If the thought of hot sauce in your mouth is scary, try thinking about it on your exposed flesh. I’m not being sadistic. An Associated Press story reports that “[d]octors are dripping the chemical that gives chili peppers their fire directly into open wounds during knee replacement and a few other highly painful operations.”
The AP then warns, “Don’t try this at home.” Thanks, I think I’ll somehow avoid it. The hot sauce—OK, an “ultra-purified” concentration of capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers hot—isn’t used to inflict excruciating pain. It’s used to ameliorate it. That’s because capsaicin numbs the senses: “The hope is that bathing surgically exposed nerves in a high enough dose will numb them for weeks, so that patients suffer less pain and require fewer narcotic painkillers as they heal.”
Apparently, capsaicin attacks pain uniquely, and researchers are trying to harness that property. At Harvard, they’re working it into dental injections and epidurals. That said, sprinkling your food with Blair’s 16 Million Reserve—the hot “sauce” that’s simply pure capsaicin crystals—before childbirth still seems like a bad idea.