It is funny to think that we are the only species on this world that has members that enjoy spiciness in our food. Indeed, the point of the capsaicinoids released by the plants is to deter herbivores while allowing birds, that do not feel the heat to eat the seeds and disperse them.
Published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, researchers have worked out the structural mechanism for how capsaicin (the main component of spiciness in chili peppers) activates something known as the TRPV1 channel, which is a receptor for a “wide spectrum of physical and chemical stimuli such as heat, protons and toxins”.
And why is this important you may ask? Well, now they know how capsaicin binds to the receptor, they can use this same technique to test new pain relief drugs, which I assume should block this receptor to numb pain.
Capsaicin is not only good for spicing up our food, if we give it to chickens to eat, then although it has no spicy effect on them, it can dramatically decrease the level of Salmonella enteritidis that infect their organs. Brings a whole new meaning to spicy chicken.