Sunday July 09, 2017

Pain for pleasure: the ecstatic, mind-altering spice of hot peppers

The Ghost Pepper (Bhot Jolokia) was the world's hottest chilli pepper, 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. In 2012 it was superseded by the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and in 2013 by the Carolina Reaper, with individual peppers rating over 2.2 million SHU.

The Ghost Pepper (Bhot Jolokia) was the world's hottest chilli pepper, 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. In 2012 it was superseded by the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and in 2013 by the Carolina Reaper, with individual peppers rating over 2.2 million SHU. (Sebastian Sucharski )

Listen 5:26

Danny Chau loves spicy food. Inspired by his father's habit of nibbling Thai chili peppers, he began experimenting with spice at a very early age.

After years of training, Chau looks for more than just a kick of spice. He wants spice so extreme it "changes you in the moment."

His quest for spice-induced bliss led him to the Carolina Reaper. It's the world's hottest chili pepper and about 250 times hotter than a jalapeño.


"You're basically telling your body that you pretty much set yourself on fire," he says, "The brain is trying to release its endorphins...essentially to make yourself feel better. And so in that weird space between pain and pleasure you kind of feel loopy. It's almost this weird sense of serenity once the pain has started to subside."

This story originally aired on November 12, 2016