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Key Allergens

Tea is brewed by pouring hot water over leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. This plant is in the Theaceae family of plants. This type of tea is referred to as black tea because the plant has been dried and oxidised before being processed. Green tea is made from the same plant, but it is harvested and processed before the plant is oxidised. White tea is also harvested from the same plant, but is picked when the buds have not opened and are still white.

Red tea, more commonly called rooibos tea, is from a different plant, Aspalathus linearis, which is in the Fabaceae family of plants. This family of plants are commonly referred to as Legumes.

Camomile tea has its own page.

Tea contains caffeine, so this may one of the causes of a perceived allergy. If you have symptoms to tea and coffee you may be intolerant to caffeine rather than allergic to tea leaves.

Tea also contains tannins, the stronger the tea is brewed the more tannins it contains, these are phenolic compounds which can cause symptoms of intolerance in some people.

Contact reactions to tea can be caused by nickel allergy. Nickel is found in most foods, but is in higher concentration in tea leaves. Contact reactions are most likely to affect those who pick or process tea leaves.

Food Intolerances

Food is low in FODMAP Food is moderate in histamine Food is high in salicylates

Black, white, green and red teas are low in histamine. Some green and white teas are not suitable for people following a low histamine diet as it contains a compound called methylated epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG can block the enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO) which breaks down histamine present in the body. Tea does contain putrescine, another biogenic amine found in citrus fruits, chocolate, tea and nuts which people can be sensitive too. It is also found in high histamine foods, so tea is often included in histamine food lists.

All types of tea are low in FODMAP. 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.

Teas are high 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

Contact dermatitis is associated with an allergy to one of the many of the compounds in tea leaves.

Tea contains methylated epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which can cause asthma, it is most strongly associated with green tea and is referred to as 'green tea asthma'. It is likely that white tea would also have the potential to cause asthma in people who have reacted to green tea.

Cross Reactivity

Red teas are made from legumes, but are so processed that there is no evidence of them causing cross reactions with other legumes.



AAAAI - Tea Allergy

DermNet N - Pigmented Contact Cheilitis

Allergen Encyclopedia - Tea

Science Direct - Black Tea Extract

Tealefed - Is tea high in histamine?

Healthline - FODMAP Foods

ATP Science - Salicylate Foods

Articles and Journals

Identification and characterization of phenolamides in tea (Camellia sinensis) flowers using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography/Q-Exactive orbitrap mass spectrometry, 2023

The concentration of the potentially toxic element (PTEs) in black tea (Camellia sinensis) consumed in Iran: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and probabilistic risk assessment study, 2022

Green tea-induced anaphylaxis: The first pediatric case report, 2021

Immediate and delayed contact reactions to white and green tea blends, 2021

Analysis of the Relationship between Asthma and Coffee/Green Tea/Soda Intake, 2020

Anaphylaxis Caused by Green Tea: A Case Report, 2018

A case of green tea (Camellia sinensis) imbibement causing possible anaphylaxis, 2017

Food allergy to green tea, 2003

Green tea-induced asthma: relationship between immunological reactivity, specific and non-specific bronchial responsiveness, 2003

Let me know if you found any of these interesting or useful. If you spot an article or research that you think is interesting you can message me or tag me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter - links at the bottom of the page.

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