper a day keeps the oncologist away.

The curcumin in turmeric has properties that help prevent the development of certain cancers and malignant tumors. According to recent research, capsaicin can slow down the growth of malignant cells in prostate cancer patients. But the results are still inconclusive and require more research. In the meantime, you can still enjoy that extra spicy burrito, just in case.

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