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Chili Peppers Do To Your Skin What Migraines Do To Your Brain

Researchers are working on new medication to prevent migraines

Photo: Mark

Have you ever accidentally got hot sauce in your eye? No? You’re lucky—it really, really hurts.

Here’s another question: Have you ever had a migraine? Roughly 12 percent of the U.S. population, more women than men, gets migraines. If you’ve never had one, you’re lucky.

Those two questions aren’t totally random, we swear. According to Bloomberg News, the chemical reaction of getting capsaicin (the heat-causing chemical in chili peppers) on your skin is pretty much the same thing as what happens to your brain during a migraine. So, if you have a friend or relative who suffers from chronic migraines and you’re having trouble feeling empathetic, try pouring hot sauce on your skin. (No. Stop. Don’t actually do this. It actually really, really hurts.)

“Chili peppers and migraines have traits in common,” says Bloomberg, “a fact scientists are exploiting to develop drugs capable of preventing the debilitating headache’s painful symptoms before they attack.”

Both capsaicin exposure and a migraine cause “the body to release calcitonin gene-related peptides, or CGRP, leading to an increase in blood flow to the affected area.” In a migraine, that increased blood flow turns into “nausea, vomiting, dizziness and sensitivity to touch,” and an unshakeable feeling that all of the photons flying from any light in the room are trying to tunnel straight into your head in a bid to make your eye explode.

By developing a new drug that prevents the CGRP molecules from triggering the increased blood flow, says Bloomberg, pharmaceutical researchers are trying to find a way to stop migraines before they can even get going.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Too Much Chili Powder Or Black Pepper Can Kill Kids

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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