Indian defence scientists have discovered the world’s hottest chilli growing in Assam, and are hoping to use it as the main ingredient for a new tear gas.

S.C. Dass, deputy director of the Defence Research Laboratory in Tezpur, stated: “Tests have confirmed that the tiny naga jolokia is the world’s hottest chilli.”

It reaches the eye-watering top spot on the Scoville Scale by beating its rival for the position, the Mexican Habanero variety, which can itself reach 500,000 units. During the 1920s, chemist Wilbur Scoville devised this “chilli hotness” test, which rates the more familiar jalapeno variety at about 5,000 units.

Many people cannot eat the naga jolokia, which is a variety of capsicum frutescens. Those who like a challenge for their palate however, are warned by a local tribesman: “Drinking water does not ease Naga jolokia’s burn.” Chilli peppers are hot because they contain capsaicin, which will not dissolve in water. This means that antidotes are found among dairy products, sugar or foods with high starch content.

The chilli is a traditional weapon in India, used especially by women who throw chilli powder in the eyes of attackers. The scientists at Tezpur are now looking to develop a new tear gas and pepper spray.