Pepper lovers know that the active ingredient, capsaicin, is what gives peppers their kick. One thing I didn't know is this: How many plants have capsaicin?
Just peppers! It comes in no other plant or animal matter. Other hot foods, like mustard and horseradish, rely on other fiery molecules.
It occurs mainly in the membranes that hold the seeds but not in the seeds. The spiciest pepper used to be the jabanero (100,000-300,000 "Scoville" units) but a new pepper, Naga Jolokia, recently discovered in remote regions of India tops 1,000,000. Jalapenos score around 4,000, cayenne starts at 30,000. Pepper sprays are about 2,000,000 and the sprays used to repel bears are at up to 5,000,000.
The antidote? Water and beer do no good: You want dairy. The milk protein casein attracts capsaicin molecules and washes the irritant away.