Wasabi – Intolerance & Allergy


Wasabi or water horseradish is known as a hot green spice paste from Japanese cuisine. The trunk is processed into a paste, which is why wasabi is no longer cultivated exclusively in Japan.

Here’s what you should know about wasabi

Wasabi is a cruciferous plant and is also known as Japanese or water horseradish. The wild plant can only be found in Japan, but wasabi can be cultivated in greenhouses worldwide and is therefore also grown outside of Japan.

The root of the wasabi plant is mistakenly understood as the basis for the Japanese hot spice, but in fact the stem is finely grated. It can grow up to 60 cm high and can be harvested from May to June. In Germany, mostly ready-made pastes, powders or foods coated with wasabi, such as nuts, are offered, the fresh wasabi stems are more likely to be found in specialized shops and are often imported from Japan.

Some nurseries also offer wasabi for self-cultivation, but it needs a shady and rather cool place during the summer and is only partially winterproof.

Wasabi develops its maximum sharpness when the stem is freshly grated and processed immediately. Wasabi loses its sharpness very quickly in the fresh air. In Japan, the wasabi stem is traditionally rubbed on a piece of detached shark skin, which has very fine teeth and grinds the wasabi exactly as desired. It is served in small portions with sushi and other rather mild-tasting dishes, to serve as a spicy dip or as a tasty change from the mild main course.

importance to health

The basis of the wasabi spiciness are mustard oils . To be more precise, wasabi supplies the two mustard oils sinigrin and glucocochlearin, the former mustard oil can also be found in conventional mustard or in horseradish .

Mustard oils are known to regulate and stabilize digestion , and they also inhibit the growth of many bacteria in the body and thus have an anti-inflammatory effect. In addition to bacteria, the mustard oils in wasabi also have an inhibiting effect on viruses and fungal infections. Regular consumption of wasabi could lead to a general improvement in the performance of our immune system because the number of immune cells is increased. However, wasabi in large quantities is not good either: especially with existing stomach problems, the sharpness of the wasabi can make them even more unpleasant and end in stomach problems and diarrhea .

However, when considering the importance of wasabi for health, the question of whether it is real wasabi or a paste or powder always plays a role. Powders and pastes usually only contain a little wasabi, but all the more additional substances that are easier to preserve. In most cases, however, these are also harmful to health, especially preservatives and artificial colors.

Ingredients & nutritional values

Pure wasabi without any additives contains some vegetable proteins , vegetable carbohydrates and very little vegetable fat. Pure wasabi is considered cholesterol-free. The micronutrients it contains include sodium , potassium , iron , magnesium and vitamins A, C, D and B12, among others.

It can be different with powders or pastes that contain additional preservatives or have received further additives through processing. Here, a look at the list of ingredients helps, in particular, attention should be paid to preserving salt. With the wasabi snacks that are popular in this country, the wasabi is of course only the side dish and the nutritional values ​​mainly come from the snack. If you eat large amounts of wasabi nuts, you could ingest a lot of salt and fat – and of course preservatives and coloring agents from the very likely fake wasabi powder.

Intolerances & allergies

In small quantities, mustard oils can have a beneficial effect on health, but sometimes they are also the cause of intolerances. People with stomach problems or generally poor tolerance of spicy foods are very likely to have problems with wasabi. The mustard oils can lead to stomach pain with diarrhea, at least in larger quantities . This is a normal sensitivity reaction to spicy food.

However, allergies can exist to the mustard oils in the wasabi itself. Great caution is also required with wasabi pastes, they often only consist of green colored mustard powder and contain no wasabi at all. The tartrazine contained here can trigger allergies. Real wasabi rarely triggers allergies and is generally well tolerated, with the exception of a possible reaction to the spiciness.

Shopping & kitchen tips

There are basically two types of wasabi: real and fake. Real wasabi consists of water horseradish and ideally contains no other additives. In this country, however, it is rather rare, which is also due to the fact that wasabi loses its sharpness so quickly after processing.

However, it is also this wasabi that contains valuable mustard oils and is generally well tolerated if there are no problems with mustard oils. The lion’s share of the wasabi sold in this country is a powder mixture made up of mustard powder and green color with little or no real wasabi in it. Sometimes it also contains local horseradish. Japanese refer to this as Seiyō Wasabi, the real variant is called Hon Wasabi. You should therefore pay attention to these designations on the packaging and to the list of ingredients when buying.

Real wasabi on the stem should be stored in an airtight container for a few days and grated a few minutes before consumption. Half an hour in the fresh air can be enough for wasabi to stop tasting particularly hot. In fact, artificial, fake seiyō wasabi is far more common than real wasabi, including in restaurants.

Preparation tips

Wasabi is used in traditional Japanese cuisine as a condiment and a spicy side dish. Since the real strain was traditionally freshly grated on a piece of shark skin, it is known in Japan as a finely grated side dish that is served with sushi, for example. The creamy wasabi paste that is served in this country is hardly known in Japan, even though pastes and powders are now sold there as well.

If you are lucky enough to get your hands on a wasabi stem, you grate it fresh to serve – and only as much as you want to offer. Otherwise it can only be stored in an airtight container. The false seiyō wasabi is sold not only as a paste, for example with sushi, but also as a coating for nuts, peas, other vegetables or in the form of wasabi chips. In the meantime, these products must contain a minimum proportion of real wasabi, but this is still very low. The spiciness of such wasabi snacks usually comes from horseradish and mustard.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.