Could someone get injured or worse die from eating a Ghost Pepper? Well the short answer is No. However, like anything, too much of a good thing is just too much. While you may not die directly from consuming a ghost, the side effects have a distinct, although remote, possibility of doing you in.
When Hot is Too Hot
There is an episode of Mythbusters entitled “Hot Chili Cures” that spoke to this very thing. Dave DeWitt answers the question “Could you die from eating a chili that’s too hot?” by saying the potential exists. One could possibly die of suffocation because your lungs would just shut down if you ate too much of something extremely hot. But not because of the chili itself.
You probably would feel like dying though if you weren’t prepared though. Between the mind-cooking pain and the shock from consuming such a fiery vegetable a heart-attack might not be out of the question as well. But that is just me saying, nothing medically proven.
If you like things really hot then then by all means you should give them a try, but be forewarned there certainly are some dangers to eating peppers this hot. Below are just a few other things to be cautious about when eating these babies.
Skin and Eye Irritation
The National Pesticide Information Network says that capsaicin (the compound that makes hot peppers like the bhut jolokia so spicy) in high enough doses can cause lesions on the skin and in the eyes. So do not get it in your eyes or nose. Wear rubber gloves when handling these or any other hot peppers. What you want to avoid is touching the membranes and seeds. The danger here is that you will handle them with your hands and then rub your nose or eye with your hands. If this happens I can guarantee that at the very least will have a burning sensation and irritation that can last for hours. Or worse depending on how much is rubbed in.
Inhibited Iron Absorption
The high levels of capsaicin could cause you to absorb less iron, according to a study by Siriporn Tuntipopipat and colleagues published in “The Journal of Nutrition” in 2006. However, if you get plenty of iron from your normal diet–especially if it is heme iron, or iron from meat sources–you should not have a problem.
You need to be careful to not inhale this pepper should you purchase it in the form of chili powder. It can cause you to cough and have difficulty breathing, as well as cause a burning sensation. This can also happen if you eat too much, which is easily possible given the strength of this pepper.
According to Drugs.com, those who are taking angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors such as captopril might have adverse reactions to the high levels of capsaicin in bhut jolokia. The capsaicin in bhut jolokia may bring on ACE inhibitor induced coughing or make this type of cough worse. This is the case with any hot peppers or hot sauce.
Is It All Worth It?
While there are certainly precautions you should take when handling or eating these peppers, there are still tremendous benefits to eating hot, spicy peppers like the ghost.
The health benefits from consuming hot peppers have been know to most of the world for hundreds of years. Only recently has the “civilized” world begun to discover this. The capsaicin is main reason because it is associated with curing many ailments and the promotion of good health in general. The “Master Cleanse” diet uses it as one of its primary components.
In fact, many scientists think capasicin will be a good candidate in the fight against cancer. Capsaicin is being clinically tested in cancer research that suggests that it can kill prostate cancer cells, lung cancer cells, and inhibits the further growth of leukemia cells.
Pain treatment for post-surgical patients is also being studied as well as pain relief for arthritis, migraine, backache, muscle strains, and sprain sufferers. Other uses are as a nasal spray for sinus and headache relief, to lower blood pressure, for digestion problems, to control bleeding, as a flu treatment, and even as an energy booster.
These are just a few of the purposed benefit but as in all things, moderation is the key. Just be careful and enjoy what the ghost gives.