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Why does pepper make you sneeze? July 31, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: ,

Silence Dogood here. I just made a nice batch of hot, buttered popcorn for our friend Ben, and sprinkled it with black pepper and Trocomare (hot herbed salt). I handed him a huge bowl and departed to return to my computer and my writing deadline. Then I started sneezing. And sneezing, and sneezing, and sneezing.

Mind you, it wasn’t like I’d been snorting pepper or pouring hot sauce up my nose. I couldn’t feel any irritation at all. And yet, there I was, turned in an instant from civilized writer to sneeze-o-matic. Once I was able to sit upright and breathe again, I wondered why. Why would a little finely ground black pepper, nowhere near your face, make you sneeze?

The obvious answer is that it irritates the nasal passages, and the nerves in the nose send the brain a message to get rid of the irritant as quickly as possible. Achoo! But what if the pepper hasn’t actually even gotten into your nose, and you’re still sneezing like crazy? Power of suggestion? I think not. Trust me, I’d have far rather been sitting peacefully here at the computer working on the next chapter. Suggestion in my case would be “get back to writing, your next deadline is coming due and you’ll probably be murdered if you don’t meet it.”

If anyone out there has any insights into this phenomenon, please let me know. And meanwhile, I’ll be happy to accept donations of boxes of Kleenex.

                   ‘Til next time,



1. William - August 1, 2012

Without researching the subject, I can only guess that the piperine from the pepper was on your fingers and may have touched your upper lip. It could be possible that the piperine was in a vapor form, though I doubt if that is correct. Another cause could be the Trocomare. As I am unfamiliar with this item, I can only assume it too has an irritant that could possibly have been placed around your nasal area.

Trocomare, another reason why I enjoy your blog. There is always something for me to learn of.

Trocomare is wonderful, William! You can find it in health food stores, and it adds fabulous flavor to everything from omelettes to any kind of vegetable, mac’n’cheese, etc. without masking or changing the original flavors. It adds a (very) little heat, while its cousin, Herbamare, which is also wonderful, doesn’t. Try them, you’ll like them! And you’re right, it was probably the Trocamare that set me off, because it’s a very fine powder so I might have inadvertently inhaled some.

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