There’s a new weapons-grade pepper in town and its one that you should absolutely, positively avoid at all costs. You don’t want this nightmare of a pepper in your kitchen, and you absolutely, positively don’t want this creature in your mouth.
Developed for medicinal purposes as a topical anesthetic – and not human consumption – the “Dragon’s Breath” pepper has such a high level of concentrated capsaicin that once ingested, it could trigger the immune system of the human body to go into overdrive.
To put heat like this into perspective, we must look at the Scoville scale. This scale measures the “hotness” of different peppers, more specifically the amount of capsaicin in each pepper. Police and military-grade pepper spray register as a solid 2 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU) on the scale, the Caroline Reaper pepper comes in at an incredible 2.2 million SHUs, and the Dragon’s Breath comes in at a frightening 2.48 million SHUs.
Whenever you eat a reasonably spicy pepper, the capsaicin contained inside activates the proteins found on nerve endings in your mouth. Receptors send a signal to your brain. In response, your brain produces endorphins to block (numb) that pain. But, were you to eat a Dragon’s Breath pepper – with such an insanely high level of capsaicin – those protein activations can mistakenly be interpreted by the brain as a signal of extreme heat entering the body – such as getting burnt in a fire. Your body will step up its defense mechanisms by instantaneously inflating liquid-filled blisters inside your oral cavity. By putting these high-heat-capacity cushions under the top layer of your skin, your body is attempting to absorb the heat entering through that layer. It begins to kill layer after layer of cells to prevent the heat from getting further into the body. But because these peppers contain so much capsaicin, the chemical continues to permeate the blisters, keeping the nerve ending receptors underneath activated, and causing a ferocious cycle of burning sensations for 30 minutes or more.
Reactions like anaphylactic shock, severe burns, airways closure and death are all possible with this very extreme pepper.