Why does celery make my tongue numb?

08 July 2007


I have a question which needs some arbitrating. When I eat raw celery my tongue goes a bit numb, but by girlfriend doesn’t believe me. I’ve looked on the internet, but haven’t seen any definitive answers about what causes this phenomenon, or whether this even really exists.


This could be a manifestation of Oral Allergy Syndrome. If you suffer from hayfever, an allergy to pollen, you may find some of the same substances in the plant as you would find in the pollen.

When you eat the plant, your mouth is exposed to the same things as you would in the pollen, and so you have a miniature allergic reaction in your mouth. The symptoms are pricklyness, swelling, itchyness, even an itchy sensation on the inside of your ears! The Numbness in your tounge would well be the celery prompting this oral allergy.

Celery is in the same family as birch, so if you are allergic to birch pollen, you may well get this reaction to celery.


My tongue does the same thing within seconds of eating celery! I'll have to try organic and see if it still happens.

Organic isn't the answer to everything. Organic celery will give you the SAME reaction. It is a compound the plant makes naturally. Maybe younger celery stalks or eating fewer of them will help.


It seems everyone overlooks the obvious, that celery is the most heavily treated vegetable on the table with regards pesticides. Most pesticides are neurological agents and, if you've every allowed a raw sleeping pill to sit on your tongue for any moment of time (a neurological agent), you'll know it makes the tongue feel numb! Ergo, I strongly suspect it is farming chemicals causing the effect - I don't have the issue with organically farmed celery... so it seems compelling.

The answer provided is more likely to be the correct one. While we cannot rule out that the celery may have some pesticide residue, the likelihood of producing such a dramatic effect and so quickly, and reproducibly, is low.

I can't afford "organic only" but buy it whenever the sale price allows. I typically have a much stronger reaction to organic celery. Also noteworthy, I don't always have numbness when eating celery. I suspect it is a component of the celery, not farming practices. My anecdotal research seems to point towards a stronger reaction the earlier the celery was picked (I.e., the greener it is). Older, paler, riper celery doesn't bother me.

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