Capsaicin is the natural chemical found in chili peppers that makes them HOT. There is no commercially available product that is 100% pure capsaicin, but products labeled as “pure capsaicin” typically range from 96%-99% purity. Pure capsaicin is sold in a powder or liquid form as an extract, intended for scientific and medical use or for greatly diluting and flavoring food products.
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How hot is pure capsaicin?
The heat or spiciness of capsaicin can be measured using the Scoville heat scale, which measures capsaicinoids. Pure capsaicin lands at 16,000,000 SHU, which, to put it mildly, is extremely spicy. However, at 99% purity, the “pure” capsaicin you can purchase is closer to 15,760,000 SHU (still many times spicier than any chili pepper.)
In order to render pure capsaicin undetectable, you would have to mix 1 gram of pure capsaicin with 160 LITERS of water.
Pure capsaicin vs. common chili peppers
To put it into perspective, here are a few comparisons of how hot pure capsaicin is vs. some of the most common chili peppers:
- Capsaicin is as much as 6,400x as spicy as jalapeños, which range from 2,500-10,000 SHU
- Capsaicin is as much as 160x as spicy as habaneros, which range from 100,000-350,000 SHU
- Capsaicin is as much as 7x as spicy as Carolina reaper peppers, which are known to be the spiciest pepper in the world and can reach as high as 2,200,000 SHU
Is pure capsaicin the spiciest thing on the planet?
While pure capsaicin is significantly spicier than any hot pepper known to humankind, there are other things that rank higher on the Scoville scale.
Tinyatoxin clocks in at 5,300,000,000 SHU, making it 300-350x hotter than pure capsaicin. Resiniferatoxin maxes out the scale at 16,000,000,000 SHU, and is the hottest substance currently known. It is found in resin spurge, a cactus-like plant that grows in Morocco and North Africa.
Note that both the words tinyatoxin and resiniferatoxin contain the word “toxin” — that’s because even a tiny amount of either is significantly toxic to humans and can cause severe burns. (Actually, capsaicin is also considered a neurotoxin, but is non-harmful in diluted forms.)
Is pure capsaicin legal?
Pure capsaicin is legal and sold commercially in the United States as an extract. In order to buy pure capsaicin, most vendors require you to sign a waiver and disclaimer, and you have to be at least 18 years old to purchase it.
As best I can tell, it is legal to sell pure capsaicin in the UK as well, however, it may not legally be sold as an ingredient or used in any food product. Instead, it is marketed as a collector’s item.
Where and how to buy pure capsaicin
You can buy 99% pure capsaicin online on eBay and some specialty online stores, especially those geared towards raw food material wholesale because it is sold as an extract. Pure capsaicin is not sold on Amazon, and you will not find it in your local grocery store.
How to handle pure capsaicin
Because pure capsaicin is toxic and can burn your skin, eyes, and respiratory system, it is extremely dangerous and it’s recommended to use caution when handling it. If you are handling pure capsaicin make sure that you wear gloves and goggles, and be mindful of anything that it touches.
What would happen if you ate pure capsaicin?
So what happens if a human consumes pure capsaicin? Nothing good. For the most part, it causes extreme discomfort. It will cause burning in your mouth, make your eyes and nose water, and can potentially irritate your digestive tract.
If you’re curious, there are several videos on YouTube where people try pure capsaicin powder or liquid, but it is not recommended that you try it at home.