Swollen Taste Buds: Causes and Effective Treatments

Swollen Taste Buds: Causes and Effective Treatments

The taste buds on your tongue can become inflamed and swollen for a number of reasons. The medical name for swollen taste buds is transient lingual papillitis (TLP), however, the condition is sometimes referred to as “lie bumps.” This is an old wives’ tale that lying causes taste buds (papillae) to become inflamed. Thankfully, medical research has helped us find out the true reasons why the tissue on your tongue can become inflamed with pimple-like bumps.

There are different conditions that can irritate the small taste buds that cover the top and sides of your tongue resulting in inflammation. The reason could be something as simple as burning your tongue or eating spicy food that irritates the tongue’s sensitive surface. Sometimes, an underlying medical condition like eczema, asthma, vitamin deficiency, or stress can cause swollen taste buds.

To soothe the painful inflammation of swollen taste buds, natural remedies like plain yogurt, drinking cold fluids, or sucking on ice can be very effective. Also, rinsing with salt water or applying honey can calm the inflammation and kill off any inflammation-causing germs. You shouldn’t have to worry if your taste buds become swollen because usually TLP clears up with natural home treatments.

Why Taste Buds Become Swollen and Inflamed

Your tongue has between 2,000 and 8,000 taste buds that help you identify sweet, sour, salty, savory, and bitter flavors in food and drink. The majority of your taste buds are found on the tip of your tongue.12

According to dermatologist Dr. Dyall-Smith, the main cause of transient lingual papillitis is local irritation or trauma to the taste buds. This causes the tiny papillae to swell into painful bumps on the tongue. This can affect your taste sensations and make it more difficult to enjoy your food.1

Causes of Swollen Taste Buds

Let’s look at the common reasons why white, pimple-like bumps appear on your tongue and what you can do to soothe the pain and inflammation.

Eating spicy or acidic foods

Spicy or acidic food can irritate the sensitive taste buds on your tongue resulting in painful bumps appearing on your tongue.

The British Journal of Dermatology reports that certain foods can irritate the sensitive tongue. The report says that people who are prone to allergies may suffer from inflamed swollen taste buds more often. This may be due in part to their tongues becoming inflamed more easily by certain foods.2

If you find that acidic foods like citrus fruits or spicy foods cause irritation on your taste buds and inflammation, you should reduce the amount you consume or cut them out from your diet.

Burning your tongue

Consuming food or drink that is too hot can burn your tongue and result in swollen taste buds. The painful irritation can be made worse if the hot food is also spicy.

It may take some time for your injured tongue to heal, however, there is much you can do to soothe the pain of a burnt tongue. Some of the home remedies for inflamed taste buds mentioned at the end of the article will help to quickly reduce the pain and speed up the healing process.

Food allergy

Food allergies can make your tongue swell and also cause your taste buds to become inflamed. Some foods that trigger allergic reactions are shellfish, peanuts, and nuts. According to Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet.com, if your tongue becomes very swollen, it can affect your breathing and you should seek prompt medical attention.3

The journal Pediatric Dentistry reported on a case of a boy suffering from swollen taste buds. It was discovered that it was caused by a food allergy. The doctors reported that when the food that triggered the inflammation was eliminated from the diet, there was no repeat of swelling or tenderness of the tongue.4

If you find that you have recurring inflamed and irritated taste buds, you could keep a food diary to try and identify possible trigger foods.

Viral infection

Swollen and inflamed taste buds can also be caused by a viral infection. The reason that many doctors suspect that a viral infection can lead to swelling of the taste buds is that they are common among family members.

For example, the British Journal of Dermatology found that recurring “lie bumps” are transmitted easily among members of the same family. However, they couldn’t discover the origin of the infectious virus.5

However, other tests on the causes of swollen taste bud receptors found that the herpes simplex virus 1 is connected with TLP and can inflame the delicate tissue on your tongue.6

Vitamin B deficiencies

One of the symptoms of a vitamin B deficiency is inflamed bumps on your tongue. Vitamin B is essential for the proper function of your nervous, digestive, and vascular system. The body also needs vitamin B to build red blood cells and for your DNA.

The Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research discovered a link between a lack of vitamin B and tongue inflammation. The researchers found that vitamin B deficiency affects parts of your mouth and leads to inflammation of the tongue, mouth ulcers, blood blisters, cracks at the corner of your mouth, and a sore throat. The study mentioned specifically vitamin B12 deficiency as well as vitamin B9 (folic acid) and vitamin B2 (riboflavin) deficiencies.7

To prevent a vitamin B deficiency, it’s important to eat foods rich in vitamin B. Some foods high in vitamin B are meat, seafood, milk, and eggs. Vegetarians or vegans can consume products that are fortified with vitamin B or take supplements.

Smoking or alcohol

Smoking irritates your oral cavity and can cause inflammation in your taste buds. Alcohol can also cause irritation and aggravate any injuries to your tongue that you already have.

A review of the causes of swollen taste buds in patients found that excessive smoking and alcohol consumption is a common reason for suffering from irritated taste bud receptors.8

Tongue injuries

Any kind of injury to your tongue can cause swelling of the taste buds and painful inflammation. A journal of oral surgery found that chronic irritation can cause transient lingual papillitis.9

For example, you could damage or irritate the edge of your tongue while brushing your teeth or inadvertently biting your tongue. Or burns, cuts, or scrapes could cause swelling and inflammation in your taste buds.

An injury can also cause a black spot on your tongue which looks like a blood blister.


Stress affects your body in many ways, and it can also cause bumps on your tongue to appear. Stress lowers your immune system and makes your tongue and other organs in your body more prone to infection.

Dr. Dyall-Smith, a dermatologist from New Zealand reports that stress may be a trigger in the appearance of inflamed taste buds on your tongue.1

To find out how to get rid of the negative symptoms of stress, please read my article that explores many different and effective natural remedies for stress relief.

Eczema or asthma

If you suffer from eczema or asthma, you may also have frequent outbreaks of inflamed taste buds and tongue inflammation. Researchers have discovered that people with eczema or asthma are prone to allergies and this can also affect the tongue. This can make your tongue more sensitive to certain foods that irritate your taste buds.2

Natural Treatments for Swollen Taste Buds

There are many effective natural home remedies that can help to soothe irritated taste buds, reduce inflammation, and get rid of the pain quickly. These natural treatments will provide fast relief from irritation on your tongue.

Salt water solution

Swishing a salt water solution around your mouth is an easy and effective way to get rid of swollen taste buds. Dermatologists generally recommend gargling or rinsing your mouth with a saline solution for relief from inflamed tongue bumps.1

Salt water also has the benefit of helping to kill off any bacteria in your mouth and prevent irritated taste buds from becoming infected.

How to use:

To help heal swollen taste buds with a salt water rinse, you should:

  • Dissolve 1 tsp. sea salt in an 8-oz. glass of warm water.
  • Gargle a mouthful or swish it around your mouth for 30 seconds and spit it out.
  • Repeat the salt water remedy 3-4 times a day to reduce any inflammation on your tongue and get rid of the pimple-like bumps.

Plain yogurt

Another effective home remedy for getting rid of inflamed lie bumps is to apply plain yogurt to the affected parts of your tongue.

Plain yogurt has a dual effect in treating swollen tongue bumps. First of all, it cools the tongue and helps to numb any pain and discomfort. Secondly, the helpful “good” bacteria in raw, plain yogurt helps to keep a balance of healthy bacteria in your mouth to prevent infections.

How to use:

To get the benefit of plain yogurt to soothe inflammation on your tongue and treat swollen taste buds, please do this:

  • Take a large spoon of raw, plain yogurt and apply it to the painful lesions on your tongue.
  • Or, you can slowly eat the plain yogurt to let the cooling effect soothe your swollen taste buds.

Drink cold fluids

Another practical and easy way to rid yourself of irritating tongue bumps is to drink cold fluids. Any kind of cool drink will do, however, by drinking plenty of water you can keep yourself well hydrated and prevent any side effects of dehydration.


Ice will also help to numb the pain and reduce inflammation in the bumps on your tongue. You can suck on an ice cube, eat some ice cream, or suck a frozen popsicle to ease the discomfort that swollen tongue bumps cause.

Use the ice remedy to relieve sore taste buds as often as you need during the day.


Honey is a natural healer that will kill off any infection causing your tongue bumps and also soothe irritation on your tongue. A study into the medicinal properties of honey found that it is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and helps to repair damaged tissue.10 Honey can also leave a protective layer on your tongue to prevent further irritation.

How to use:

To use honey as a natural remedy for swollen and inflamed taste buds, please do the following.

  • Take a spoonful of honey and let the honey sit on your tongue for as long as possible.
  • Do this 3-4 times a day to help your tongue heal and get quick relief from irritation in your mouth.

Very soon, you should feel that the honey effectively reduces the inflammation and your swollen taste buds return to normal.

Baking soda

Putting a baking soda paste directly onto your swollen inflamed taste buds is an effective way to get relief from inflammation. Or, you can rinse your mouth with baking soda and water to heal your inflamed taste buds.

The reason that baking soda is an effective home remedy for swollen taste buds is because it acts as a mild anti-inflammatory agent that can help to reduce swelling and normalize the pH levels in your mouth.

The journal Dental Clinics of North America found that a solution of baking soda as a mouth rinse can help to relieve inflammation in the mouth and prevent mouth ulcers.11

How to use:

To make a healing mouth rinse with baking soda to reduce inflammation in your mouth, this is what you should do:

  • Mix 1/2 tsp. baking soda in a cup of warm water.
  • Rinse several times a day to ease the discomfort on your tongue and help the irritated taste buds heal quicker.
  • Repeat until you no longer have any inflamed tongue bumps.

Or, to make an anti-inflammatory natural paste with baking soda, you should do the following:

  • Mix 1 tsp. baking soda with a little water to form a thick paste.
  • Apply the baking soda remedy to the swollen taste buds and leave for several minutes.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm water and spit.
  • Use the baking soda paste 1-2 times a day until there is no more swelling in your taste buds.

How to Prevent Swollen Taste Buds Getting Worse

The home remedies for swollen taste buds will help to speed up the healing process and ease any discomfort. However, you should avoid irritating the inflamed bumps on your tongue even more.

You should never cut or scrape off the inflamed taste buds. Your tongue has a good blood supply and it can be difficult to stop any bleeding. You could also cause a secondary infection if you try to remove the lie bumps.

To prevent more irritation on your tongue and your taste buds, you should avoid eating sour, spicy or acidic foods until your tongue has healed properly.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources:
  1. DermNetNZ. Transient lingual papillitis.
  2. Br J Dermatol. 2005 Oct;153(4):740-5.
  3. MedicineNet. Swollen tongue.
  4. Pediatr Dent. 2001 Nov-Dec;23(6):506-7.
  5. Br J Dermatol. 2004 Feb;150(2):299-303.
  6. Pediatr Dermatol. 2014 Nov-Dec;31(6):e124-5.
  7. J Clin Diagn Res. 2013 Jan; 7(1): 178–180.
  8. J Clin Exp Dent. 2017 Jan; 9(1): e157–e162.
  9. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol. 2012 Jan;113(1):111-7.
  10. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2011 Apr; 1(2): 154–160.
  11. Dent Clin North Am. 2008 Jan; 52(1): 61–viii.
  12. Encyclopædia Britannica. Taste bud

Healthy and Natural World