Cinnamon Allergy: A Closer Look at Symptoms, Causes, and Diagnosis


Most of you may know cinnamon as a popular spice that adds flavor and aroma to many dishes, drinks, and products.

But do you know that some people are allergic to it? Yes, you have read it correctly.

Some people are sensitive to the proteins in the spice which can cause unpleasant or even life-threatening reactions.

Read further to find out more about it.

But, let’s start with the basics.

What is cinnamon allergy?

A cinnamon allergy is a type of food allergy that occurs when the immune system reacts to the proteins in cinnamon. The immune system mistakenly identifies these proteins as harmful invaders and produces antibodies to fight them off. These antibodies trigger the release of chemicals such as histamine, which causes inflammation and other allergic symptoms.

It can affect people of any age, gender, or race. It can develop at any time in life, even if a person has previously eaten cinnamon without any problems.

Cinnamon comes from the bark of several trees that belong to the Cinnamomum genus. Cinnamon is mainly of two types:

  • Cassia and,
  • Ceylon.

Cassia is more common and cheaper, and it originates from China.

Ceylon is considered purer and more expensive, and it comes from Sri Lanka and India.

Both types of cinnamon can cause allergic reactions, but cassia may be more likely to do so because it contains more cinnamic aldehyde or cinnamaldehyde, the chemical compound that gives cinnamon its scent and flavor.

Classification of allergy

Cinnamon allergies can be classified into two types:

  • IgE-mediated and,
  • Non-IgE-mediated.

IgE-mediated cinnamon allergies are the most common and severe type. This involves the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) (antibodies that bind to mast cells) and basophils( which are immune cells that release histamine and other chemicals) that cause allergy symptoms. This type can cause anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening reaction that requires immediate medical attention.

Non-IgE-mediated cinnamon allergies are less common and less severe. It also involves other types of immune cells and mechanisms that cause delayed or chronic symptoms. This type can cause contact dermatitis, which is a skin rash that occurs after touching cinnamon or products containing it.

Cinnamon allergy symptoms in adults

The symptoms can vary depending on the type and amount of exposure, the severity of the allergy, and the individual’s sensitivity.

They can occur within minutes or hours after coming in contact with cinnamon, either by eating, breathing, or touching it.

Some common symptoms of cinnamon allergy in adults include:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Tingling, itching, or swelling in the face or other parts of the body
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Hives
  • Dizziness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Skin rashes, swelling, irritation or blisters
  • Wheezing
  • Cough

Symptoms in baby

Infants and children can also develop allergies to cinnamon, although this is less common than in adults. The symptoms in infants and children are similar to those in adults, but they may be more severe or difficult to recognize.

Some common symptoms in infants and children include:

If you suspect that your infant or child is allergic to cinnamon, consult your pediatrician for diagnosis and treatment.

What are the complications of a cinnamon allergy?

In rare cases, it causes anaphylaxis, which is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that involves multiple organs and systems.

It has many risks such as:

  • A sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Trauma
  • Even Death

Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention and treatment with epinephrine (adrenaline), which can reverse the symptoms and prevent further damage. It can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Also Read: What is Brugada Syndrome? Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment Options.

Now, let’s look at some of the reason that causes an allergy to cinnamon.

Causes of Cinnamon Allergy

cinnamon allergy

It is caused by an abnormal immune response to the proteins in cinnamon. The immune system mistakenly recognizes these proteins as harmful invaders and produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) to fight them.

So, the next time you come in contact with cinnamon, these antibodies trigger the release of histamine-like chemicals that cause inflammation and other symptoms.

Cinnamon contains several proteins that can act as allergens, such as cinnamaldehyde (the chemical compound that gives cinnamon its scent and flavor), cinnamic acid (a precursor to cinnamaldehyde), eugenol (a phenolic found in some spices compounds), coumarin (a natural substance with anticoagulant properties), and others.

The exact reason why some people are allergic to cinnamon is not completely understood. However, some factors that may increase the risk include:

1. Genetics.

If you belong to a family that has a history of food allergies or other allergic conditions.

For example, people who have other food allergies (such as milk, eggs, nuts, or wheat) or allergic conditions (such as asthma, eczema, or hay fever) may have a higher risk of developing a cinnamon allergy.

2. Environment.

Exposure to certain substances or conditions such as pollution, infection, stress, or medications can alter the immune system and make it more sensitive to allergies.

3. Diet.

If you eat too much or too little cinnamon or other spices then this may affect your immune system’s tolerance or sensitivity to these foods.

How common is cinnamon allergy?

Do you know how common cinnamon allergy is?

It is a rare allergy. A 2019 study estimated that approximately 1 in 1200 adults are allergic to the spice. It falls into the category of “spice allergy”, which includes allergies to all spices, not just cinnamon.

Spice allergies are often not diagnosed because they can be hard to detect in skin and blood tests.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), spice allergies account for about 2% of all food allergies.

Diagnosing Cinnamon Allergy

If you suspect that you are allergic to cinnamon, you should consult an allergist for diagnosis and treatment.

An allergist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating allergies and related conditions. He/she will ask you about your medical history, symptoms, and exposure to cinnamon or other spices. They will also do some tests to confirm or rule out chances of allergy.

Tests may include:

1. Skin prick test.

This test involves placing a small amount of cinnamon extract on your skin and pricking it with a needle.

If you are allergic to cinnamon, you will develop a red bump or welt at the site within 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Blood test.

During a blood test, a sample of your blood is taken and analyzed. This test measures the level of antibodies (IgE) that your immune system produces in response to cinnamon.

A high level of IgE indicates that you are allergic to cinnamon.

3. Oral challenge test.

This test involves giving you gradually increasing doses of cinnamon under medical supervision and monitoring your reaction.

If you are allergic, you will develop symptoms within a few hours. This test is usually done after a negative skin prick test or blood test to rule out any false negatives.

These tests are not always reliable or conclusive because some people may have false positive or false negative results. Therefore, your allergist will also consider your history and symptoms to make a final call.

If you have an allergy to it, then you may be worried about how long will it take to go.

How long does a cinnamon allergy last?

The duration of a cinnamon allergy depends on several factors, such as:

  1. The type and severity of the reaction,
  2. The amount of cinnamon consumed or exposed,
  3. The treatment received, and
  4. The individual’s sensitivity and immune system.

A mild allergic reaction may last for a few hours or days, while a severe allergic reaction may last for longer or require hospitalization.

Some people may outgrow their cinnamon allergy over time, while others may have it for life. To avoid it, you can try some alternatives to it, which can mimic the taste and smell of cinnamon without causing an allergic reaction.

The bottom line

Cinnamon is a common spice that can cause allergic reactions in some people. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the amount of exposure and the individual’s sensitivity.

The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid contact with cinnamon and cinnamon-containing products. However, if a reaction occurs, there are ways to treat and manage symptoms with medications or emergency care.

If you think you are allergic to cinnamon, you should consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. They can help you confirm allergies, prescribe medication if needed, and give advice about avoiding exposures and managing reactions.

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