In August 2000, some Indian scientists from the Defence Research Laboratory in Tezpur, Assam, reported on a new chile cultivar which they identified as Capsicum frutescens cv. Nagahari. It was dubbed Tezpur chili and also referred to as Indian PC-1. The native name is NAGA JALOKIYA, “chili of the Nagas”, after the inhabitants of Nagaland. Its heat index was 855,000 SHU. The results were published in the journal Current Science, (79, 287, 2000). However, the work invited considerable criticism for lack of proper calibration of the HPLC apparatus that was used in measuring the capsaicin content.
In addition, authentic NAGA JALOKIYA A material was not available outside of India for others to corroborate the results. Also it was questioned whether a Capsicum frutescens variety (to which the Tabasco pepper belongs) could engender such a high SHU material. However, in 2003, it was suggested that the Tezpur variant could belong to Capsicum chinense (to which the Red Savina Habanero belongs) which lent some credence to the heat claim. The Dorset Naga, which is a variant of the Bangladesh species, was characterized as C. chinense. It appears that NAGA JALOKIYA has the genes from both C.frutescens and C. chinense. This NAGA JALOKIYA is commonly grown in northeastern India (Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur) and Bangladesh
NAGA JALOKIYA is also called variously as Bih jalakia (“poison chili pepper” in Assamese language) in some places of Assam, Bhoot jalokia (“ghost” — perhaps due to its ghostly bite or a reference to its introduction from neighboring Bhutan), Nagahari, Naga morich, and Raja Mirchi (“king of chilies”). In Manipur it known as U-MOROK.Despite such different names they all refer to the same chili with the name Naga, a name associated with the warrior clan of Nagaland. Ripe NAGA chilies measure 6 to 8 cm long and 2 to 3 cm wide with an orange or red color. While similar in appearance with the Habanero peppers, the skin of NAGA peppers is dented.
The Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico, decided to test the validity of the “world’s hottest pepper” claim from several entries starting in 2001.The director of the institute received seeds from one “bhut jolokia” from someone who collected it while visiting India.
The institute grew those seeds to get some bulk seed in order to conduct field trials and compare with other varieties. After a few years they had enough seeds to conduct field trials of seeds from bhut jolokia, orange habanero and red savina.
After growing all the three under controlled conditions, the pods were harvested and the SHU of each was measured by HPLC. The orange habanero measured 357,729 SHU while the red savina was even less than the orange habanero. The bhoot jolokia crossed the million mark at 1,001,304 SHU. DNA analysis also indicated that bhoot jolokia had genes of C. frutescens and C. Chinense. Correspondingly Assam-based Frontal Agritech had their Bih jolokia tested at 1.041,427 SHU thereby affording independent verification of the chile pepper from north-eastern India/Bangladesh being the “hottest chile pepper in the world”.
In February 2007, Guinness World Records certified the Bhut Jolokia (which is the preferred name for the Indian pepper at the Chile Pepper Institute) as the “world’s hottest chili pepper”. As noted above, all the varieties, bhut jolokia, NAGA jolokia, and Raja Mirchi belong to the same class and originated from north-eastern India/Bangladesh. The Dorset NAGA that was mentioned at the outset, likewise, is a derivative of the NAGA JALOKIYA. So, at this point and until some other species/cultivar can claim a higher SHU, the Bhoot Jolokia/Bih Jolokiya/NAGA Jolokia/Raja Mirchi/Naga Morich clan can hold the title as the “hottest pepper in the world” When a chemical called substance P is released from a neuron (nerve cell), pain gets propagated. Capsaicin reduces the amount of substance P in nerve endings and interferes with pain signal transmission to the brain. Capsaicin can be used in a cream or ointment form to relieve neuralgia (pain in the nerves near the skin), and minimize the pain caused by diabetic neuropathy, osteo-arthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis. Capsaicin also relieves the pain caused by shingles (blisters around one side of the waist caused by the chicken pox virus) in adults. A Danish study confirmed the pain-relief effect of capsaicin when applied to the wound area during/after surgery
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