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Hank explains the science behind the "cinnamon challenge," and reveals why it is nearly impossible to complete.
Do not attempt the cinnamon challenge! Instead, why not just watch some videos of the thousands of YouTubers failing at it! That's what we at SciShow call doing it "the Smart Way."

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Watch John try the cinnamon challenge on Crash Course World History:


Cinnamon is delicious - I mean have you ever had a churro? But as my brother John will tell you, if you take a tablespoon full of it, and put it in your mouth and try to swallow it, its kind of impossible to do. But that didn't stop John or like 50,000 other people out there from attempting this utterly impossible thing, so why? Why isn't it possible?

First, your mouth it produces about a liter of saliva a day. That's quite a lot of saliva, which is just mucus, enzymes and some other stuff. But as gross as this might seem to you, we're swallowing that saliva all the time, so at any given time you have like less than a tablespoon of it in your mouth. 

So here is a tablespoon of cinnamon and here is a tablespoon of water - just being generous. And yummy, as you can see cinnamon is practically waterproof. Some of it's still completely dry and the rest of its just hanging out on top of the water. That's because cinnamon, the delicious spice that turns butter and sugar and bread into magic, is actually the desiccated powdered bark of cinnamon trees and the main component of tree bark is cellulose, which is both water resistant and resistant to the enzymes produced by humans, which is why we can't make a living out of eating sticks. So while you're eating cinnamon toast, the bread and the sugar they're getting broken down by the digestive enzymes in your mouth but not the cinnamon. The other components of cinnamon are basically just volatile organic compounds which give it that kicky flavor that we all love.

From a purely medical standpoint, the cinnamon challenge is pretty dangerous and actually once your nervous system gets the signal that your mouth has been basically made waterproof, plus suddenly a whole punch of finally ground powder in there, it kinda goes into panic mode. Because you've gotta breath right so your central nervous system starts telling you to breath in gasps, like you would if you were drowning, only that directs all that dry powdery cinnamon down your pharynx, your larynx, down your trachea and into your lungs. And your lungs are sensitive you guys - all that tissue is pink and squishy like a pile of newborn baby bunnies. And if there's one thing your body hates its a bunch of exotic materials spicing up your sensitive alveoli. So then your immune system kicks in sending over a bunch of white blood cells and the result is inflammation, maybe even pneumonia or scarring of the lung tissue. Or you know, you could just choke to death, that's always an option.

Not to mention that cinnamon contains a chemical compound called Coumarin that when ingested in large quantities can actually cause liver damage in susceptible individuals. So yeah its kinda a silly internet thing but in 2011, the American Association of Poison Control Centers recorded 51 calls regarding teens and cinnamon and that's already increased to 139 calls for 2012.

So, let science be your guide. Instead of doing this stupid thing yourself, why not watch videos of literally thousands of YouTubers failing at it. That's what we SciShow people call the smart way.

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