You might think that you know how to use your chillies, and you do. These tiny bombs of fire can turn even the most boring meal into an explosion of flavour and leave you panting for relief. Only till you’re ready to go back for some more, of course!
But chillies are capable of so much more than that. Indeed, they have been deployed to great effect in fields are varied as medicine, defense and even, ahem, in the bedroom. Here are 10 surprising and unusual uses of chillies that enterprising humans have experimented with over the millennia!
1. Weaponized Chillies
Who would have thought chillies would be useful in military technology? Well, the Indian Army did. They have developed weapons and ammunition incorporating the feared Bhut Jolokia chilli that can be used to immobilize and disorient the enemy with the fiery power of the Ghost Pepper. This buys the soldiers valuable time to regroup and protect themselves in dangerous situations.
2. Agricultural Pesticide
Sometimes farmers have to deal with unusual pests that require unorthodox solutions. If you’re worried about the usual array of insects and small animals that destroy crops, you can rely on one of many traditional solutions. But what do you do if your pest is an enormous elephant?
That’s right, an elephant! Farmers in North-East India must deal with encroachment and crop destruction caused by these usually gentle giants, and over time they have solved this problem by plastering their fences with chilli paste. This causes discomfort to the overdeveloped olfactory senses of elephants and keeps them clear of the farmlands.
3. Chilli Anaesthesia
This relatively new development comes to us courtesy of Welsh Chef Mike Smith scientists from Nottingham Trent University, who have developed a new chilli, ominously called Dragon’s Breath. Clocking in at an eye-watering 2.48 million SHU on the Scoville scale, these tiny demons sure live up to their name. Dragon’s breath is so potent that it actually numbs human skin when they come in contact, making it a potential medical anaesthetic that can help treat patients who may be allergic to regular anaesthesia.
4. Chillies For Protection
It is widely known that people sometimes carry pepper spray for personal protection, but many aren’t aware that the spray is literally derived from chilli peppers! The base ingredient in pepper spray is Oleoresin (a chemical found in hot chillies) that creates a burning sensation and inflammation in the eyes and nose, causing a temporary blindness that lasts 30-60 minutes. Plenty of time for the victim to get away! These pepper sprays are non-lethal and hence legally used in self-defence all over the world.
5. Chillies Bring Peace, Love And Prosperity
Most people in India are familiar with the lemon-chilli combo that is often hung outside of homes and shops. These contraptions (called Nazar-Battu in Hindi) are believed to bring good fortune by keeping evil spirits at bay.
This belief comes from the mythological story of Alakshmi, the evil sister of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Prosperity, who liked to eat pungent and spicy food. So the Nazar-Battu is thought to satisfy Alakshmi’s appetite and discourage her from casting her evil charms upon that house. It is true what they say – the way to an evil spirit’s heart is through her stomach!
6. Chilli Home Décor
People in Mexico have long used chillies to decorate their homes and Christmas trees during the festive season. It surely adds a unique aroma to the environment as well. It’s probably safer than it seems, as long as nobody makes the mistake of playing with these chillies and rubbing their eyes!
7. Chilli Balms
Feeling the aches and pains of a long day of hard work? No problem, just apply some chilli paste to the painful area! At least, that’s what the Native Americans are thought to have done. They often rubbed their gums with chillies to help relieve toothaches and even used chilli pastes as topical ointments to ease sore muscles and joint pains.
8. Cash Money Chillies
Some early civilizations (especially in the Americas) are thought to have used chillies as actual money! It may have formed part of a larger barter system of commodities, or been used as currency that can be easily transported while retaining its value. Chilli lovers today who hoard their stock like treasure can surely relate!
9. A Ticket To A Long And Healthy Life
Chillies can help prevent a variety of health conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer. Some peppers have been known to help promote blood clotting in cases of injury while others can be used to regulate blood pressure within the body. Modern scientists are even studying the uses of the Cayenne Pepper in treating cancer by disrupting the growth of tumours.
10. Spice Up Your Love Life
Chillies have been used as an aphrodisiac for centuries. Eating spicy peppers can increase a person’s libido by speeding up the heartbeat and stimulating sweat glands while releasing endorphins that cause excitement and leave you in a good mood. Sounds like a win-win situation all around!
Know any big/awesomely unusual uses of chillies that we missed out? Let us know in the comments!