HERB AND SPICE ALLERGIES
For the purpose of this group of allergens we are going to include the main families of herbs and spice, Apiaceae and Lamiaceae as well as other families of foods which are often considered to be herbs and spices. The table at the bottom of the page summarises the foods, the family of plants they come from and their allergens.
proteins are found in aniseed, caraway seed, celery, coriander (cilantro), cumin, fennel, parsley, mustard, wasabi, poppy seeds, saffron and paprika.
Profilins are found in a variety of fruits, vegetables, seeds and grains as well as plant and tree pollens.
How people react to profilin proteins will vary from person to person and the food they are found in, but they are generally broken down by digestion, cooking or processing, so are considered to be one of the minor panallergens.
There is a type of Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome
, called Celery-Mugwort-Spice Syndrome
which is when a person is sensitised to the pollen of Mugwort
which contains a profilin allergen. After pollen sensitisation the persons immune system recognises the profilin as an allergen and gives oral allergy type symptoms when foods containing these similarly shaped proteins are eaten.
Profilin allergies can also sometimes be linked to Latex Food Syndrome
as profilins are a minor panallergen found in the rubber plant which can sensitise latex allergy
Bet v 1 PROTEINS
Bet v 1
proteins are found in aniseed, caraway seeds, celery, dill, parsley, wasabi, fenugreek and poppy seeds. There is a lot of crossover between foods containing Bet v 1 proteins and those containing profilin proteins, so the exact allergen may be difficult to pinpoint.
Bet v 1 allergies are commonly linked to Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome
, which was previously called Oral Allergy Syndrome
. These terms are still used interchangeably.
In this syndrome a person first becomes sensitised (allergic) to a tree or plant pollen. The most common in Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome is birch
tree pollen. The allergenic protein in birch tree pollen is called Bet v 1. A person can then find themselves allergic to other proteins in foods which are similar to Bet v 1, often called Bet v 1-like or Bet v 1 homologues. Bet v 1 proteins are found in a wide range of foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains.
The symptoms of this syndrome are called oral allergy symptoms as they can cause sneezing, itchy mouth and lips as well as a scratchy throat and tongue. Overall, these foods can cause a general irritation of the mouth, nose and throat. It is very rarely serious enough for the throat to close as it does in anaphylaxis.
The Bet v 1 allergens are often referred to as ‘heat labile’, meaning that the proteins are damaged by heat and lose their ability to cause an allergic reaction. There are more proteins in the skin of the plant than in the flesh and seeds. If you can eat the food once heated or peeled with no or reduced allergic reactions then you should be able to determine if this is Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome or a true IgE allergy (an IgE allergy will have immediate symptoms which may include anaphylaxis, swelling and/or hives).
SEED STORAGE PROTEINS
Mustard, fenugreek, chia seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and Sichuan peppers all contain different types of seed storage proteins
Seed Storage Proteins are mostly associated with nuts, seeds and legumes.
How you react to seed storage proteins will vary from person to person and the food they are found in, but they are generally associated with severe anaphylactic reactions, so are considered to be one of the major panallergens. These proteins are exceedingly difficult to damage with heat and processing, so foods containing them are considered to be highly allergenic to those sensitised to these proteins.
LIPID TRANSFER PROTEINS
Lipid Transfer Proteins
are found in celery, fennel, parsley, saffron and mustard seeds.
Also referred to as LTPs, they are panallergens found in many groups of foods and can cause serious allergic reactions. It is often the allergen found to be linking what initially looks like lots of random food allergies together.
These proteins are heat stable, so can cause allergic reactions even after a food is cooked or processed, they are more likely to cause serious allergic reactions.
When a person is allergic to many foods containing LTPs, usually across many food groups they are said to have LTP Syndrome
protein is found in dill and tamarind contains a Chitinase
protein (these types of proteins are sometimes referred to as hevein-like).
Chitinases and hevein are both panallergens found in many groups of foods and can cause serious allergic reactions.
The plant involved in latex allergy Hevea brasiliensis, the rubber tree plant, has multiple allergens, Hev b 11 is a chitinase protein and Hev b 6 is a hevein protein, which may result in linked allergic reactions. Those very sensitised to latex may have a contact allergic reaction from foods, plants or insects containing similarly shaped proteins. This gives this protein an important role in Latex Food Syndrome
Table Showing which herbs and spice contain which allergenic proteins, sorted by family
Information in this table is from multiple resources – please visit the Food Allergy Index
for information on each individual allergen.
You can download a herb and spice allergens chart from the Allergy Resources Ko-fi Shop
for just $0.50 (£0.40 or €0.45).
The most likely food intolerance from eating herbs and spices is a Salicylate Intolerance
. Salicylate herbs and spices include allspice, aniseed, bay leaf, black pepper, caraway seeds, cardamom, paprika, cinnamon, cumin, dill, fennel, fenugreek, ginger, lemon balm, lemongrass, liquorice, marjoram, mint, mustard, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, tarragon and turmeric.
Herbs and spices with high FODMAP
include bay leaf, chicory and fennel.
You can read more about food intolerances on the Food Intolerance
page, visit individual foods on the Food Allergy Index
to see which foods may be causing a problem.
Eugenol is an essential oil found in many herbs and spices in different quantities and contributes to the flavour and fragrance of the herbs and spices. The ones of note include allspice, basil, bay leaf, cinnamon, clove, ginger, mace, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, thyme and turmeric.
Other herbs and spices contain furanocoumarins, these include angelica, celery, dill, lovage and parsley. These chemicals can get on the skin and in combination with ultraviolet light (sunlight) can cause a sunburn like rash.
Eugenol and furanocoumarins are both found in higher concentrations in fresh herbs or spices and are natural irritants which can cause allergic contact dermatitis. This is more common in occupations where you are frequently coming into contact with them, like chefs, cooks, growers and pickers.
This is a very generalised page for herbs and spices, if there are any particular reactions you are having to these foods you can visit the Food Allergy Index and find much more information and resources on each individual food.
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