Looking to spice things up? Before making that salsa or tossing a few chilies on your taco, think again. There are hundreds of chili varieties worldwide, each with their own range of heat. Whether mild and sweet or frighteningly hot, each chili contains a chemical called capsaicin.
Capsaicin is an irritant with enough strength that it has been included in pepper spray used by police forces, in pest control repellants and is even an ingredient in paint stripper. While individual chilies do not contain high amounts of capsaicin, the strength of it can depend on how hot the chili is.
For example, certain peppers can leave a burning sensation on the skin if the seeds or membranes are handled. While the occasional chili or two added to a recipe or eaten raw won’t do any damage, large amounts of capsaicin can cause gastrointestinal symptoms and in extremely rare cases, prove fatal.