Photo_2.jpgMsChien's Molecule Log

11/10/2008 - Give away some THEOBROMINE this holiday!

Theobromine has a mass of 180.164 g/mol

Theobromine (C7 H8 N4 O2) is an alkaloid that exists in small amounts in the cocoa plant. While there is more theobromine than caffeine in the plant, theobromine's power as a stimulant is definitely less than that of its counterpart. Caffeine shares a similar structure with theobromine. While it is not in coffee, it is in chocolate products as well as tea.

Strangely enough, Theobromine can relax the bronchi - I often drink tea in order to help with allergic symptoms. It has no negative effects on humans, but a small amount of theobromine can put canines in cardiac arrest and and seizures - that is why feeding dogs theobromine-contained desserts is a huge no-no!

The use of cocoa is documented well in history. It is used as a currently during the Aztec, Mayan and Loltec empires. The substance was used in religious ceremonies, as well as an important consituent in meals in weathy and royal families. The preparation of cocoa into sweet chocolate didn't occur until Europeans mass produced it with sucrose and spread its sales all over the world.

Watch a video on the current production of cocoa in Nicaragua - the video interviews a cocoa producer who talks about how he finds different ways to grow the plant efficiently every year. Central and South American has the world's primary sources of cocoa which are then sent to secondary factories and companies to make into popular foods such as candy and drinks. When you buy fair-trade cocoa products, you are supporting these primary organizations who does the hard work of growing the cocoa crops.


11/1/2008 - CAPSASIN: Too hot for your own good!

Capsasin has a mass of 305.41 g/mol. Its scientific name is 8-Methyl-N-vanillyl-trans-6-nonenamide

Capsasin is the compound found in chili peppers. It is what makes fruits like them spicy! The molecule shown is only one of several types of capsasinoids in the world. There are at least 6 other types. Capsasin is found on the fleshy parts of fruits. Its made function is to fend away animals with molars that can damage its seeds. Birds, who act as dispersing agents for seeds, do not have the receptors to sense capsasin. They consume the seeds without being detered by capsasin's power. Generally, Capsasin is sensed by the nervous system's pain receptors. Despite the fact that we sense spicy food as "hot", it never increase body temperature (our body remains at a constant temperature anyways).

Capsasin has many uses in medicine. It is used as a topical ointment for muscle pain. There are also research suggesting that Capsasin can cause apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells. Check out a bonus video below to see how this works!

The Chemistry of Peppers. [Online at] Molecule of the Month.