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I'm putting together the results of a kitchen experiment and I'd like to be able to identify a phenomenon that I've noticed when using certain spices. I've felt it in some of what are often called "warm" spices, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg come to mind, but that's by no means a complete list. For lack of a better way to describe it, it's a subtle numbness. I feel it primarily on the hard palate, and the sensation (or lack thereof) lasts perhaps twice as long as the perception of the actual flavor of the spice. It's so subtle that it won't surprise me if nobody knows what I'm talking about, but I'm hopeful.

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The answer to this question is eugenol, because it's in the spices you've named, but it's not the only compound that can cause numbness. For example, sichuan pepper has hydroxy-alpha sanshool. –  Jefromi Dec 6 '13 at 19:44
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up vote 9 down vote accepted

It could be eugenol that causes the numbing sensation you experience. Eugenol is common to cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, basil and bay leaf and is used in anesthetics & analgesics, among other things.

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I think you're dead on! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenol It's funny that the first 3 sources of eugenol listed in the wiki are clove, nutmeg and cinnamon! I knew I wasn't nuts! –  Jolenealaska Oct 25 '13 at 6:37
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