Interesting video on the science of the versatile condiment, Sriracha.
Julie Beck’s posted an article in The Atlantic about the video.
Spicy peppers, like the red chili, contain two chemicals called capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin, which affect our mouths’ TPRV1 receptor proteins. These receptors typically serve as a warning system when we eat something way too hot—more than 109 degrees Fahrenheit, the video says. Because capsaicin hits those receptors, too, we feel the “heat” of peppers in much the same way we would actual heat.
To counteract that, the body releases pain-killing endorphins (similar to a runner’s high), which is why spicy foods can make you feel happy, and at least part of why some fanatics grow and seek out peppers that are higher and higher on the Scoville scale, which measures chili pepper heat. (One contender for world’s hottest pepper averages around 1.5 million Scoville units. A regular jalapeño, for comparison, clocks in at about 4000.)