Carolina Reaper
World's hottest chili pepper — Carolina ReaperWikimedia Commons

World's hottest chili pepper can give one such a nasty headache that it could potentially warrant a trip to the hospital. These thunderclap headaches apparently develop in 60 seconds or less and can even lead to a stroke. 

One such case happened in the New York City, Unites States, during a hot-pepper-eating contest. Normally eating chili pepper can cause people to vomit and lead to severe heartburn. But this one was different.

The 34-year-old man, whose name has not been disclosed, developed a series of excruciating headaches and dry heaving after eating the fiery Carolina Reaper, world's hottest chili pepper.

According to the British Medical Journal's Case Reports, the man landed in the emergency room after eating the chili pepper.

What are thunderclap headaches?

Thunderclap headaches are rare, intense and can develop in just 60 seconds. They can lead to brain hemorrhage and even a stroke.

According to BMJ,  eating Carolina Reaper can cause thunderclap headaches. It also stated that an unusual blood vessel condition called reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS) results in severe pain.


Speaking of symptoms, the man did not show any sign of stroke because he did not have any kind of neurological deficits such as slurred speech or muscle weakness.

But "then CT angiography was done, which showed narrowing of the blood vessels in the brain," said Kulothungan Gunasekaran," an internal medicine physician at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and a lead author of the report [he was not involved in the patient's treatment though]. "You could see the beaded appearance [of the arteries]."

Gunasekaran added: "The patient ate the pepper and immediately starting having a severe headache that started in the back of the head and spread all over within two seconds."

"His symptoms began with dry heaves but no vomiting immediately after participation in a hot pepper contest where he ate one 'Carolina Reaper,' the hottest chili pepper in the world," he continued.

What are the treatments?

The journal said that there is no particular treatment for the thunderclap headaches. The only "treatment is observation and removal of the offending agent."

According to ABC News, Royal Melbourne Hospital neurologist Mark Parsons said, "You'd usually need injectable painkillers at the hospital to relieve it. Your standard paracetamol or anti-inflammatory won't help."

Carolina Reaper
Carolina ReaperWikimedia Commons

This is the first time it is reported that eating chili (such as- Carolina Reaper) can cause thunderclap headaches.

Gunasekaran also said that this is the first time that chili pepper has been related to RCVS. "Capsaicin, the key ingredient in the pepper, is a vasoactive substance, so it could potentially narrow the blood vessels to the most important organs like the heart and brain," he added.

Carolina Reaper, dubbed as world's hottest chili pepper, was first bred by Ed Currie of the Puckerbutt Pepper Company.

According to the company's website, the pepper measure roughly 1.5 million on the Scoville Heat Scale (it is used to measure the pungency of chili peppers). In 2013, it snatched the title of world's hottest pepper from Trinidad Scorpion "Butch T" by Guinness World Records.