Photo: Shutterstock / Darren Tierney
Mango is the world’s most popular fruit, and it’s easy to see why: It’s deliciously sweet, it has an irresistible buttery texture, and it adds a fun tropical flair to so many different dishes. But for some people it can cause a strange, tingly, itchy sensation in the mouth when consumed raw. “Mango mouth,” as it’s been called, occurs in people who have a mango allergy, most commonly linked to the chemical urushiol. Urushiol is found in high concentrations in the mango peel and the fruit directly underneath the peel.
Other plants that contain high concentrations of urushiol? Poison oak, poison sumac and poison ivy. No wonder it can make you feel itchy!
In fact, the plants listed above belong to the same tree family as mangoes (cashews, too!): Anacardiaceae. If you’ve had reactions to any of these plants in the past, there’s a good chance you’ll experience some form of mango mouth. Symptoms vary in everyone: Some people have a tingling sensation or slight numbness in the mouth and lips, and others develop a rash on skin that’s come in contact with the peel. If you notice either of these symptoms immediately after eating a mango, it’s best to avoid eating the fruit in its raw form in the future. Or, if you have a low sensitivity and just need that mango fix, wear thick gloves when peeling it or ask someone else to peel it for you, so your skin doesn’t touch the peel.
Kind of a bummer, we know—especially because there are so many delicious recipes where mangoes are the star. But if your symptoms are slight and you avoid coming in contact with the peel and the flesh directly under the peel, there’s a good chance you can still enjoy dishes like these vibrant mango smoothies, this pork and mango stir-fry and a chunky mango guacamole. And if not? Try to get that tropical fix from our favorite pineapple recipes.