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Bitter taste in your mouth? Could be pine nuts!

Posted on April 19th, 2010 by Alison Read 17 Comments - Add Your Own »

pinenutsChalk this one up to Weird Food Reactions that your doctor doesn’t know about…

I went out the other night with some girlfriends and as we were deciding what to order, one of them complained to me that everything she has been eating for three days tastes bitter and leaves a metallic aftertaste. Worried that this was a sign of a health problem, she had emailed her doctor who recommended she check with her dentist first. The doctor also suggested that perhaps the bitter taste was a result of her body detoxing because she had started a gluten, dairy and sugar-free diet. (huh? makes no sense to me.)

This is where I come in:
“Did you eat pine nuts?” I asked her.
“Yes… why??”
“It’s the pine nuts.”
“What? The pine nuts? Yes, well, I did have a lot of pine nuts a couple of days ago. It’s the pine nuts?”
HOW do you know that?”
“Because it happened to

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About two years ago I experienced the same thing. I suddenly had a bitter taste in my mouth whenever I ate something. Didn’t matter what it was — something sweet or sour, fruit, vegetables, wine or chips. Every single thing I ate tasted bitter. After it went on for a few days, I feared that this was some permanent condition and I would never enjoy eating food again! I finally turned to Google and found a forum of people discussing the bitter taste and they all realized that they had eaten pine nuts in the days prior to the bitter taste starting. I was surprised to find the cause, as were all the people in the online forum — and I was relieved! It lasted a week, and was really annoying, but at least I knew it would go away. And I didn’t pay to see any specialists!

I’m not sure if I have eaten any pine nuts since then. We don’t have any nuts in our house due to my daughter’s nut allergy, and I don’t remember if I have eaten them out at a restaurant. I had sort of forgotten about this until hearing my friend’s story, and wondered how common this really is. Back to Google again to find out more…

It turns out that quite a few people have written about “Pine Mouth,” as they began calling it, since my first query years ago. A search of the medical journals turned up a 2010 article in the Journal of Medical Toxicology that concluded: “‘Pine mouth’ appears to be an emerging problem.”

The symptoms generally come on 2 days after ingesting the pine nuts, and can last up to 2 weeks! Though there has been no formal connection made, it seems that the people who were affected by pine mouth ate pine nuts that were imported from China. The China Tree Nut Association even held a national pine nut conference on November 24th, 2009, to try to find out where the bitter taste comes from!

Trader Joe’s and Costco brands were mentioned often in the forums that I read. No conclusion has been made as to WHY this happens and whether some people are affected by it, while others aren’t.

So, if you’re pining for pine nuts, be aware that you might just be left with a bitter taste in your mouth!

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  1. Thanks for the info 😉 I’ll think twice about downing a handful of pine nuts again, as I am making a salad with them, the day before I make the same salad again! Mine lasted for almost 6 days.

  2. I notice in one of the Ads by Google, a Pine Nut Oil Supplement – “4 hour appetite suppression! 29% reduction of appetite.” Maybe “Pine Mouth” has something to do with this supplement!

  3. I remember reading about this phenomenon last year, it seemed to be traced to chinese grown pine nuts, the asian trees are a different variety than the north american pinyon pine or italian stone pine

    from wikipedia
    “shelled nuts (and unshelled nuts in warm conditions) deteriorate rapidly, becoming rancid within a few weeks or even days in warm humid conditions”

    I wonder if any of those that have had the “pine mouth” would test their reaction to the european or american grown varieties?

    We actually harvest sugar pine nuts on our property for our own use and i have never had the reaction, but then again I am by no means adverse to eating them in restaurants or baked goods and who knows where those nuts were harvested!

    very interesting how this has become so common in more recent years with the rise of mega stores selling mass harvested crops!

  4. That is fascinating. I also recently learned that pinenuts contain goitrogens.

  5. Alison,
    I left a comment after your interview with Joanne concerning genetic testing for varying levels of gluten intolerance for those who fail to test positive on a celiac test.
    As for pine nuts, in my quest for good health I chanced upon Dr. D’Adamo’s Blood type diet. I follow it pretty closely as well as avoiding gluten like the plague. For my blood type pine nuts are to be avoided. I wonder if this might suggest why some people have this reaction and others do not?

  6. it happened to me! I googled bitter taste in my mouth and then was worried I had liver or gall bladder problems until I found this!! I ate a handful of pine nuts two days ago and now I can’t get this bitter taste out of my mouth! I’m so thankful for this info!

  7. Same thing happened to me. I currently have pine mouth and so do both my parents. All 3 of us ate pine nuts a couple of days ago and have all been complaining about a bitter taste in our mouths.

    The only food that still tastes good for me is walkers salt and vinegar crisps.

    I can’t wait for it to go back to normal.

  8. Thanks so much for the info. This is happening to me now and I just had some pine nuts from Trader Joe’s yesterday.

  9. I ate pinenuts from Trader Joe’s on Christmas Day. Next evening everything I ate tasted bitter. Next day it was worse and my wife had it too. 3rd day I searched the net and found info on pinemouth. That was a relief – nothing serious, but very annoying. It lasted about a week, but was getting better by day 4. Called TJ’s to tell them about it. They’re still on the shelf, so I guess they don’t care.

  10. Tim,
    I would be surprised if any place would remove the pine nuts!

  11. Question: So, do ALL pine nuts cause pine mouth, or just some from questionable sources? I have eaten one or two pine nuts at a time directly from a cone when I lived in the Sierra Nevada mountains and noticed that they have that odd aftertaste. Much more recently, I experienced pine mouth very strongly a couple months ago, but didn’t know what caused it until just now, after reading Alison’s article. I just ate pine nuts again a moment ago and thought to lood online to see if pine nuts contain gluten (they don’t) because we’ve now discovered my daughter has problems processing gluten, and so now have learned of the “pine mouth” thing. I suspect it is ALL pine nuts, and not just those from CHina, but am curious to hear about more scientific results. BTW, I had contacted my dentist about the chemical taste all my foods and drink had but we didn’t know what was going on. Now I DO! Thank you, Alison! Dave

  12. Dave,
    I don’t know! I have not had pine nuts since, because I am scared to get pine mouth again!

  13. Follow-up from me on my having eaten raw pine nuts a day and a half ago…I definitely have pine mouth now. Almost all foods now taste bitter/chemically/metallic, so I am positive that the pine nuts are the culprit. I look forward to hearing more about this phenomenon. Dave

  14. I had this same problem but it ended up being from canned air dusters that you use on computers instead of pine nuts. Check out the site here Bitter Taste In Mouth . But the next time I ate pine nuts I noticed that they also cause it a little.

  15. I am a lawyer in San Francisco and we are looking for individuals who have experienced an aftertaste or other adverse reactions from eating Pine Nuts from Trader Joe’s. Particularly, we are seeking San Francisco Bay Area folks who can provide us with information about when and where they purchased the pine nuts, the symptoms they experienced, whether they still have the pine nuts, and whether they saw a warning on the package of pine nuts. If you can provide any information, please contact me at or 415 773 7379.

  16. OMG thank you for this information. It’s got to be the pinenuts from Trader Joes, although I don’t remember this ever happening before from Trader’s pine nuts.

    I ate a whole bunch about 3 days ago. Yesterday (at least a day lag time) suddenly out of nowhere my mouth is bitter everywhere, but ONLY when eating or drinking anything. If not eating or drinking, even water, the bitter experience is either not noticeable or not bothersome. strange, I must say

    Yes, the question now is to find out if there is something in the nuts that was not there before. Chemtrail aerosol? Chemicals used for processing? Who can say, it’s very strange.

    Thanks so much for the article.

  17. Wow! thank you Pinenuts Alert! I ate not even a handful of pinenuts…
    now I dond need to be worried like hell…

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