The Dreaded Vaper’s Tongue: What is it, what causes it and how to cure it!

25 great comments - add yours!
by: James Dunworth

Girl in red jumper sticks out her tongue at the camera.

Above: Gemma from ECigaretteDirect volunteered to show off her vaper’s tongue for this post!

Have you ever been been vaping your favourite flavour, and suddenly noticed you don’t like it any more?

Or, even worse, found you can’t taste anything?

Then, my friend, you have the dreaded vaper’s tongue.

First, don’t panic, as it is usually NOT serious and NOT permanent.

In this article you’ll find out what causes vaper’s tongue and what to do about it.

What Is Vaper’s Tongue?

The term vaper’s tongue (or, sometimes, vaper’s fatigue) is used to cover a wide range of taste related ailments from going off a single individual flavour that you used to like to losing taste for all foods and drinks.

While the first example is far more common, the second example is potentially more serious, with causes including dehydation, vitamin deficiency or illness. In most cases, though, the condition is temporary and soon resolves itself (although, as we shall see, there are quite a few things you can do to speed up the return of your tastes buds!)

How Taste Works

Microscopic images of taste buds.

Above: Microscopic images of taste buds. Original image via Fine Art America.

Your tongue will be covered with anything from 2000 to 10000 taste buds (or, if you want to get fancy, gustatory calyculi). If you are at the upper end of the scale 10,000 taste buds you’ll be known as a super taster, and can confidently consider a career in tea, wine tasting – or ejuice reviewing!

The difference in people’s taste buds might also explain why some people preferred steeped eliquid and other people find it hard to tell the difference.

These cells in your taste buds are on a constant cycle, dying away and then regrowing. This cycle can take anything from 10 days to 2 weeks.

Your taste buds are primed to test five different tastes:

  • sweetness
  • sourness
  • saltiness
  • bitterness
  • umami (a savory taste)

Don’t Underestimate Your Nose!

Headshot of a woman smelling a red rose.

Despite the thousands of taste buds that coat our tongue, smell plays an important part in our taste buds.

Messages from your nose combine with taste to create the flavour you enjoy when you eat, drink or vape.

In fact, researchers in one study asked tea tasters to block their noses. The tea tasters, renowned for their sense of taste, were shocked to discover that when they couldn’t smell, they were unable to distinguish between different teas.

You can find the effects of this yourself. Take a drink of tea or juice, and then repeat the action while holding your nose. You should find that you taste less when you hold your nose.

(You can do this with vaping, too, but be careful as it can make you cough.)

The Psychology of Taste and Smell

Intriguingly, tastes are not set in stone. It’s well known that tastes change as you get older, but there are a variety of factors that can change taste, including tasting something just before you get ill and seeing popular people enjoy a taste you didn’t previously like. Your taste can also be impacted by expectations, as the following experiments showed:

The Pepsi/Coke Experiment

Glass of coke.

In one blind test, researchers gave people pepsi and coca-cola to drink. A majority of people preferred the taste of pepsi. But when researchers told people the name of the drink, people preferred coke by a margin of 4:1.

Something Minty

Mint in wooden bowl.

In another experiment, TV presenter Derren Brown opened a bottle of mint and told his audience that many of them might be able to smell it.

After many of the audience did smell the mint, he admitted that there was in fact no minty smell and the smell had been caused by a low frequency sound.

He then told his TV audience to turn up the volume and expect the sound to trigger the taste, and tweet the hashtag #derrensmells.

Only after many people claimed to smell the minty smell did Derren then drop the bombshell that there had been no sound – the minty smell had been created purely by expectations.

That raises intriguing questions for vapers. Does that eliquid that you got from a boutique eliquid house taste so great because it is great, because of ramped up expectations, or even because of the fancy packaging?

And could you go off a favourite taste for psychological rather than medical reasons?

(We have tried this in our factory. First we told one of our mixology team how great a flavour was, before giving it to him to try. We then told him there was another one we were disapointed with, but that we’d like him to try it anyway.

Little did the taster know that it was the same eliquid.

The taster behaved as predicted, giving higher marks to the first eliquid. )

10 Possible Causes Of Vaper’s Tongue

A woman licks a strawberry.

1. Vaping the same flavour for too long

This is probably the least scientific of the reasons here (on the basis I can’t find any research to back it up), but I’ve noticed that myself and other vapers frequently get vaper’s tongue after we have been vaping the same flavour for too long.

2. Damaged taste buds

Unfortunately, taste buds can get damaged. Causes include smoking, infections, alcohol, extremely sour foods, spicy foods and some medications. Fortunately, taste buds heal themselves, although they do get weaker as you get older (which is one reason your tastes change so much in the transition from childhood to adulthood.)

As we’ve seen, it can take up to two weeks for taste buds to regrow, so it could be a little time before you fully regain your sense of taste.

3. Recently switched from smoking

I’m mentioning this cause for the sake of completeness. Often mentioned on other blog posts on vaper’s tongue, I’m a little sceptical that this could cause your vaper’s tongue unless you are a dual user (both vape and smoke).

Yes, smoking can damage taste and smell (fortunately it’s not permanent). In fact, many vapers have reported coming down in the morning a couple of weeks after there last cigarette and being hit by the fresh smell of coffee brewing.

(That’s the positive experience – other vapers have been hit by less pleasant smells!)

However, vaper’s tongue refers to suddenly losing your sense of taste, so unless you have just started smoking, it’s not likely to be a cause.

4. Dehydration

Another possible cause of loss of taste. Other symptons to watch out for are headaches, dry mouth, tiredness and dark urine.

While a glass of water should help you, remember dehydration also means that you are losing salts.

5. Mouth dryness

Dry mouth is caused by a lack of saliva, and you’re likely to experience it from time to time (especially as you get older). Unfortunately, it can also lead to a loss of taste.

6. Blocked nose

Woman lying in bed blowing her nose.

As we’ve seen, your sense of smell works with your olfactory senses (sense of smell) to determine flavour. If your nose is blocked, it will affect how you taste, particularly with more complex flavours.

7. Other illnesses

While blocked noses (and associated illnesses such as flu and cold), are an obvious cause of loss of taste, they are not the only illness that mess up your vaping experience!

Other illnesses include:

  • Injury to the mouth, nose, or head
  • Swollen or inflamed gums (gingivitis)
  • Vitamin B12 or zinc deficiency
  • Alzheimers

(I am a bit worried here that I am going to panic thousands of vapers into thinking they have Alzheimers! Remember,most vapers experience vaper’s tongue at some point, and it usually just passes. So unless the issue persists there should be no reason to worry – although if it does persist, it might just be worth pursuing the issue with a doctor.)

7. Medicines

A number of medicines can also lead to a loss of taste. These include:

  • thyroid drugs
  • captopril
  • griseofulvin
  • lithium
  • penicillamine
  • procarbazine
  • rifampin
  • some cancer drugs

If you have vaper’s tongue and are taking one of these drugs, that might just be the reasons.

8. Stress and anxiety

Anxiety can also cause tastes to change. And, strangely, you can experience changes in taste even when you do not think you are suffering from anxiety at the moment.

While we don’t know all the reasons why taste buds change when you are stressed, some causes include:

  • changes in taste buds, as your taste buds rebel when you are stressed
  • breathing through your mouth – when you are suffering from anxiety, you tend to breath through your mouth, which can lead to different tastes (possibly because it affects your salivary glands and the bacteria in your mouth)
  • acid reflux
  • increase in sensitivity – sometimes when we are stressed we are simply more sensitive to bad tastes

9. Aging Eliquid

As was mentioned in our interview with nicotine expert Dr Houezec, as eliquids age, flavours can degrade, sometimes leading to a peppery taste. In which case, you might not have a case of vaper’s tongue at all, but simply need to get some new ejuice!

10. Dirty Atomiser Contacts

Dark Vaper on Twitter believes that Vaper’s Tongue is caused by dirty atomiser contacts. So if you are suffering, it may be worth cleaning or replacing your atomiser/clearomiser.

9 Ways to Cure Vapers Tongue

Cartoon image of a red first aid kit. For obvious reasons I’m not about to address the more medical issues above. Naturally, if you are worried about anxiety, vitamin deficiencies or illness, your first port of call should be a doctor or an expert, not a blogger ;)

However, 99% of the time the following solutions should help you solve your vaper’s tongue.

1. Change the flavour

This simple solution has worked for me! Simply change the flavour you are vaping, and return to it after a couple of weeks. Hopefully, it will then taste just as good as it used to!

2. Use a stronger flavour

It may also be an idea to abandon the more subtle, refined vaping flavours, and use something a bit more down to earth and strong.

3. Drink water

Drinking water addresses two potential problems of vaping: it clears the pallete, and also helps to redydrate you.

4. Inhaling the smell of fresh coffee beans

coffee beans in jute bag with coffee grinder and hot cup of coffee on wooden table

This is a technique used by professional wine tasters and perfume samplers. While I’ve no idea how it works, these experts believe that inhaling the scent of fresh coffee beans “resets” your sense of taste. Got to be worth a try!

5. Sucking on a lemon

Like coffee beans, sucking on a lemon is supposed to reset your taste buds. If lemons are a bit too sour for you, try lemon sorbet!

6. Mouth wash

There’s mixed thoughts on this. Some vapers think mouth wash helps to resolve vaper’s tongue, others think that it causes it! One to try if nothing else works.

7. Using steeped juices

The Mt Bakers website recommends using steeped eliquid, on the basis that you’ll get more taste. Our own experience is that steeping eliquid leads to a softer, more refined taste

8. Allow time

As we’ve discussed, damaged taste buds can take up to two weeks to recover. So give it a little time and you may find your tongue is back to normal!

9. End dual vaping:

If you’re a dual vaper (you both smoke and vape) then, if you can, it might be an idea to try just vaping for a couple of weeks and seeing if that makes a difference. It could just give you that final push to make the final, full transition to electronic cigarettes.

10 Vape Unflavoured Juice (reader suggestion)

Several readers (including Vapeorama in the comments below) have suggested vaping an unflavoured base eliquid for up to two weeks. I haven’t tried this, so let me know in the comments if this works for you.

11. Use a Tongue Scraper (reader suggestion)

In the comments below, Alisha from Genecigs suggests using a tongue scraper.

Have you had vaper’s tongue? If so, what solutions have worked for you? Let me know in the comments!

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Thank you ;)

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25 Responses to “The Dreaded Vaper’s Tongue: What is it, what causes it and how to cure it!”

  1. Gareth March 21, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    I find a strong menthol vape often helps, vape the menthol for a few hours and see how it goes (i keep a clearomiser just for menthol btw)

    • James Dunworth March 21, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

      I’ll try that next time it happens (haven’t had it for ages, thankfully!)

      Good idea keeping a seperate clearomiser for menthol – once you’ve got that menthol taste in your eliquid it’s difficult to get rid of!

  2. Ray Yeates March 22, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    And here I thought it was cuz of all those tongue lashings I been handing out to the Glanz Clan. I suppose your gonna tel me next it ain’t cured til I test drive 9 new flavors! ok…. beats smoking. :)

    • James March 23, 2014 at 11:22 am #

      Lol, maybe I should add attacking the Antz to the list of causes!

      • Ray Yeates March 23, 2014 at 11:30 am #

        Same flavor , same antz James … I betcha where there’s a cause there’s a cure. Vape on James. Out of curosity are you the one who did the live interview with Herbert Gilbert?

        • James Dunworth March 23, 2014 at 11:33 am #

          Hi Ray

          It wasn’t a live interview, but via email. I think we were the first to interview him – I’ve had journalists contacting me since asking for his contact details!

          James

  3. Ray March 22, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    I honestly think that less is more & when i detect that my taste buds are not at full reception i back off the vape, put it down & do something other than vape.
    Pushing taste buds which are only performing their ordinary natural cycle will not help them, they need to be given time & space to regenerate.
    We must remember that our vaping activity is a chosen one & our bodies are not expecting to have to deal with an infusion of flavours between regular meals when taste buds would normally be regenerating or resting or doing whatever else they do when they are given the chance.
    I have a belief that humans, when presented with a situation will always try to DO something about it but in certain instances it is better to do nothing.

    When i’m ready to go back to my vape after a rest, i will make a nice strong coffee, unsweetened & i will enjoy that before my vape. I have found that it makes for a good contrast or backdrop if you like to the following flavour i’m going to vape.
    Basically, too much of a good thing ends up bad !

    • James March 23, 2014 at 11:28 am #

      If you back off vaping that’s not a bad idea. (The only way I can do that is by leaving my ecigs at work and not taking them home!)

      Interesting to hear that the coffee helps, possibly resetting your taste buds like coffee beans are supposed to?

      • Ray March 23, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

        The coffee thing, it might depend on what you are going to vape. It works for my custards.

  4. Vapeorama March 23, 2014 at 1:22 am #

    When the case is persistent there’s a method that works (but needs patience): vaping unflavored nicotine base for 2-5 days. It doesn’t taste bad, some even prefer it!

    • James March 23, 2014 at 11:23 am #

      Haven’t tried that one yet! If I get it again I might give it a whirl.

      • Vapeorama March 23, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

        It’s like putting you taste buds on detox program!
        Honestly, I believe that fighting vaper’s tonque with stronger tastes just masks the problem for a bit. Our taste gets over-saturated and a “diet” consisting of unflavored juice brings back the lost sensitivity.
        I’m on a two-week spree of unflavored base (my choice, not a vaper’s tonque thing) and when I add 10% of eliquid to spice things up, I sense the aroma and the flavors almost better than when I was vaping my normal e-liquid.

        • James March 24, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

          Thanks, Vapeorama. You’re not the only person who has mentioned this, so I have incorporated it into the the comments above.

    • Kim domingue April 21, 2014 at 4:22 am #

      Vaporama, I have to tell you that the unflavored juice tip is one that I have been passing on. I’ve even recommend to some folks (especially those who were heavy or very long term smokers) to purchase two tanks, and one flavored and one unflavored juice. I tell them to treat the flavored juice as they would a dessert or candy, as a treat here and there during their day and use the unflavored like water! That way, they don’t risk flavor overload (hopefully!). I was quite surprised to find that I actually prefer vaping an unflavored juice the majority of the day! It has a pleasant, ever so slightly sweet taste to it that I don’t get tired of. And I find I enjoy my flavored juices even more when I switch to them periodically during the day than I did when I was vaping them all day long. Feedback from this tip has been predominantly positive.
      It’s not something I would have thought of so I’m sure glad you did! Thanks for passing it on! :)

  5. Kim domingue March 23, 2014 at 6:04 am #

    Hi y’all! I’ve got the dreaded vaper’s tongue and have had it for over a week now. Sigh. I started vaping Feb. 28th, 2014 and smoked my last tobacco cigarette on March 9th. From the 28th to March 13th, life was grand, vaping was a gas! All the new and wonderful flavors to experience and savor! Sweets, mints, fruits, melons, cinnamons, chocolates, honey tobacco! I woke up on the 14th and…..nothing, nada, zip, zero taste from my juices. Not one to panic (yet), I got online and started researching…… ah ha! I had vaper’s tongue! More research online to see if there was a cure. Wow! Advice ranging from drinking pickle juice to sticking a tampon in your mouth. Tried the juice but not the tampon (I swear, some people never outgrow practical jokes and potty humor). Tried Biotene mouth rinse, sniffing fresh coffee grounds, lemons, salt, tongue scraping…….nothing, nada. I went to my favorite vape place, Swamp Vapors, and they recommended I try something really strong like a cinnamon or really strong menthol. Well, hallelujah! I could taste a cinnamon/wintergreen blend! Unfortunately, that blend can get pretty rough after a couple of days. So, here I am, looking at my tongue in a close-up mirror and it occurs to me that my tongue hasn’t been this pink and healthy looking in years! Hmmm. Back to the internet. It seems to me, from the research I came across from many different sources, that I am simply detoxing from tobacco and growing in a fresh, new set of taste buds, all at the same time! I think I overloaded my new buds! Plus, some sinus issues from the detoxing and the fact that I was still mouth breathing (which many smokers do without even being aware of it) and there you have it! A bad case of vaper’s tongue! The fact that I couldn’t really sense a change in my ability to smell should have tipped me off to a sinus issue but, hey,I’m slow on the uptake sometimes! So, after going back to Swamp Vapors for some unflavored juice and some strong menthol, going to the drugstore for some Mucinex and some Sinu Orega (a sinus spray with oregano, bay leaf, sage, cloves and sea salt) to help break up the mucus and armed with gallons of water, I settled in to wait it out. After almost 10 days, I think I’m seeing the light at the end of this long, flavorless tunnel. Although, unlike many other vapers who said that their ability to taste came back all at once, mine seems to be returning gradually. I’d like to note that, oddly enough, my sense of taste where food and beverages were concerned was never affected. Weird. So, I think that (for me)doing less, accomplished more. Sorry to be so long winded. But ecigarettes have given me what I needed so I could FINALLY dump the tobacco monkey that has been on my back for 37 1/2 years! If anything I have experienced, so far, can help the next person kick their tobacco monkey to the curb, I feel as tho I have just paid it forward……. all of you lovely, long winded vapers out there who recorded your experiences and have given advice and encouragement…….. A HUGE and HEARTFELT THANKS!

    • Ian Watson April 3, 2014 at 9:45 am #

      In the first six months, as your fairly battered olfactory and taste senses recover from tobacco, you might find some distinct changes hence why some people will recommend a menthol or straight tobacco for the first initial vaping period from quitting tobacco as you won’t taste the subtle flavours.

      It is hardest for a strong daily smoker to go to zero nicotine, I did see somewhere a guide for the levels of nic to match your daily smoking usage. There is some confusion with new users where they think e-cigs on ultra low or zero nicotine will aid their cessation but it is easier to cessate by matching your nicotine intake fairly well and once transitioned to e-cigs from tobacco, wind down the nic level in the e-juice over time but many people enjoy e-cigs that much that they stay with it as I have done and thoroughly enjoy my vapes every day :D

  6. James March 23, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    Thank you so much for your story Kim (I was looking for a case study to go along with this blog, and I think you have provided it!)

    Hope your taste buds continue to recover :)

  7. Ian Watson April 1, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    I am currently under the tongue myself as I have gone off my nigh on a year love affair with spearmint and discovered a nice coconut as well as a red raspberry which is a nice change.

    My two daughters are strange, my eldest who smokes, only tastes a slight mint taste regardless of what flavour is there, it could be a freshly laundered tank, new wick and wire and all she can taste is mint. The one time she nearly got it right was with a blueberry and she thought it tasted like bubble gum, close but no e-cigar hehe

    Yet my youngest who doesn’t smoke can taste the actual flavours and is able to identify the subtle flavours as well like the limey mint in a mojito so smoking itself does seem to destroy a great deal of taste and smell.

  8. James Dunworth April 1, 2014 at 6:14 pm #

    If you try spearmint in a week or so you will probably discover you like it again!

  9. Ian Watson April 1, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    I’m in love with coconut right now but I have my array so to speak of implements of nicotinedeliveryness loaded up with different flavours and I do like the ol’ spearmint as a daily.

  10. Alisha April 2, 2014 at 12:27 am #

    I occasionally get Vaper’s Tongue (thanks James now I know what to call it) even though I’ve been smoke free for 4 years and drink huge amounts of water.

    After some online research I tried shotting espresso which didn’t work and neither did mouthwash. I tried sipping a double shot of straight Ron Zacapa once as well, which admittedly was my own idea and I don’t think it did much for the Vaper’s Tongue but afterward I was happy enough that I didn’t care I couldn’t really taste my strawberry vapour. ;)

    Anyway after some trial and error I found a way to restore taste that works every time – a tongue scraper! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tongue_cleaner. Makes sense, right? Cleaning off all the oral bacteria and dead cells that get in the way of enjoying a good vape, and unlike mouthwash it doesn’t leave an aftertaste to interfere with the e-juice flavour. Every vaper should have one. ;)

  11. James April 2, 2014 at 8:06 am #

    Damn, Alisha, I am going to have to go back and edit that post now ;)

    Thank you for the tip, sounds like a really good one!

    • Alisha April 3, 2014 at 3:33 am #

      Thanks James – sorry to create more work for you ;)

  12. Ian Watson April 3, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    Nice to see you get a mention in todays Metro James in regards to Wales stupid ban on e-cigs in public places.

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