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Cooking with Chiles intensifies the flavors of food, but there is an added advantage: Chiles are incredibly good for you. Studies have shown that peppers aid digestion and circulation, and they’ve been known to reduce the risk of heart disease. They’re also a great source of potassium, and are rich in vitamins A, B, C, and P, Iron, Magnesium, Riboflavin, Niacin, and Thiamin. Green Chiles, for example, have twice the vitamin C found in Oranges(which is why sixteenth-century Spanish sailors took Chiles on voyages to prevent scurvy), and Red Chiles are better than carrots for vitamin A, which is essential in protecting the skin and strengthening eyesight.

Like acupuncture, jogging, and sex, Chiles can also induce a glowing sense of well-being. The source of this physiological reaction is CAPSAICIN( pronounced CAP-SAY-SIN), a chemical produced at the steam-end of the Chile’s placenta. As CAPSAICIN travels from the pepper’s inner sanctum to your own, it triggers a series of chemical events: First, the chemical excites the pain-detecting nerves in your mouth, nose, and throat. Thus awakened, they dispatch a pain messenger to the brain. The brain, in turn, releases natural pain killers called ENDORPHINS, which block the burning attack and trigger a “RUSH” of pleasurable relief.

(It’s not surprising that Chile peppers come from the PSYCHOTROPIC plant family, which also includes Poppies and Psilocybin Mushrooms.)

ANDREW WEIL, a physician who has studies psychotropic plants, calls the experience “MOUTH SURFING,” where people “glide along on the strong stimulation, experiencing it as something between pleasure and pain that enforces concentration and brings on a high state of consciousness.”

If you’re not familiar with Chiles, fear not---you have a wonderful adventure awaiting you. Heat, of course, is the source of hot sauce’s magic, but once you get beyond the heat, you soon discover an aromatic world rich in flavors, strongly influenced by the choice of peppers and the particular blend of ingredients and spices that makes each sauce unique. The timing of the heat, and its location in your mouth, are also integral components of the hot sauce experience. As you become familiar with different hot sauces, you will be able to play them like a “TEN_PIECE JAZZ BAND, Syncopating heat and flavor in time and space.

You don’t have to be a macho Chile head to fall in love with hot sauces, nor do you have to blister your mouth to enjoy them at the table and in cooking. You’ll find that they’re very easy to make, and I urge you to incorporate them—as well as the many fine bottled hot sauces on the market---into myriad dishes, to make the flavors sing.

Edmond Kodzo Segbeaya