pine nuts

Q. I am searching for a remedy for “pine mouth syndrome.” Two days ago my husband and I made pesto and munched some fresh pine nuts. It turns out they were from China. Now we each have a bitter metallic taste in our mouths that won’t go away.

I did some research and came across information about the syndrome, but I could find no fixes for this miserable phenomenon. Can you help?

A. The nasty metallic taste that results from eating certain pine nuts has been dubbed “pine mouth syndrome.” It was first described a decade ago (European Journal of Emergency Medicine, March, 2001). The taste disappears after several days, and time is the only “fix” we could find.

There are at least 20 species of pine trees that make seeds that are harvested for human consumption. The pine nuts used in the Italian pasta condiment called pesto traditionally come from the stone pine, Pinus pinea. Seeds from Asian pines are often less expensive; the seeds from one particular Chinese species, Chinese white pine or Pinus armandii, appear to be responsible for pine mouth syndrome (Journal of Toxicology, in press).

Most pine nuts available in the US come from China. The offending seeds are often smaller and rounder than other pine nuts. Although pine mouth is unpleasant, it is temporary and does not seem to be dangerous.

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  1. Steve
    Melbourne Australia

    Just got it 3 days after eating a pine nut salad with lots of nuts in it
    It was at a Sydney restaurant
    Horrible bitter taste that affects everything I eat or drink
    I had never heard of it and thought it might be a liver issue based on symptoms

    • Jocelyn

      I figured out I had eaten a bad nut and was fixed by an Israeli man offering and tellin me to gargle ARAK (I didn’t need to swallow.) I was nervous and didn’t know what it was but I’d try anything after 4 days of this. I’m not sure if the pine mouth ran its course or if the anise liquor worked but I was fixed! I’m thinking that it was the combo of alcohol and anise? Maybe other anise liquors would work. It’s worth giving it a try!

  2. STEVE
    Houston, Texas

    Two years ago, I experienced the pine mouth syndrome. It started when I ate the pine nuts from china. I suffered for two weeks before I googled my symptom and found that other people have suffered from these pine imported from china. Well, I got over the taste issue three weeks later, and I decided not to eat any pine nuts from china. Again, I find myself in Mexico City, and I purchased pine nuts from the Market thinking that I will not have the problem, however I am suffering from the pine mouth syndrome. I thought they were from Mexico but they were from china. I am displeased with this situation and that no government official has investigated if those nuts have any sort of chemical toxin used when processed. I encourage any person who can make this issue be brought to end. It seems no one knows really the root of the problem or a relief for the problem.

  3. A.T.

    I have found that 24 hours after eating the small rounder pine nuts I have developed the bitter aftertaste. The food label on the packet did not state what country the pine nuts were from but now I would assume they were the Pinus armandii species from China which are seemingly associated with this condition. I’ve been wary of imported Chinese food quality standards ever since that Chinese milk scandal in 2008, now if I don’t see a specific ‘country of origin’ label on the food, I’m not touching it!

  4. Warwickian

    Both my husband and I ate pine nuts from a popular chain grocery this last Sunday. On Tuesday we both began to experience the horrible bitter taste and nothing tastes good. I also developed muscle cramping, dizziness, and confusion.
    At the moment I am subsisting on Mint tea which is the only thing that doesn’t taste bad. This and other sites have proved to be very helpful in diagnosing the problem.
    Since little seems to be happening regarding research and the distributers are being recalcitrant about removing these products from the market I think it is imperative that we all contact the store(s) we got the nuts from and the FDA and make as much noise as possible. Yes, it is helpful to find out what you have via the internet but if we don’t say anything nothing will happen. Good Luck all!

    • Deborah

      How long did it take for the dizziness and confusion to go away? I am having that issue as well.

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