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Capsaicin and mammals


Capsaicin is the active component of chili peppers and has a unique effect on mammals. It is a chemical present in all the fruits of the capsicum genus and generates an irritant effect when in contact with the skin or eyes. On the one hand, it is what we like about spicy food and on the other, it can become a nuisance or threat when used in larger quantities.

Pure capsaicin is a colorless, highly pungent, waterproof substance. Usually used as a seasoning to spice up food. However, it also causes a lot of irritation and burning when it comes into contact with the eyes or skin. For this same reason, when handling chili paste or fruit, we must always take measures to protect our eyes and skin in general. This irritation occurs particularly in mammals, since other living beings, such as birds, for example, do not feel any burning effect. This characteristic has positioned chili as an ingredient traditionally used by many cultures to scare away mammals such as mice, bears, squirrels, and even dogs.

At Hugo Restrepo & Cía we develop repellent wax for these uses. One of our clients, for example, uses it in Africa to scare away elephants. When an elephant enters a farm or an urban area, its life is in danger due to its ability to destroy everything in its path. Conservation groups put them to sleep and apply repellent wax on their skin. When they awake, the sensation of burning throughout the body makes the elephants leave and never return to this place. In elephants’ incredible memory it is recorded that going to that place generates that unpleasant feeling.

Undoubtedly a very interesting use of capsaicin and our repellant wax. At Hugo Restrepo & Cía we are constantly doing research and development together with interest groups, educational entities and other private companies to take capsaicin to new frontiers.

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