Take the Heat Out of Your Spice Allergies

You probably have a collection of spices in your kitchen cabinet that you use to adjust the right taste to your recipes. But for a small number of people, exposure to certain spices can push their immune systems into overdrive. If you fall into this group, here's what you need to know.

Garlic, onion, and chives are some of the most common spices that could set off nasal and skin allergy symptoms. But the good news is that spice allergies are relatively rare and when they occur, the symptoms are usually mild. However in extreme cases, spice allergy reactions could be life-threatening so it's important to know if you have a spice allergy and which spice(s) you are allergic to.

Other spices that can cause symptoms include:

  • Anise
  • Basil
  • Cardamom
  • Celery seed
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Cumin Seed
  • Fennel
  • Mustard
  • Paprika
  • Parsley
  • Saffron

What Causes a Spice Allergy?

Spices may cause allergy symptoms because the makeup of many spices can be similar to fruits and vegetables, and your body may not be able to differentiate between them. Your allergist can help you determine which spices tend to mimic your specific allergy triggers.

How to Protect Yourself

The best way to protect yourself is to read food labels carefully to avoid the offending ingredients. This can be quite challenging, though, particularly because the US Food and Drug Administration allows manufacturers to group many different ingredients under the broader heading of "spices," rather than listing each spice separately.

If you're unsure if the spice(s) you're allergic to are contained in certain foods and drinks, play it safe by avoiding the food altogether or  by calling the manufacturer to confirm the ingredient list.

Benefits of Spices

Keep in mind that not all spices are created equal. While some may cause you to have allergy symptoms, others may actually bring some beneficial properties. In particular, some of the hotter spices can be good for people with allergies because they can boost the immune system, open up the nasal passages, and offer important antifungal properties.




"Acute Sinusitis." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), Aug. 29, 2009. Web. 30 March 2011.

"Careful Label Reading for Food Allergens." Kids with Food Allergies. Kids with Food Allergies, Feb. 2007. Web. 30 March 2011.

"Spice Allergy." Food Standards Agency. Food.gov.uk, n.d. Web. 30 March 2011.