Saturday, September 29, 2012

This is the most lethal chemical

Some plants have taken their self-defense up a notch. These plants, the chillies, use capsaicin, three times more potent than mustard oil. It is the most lethal chemical found in any human food source on earth. Less than 4g of this substance is enough to kill a large adult human. Although few chillies have such an amount, a small number have been cultivated specifically to increase their capsaicin content. Smaller amounts of capsaicin are often eaten by people in a variety of countries, and produce a tingling sensation in the mouth. The Naga Jolokia chilli, on the other hand, is a hybrid created in northern India which contains two hundred times more capsaicin than the hottest commercially available chillies. The amount of capsaicin is enough to disrupt neural processes, resulting in a signal of intense pain and heat being sent to the brain. To smell the air close to one of these chills is said to be like snorting fire, and can result in permanent anosmia. It cannot be touched with bare skin. It is used in India to deter elephants from farming areas simply by touching them on fences. It is important to note that the chillies themselves are not used, rather, anything they touch becomes so unpleasant to animals with good senses of smell that they give it a wide berth. In cooking, Naga Jolokia is seen as a challenge by many people, but even then it is only lightly touched on the food, as to actually include the chilli itself in a dish can result in death. The Indian military is currently planning on weaponizing it.

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