Doctors think they have a hot lead on an alternative to opioid pain killers like morphine: chili peppers. California-based researchers are dripping what is essentially a sterile version of hot sauce—containing capsaicin, the chemical that gives peppers their bite—directly into open wounds during surgery. Just like biting into a pepper, it burns at first, the AP explains, but then numbness sets in—for days.
It’s everything morphine isn’t: localized, non-addictive, and convenient. “It's in and it's done,” said one doctor. “You can't abuse it. You can't misuse it.” Surgery isn't the only application being studied; other researchers are using capsaicin to develop epidurals for childbirth, dental injections that won't make the whole mouth numb, and super-potent painkillers for cancer patients.