Ch. 1: Peppers, Nutmeg, and Cloves

Black Pepper (left) (

Peppers, nutmed, and cloves were an essential motive for exploration and expansion during the 15th century. These spices were highly valued and enjoyed by an elite class of royalty and aristocrats throughout Europe. (Le Couteur & Burreson 19-35)
Spices, such as pepper, were so highly valued because they disguised the taste of roting, or spoiled meat. The active ingredient as well as the reason for the hot taste of pepper is Piperine (C17H19O3N). The shape of the piperine molecule is able to fit into a protein on the pain nerve endings of our mouth mouths which explains the hot taste of pepper that so many have enjoyed. (Le Couteur & Burreson 19-35)
Likewise, the active ingreident in ginger is Zigerone (C11H14O). Zigerone is the third molecule with similar molecular shape to piperine (the 2nd being capsaicin) that produces the much sought after hot flavor. The reason we have the desire to eat spicy and hot foods is not only to desguise the taste of spoiled meat, but because it causes an icrease in saliva production, stimulates movement of food through bowels during digestion, and the painkilling natural chemicals, endorphins, are realeases in our brain and provide us with a happy feeling. (Le Couteur & Burreson 19-35)
Both Cloves and Nutmeg are very similar in shape, but are classified as different molecules. Nutmeg is classified as an isoeugenol compound. Isoeugenol compunds are compounds that plants use as a nautural insectiside against predators. Nutmeg in particular was believed to repel the the Black Plaugue because of it characteristiclly repeled disease carrying fleas. In contrast, Cloves are eugenols. (Le Couteur & Burreson 19-35)