The Scoville scale
Wilbur Scoville: He invented the Scoville scale in 1912
Wilbur Lincoln

The Scoville scale is a measure of the "hotness" of a chilli or other spicy food. The scale is named after its inventor, the American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, who developed it in 1912.

Scoville Heat Unit

The spiciness of chilli peppers and other spicy foods is expressed in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). The scale is actually a measure of the concentration of capsaicinoids. Capsaicinoids are the substances responsible for the spiciness of chilli peppers, among others. They are measured on the Scoville scale in parts per million (ppm).

Capsaicinoids are found in various plants, including chilli peppers, sweet peppers and chillies. They are also found in seeds, such as cumin, ginger and fennel.

List of spicy ingredients

Below is a list of some common ingredients and their corresponding SHU values:

This scale runs from 0 SHU to 16 million SHU.
  • SHU = 0: Sweet pepper
  • SHU = 600-800: Green pepper
  • SHU = 2,500-30,000: Jalapeño pepper
  • SHU = 30,000-50,000: Cayenne pepper
  • SHU = 100,000-350,000: Madame Jeanette
  • SHU = 900,000-2,200,000: Carolina Reaper
  • SHU = 15,000,000-16,000,000: Pure capsaicums

As you can see, there can be quite a difference in the spiciness of different ingredients! So if you're cooking with chilli peppers, make sure you know your Scoville Units! The complete list can be found on wikipedia.

Are Capsaicinoids harmful to health?

The answer is: it depends.

Capsaicinoids can be irritating to the skin, eyes and mucous membranes. If ingested in large quantities, they can cause gastro-oesophageal reflux and vomiting.

However, capsaicinoids also have some beneficial effects. They are used in topical creams to treat pain, and have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

So, while capsaicinoids can be harmful in large quantities, they also have a number of potential benefits. Then it really only comes down to the question: can you stand the heat?

Here are some of our most spicy organic products: