A cinnamon allergy is when your body has an irrational immune system response to cinnamon (allergic reaction). Cinnamon and spice allergies are not common, which means thoroughly researched information is hard to come by, that’s where I come in! I am providing you with as much credible information as possible on cinnamon allergies. We will be diving into possible symptoms, allergic reactions, and potential treatment options for cinnamon allergies.
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Can You Be Allergic to Cinnamon?
Yes, you can be allergic to cinnamon. According to aaaai.org, you can have an allergy to cinnamon and other spices, but they are considered very rare. Non-allergic reactions to cinnamon are more commonly seen, this includes symptoms like skin irritation and rashes.
What About Artificial Cinnamon?
Yes, you can be allergic to artificial cinnamon. There are a few documented cases of people developing Cinnamon Contact Stomatitis (CCS) from using products that contain artificial cinnamon ingredients.
CCS can Cause pain, bumps, and/or a burning sensation on the tongue.
An article from the 1st Dermatology University Clinic, explains that a patient had white patches on the side of her tongue, and was told to avoid cinnamon gum. The doctor believed that the symptoms were caused by artificial cinnamon. When the patient came back for her follow-up after not chewing the gum, her tongue was completely normal. The doctor concluded that the symptoms of CCS were caused by artificial cinnamon.
How Common is a Cinnamon Allergy?
A cinnamon allergy is rare, about 1 adult per 1200 on average, has a cinnamon allergy. Cinnamon allergies fall into the category of “spice allergy” which lumps allergic reactions to all spices, not just cinnamon. Researchers believe that Spice allergies affect between 4 and 13 of 10,000 adults.
Another way to look at how common an allergy to spices is, 0.04% – 0.13% of all adults have a spice allergy. Now, there is no way of telling how many of those spice allergies are cinnamon specifically, which makes a cinnamon allergy potentially even rarer.
Can You Develop a Cinnamon Allergy?
Yes, you can develop a cinnamon allergy. Anyone can develop allergies to substances that they did not have an allergy to before. Allergies happen when our body overreacts to a substance (like cinnamon) and sees the substance as a “threat”. The immune system begins to “attack” the substance which gives us our allergic reaction symptoms.
How to Tell if You Have an Allergy or Sensitivity to Cinnamon
You may be able to tell if you have a cinnamon allergy or sensitivity by analyzing your symptoms. Allergies and sensitivities have different characteristics that may point you towards one condition over the other. When reading the definitions below, ask yourself, “Do I fit more in the allergy or sensitivity category?”
Do keep in mind that you may be allergic AND sensitive to cinnamon or other spices.
Typically a cinnamon allergy shows up as an immune system response reaction. Immune system responses may be in the form of hives, swelling of the throat, wheezing or trouble breathing, and anaphylaxis.
Non-immune system response reactions. Possible symptoms of cinnamon sensitivity are a rash, irritation from direct contact, or lung irritation if inhaled. To further explain sensitivities and intolerances, let’s use lactose as an example.
If you are lactose intolerant you get gassy and abdominal pain, but you are not allergic to dairy per se. The intolerance is causing non-immune symptom reactions (i.e. unable to digest, irritated digestive system).
If cinnamon consumption doesn’t “sit well” for you when you eat it, or your skin gets mad (not hives) when exposed to cinnamon, I would bet that you have a sensitivity. If you have trouble breathing or breaking out in hives when you eat (or are exposed to) cinnamon, you probably have an allergy.
Additionally, airborne cinnamon can cause cinnamon allergy and intolerance symptoms. If cinnamon has become airborne, it is best to steer clear of the area until the cinnamon settles.
Is a cinnamon allergy a nut allergy?
The short answer is nope, cinnamon is not a not allergy. While cinnamon may have a nutty aroma and flavor, it’s actually derived from the bark of a tree, not nuts. So, if you have a cinnamon allergy, you don’t necessarily have to worry about cross-reactivity with nuts. But hey, it’s always a good idea to consult with a medical professional to get the full scoop on your specific allergies.
How Do You Test For Cinnamon Allergies?
According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, you may be able to have your allergist/immunologist conduct a skin prick test with an extract of the spice, including cinnamon. Additionally, the allergist or immunologist may want to conduct a “food challenge”. A food challenge is where you eat what you are allergic to, but in a controlled environment like the doctor’s office.
Typically, no tests are needed if you have a cinnamon or spice allergy because you will have symptoms when you eat those foods. But, if you are unsure which spice you are allergic to the skin prick test and food challenge may be the way to go.
Types of Cinnamon Reactions
Cinnamon reactions are categorized into two areas, non-allergic symptoms and allergic symptoms. Knowing which type of reaction you are experiencing can help greatly when it comes to management and treatment options. Here is the breakdown of each type of reaction.
Cinnamon Non-Allergic Reactions & Symptoms
- Rash on the skin (where exposed to cinnamon)
- Itching in the mouth
- Cough due to cinnamon inhalation
Cinnamon Allergic Reactions & Symptoms
- Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) – itching or swelling of the lips and tongue
- Cinnamon Contact Stomatitis (CCS) – Tongue pain, bumps, or burning
- Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction)
These lists of symptoms were extracted from aaaai.org and the U.S. National Library of Medicine
Overcoming a Cinnamon Allergy or Sensitivity
How do you overcome a cinnamon allergy? This question is easily answered but can be a bit harder to implement. To overcome a cinnamon allergy or sensitivity there are a few tactics that you can discuss with your doctor.
Treatment and Management
Knowing how to treat and manage your cinnamon allergy can have huge effects on getting symptom relief. Avoidance and the use of an antihistamine are probably the top options your doctor will discuss with you.
Use of an Antihistamine
When you have an allergy your body produces histamine as its response (allergic reaction). An option to limit histamine levels in the body is to use an antihistamine. Antihistamines are found at all major food retailers or pharmacies and can be purchased over the counter. For me, the allergy medication that has worked the best is Claritin®
Preventing exposure to your allergens (if possible) is going to solve the majority of your cinnamon allergy and sensitivity symptoms. Be sure to read labels, and look for cinnamon ingredients, or artificial cinnamon flavoring.
Foods to Avoid with a Cinnamon Allergy
Cinnamon spice is not included with “everything nice” if you are allergic. If you have a cinnamon allergy, you should probably avoid the following foods.
- Products with Cinnamon on the label
- Cinnamomum cerum
- Cinnamon Spice
- All labels stating: “Natural or Artificial Cinnamon Flavor”
- Pumpkin Spice
- Cinnamon Rolls
- Indian Butter Chicken
- Mexican Chocolate Pudding
- Chicken Tikka Masala
- Cinnamon Sticks
This is not an all-inclusive list of foods that contain cinnamon, but hopefully, it has sparked some ideas on where cinnamon might be hiding in your foods.
Take the time to read labels and understand your cinnamon allergy, and find what works for you.
Spices to Avoid With a Cinnamon Allergy
You will want to avoid using spices that have cinnamon as an ingredient, here are some examples.
- Cinnamon (of course)
- Pumpkin Spice
- Apple Pie Spice
Finding the right cinnamon substitute for your needs may take so time to figure out which new “cinnamon flavor” you like best. Here are common spices you can explore using in place of cinnamon.
- Cloves (with or without some ginger)
- Anise (tastes a bit like black licorice)
Some of these spices have very different flavor profiles, so you will need to tweak your recipe a bit to get the cinnamon flavor just right. Homegrownherbgarden.com has an article about cinnamon replacements, which I used to assist in creating this list.
In some cases, you may have to avoid nuts, or those with a nut allergy may need to avoid cinnamon, read Is cinnamon a nut allergy? for more information.