You’ve been told over and over again to drink milk, or indulge in ice cream, after putting more heat than you can handle on your food. You’ve also been told to stay away from water after indulging in your Mad Dog obsession (though, we do tend to look favorably on mixing your Mad Dog with your preferred craft beer).
And, you think it’s probably an old wives tale or just something that’s always been done, or maybe even that the relief is subjective.
It’s none of these. Milk will actually do the trick and water just won’t work.
What Happens When You Add Mad Dog to Your Food?
Capsaicin isn’t like too many other substances. Well, actually, it’s a lot like vanilla, but that’s another story altogether. Capsaicin isn’t thermally hot, but it does interact with the same pain receptors that are triggered when you actually eat something that’s thermally hot – or you set yourself on fire. Your brain believes you’re on fire, and that’s why you feel like you’re on fire.
It’s tricky to understand.
But, you can’t just focus on your body’s reaction to Mad Dog heat. The molecular composition of capsaicin is very important too. (This is where you find out why you want milk, not water, to soothe the agony of capsaicin’s fiery goodness.)
At the end of capsaicin’s molecular structure, there’s a non-polar tail. Now, we know that you really don’t know much about that unless you’re still in high school chemistry (and if you are, we can’t recommend the craft beer with your Mad Dog). What is important to note is that water has a polar tail. And that means that capsaicin and water don’t mix well.
If it helps, think of capsaicin as if it were oil. And think of water as, well, you know. The two just don’t mix. They’ll slosh around each other. If you shake a container of the two vigorously, it may look (for a moment) that you’ve managed to combine the two. But you haven’t. The oil and water will separate unless you continue to shake that container. (Frankly, we can’t see the point in that.)
On the molecular level, dairy products also have non-polar tails. So, rather than simply spreading the capsaicin around to more neural sensors, dairy products will cool your mouth rather than spreading the fire.
Better yet, dairy contains casein. This is another one of those compounds that you don’t need to worry so much about, except for the fact that it actively attracts capsaicin. This substance will actively attract the capsaicin away from the TRPV1 neural sensors in your mouth. (If you happen to be burning elsewhere on your body, milk should do the trick there too.)
No matter how you dice it, water just won’t work, but dairy products will. That’s very important to know if you just bought a bottle of Mad Dog 357 Hot Sauce… more important still if you can’t legally procure a craft beer to complement your hot sauce. Now you know.