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Molecule model, 3D print, full color. Scientifically correct, scaling 1 Angstrom = 10, 15 or 20 mm.
Capsaicin is the active component of chili peppers and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact.
Because of the burning sensation caused by capsaicin when it comes in contact with mucous membranes, it is commonly used in food products to provide added spice or "heat" (piquancy), usually in the form of spices such as chili powder and paprika. In high concentrations, capsaicin will also cause a burning effect on other sensitive areas, such as skin or eyes. The degree of heat found within a food is often measured on the subjective Scoville scale. Because people enjoy the heat, there has long been a demand for capsaicin-spiced products like curry, chili con carne, and hot sauces such as Tabasco sauce and salsa.
It is common for people to experience pleasurable and even euphoric effects from ingesting capsaicin. Folklore among self-described "chiliheads" attributes this to pain-stimulated release of endorphins, a different mechanism from the local receptor overload that makes capsaicin effective as a topical analgesic.
The compound was first extracted in impure form in 1816 by Christian Friedrich Bucholz (1770–1818). He called it "capsicin", after the genus Capsicum from which it was extracted. John Clough Thresh (1850–1932), who had isolated capsaicin in almost pure form, gave it the name "capsaicin" in 1876.