It’s a burning question. We all understand how onions bring on the tears but why does pepper make us sneeze?

There are 2 reasons why pepper is particularly sneeze-inducing. The first is that, like other spices, it is often used when finely ground. As with any other tiny particle in the air, it can stimulate nerve cells inside the nose and trigger the sneeze reflex to forcefully clear out the offensive particulate.

The other reason is on account of the chemical composition of pepper. Pepper contains a chemical called piperine, which gives the plant its flavour. Piperine stimulates the nasal nerve endings, causing the brain to trigger muscles in the nose and throat to get rid of the particles.

Piperine is present in white and green pepper but black pepper is the most irritating.

Know yer nose!

  • When you sneeze, air rushes out of your nose at 100 miles per hour!
  • The human nose has 5 million scent receptors
  • Sneezing is called sternutation
  • Our nose produces 1 to 2 pints of mucus every day

Photo by James Gathany / Public domain