Let’s say you mistake a ghost pepper for a mere jalapeño and a couple of seconds later, are seriously regretting it. What’s the first thing you do? If you answered, “look for the nearest water source,” you’re not alone.After all, what better way to put out that “fire” on your tongue and in your belly than by dousing it with water? According to scientists at the American Chemical Society, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Capsaicin is the chemical that makes spicy food hot. The more capsaicin in your spicy chile peppers, the higher they are on the Scoville scale. Capsaicin is made of non-polar molecules, while water is made of polar molecules. As a result, mixing the two is like mixing “oil and water” according to a video posted by the American Chemical Society. When you drink water after eating something spicy, your mouth is likely to feel worse because the non-polar molecules get spread around.
Before you resign yourself to several minutes of wasabi-induced torture, know that consuming dairy products can help because dairy can neutralize those pesky non-polar molecules, returning your tongue to normal.