Their spooky name suggests they are nothing to mess with. Now one hapless victim is finding out just how dangerous the Ghost Pepper can be.
The Journal of Emergency Medicine recently documented the case about a unnamed man in San Francisco who ate a burger topped and laced with ghost pepper extract as part of an eating challenge. After attempting to eat the burger, the man’s esophagus ruptured and he was rushed to the ER.
After finishing his extremely spicy meal, the 47-year-old male proceeded to drink 6 tall glasses of water before he began violently gagging and vomiting. He then went to the ER after developing severe abdominal and stomach pains. Upon arrival, he received an x-ray that revealed his left lung had collapsed and he had a 2.5cm tear in his esophagus.
At just over 1,000,000 Scoville heat units the ghost pepper, formally known as Bhut jolokia, is one of the hottest peppers in the world. How hot is it? Well, your average Jalapeno pepper tops out at around 8,000 Scoville heat units. Police grade pepper spray measures at 500,000-1,000,000 units, depending on how diluted it is.
“A subsequent chest x-ray study showed evidence of a left-sided pleural effusion and patchy infiltrates,” reads the case report of the incident. “A computed tomography scan of the abdomen and pelvis showed pneumomediastinum with air around the distal esophagus, suggestive of a spontaneous esophageal perforation and a left-sided pneumothorax. The patient was intubated and taken immediately to the operating room, where he was noted to have a 2.5-cm tear in the distal esophagus, with a mediastinal fluid collection including food debris, as well as a left-sided pneumothorax.”
The tear in the victim’s esophagus was not actually caused by the pepper itself, but from his reaction to it. Tears in the esophagus are extremely rare and have a reported high mortality rate of 20 to 40 percent, a number that rises to 100 percent if not treated. The cause of death is usually due to a rapid infection that develops because of the tear, but luckily for him the San Francisco man spent 23 days in hospital before being discharged with a gastric tube.
The world’s current hottest pepper record belongs to the Carolina Reaper, which is a crossbreed of the ghost pepper and the red habanero. Carolina Reapers get their very fitting name from the tail of the pepper which somewhat resembles a scythe. These dangerous foodstuffs have held the Guinness world record for world’s hottest pepper since August of 2013, with an official Scoville rating of 1,569,300. Although since the record was set some individual peppers have been rated at around 2.2 million Scovilles which is just over two times as hot as the Ghost Pepper.
Ghost Peppers have become a trend of sorts amongst the internet community, with many popular YouTube channels partaking in eating challenges. Often dubbed the “hot pepper challenge” these involve a person filming themselves chewing and swallowing extremely hot peppers, and usually end with predictably amusing results.
If, after all this, you are somehow still interested in trying the ghost pepper for yourself, they can be found easily on Amazon for around $6 per ounce of peppers.