The world’s hottest chili is the Carolina Reaper and holds the title due to its whopping 1.56 million on the Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Considering this is about 800 times hotter than a jalapeno, it's common sense to be reluctant to try it out but now its incredible heat has officially sent a man to hospital.

Travel News - Close-Up Of Carolina Reapers Over White Background
The Caroline Reaper chili even looks threatening. Photo by Stefano Gervasio / EyeEm

The study, which was published in the BMJ Case Reports, details the reaction of a man who ate the Reaper as part in a chili-eating contest in New York state. In the immediate aftermath he experienced dry heaves, which is not uncommon. Yet in the following days he began having more unusual symptoms; severe neck pain and crushing but brief headaches.

After taking himself to the emergency room, doctors eventually diagnosed ‘thunderclap’ headaches caused by the tightening of vessels supplying blood to the brain. These symptoms normally resolve themselves and the patient has since been given the all-clear.

Travel News - carolina reaper
The unsuspecting chili pepper hanging on the vine. Photo by Maria Dattola Photography

Normally these symptoms are associated with an adverse reaction to medication or cocaine and it’s the first case of this happening after eating chili peppers. While the doctors behind report didn’t strictly advise people to avoid eating the Carolina Reaper, they did caution that people should be aware “about these adverse effects and we advise that they should seek medical attention immediately if they develop sudden onset headache after eating hot peppers."

The taste of the Carolina Reaper has been described as eating “molten lava” or "licking the sun". The peak period of the burning pain is ten minutes, though you could have residual burn for 30 minutes in total. In the worst of it, you can expect to sweat, have increased saliva, have a running nose or feel your throat tighten up. Many people also report stomach cramps for a few hours afterwards.

Despite the notorious reputation, this doesn’t stop people from wanting to try it. If anything, it has a particular fascination for people and there are various videos of such experiments on YouTube which frequently feature people crying or vomiting while their faces are blazing with pain.

Officially the Carolina Reaper is the world’s hottest chili but there are two other contenders which have yet to be confirmed by the Guinness World Records. Dragon’s Breath is reported to be 2.4 million SHUs and has been put forward for confirmation. The hottest chili on record (though unconfirmed by Guinness) is Pepper X, which has a reported hotness scale of 3.18 million. It was bred by Ed Currie, himself the creator of the Carolina Reaper, and he claims it’s twice as hot as his most famous creation.

Explore related stories

Gingerbread houses on Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket's Great point lighthouse


Martha's Vineyard vs Nantucket: which dreamy Massachusetts island is better?

Jun 4, 2024 • 7 min read