Vanilla pods are harvested from plants in the orchidaceae family. Most plants in this family are orchids. It is used in cooking for flavour and for fragrance in cosmetics.
Vanilla picking is labor-intensive, so vanilla extract and vanilla flavour are the other options for low-cost vanilla flavouring. Vanilla extract is made by processing vanilla pods with alcohol, so it contains natural vanilla flavors. Vanilla flavour can be made artificially and is usually always clear in color, which helps distinguish it from vanilla extract, which is normally brown.
The flavour component of vanilla is called Vanillin and this can cause contact reactions if applied directly to the skin.
Vanilla is a low FODMAP food. FODMAP
stands for F
olyols. 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.
Vanilla is low in salicylates. Salicylates
have the potential to cause gastrointestinal food intolerance symptoms in people who are sensitive to salicylates.
You can read more about Food Intolerances
on the dedicated Food Intolerance Page.
Vanilla pods and vanilla extract both contain essential oils that may be linked to contact dermatitis.
Vanilla is often linked to balsam of peru allergy, which is considered to be a top 5 allergen for contact allergies. They have many of the same chemical components, if allergic to balsam of peru you may want to consider avoiding vanilla as well.
These food lists are not exhaustive, the most up to date information is on the Cross Reactivity Tool.
DermnetNZ - Systemic Contact Dermatitis
Allergen Encyclopedia - Vanilla
Science Direct - Vanilla
Science Direct - Vanillin
FODMAPedia - Vanilla
ATP Science - Salicylate Foods
Allergy UK - Balsam of Peru
Articles and Journals
Allergic contact dermatitis from essential oil in consumer products: Mode of uses and value of patch tests with an essential oil series, 2023
Allergic Contact Dermatitis in Older Adults, 2023
Vanillin: A food additive with multiple biological activities, 2022
Airborne Allergic Contact Dermatitis to Vanillin, 2021
Allergy and intolerance to flavouring agents in atopic dermatitis in young children, 1994
Delayed-type allergy to spices, 1984
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