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pleiades's avatar

What is going on in my head/brain when I eat a lot of wasabi?

Asked by pleiades (6594points) January 6th, 2014

Ok, so I’m a huge fan of wasabi. I like to teeter totter the amount on my sushi. Small amount, large amount, medium amount etc and in no particular order. When bite a large amount on my sushi, what in the world is going on in my brain in the front with all that tingling? And how does it go from my tongue to my head? Is it a sign not to eat it? Is my body trying to reject it? Or is just what wasabi does? Haha. Thanks Fluther!

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5 Answers

Smitha's avatar

The intense “scalp burning” sensation happens to everyone who eats wasabi. It’s just your sinuses getting a little agitated. It so happens that wasabi and mustard oil is packed with chemicals called isothyocyanates. This chemical is what “burns”. The reason why is the vapors of the chemical trigger nerve response in both your nose and your sinuses. This is the same compound that’s in horseradish. Some restaurants use a mixture of horseradish and green food coloring, with little or no actual wasabi in the mix and this also has the same kick.

pleiades's avatar

Ok that’s awesome and all, so essentially those chemicals are bad for the sinus? (If a ton is eaten?) I mean for me it jolts me up and I can breath again afterwards. Like a steroid dosage of hot sauce or something, only with zing and no spice.

Smitha's avatar

If you have previously been stuffed up, you may suddenly be able to breathe more easily through your nose. Many people believed that wasabi helped open their nasal passages. But U.S. researchers found that eating wasabi appeared to increase congestion in certain people. It makes the space of your nasal passages smaller. This reason could be a perfect excuse to completely avoid wasabi. Having it once in a while is fine, too much of anything is always bad!

dabbler's avatar

If you aren’t uncomfortable after the blast of wasabi I don’t think there’s any reason to think it’s bad for you is there? It might even be good exercise for the affected parts.

snowberry's avatar

My father used to call it “The Poor Man’s Dristan”. It worked, too!

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