The inflammation of taste buds is a common occurrence, and many different factors lead to it. Taste buds or papillae are located on the surface of the tongue. They are in fact receptors made of clusters of receptor cells.
Each receptor cell is covered with a fine hair-like coating called microvillus. These receptor cells are connected to small nerves, which transmit the signal to major nerves, specifically to facial nerve and glossopharyngeal nerve. From there the signal travels to the brain, combined with the olfactory information from the nose. There are five main elements of taste- sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami. The main role of taste buds is to inform the brain about that specific aspect of the food.
When taste buds are inflamed, the person affected by it is not able to feel completely the taste of food or drink. Also, the tongue usually feels sore, irritated and slightly swelled.
Causes of inflamed taste buds
Some of the common causes of inflammation of taste buds include exposure to toxins like cigarette smoke or pesticides, certain herbal supplements like gymnema leaves, endocrinal disorders like hypothyroidism and hypoadrenalism, dental problems, diabetes, eating very hot, spicy or salty foods, gastrointestinal disorders, stomach infections or allergies, infected tongue bites or cuts, mouth or tongue ulcers, acidic foods, certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies and laryngectomy.
Treatment for inflamed taste buds
In some cases, like after eating very hot or spicy foods or after burning the tongue, the irritation and inflammation of the taste buds go away on their own after a short while. However, in these cases, and for inflamed buds due to biting and scratching, the symptoms can be alleviated by applying a thin coat of glycerin on the tongue.
It also helps to chew on ice chips or to slowly dissolve an ice cube in mouth. Ice will reduce the swelling, anesthetize the tongue and thus reduce the pain, and prevent spreading of the infection.
Thrush infections with white spots on tongue can be treated with tea tree oil. This oil is used for gargling three times a day and it is very effective thanks to its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. However, tea tree oil should never be ingested because it may cause hallucinations.
Honey is also effective against microbes and it can be used once the infection starts to subside.
The infection which is causing inflamed taste buds can be effectively treated with a mixture of ginger powder, pepper and minced garlic, which can be taken in form of capsules or cooked together in a delicious soup.
If the inflammation does not subside within several days, it is better to see a doctor who may want to prescribe adequate treatment, which may comprise of antibacterial or antifungal medications.