Defense scientists in India are working on a new use for the Bhut Jolokia pepper. The Bhut Jolokia pepper is also known as Ghost Chili or Ghost Pepper and is listed in the Guinness World Records as the hottest chili pepper in the world. Indian weapons experts believe the peppers can be used in modified hand grenades to disable and disperse unruly crowds without hurting anyone.

Scoville Heat Units (SHU) is the measurement used to define the hotness of chili’s and other peppers when ingested. Capsaicin is the chemical that causes peppers to burn the senses. The highest level of capsaicin delivers the hottest sensation. Bhut Jolokia peppers rate the highest at 1,041,427 SHU. By comparison, the well-known habanera pepper rates a mere 350,000 SHU!

Although Bhut Jolokia peppers are used for seasoning food, experienced cooks do so very carefully. Other common uses include medical treatments for stomach ailments and heat exhaustion. This unique chili pepper originated in northern India and is a naturally-occurring hybrid. Natives have long used the pepper extract as a deterrent for wild elephants.

Indian officials believe the use of Bhut Jolokia pepper grenades will serve a useful role in controlling crowd insurgency without inflicting permanent harm on rioters. The burning effects last for about thirty (30) minutes and effectively disable the sinuses and eyes.

In the United States, sprays containing pepper extract have been in use for decades. Private individuals can purchase pepper spray canisters for personal protection without any special permit and it is not illegal to carry them. Granted, the pepper extract in these sprays is nowhere near as hot as Bhut Jolokia, but perhaps with good reason.

The US legal system has determined that in some cases the use of pepper spray has caused permanent damage to a person and has further found the user of the spray liable for damages. If an innocent person is exposed to pepper spray, the user of the spray is guilty of an unprovoked attack.

Then there is the lesser-of-two-evils consideration. If a rioting mob threatens the welfare and safety of innocent bystanders, which is better, bullets or pepper grenades? Most of us would prefer the pepper grenades. Although this is an interesting development to watch in India, the majority of Americans probably hope Bhut Jolokia pepper will only appear in very select restaurant kitchens under strict supervision.