Hyperesthesia is a term used to describe the phenomenon where humans experience feelings of euphoria when exposed to certain stimuli such as music or food. It’s not just confined to humans; animals are known to experience it too. Dogs have been documented experiencing high levels of euphoria from their favorite foods and even specific flavors.
What makes this phenomenon so interesting is that there isn’t any evidence that it exists in nature at all (at least not naturally occurring). There are many theories about what could cause this phenomenon, but no one has ever found any physiological reason why humans would feel euphoric while eating something or drinking alcohol.
The first time I heard about this phenomenon was in a book called “The Secret Life Of Plants” by John Muir. It describes how plants communicate with each other using chemicals which make them grow better together than they do apart. One of these chemicals is called “hyperesthesia”.
This chemical causes humans to experience euphoria when exposed to certain foods and drinks.
However, there are some problems with this theory. First off, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that humans actually evolved in a world where humans had access to food and drink containing high levels of sugar or alcohol. Humans didn’t evolve in a world like that either!
It’s only very recently in the evolutionary timeline that humans started eating and drinking sweet things or alcohol, so there is no reason to believe that humans would have evolved to feel euphoric when they consume such things.
That doesn’t mean the theory is necessarily wrong though. The “hyperesthesia” plant was only one of many plants which were mentioned in the book. It’s entirely possible that it was included in the book just to make the reader more open to the idea that plants communicate with each other.
The book has a very nature-loving tone to it and doesn’t seem to be written by someone with any formal education on plant biology. It is likely that all of the information provided within the book should be taken with a grain of salt.
Sources & references used in this article:
Pathology of experimental compression neuropathy producing hyperesthesia by C Sommer, JA Galbraith, HM Heckman… – … of Neuropathology & …, 1993 – academic.oup.com
Spinal pharmacology of thermal hyperesthesia induced by constriction injury of sciatic nerve. Excitatory amino acid antagonists by T Yamamoto, TL Yaksh – Pain, 1992 – Elsevier
Mechanical hyperesthesia of human facial skin induced by tonic painful stimulation of jaw muscles by P Svensson, T Graven-Nielsen, L Arendt-Nielsen – Pain, 1998 – Elsevier
Corneal epitheliopathy of dry eye induces hyperesthesia to mechanical air jet stimulation by CS De Paiva, SC Pflugfelder – American journal of ophthalmology, 2004 – Elsevier
Normalization of widespread hyperesthesia and facilitated spatial summation of deep‐tissue pain in knee osteoarthritis patients after knee replacement by T Graven‐Nielsen, T Wodehouse… – Arthritis & …, 2012 – Wiley Online Library
Role of spinal adenosine receptors in modulating the hyperesthesia produced by spinal glycine receptor antagonism. by M Sosnowski, TL Yaksh – Anesthesia and analgesia, 1989 – europepmc.org