Pepper is a common household spice. It comes in a number of varieties and can be ground or come as whole pepper corns. It grows on a flowering vine and when mature is approximately 0.2 inches (5mm) long and red in color. Pepper is native to India and is mainly cultivated in tropical regions. It has a spicy flavor and is found alongside table salt on many tables around the world. Pepper is often added to dishes to enhance the flavor and give the dish more spice. Have you ever wondered why pepper makes people sneeze? This article has the answer.
Why does pepper make you sneeze?
Sneezing is a bodily involuntary impulse and is an important part of protecting your body against foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses. It occurs when the lining of the nose is irritated by a foreign substance. This causes the body to release a chemical called histamine. The chemical histamine makes our nose itch and causes a chain reaction within the body that leads to a sneeze.
Pepper contains an alkaloid (type of chemical) called piperine, when inhaled piperine irritates the nerve endings in the lining of the nose. The body releases histamine to counteract the piperine and causes the body to go through a series of responses which end in a sneeze. First the histamine causes the nose to itch. These signals are sent through the nervous system to the brain which interprets the signals as a need to expel a foreign body from the nasal passage. The brain sends signals to the head and neck muscle and the lungs. These signals cause the lungs to expel a forceful burst of air, called a sneeze, out through the nose and mouth. This clears the airways of the irritant. Often we will sneeze more than once because the irritant continues to activate the sneeze reflex.
Pepper is also a common cause of sneezing due to the fact that it is finely ground. It is more easily breathed in during cooking and use.