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.


I have experienced this most of my adult life when eating raw celery. I don't know what causes it, but it happens regardless of if it is organic, home grown, or regular, older or fresh- it always goes numb, and the tip of my tongue tingles pretty strongly. It doesn't stop me from eating it completely, but usually after eating a stock it is enough for me to want to quit. It usually takes about 20 minutes for the feeling to go away completely. I don't have any other allergies that I am aware of. Basically from what I gather online is that it is common, but nobody can definitively decide the cause.

As far as I know the numbness some people experience after eating celery is actually due to the presence of a chemical called eugenol. This is an essential oil that is present in a lot of different plants (cloves, anise, etc.) Due to its numbing properties it’s actually used as a topical anesthetic. Some people are merely more sensitive (and maybe allergic) to this chemical, leading to varying levels of numbness experienced.

I must have eaten
2 packages of celery THIS WEEK alone.. And I have never once in my life experienced this numbing sensation. That's why I just googled it. I was at a birthday party and there was a pre-packaged veggie tray with veggies and dip. I only had a piece of celery. My boyfriend had a carrot and a piece of celery. Within minutes both of our mouths were crazy numb. This wasn't particularly "green" celery.. But it was not pale. I do not normally eat organic. So this poses the question: why now? I obviously am not "sensitive" to this chemical naturally found in celery. (I eat it almost daily).. Was it chemicals? Hmmm. Most of these articles are saying the numbness comes from the celery's own chemicals and my own sensitivities.... And I'm just not buying that!

Unless you are using "family" in some completely different sense than the botanical one, celery is NOT in the same family as birch.

Maybe referring to the celery-birch-mugwort-spice syndrome, but dang lol DRAG him

If I eat a store bought apples without washing them I react immediately on contact. Allergic reactions and chemical reactions are notoriously quick acting. Almost quantum entanglement fast. An apple from a tree is fine... And a well washed store apple is ok, but not the best.

I do believe the celery thing is a component of celery itself, but of course some people are probably reacting to the pesticides on contact.

My tongue becomes numb with raw celery. When cooked, there’s no problem.

I'm experiencing this for the first time with a raw, organic celery snack I'm eating. My research has pointed to a chemical eugenol which is naturally occurring in the celery and has numbing/anesthetic effects.

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.

I actually stumbled here because I've been experiencing this (for the first time I recall) with organic celery.
Historically I've consumed non-organic celery, but realizing they're on the "dirty dozen" list, I purchased organic celery. So, this is my first time consuming organic celery AND my first time experiencing this numbing sensation. Hardly enough evidence to completely debase your comment, but certainly contradicts it.


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