Szechuan Peppers Tap at Nerve Fibers

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peppersChefs, foodies, and international diners can all attest to the fact that Szechuan peppers give you a food experience unlike any other. China’s favorite spicy condiment, Szechuan peppers deliver a tingly experience straight to your lips.

Not necessarily spicy on their own, the lemony Szechuan peppers are often paired with hot chilies and spices to really bring home the tingling, numbing sensation that the peppers cause in the mouth and lips. And a new study on the enticing Asian delicacy may explain why it causes these sensations, and may even shed some new light on painful conditions involving the nerves, like carpal tunnel and peripheral neuropathy.

According to the study at University College in London, Szechuan peppers’ sensation comes courtesy of specialized nerve fibers in the lips and mouth that detect physical vibrations. The Asian spice causes the lips to tingle at a rate of 45 to 50 beats per second. And while the study results are not conclusive, they may be the first step in developing new ways to study the nerves and nerve disorders.

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