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The hottest pepper in the world? Beware the "Dragon's Breath"

Farmers in Wales may have the world's hottest chili pepper on their hands, according to British media reports. 

Mike Smith reportedly grew a chili pepper that smashes all previous heat records — all by accident. Smith said he never intended to breed a particularly spicy pepper and he doesn't even like foods with heat, The Telegraph reports.

The pepper came from a plant Smith borrowed from fellow farmer Neal Price, which reportedly was grown using specialized plant food developed by researchers at Nottingham Trent University, the BBC reports.

The growers have named the explosive chili pepper the "Dragon's Breath," a nod to the pepper's Welsh origins. They say it's too hot for human consumption.

"It's not been tried orally. I've tried it on the tip of my tongue and it just burned and burned. I spat it out in about 10 seconds," Smith told The Daily Post. "The heat intensity just grows."

The Dragon's Breath scores at an impressive 2.48 million on the Scoville heat scale, a widely used standard to measure the concentration of capsaicin, the chemical that produces the sensation of spice in peppers. 

If that score is verified, the Dragon's Breath would knock the previous record holder, a South Carolina innovation called the Carolina Reaper, out of the water. The Carolina Reaper scores approximately 1.6 million on the Scoville scale and has held the Guinness Book of World Records title since 2013. 

Think you can handle this heat? For comparison, a habañero pepper clocks in at 350,000 on the Scoville scale, and the humble jalapeño measures up to 8,000, according to hot pepper blog PepperScale

The newly grown chili could have interesting public health benefits: its oil is so intense that it can numb the skin, meaning the pepper could potentially be used as an anesthetic in developing contexts where patients struggle to access anesthesia or with patients with allergies to anesthesia, Smith told the BBC.

Concentrated capsaicin, found in the Dragon's Breath and other extremely spicy peppers, can trigger the immune system to go into overdrive. Capsaicin activates the proteins found on nerve endings, and those proteins can mistakenly interpret capsaicin as a signal of extreme heat entering the body, Live Science reported. The result? Reactions like anaphylactic shock, severe burns, and even the closing of one's airways are all possible, experts warn. So this extreme pepper is nothing to mess around with.

The growers behind the Dragon's Breath are still awaiting confirmation from the Guinness Book of World Records, Smith said. They plan to show off the hot pepper at the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show in London this week.

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