I've used sichuan peppercorns many times previously and never had this effect before where my tongue becomes salty for a while after eating it. Normally I would just get the buzzy, numbing effect but now my tongue becomes salty and everything I eat afterwards tastes salty. I wonder if it's because I'm using a different brand or whether I used too much, or possibly whether there is contamination or something with the peppercorns.

Has anybody else experienced this? Is there any risk posed if I continue to eat these? I don't mind the effect, but I don't want any permanent damage to my taste buds.

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    Did you change the way you prepare them? Hint: using them whole while hot-infusing oil (then filtering them out) gives you only a subtle dose of that "novocaine" effect. As does using commercially ground versions. Grinding them freshly, especially with mortar and pestle, THEN hot-infusing in oil and then filtering them out: Industrial Strength. Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 22:47
  • I just experience this intensely for the first time, though I have eaten Szechuan peppercorns many times. Two things about this occurrence: * was with a new a bag of "green" Szechuan peppercorns (in the past I've only used "red") *I ate 3-4 plain, to try them out Thinking back, I have perhaps experienced a less intense version of this phenomenon in prepared dishes, but I always thought it was due to, well, salt.
    – Bosh
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 22:55

5 Answers 5


Yes. This happens to me. Some scientists are investigating the possibility of using the peppercorns as a means of reducing people's salt intake.

Potential of Szechuan pepper as a saltiness enhancer, Tram Hong Le Bao, Siree Chaiseri and Yaowapa Lorjaroenphon, International Journal of Food Properties 21(1), pp533-545.


Did anyone else eating your Szechuan Peppercorn dish experience the same effect? That would isolate if the problem is specific to you, or something with the spice.

I know table salt enhances your tongue's taste buds to taste sweetness, but I haven't read anything on spices that enhance your ability to taste salt.

Any chance you are experiencing a cold or infection? That can cause taste disorders. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/taste-disorders

Did you recently switch where you get Szechuan Peppercorns from? If so try a different brand. You may discover your current batch is contaminated. If so please file a consumer safety report. In turmeric, lead contamination can make it taste sweet, with a rash of lead contamination reports in the past. https://www.foodsafety.gov/report/problem/index.html

It is normal for Szechuan Peppercorns to cause a confusing sensation in your mouth and tongue. For most people it is a sensation of numbness or having a touch sensation everywhere. https://www.thespruce.com/szechuan-peppercorn-info-694248

I hope you find an answer. Usually with spices the effects are temporary.

In the case of cilantro it was discovered why some people hate it - they have a gene that makes cilantro taste like soap! http://mentalfloss.com/article/91060/why-does-cilantro-taste-soap-some-people


Yes! This has happened to me.

I ate Szechuan cuisine a few times and love spicey food. One time when I ate it I got salty tongue and everything tasted over salty. The next time - same thing but more extreme. Next time I could barely eat anything.

My husband has also experienced the same.


I also experienced the same thing! Like someone dumped a spoonful of salt in my mouth. One other person at the table had the same issue, but the other few didn't. I'd never had the "salty tongue" effect in the past.


if you have some recipe with Szechuan chilies and you are getting salty tongue when tasting it, add a little sugar (or more sugar) and that will counteract that. I made some chili crisp that contained Szechuan perppercorns both red and green that were fried then ground and got massive salty tongue. I had some coconut sugar already added but not enough to change the sweetness. I added some stevia to the chili crisp and the effect went away. Plain sugar or more coconut/palm sugar would work too. I

  • 1
    Interesting. Stevia contains glycosides which are normally associated with bitterness and (in this case) activation/potentiation of the sweet, bitter and umami pathways in taste via activation of the TRPM5 calcium channel. Would require some experimentation to find out if it was the stevia or if sugar would work here. I suspect it'll only work for stevia and not sugar for the effect of reducing "saltiness".
    – bob1
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 0:32

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