Can Olive Oil Burn Your Throat?


Are you wondering why it feels like olive oil is burning your throat after you consume it? Knowing why you get a tingly sensation in your throat after consuming olive oil will ease your anxiety about consuming olive oil.

Olive oil can cause a tingly feeling in the back of a throat, but will not cause actual burning. The activation of the TRPA1 ion channel by the phenolic compound oleocanthal in olive oil seems to be responsible for the tingly, or pungent, feeling in the back of the throat after one consumes olive oil.

Also, ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs are known to activate the TRPA1 ion channels as well which fascinates scientists. The burning sensation is believed to be a defense mechanism against potentially harmful chemicals that are located in the air.

Below, I will go through the throat burning phenomenon more in-depth. I will also thoroughly explain how to prevent your throat from burning when consuming olive oil or any substance that activates the TRPA1 ion channels in the throat.

Why Some Olive Oils Burn Your Throat

When you are tasting Galilee Green Olive Oil straight from the tin, and you get a slight or strong stinging aftertaste in the back of your throat, it means that you have the purest extra virgin olive oil. This is a good sign as it contains a sufficient amount of natural anti-inflammatory agents.

Extra virgin olive oil and ibuprofen contain the same thing known as TRPA1 receptor. TRPA1 is the protein that is positioned on top of the cell that’s at the back of your throat. The burning sensation acts as a defense against chemicals that are located in the air.

These cells can be very sensitive to extra virgin olive oil, ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs which is strange to scientists as it is one of the most important wonders in medicine.  This overlap between ibuprofen and extra virgin olive oil is the topic of the Journal of Neuroscience article publicized in the 2019 January issue.

The Monell Chemical Senses Center researchers and the coworkers are that those cell in the back of the throat can identify oleocanthal in extra virgin olive oil, which is an anti-inflammatory agent. Ibuprofen use cyclooxygenase (COX) to reduce inflammation, which is a potent inhibitor inflammatory chemical.

Olive oil specialists know that coughing from taking a sip of olive oil is an indicator of how strong the oil is, the stronger the oil the, purer the oil is. Other seasoning and foods such as wasabi can lead to a similar burning sensation. The receptors that are activated by a good extra virgin olive oil is the same receptors that get activated when inhaling tear gas, tailpipe exhaust and the smoke that suffocates firefighters. Another factor that activates TRPA1 is the insect repellent used in citronella.

How amazing is it that humans have the ability to convert our primal defense against harmful fumes into an indicator of gourmet quality olive oil?

Some Research Done Into The Burning Sensation Caused By Certain Olive Oils

For many years the quality of extra-virgin olive oil has been tasted and judges based on its ability to make you cough. The better the quality of the olive oil the, more you will cough they believed. Today scientists have discovered evidence that supports this method and indicates why this method works.

The Journal of Neuroscience recently published a paper where researchers reveal that the molecules in the throat specifically get attached to the chemicals that are found in good quality olive oil will cause an unignorable sensation.

Around ten years ago, the idea to study olive oil first occurred to, Gary Beauchamp, the co-author of the paper ‘Maybe-you-shouldn’t-do-something-about-that-cough.’ This happened while he attended a molecular gastronomy meeting while in Italy. This meeting was about an emerging field that studies the physical science and chemistry behind cooking.

The director of the Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia, Beauchamp said that a friend brought him some freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil to taste and the one sip he took caused a very strange sensation, causing a burn in his throat but not in his mouth.

This is the reason why the tingly sensation is felt in the throat but not in the mouth. Researchers only understood that fact once they turned their attention to the TRPA1 molecule.

The TRPA1 molecule is specifically known to react to harmful chemicals and toxins found in garlic, mustard, and wasabi. Scientists started testing to see where they can find the TRPA1 molecules in the body by taking a number of tissue biopsies from a few volunteers.

They found that there are large quantities of  TRPA1 molecule in the nose and upper throat but could not be found on the tongue or in the mouth. This was a big surprise to Beauchamp and the researchers. Although many other harmful chemicals can be sensed by different receptors, TRPA1 is the only receptor that can detect oleocanthal, and that is why consuming a sample of gourmet quality extra virgin olive oil is mostly felt in the throat.

Humans have not been able to appreciate the “pain” created by the oleocanthal in olive oil. It has also been found by the team that TRPA1 can detect the chemically-unrelated ibuprofen. Beauchamp believes that due to the correlation between these two inflammation fighters, new leads could be found in the development of better anti-inflammatory drugs.

Final Words

Olive oil can lead to a tingly feeling in the back of a throat when consumed. However, it will not cause actual burning. The activation of the TRPA1 ion channel by the phenolic compound oleocanthal in olive oil causes the tingly, or pungent, feeling in the back of the throat after the consumption of olive oil.

Also, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen are known to activate the TRPA1 ion channels too. The so-called burning sensation is believed to be a defense mechanism against potentially harmful chemicals that are located in the air that was developed by our evolutionary past.

Do not worry about the tingly feeling that you get. It is normal. Enjoy olive oil as a healthy oil that can be used in many different ways.

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