Why Does Wasabi Burn Nose and Sinuses? (Is It Healthy?)

I really love wasabi. It has this slight burning sensation that just tickles your nose and sinuses but in a good way. The question is:

Why does wasabi burn the nose and sinuses? The burning sensation from wasabi is caused by a chemical called allyl isothiocyanate. When allyl isothiocyanate comes into contact with mucous membranes (like in your nasal cavity), it causes irritation that results in that burning sensation.

If you want to know how to eat wasabi without this burning, continue reading.

Why Does Wasabi Burn Nose and SinusesPin

Does wasabi burn your nose and sinuses?

You may have noticed that when you eat wasabi, it feels like it’s burning your nose and sinuses.

This is because the chemical makeup of wasabi is similar to mustard. The rhizome (plant stem) of the wasabi plant contains chemicals known as isothiocyanates. One of them is allyl isothiocyanate. These chemicals trigger a burning sensation in your nose and sinuses.

Some people think this process isn’t very pleasant, but others really enjoy it!

How to eat wasabi without burning your nose and sinuses?

As you likely know, wasabi is a very powerful scent. When you are eating wasabi, the burning sensation goes up to your nose and sinuses because it is such a strong scent.

Fortunately, if you’ve ever felt like wasabi burned your nose and sinuses, you’re not alone. Many people have had the same experience!

To avoid having this happen again in the future, do this:

Breathe properly

Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth while you are eating wasabi. This will help to prevent the burning sensation in your nose and sinuses.

Make sure to have a drink handy, such as water or green tea

Sipping on these beverages can help to soothe the burning feeling in your throat that may be caused by wasabi.

Eat other things along with the wasabi

If you are worried about the burning sensation, try pairing wasabi with other foods. This will help to cut down on the burning feeling. For example, you can have wasabi with sushi or sashimi. The rice will help to nullify the burning effect of the wasabi.

Get used to wasabi flavor and scent

You can train yourself by gradually adding more wasabi to your meals. With time, you will get used to the flavor and scent of wasabi and the burning sensation will become less intense.

Start with a small amount

When you first start eating wasabi, it’s best to go slowly. First, put a small amount on your food and see how you react to it. If you find that the burning sensation is too much for you, then try adding less wasabi next time.

Related: How Much Wasabi Is Too Much?

What does wasabi do to your sinuses?

You might be surprised to find out that wasabi actually helps your sinuses. Wasabi is a natural decongestant and can help clear your sinuses. It works in much the same way as menthol, which we’re all familiar with from Vicks VapoRub.

But wait, I thought wasabi burned my sinuses? It does for a few moments, but it’s doing so for a good reason!

Wasabi stimulates small hairs in your nose called cilia. These cilia are responsible for clearing mucus out of your nose and sinuses but can get bogged down by allergens and bacteria. Wasabi wakes them up, so they start moving again!

And it doesn’t stop there! Wasabi also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce redness and swelling inside the nasal passages caused by seasonal allergies.

Plus, wasabi contains both antioxidants and antibacterial properties, which prevent infections from occurring as well as killing bacteria that do form in the nasal passages.

The combined effect of these three factors is heightened immunity against colds and other upper respiratory illnesses that typically arise during allergy season.

nose and sinuses irritated by wasabiPin

Is wasabi good for your sinuses?

There are a few reasons why wasabi is good for your sinuses.

For one, wasabi contains anti-inflammatory properties, which can help clear those snotty sinuses when you’re feeling stuffed up. In addition, research has shown that the condiment may even be able to help prevent colds in the first place by limiting your influenza exposure.

And if you do happen to get sick, wasabi can also help clear out all those nasty mucus secretions that come with strep throat and other bacterial infections.

Can wasabi damage your sinuses?

No, wasabi will not damage your sinuses. However, it is possible to have an allergic reaction to wasabi. If you start to experience difficulty breathing or swelling of the throat after eating wasabi, seek medical attention immediately as this could be a sign of anaphylaxis.

Other than that, enjoy that delicious nose-burning sensation!

Why does wasabi go up to your nose?

When you eat wasabi, you’ll feel the burn in your nose and sinuses.

That’s because wasabi is more than just spicy food. It’s also an irritant.

The irritation caused by wasabi stimulates one of its chemical constituents (allyl isothiocyanate) to act as a natural decongestant by clearing nasal passages and relieving sinus pressure.

This explains why wasabi is so effective at opening up your airways when you have stuffy sinuses or even a cold, which helps you breathe easier.

Related: Why Does Wasabi Burn My Brain?


Wasabi has a chemical called allyl isothiocyanate that helps clear your sinuses by stimulating tiny hairs in your nose (cilia) and causing slight irritation that causes this burning sensation in your nose and sinuses. It also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties. Wasabi will not damage your sinuses.

So, next time you’re feeling congested, don’t reach for the Vicks. Instead, try a little wasabi for some relief. Or, if your wasabi reservoir is running dry, try spicy foods like horseradish or mustard. These spices still provoke that burning sensation but are filled with beneficial properties, and safety concerns aren’t as prevalent as with wasabi.



Image credits – Canva

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