Q: Dear Dave,
Help! I’m a fact checker at Seventeen magazine and it’s my job to double check that what we put in the magazine is correct. Seventeen is geared to college-aged women and we have an upcoming article about what might help if you stay up late partying or pull an all-nighter. For a tip, the writer says, "Have eggs with hot sauce for breakfast. Not only will the red peppers make your eyes water, but they also contain capsaicin, a natural painkiller which can soothe your throbbing head." Is this correct, and if not, what is? In my very brief research so far, it appears that capsaicin causes an initial pain response, which puts into motion endorphins, which is what makes you feel better. I’m a little concerned that capsaicin is not a painkiller per se and I’m not sure that a dash of hot sauce can soothe a throbbing head. Please advise! You have my thanks in advance.
A: Hello Jill:
I have two problems with this "tip." The first is that watery eyes are not a result of eating hot sauce, unless you actually get the hot sauce in the eyes. The main physiological result of eating hot stuff is gustatory perspiration, a.k.a sweating. The second is that capsaicin is a topical painkiller but ingesting it probably will not release enough endorphins to relieve a headache. Topical capsaicin has been used to treat cluster headaches by rubbing a capsaicin cream on the temples. Being an editor myself, I would rephrase the tip to state: "Have tomato juice with hot sauce for breakfast. Not only will the red peppers make your tongue tingle, but they also contain capsaicin, a reputed folk cure for hangovers." When I did the folk medicine research for my book, The Healing Powers of Peppers, I found quite a few hangover "cures."
Hope this helps,