Researchers say a 34-year-old New York State man ate the hottest chili pepper in the world and landed in the hospital after developing what’s known as a “thunderclap headache.” According to the researchers, the chili pepper he ate — called the Carolina Reaper — caused reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS), a group of disorders distinguished by a narrowing of the blood vessels in the brain. That narrowing, in turn, led to the thunderclap headaches.
… If true, this would be unprecedented. As the study’s authors wrote, hot peppers have never previously been suspected of causing RCVS, which means, of course, that this is big news. Other experts in the field of neurology and headache research say that there’s no clear evidence that capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, causes a narrowing of arteries. Nor does RCVS always lead straight to thunderclap headaches, which cause “incapacitating” pain that “brings people to their knees.” On a pain scale of one to 10, Dodick gives a thunderclap headache a solid 10.