Wasabi is one extremely potent food. Fans of the plant report that eating it gives them a bit of a rush, and some even say it can work as a decongestant.
Like when you eat anything else spicy, wasabi can make your nose a bit runny. If you have a cold, it can make you feel as if you breathe more easily immediately after eating it.
Wondering why wasabi clears sinuses? We wondered why, too, so we investigated the question. We’ll share our findings with you in this post.
Quick Answer: Why Does Wasabi Clear Sinuses?
The truth is surprising: wasabi doesn’t actually clear your sinuses. In fact, research shows that it can cause nasal congestion or make it worse.
This same research led those involved to believe that wasabi interacts with our bodies in such a way that our brains believe there’s less congestion when there really isn’t. It’s sort of like a placebo effect.
Your Body’s Reaction to Eating Wasabi
If wasabi doesn’t actually clear your sinuses, what exactly is going on when you eat this pungent green food?
Let’s start by looking at the cause of that spiciness that’s so well-documented: allyl isothiocyanate. It’s an organosulfur compound commonly found in mustard seeds.
This compound functions as a defense mechanism against those who would eat the plant. When you chew on the wasabi, the allyl isothiocyanate is released.
It comes into contact with your wasabi receptor, which is a protein on the surface of your sensory nerve cells. This receptor signals to your brain that something is wrong because of the heat from the allyl isothiocyanate, so your brain answers the signal with tears, burning, stinging, and coughing.
What are the Health Benefits of Eating Wasabi?
Okay, so maybe wasabi isn’t a decongestant like you may have hoped. However, there are still quite a few health benefits to eating it.
For starters, it has natural antibacterial properties. This comes from that same compound we discussed above, which is commonly used as an anti-mold agent.
Wasabi also has anti-inflammatory qualities, which can help with conditions associated with inflammation, like diabetes.
There are even some studies that show it can help combat cancer. The allyl isothiocyanate has been shown to hinder the growth of acrylamide, a chemical that has been linked to some cancer types. Furthermore, it’s been shown to destroy some kinds of cancer cells, such as oral or pancreatic cancer cells.
Wasabi may not be a proven decongestant, but it does have plenty of other beneficial properties. Even if it won’t really clear your sinuses, it’s worth adding to your diet if you can because of how healthy it is.If you’d like to learn more about this plant and why it’s so hard to find real wasabi, take a look at our article on why wasabi is so hard to grow.