Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Allergic to Spices?

Is it possible to be allergic to spices? I think I have an allergy to cinnamon, but I've been told there's no such thing. I sneeze a lot whenever I come into contact with cinnamon.

Answer (Published 1/11/2013)

Yes, it is possible to be allergic to spices, but until recently, these allergies have been regarded as rare. However, according to a presentation at the 2012 annual scientific meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) two to three percent of individuals worldwide have an allergic reaction to spices. These allergies may represent two percent of all food allergies but are under diagnosed because of the lack of reliable tests for them. Reactions can range from sneezing to life-threatening anaphylaxis, and can be triggered by spices used in cosmetics, toothpastes and other dental products, as well as those used in food.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Respiratory Health - Avoiding smoke and pollution and getting regular exercise can help you breathe easier. Take your health one step further with proper supplements. Get a plan that's optimized for you - a free, personalized recommendation from Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor.

Unfortunately, spices are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and as a result are not always listed on food labels. This can make it very hard to identify the specific allergen and to determine what foods and other products to avoid. Because of the increasing use of spices in foods and cosmetics, it is likely that more and more individuals in the United States will come into contact with these substances and develop allergies to them, according to Sami Bahna, M.D., past president of the ACAAI, who gave the presentation on spice allergies at the annual meeting. He noted that patients with this problem often have to take extreme measures to avoid the allergen, which can mean strictly avoiding all foods that may contain it. This can lead to "low quality of life and sometimes malnutrition," Dr. Bahna said.

Common spice allergies are to cinnamon and garlic, as well as to black pepper and vanilla. To make things more difficult, spice blends often contain many different spices.

Dr. Bahna explained that cooking (including boiling, roasting and frying) foods that contain spices may reduce the allergens that trigger symptoms, but in some cases, cooking can enhance their potential to set off reactions. He said that a spice allergy should be suspected when an individual has multiple reactions to unrelated foods or when reactions occur to commercially prepared foods but not to foods cooked at home. Individuals who are allergic to spices can develop symptoms as a result of eating, touching or inhaling them.

If you think that you have an allergy to cinnamon or to any other spice (or combination of spices), try to keep a record of what foods set off your symptoms. Dr. Bahna recommends consulting a board certified allergist who can help you implement a plan to cope with your problem.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here