Wasabi, the spicy green horseradish, has gotten itself a reputation for being one of the world’s spiciest foods.
But can wasabi kill you? No, wasabi can’t kill you. Wasabi is not poisonous, and it cannot kill you outright. However, there have been a few cases where people have had adverse reactions to wasabi that required medical attention. Mostly because of their allergy to wasabi.
If you want to know how much wasabi you would have to eat to kill you, how to know if you are allergic to wasabi, and more, read on.
Table of Contents
- Can too much wasabi kill you?
- How much wasabi can kill you?
- Has anyone ever died from wasabi?
- Can you overdose on wasabi?
- Can wasabi be poisonous?
- What are the symptoms of wasabi poisoning?
- Can you be allergic to wasabi?
- How do you tell if you’re allergic to wasabi?
- Can wasabi kill your taste buds?
Can too much wasabi kill you?
The short answer is: no. Wasabi is a strong condiment, but it’s not toxic in any way that would harm you. Eat too much wasabi, and you might feel your sinuses and lungs burning, but unless you have heart problems, you’re probably not going to die from eating wasabi.
Wasabi is safe to eat, and if you enjoy the sensation of having your sinuses clear out all at once, then go ahead and put as much on your plate as you want. If you want to err on the side of caution, though (and avoid embarrassing moments), just use the condiment in moderation…
There are also two other factors working against wasabi killing you:
- 1) The wasabi in most restaurants isn’t real anyway; it’s horseradish with green food coloring!
- 2) Real (authentic Japanese) wasabi is far from easy to come by outside of Japan and other parts of the world where they grow wild.
How much wasabi can kill you?
The amount of wasabi it would take to kill you is way more than can fit in your stomach. First, a few quick calculations. The average human stomach can hold 3–4 liters of food, and the density of pure wasabi is 1.11 grams per milliliter.
So if you were to eat as much raw wasabi as you could, that would be about 20 pounds’ worth—or about 9 kilograms (9,000 grams).
Wasabi contains allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), which is what makes this plant so spicy and nasty.
To kill someone with AITC poisoning, a person would have to consume more than 200 tubes of store-bought paste or 9 kilograms of the fresh rhizome—and they’d have to do it in one sitting because the body gets rid of this compound fairly quickly after it’s consumed.
Has anyone ever died from wasabi?
No, there is no recorded case of anyone dying from eating wasabi. The closest thing to a death caused by wasabi that we could find happened to a man in Japan who choked while eating sushi.
The autopsy report showed that the cause of death was asphyxiation, and while there were bits of wasabi found in his trachea, it’s more likely that he died from choking on a piece of sushi rather than from the wasabi itself.
The only other way anyone could get hurt by the green paste is if they were allergic to the plant itself—which is rare but can happen.
In fact, wasabi has some great health benefits! Not only does eating wasabi help kill bacteria in your mouth and throat (including those that can cause bad breath), but it also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and may decrease blood clotting. However, overdoing it may lead to some mild gastrointestinal problems like gas or bloating.
Can you overdose on wasabi?
Yes, you can technically overdose on wasabi, but it would be very difficult to do so. As we mentioned before, the active ingredient in wasabi is allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), and according to the National Institute of Health, the lethal dose for humans is estimated to be somewhere around 100 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.
So how much would you have to eat for wasabi to become deadly? For wasabi poisoning to occur, a human would have to consume about 20 pounds of the green stuff in one sitting—easily more than anyone on Earth could stomach at once. (And by the way, this holds true for just about all hot sauce and spicy foods.)
From an overdose standpoint, the good news is that wasabi is not addictive.
Can wasabi be poisonous?
First, let’s define poisoning. Poisonous can mean something that kills you, or it can mean food poisoning, a GI illness caused by eating food infected with bacteria or viruses.
So is wasabi poisonous in the sense that it could kill you? No. Wasabi may be pungent and super hot, but it won’t permanently damage your body if eaten in excess (though you might get a stomach ache).
What are the symptoms of wasabi poisoning?
The main symptoms and effects of wasabi poisoning are burning of the mouth, throat, and stomach. Other symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Skin irritation (including a red rash)
The most serious symptoms of wasabi poisoning include:
- Cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
But these symptoms are super are. So don’t be afraid, go ahead and enjoy your sushi with a healthy dollop of wasabi! Just don’t overdo it.
Can you be allergic to wasabi?
Yes, you can be allergic to wasabi. An allergy can cause skin rashes or swelling of the face and tongue. The symptoms vary depending on the severity of your intolerance, but they do include an itchy rash and swelling of the face or mouth.
If you think you may have an allergy to wasabi, we recommend seeing your doctor right away because severe allergies are nothing to mess around with.
To avoid adverse reactions, avoid eating anything that contains the condiment completely—we know that’s easier said than done if you’re out at a restaurant and you have no idea what’s in your food.
Don’t attempt to treat yourself for a possible wasabi allergy as that could make things worse. If you experience any of these symptoms after eating Japanese food, see a doctor as soon as possible so they can pinpoint what exactly is causing the negative reaction—which could mean avoiding more than just wasabi-containing dishes.
How do you tell if you’re allergic to wasabi?
If you’re concerned about a wasabi allergy, it’s always best to speak with a doctor. That said, there are several common symptoms of food allergies that you can look out for:
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, and/or vomiting
- Anaphylaxis (breathing difficulties, swelling of the throat and lips)
- Hives or rashes
- Itchiness in your mouth or nose
- Itchy eyes (possible sign of an allergic reaction to airborne irritants like pollen)
It’s important to distinguish between an allergic reaction and food intolerance. A food intolerance indicates an inability to digest certain types of foods properly—the symptoms may be similar but it’s not life-threatening as is the case with a full-blown allergy.
Another difference is that while food allergies need only one exposure to trigger a reaction, food intolerances typically require several exposures before symptoms appear.
Can wasabi kill your taste buds?
No, eating wasabi isn’t going to destroy your taste buds. In fact, the temporary numbness you get from a mouthful of wasabi is a sign that you’re enjoying the raw horseradish properly.
What happens when you eat wasabi? When you eat real wasabi, the sinuses in your nose are stimulated and cause a feeling of numbness. The plant also activates pain receptors in the nasal passages, causing slight discomfort.
This is why it’s so unique: it causes both cooling and heating sensations at once. It may be uncomfortable to some people with very sensitive nasal passages, but there are no risks to experiencing these sensations.
Wasabi has not been shown to have any long-term effects on how well we can taste food or other flavors.
So, to sum up: you can eat as much wasabi as you want, and, unless you have an allergy, the worst that will happen is some irritated skin around your mouth. Wasabi isn’t toxic, it’s not going to kill you, and it’s even healthy as it contains antioxidants. Just don’t go too crazy with it!
- Why Does Wasabi Burn My Brain?
- Why Does Wasabi Burn Nose and Sinuses?
- Is There Capsaicin in Wasabi?
- Wasabi Scoville: How Hot Is Wasabi?
Image credits – Canva