The Science Behind Burning Chiles and Cooling Herbs

Why do some foods taste hot and some taste cold, even when they’re all the same temperature? In dishes ranging from Calabrian pasta to Thai ground-pork salads, the heat of chiles is often offset by cooling herbs, like mint and cilantro. The combination of hot peppers and mint is found around the world, but why does it work so well? It turns out that chemicals in both of these plants have similar effects on the human body, even if they might seem to be opposites. So how do spicy and minty foods provoke a feeling of a change in temperature, even without a noticeably unusual temperature of their own? Spicy food burns, and mint chills, but of course neither food actually does either of those things in a physiological sense. It is a perfect example of how weird and stupid our brains are that room-temperature foods can somehow create a feeling of a changing temperature inside our mouths. They can even trigger physiological reactions: swelling, sweating, a runny nose. It is completely ridiculous.

Source: The Science Behind Burning Chiles and Cooling Herbs