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Key Allergens

Saffron is a spice extracted from the flower crocus in the Iridaceae family. Other plants in this family include irises, freesia and gladioli. Saffron adds flavour and colour to various dishes. The stigmas are usually hand picked from the plants, then slowly dried, which is why saffron is so expensive.

The first two allergens associated with saffron are linked to the pollen and not specifically to the spice, the third is a food allergen.

One of the allergens is an Ole e 1-like protein, this is a glycoprotein, it has high cross-reactivity with the main allergens of other plants in the Oleaceae, olive family.

There is also a profilin protein, these are panallergens and can cause allergies across multiple species of plants and foods and are found in both food and pollen.

Studies have also shown that saffron contains a lipid transfer protein (LTP), this is a panallergen which is not easily damaged by heat or processing and can cause severe allergic reactions.

Food Intolerances

Food is low in salicylates Food is low in FODMAP

Saffron is a lowh FODMAP food. FODMAP stands for Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. Foods high in FODMAPs can cause symptoms of food intolerance, affecting the gastro intestinal system and this can be mistaken for a true IgE food allergy.

Saffron is a food low in salicylates. Salicylates have the potential to cause worsening of asthma, swelling, itching and hives as well as food intolerance symptoms in people who are sensitive to salicylates.

You can read more about Food Intolerances on the dedicated Food Intolerance Page.

Associated Syndromes

Saffron allergy is most commonly associated with rhinoconjunctivitis, asthma and rhinitis (hayfever) due to the pollen. This is more common in people who plant, pick and process the flower.

As saffron also contains profilin protein it can be loosely linked to Celery-Mugwort-Spice Syndrome, which is when a food can cause oral allergy type symptoms, like tongue, lips and throat itching.

When a person is allergic to many foods containing LTPs they can be said to have LTP Syndrome.

Cross Reactivity

Other pollens which contain Ole e 1 proteins include olive, pigweed, sugar beet (beetroot), ash, privet, rye, lilac, plantain and timothy grass.

Pollens containing profilin include ragweed, wormwood, birch, hemp, sunflower, plane, poplar, mesquite, oak and maize.

Lipid Transfer Proteins are found in almonds, apples, banana, blueberry, celery, cherry, durum wheat, aubergine (eggplant), green bean, hazelnut, lettuce, mustard, pea, peanut, pear, plum and walnut.

Note these allergen lists are not exhaustive, you can find the most up to date information on the Cross Reactivity Tool.



Allergen Encyclopedia - Saffron

Science Direct - Saffron

FODMAPedia - Saffron

ATP Science - Salicylate Foods

Articles and Journals

Is exposure to pollen a risk factor for moderate and severe asthma exacerbations? 2023

Clinical Applications of Saffron (Crocus sativus) and its Constituents: A Review, 2015

Involvement of Lipid Transfer Proteins in Saffron Hypersensitivity: Molecular Cloning of the Potential Allergens, 2010

Saffron and other spices as potential allergenic sources, 2010

Specific IgG antibodies (total and subclasses) against Saffron pollen: a study of their correlation with specific IgE and immediate skin reactions, 2007

The Prevalence of Saffron Pollen Allergy in Saffron Workers of Khorasan (Iran), 2005

Occupational allergy in saffron workers, 1997

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