The cashew is a very common, versatile and delicious nut enjoyed around the world. Due to its popularity we thought we’d better clear the air regarding raw cashews.
Despite what you may read on packaging labels, the chance you’ll encounter completely raw cashew nuts is very unlikely. The “raw” cashews sold in natural food stores are not exactly raw, but instead are heat treated (usually with steam) to remove the urushiol toxin. The urushiol toxin is a resin which is found in the double shell layer surrounding the raw cashew. The resin can create significant skin rashes and can be toxic when ingested. It can cause the body to have a very similar reaction to one experienced from poison oak or ivy.
What to look out for:
- Flu-like reaction
- Abdominal discomfort and vomiting
- Rash around the lips, mouth and anus
There is a high incidence of skin rashes and allergies among people who are involved in the harvest or processing of raw cashews. Cashew poisoning is rare, but those who handle them in order to manufacture them often experience these side effects. Urushiol can lead to an extreme and potentially fatal allergic reaction when raw cashews are ingested. This is why we don’t eat strictly raw cashews.
There is no danger in consuming this very popular nut and if safely prepared, cashews essentially cause fewer allergies compared with other nuts.
But note, once you have been sensitised by raw cashews and experienced any of the above symptoms there is a chance you may react the same way in the future even if the cashews are properly heat treated.