Cinnamon Allergy: What You Should Know

cinnamon allergy

 

Can you be allergic to the delicious spice cinnamon? Yes you can! There are a few different ways you can be allergic to this popular spice. Cinnamon can be the cause of a food allergy but can also be the culprit of a rash or mouth irritation if it is in your beauty or oral hygiene products.

Cinnamon is frequently used in cooking, but is also prevalent in fragrances, cosmetics, and other beauty products. As its use increases, allergies to cinnamon will likely be on the rise in the general population. If you are found to be allergic, watching your exposure to the spice may be difficult, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor the use of cinnamon. 

So where does cinnamon come from? Cinnamon spice is from the Cinnamomum tree bark and its flavor comes from an essential oil, particularly cinnamal. There are two major types of cinnamon, known as cassia and Ceylon. Ceylon is considered purer and is native to Sri Lanka and India. Cassia is more accessible, originates in China, and is most likely the one you are buying in the grocery store.

So What Is a Cinnamon Allergy?

You can be allergic to anything, but when it comes to foods, most people are allergic to the same seven foods, including seafood, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, and dairy. Spice allergies make up only about two percent of all food allergies.

The symptoms of a true food allergy, including one to cinnamon, include:

  • Rash or hives (a rash that looks like mosquito bites and is also itchy)
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath and/or coughing
  • Swelling of lips, face, and tongue
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fainting
  • Uterine cramping

These symptoms usually occur within a few minutes to an hour after ingestion of your allergen.

It is important to keep in mind that you can have a delayed food reaction, which means your reaction could occur several hours after consumption. A life-threatening allergy requires urgent medical attention and most importantly an epinephrine pen that needs to be quickly administered. After administration, go to your nearest emergency room to get medical help. 

Diagnosis of a Cinnamon Food Allergy

To diagnose a cinnamon food allergy, your allergist can perform a skin test (a painless prick test on your arms or back) and you will get the results after just 20 minutes. If cinnamon extract is not available for the test, a blood test can be done, though skin testing is preferable.

If you have a positive skin test and had a previous reaction to cinnamon, you are likely allergic to the spice. Your allergist will likely prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector and go over how and when to use it. 

Other Types of Cinnamon Allergies 

There are other types of cinnamon allergies that are not life-threatening but still require a thorough evaluation.

Contact Dermatitis

Cinnamon can sometimes cause a non life-threatening rash known as contact dermatitis. The rash usually looks like a sunburn with redness, peeling, and itching. The best way to treat this rash is by avoiding cinnamon and cinnamon-containing products.

Cinnamal (the liquid that gives cinnamon its spice) is the most likely culprit that causes contact dermatitis. It is considered an allergen in Europe and is required to be listed in the ingredients list if it is present above a certain amount.

Diagnosing contact dermatitis can be confusing because the rash can occur a few weeks, months, or years after you have been exposed to a cinnamon-containing product. A patch test is the best method of diagnosis.

See your doctor to find out if you can use a topical steroid on the rash to help it heal. Antihistamines may help with any itching, which is important to treat because itching may make the rash worse.

Stomatitis

Stomatitis is inflammation of the mouth or lips. Symptoms include pain, burning, ulcers, and mucosal peeling, among others. Generally, you would have had cinnamon in the past without a reaction before you tried it again and developed this oral irritation.

Besides eating cinnamon, you may have been exposed to the spice in daily products that you wouldn't think twice about, including your mouthwash, toothpaste, cinnamon gum, and other products. Most reported cases of stomatitis from cinnamon are from toothpaste and gum.

Diagnosing contact dermatitis or stomatitis is much different than diagnosing a food allergy. If you have a rash that looks similar to a sunburn then a patch test is the most helpful step. A patch test is also the best option for figuring out what allergen could be causing your stomatitis. 

Managing Your Cinnamon Allergy

Unfortunately, due to lack of regulations on accurately labeling fragrances and spices, it can be difficult to avoid cinnamon. If you have an allergy, be vigilant in educating yourself about foods you eat and products you use and talk to your family and friends about your diagnosis.

Always try to read ingredient labels so that you know what is in your food. For example, a five-spice blend may contain cinnamon. If dining out, let your wait-staff know about your allergy and always carry your epinephrine pen with you.

If you have contact dermatitis or stomatitis due to cinnamon, avoid topical products that contain the spice. This may be difficult but your allergist will be able to recommend an appropriate skin care routine for you. Topical steroids or other creams (like tacrolimus) will help alleviate inflammation and antihistamines will help with that annoying itch that comes with the rash.

A Word From Verywell

If you think you may be allergic to cinnamon, see your allergist. Your doctor can help diagnose your condition with either a skin test, a patch test, or both. He/she will help guide you in managing the cinnamon allergy so it does not get in the way of your daily life.

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