Coriander allergy – watch out for ‘spices’!

Coriander allergy is quite rare and can often be linked to oral allergy syndrome. This means that people who react to different kinds of hayfever triggers such as birch, mugwort or ragweed may also be allergic to particular foods which cross react due to being very similar in make up or from the same plant group. Oral allergy often develops in adults or late teens and sometimes people can eat the food cooked, but if they eat it raw they will get hives and stomach upsets etc.

You can read more about oral allergy syndrome on the Foods Matter website in Oral allergy syndrome linked to Pollen allergies link.

Coriander is related to Mugwort which is linked to oral allergy in the following foods: Apples, carrots, celery, kiwi fruit, peanuts, some spices (caraway seeds, parsley, coriander, anise seeds, fennel seeds).

You would think that coriander, or as I like to refer to it, the spice of the devil, would be fairly easy to avoid if you’re also allergic to nuts and/or dairy. Add coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance the mix and you’re probably avoiding lots of the same things anyway, but many foods contain coriander as a flavour enhancer due to its distinctively strong flavour.

If you have an allergy to coriander you should avoid curries, curry pastes, garam marsala and spice mixes, Indian, Thai and Chinese food etc. Salads and sandwiches can often contain coriander. Be wary and carefully check soups, stocks, flavoured crisps and baked goods; it can be added to rye breads, biscuits and many free-from foods. Watch out for labels which carry the term ‘spices’ as this could mean the presence of coriander. Always check with the manufacturer.

Also coriander is also called cilantro, dhania or Chinese parsley so watch out these in ingredients lists too.

Coriander in the ‘spices’ ingredients label

Amy's Kitchen curried lentil soup

Amy's Kitchen curried lentil soup

As an example of coriander hidden in a spices label, I recently discovered Amy’s Kitchen, which many rave about and they do sound really tasty. However, they can probably attribute some of that taste to coriander.

I was tempted to just try this since it is free from dairy and tomato but I saw that it contain celery, another food I can’t eat, and then spotted the ‘spices’. Since people can be allergic to some spices I asked Amy’s if they could confirm which spices were included in this recipe and they were really helpful, replying the same day with:

“Thanks for your email. When we list “spices”, we mean herbs and spices like thyme, oregano, nutmeg etc. I just received a response from my Recipe Department and coriander is indeed in the Curried Lentil Soup.”

With such rare allergies, and let’s face it, people can be allergic to so many strange things, it’s not always listed on ingredients labels. Spices are a strange one as they can be listed together and rarely cause allergic reactions.

So if you’re not sure, always ask. Most companies will be really helpful, like Amy’s. And if you don’t have to avoid celery or corinader, please tell me how nice this soup is? or on second thoughts, don’t! I’ll only get jealous. If you fancy trying Amy’s Kitchen food, they do much more than just soup, visit their website at www.amyskitchen.co.uk.

The taste of coriander to me is vile. I know instantly whether there is any in a meal and have to stop eating it. This isn’t an allergy that causes anaphylaxis, just very nasty skin rashes and stomach cramps, which are still quite unpleasant. Cooking does seem to help but fresh coriander is the worst.

I will never forget making carrot soup for the first time myself and tasting it, before adding the coriander. Mmmm. Lovely. A success I thought. Then I threw in the chopped coriander and oh dear! I couldn’t eat a mouthful. Ruins a good carrot soup if you ask me!

However I can tolerate it cooked in curry pastes in a Thai Curry. Isn’t the body complicated? How does it know? What’s it bothered about?

What do you think of coriander? Do you love it? or hate it? Allergic to it? What happens when you eat if you do have an allergy like me?

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. http://www.whatallergy.com was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.

Comments

  1. Thank you, this websight has been very helpful. I just experienced a sever allergic reaction to parsley, resulting in sever hives, eczema, heart palputations, fever, throat, mouth itchiness, and confusion. Ive never had a problem with cooked parsley, but when I juiced it raw it was not a good experience.

    • I ate a herb garden salad from Morrisons which had coriander leaves, chives, spinach and bratvia lettuce leaves. I ate this last night and today woke up with hives, rash and a cough. As I recall, I have had all of these leaves in the past, but only cooked coriander. I do not normally react to food

      • It could be linked to oral allergy syndrome and sometimes the body develops these sensitivities out of the blue and for no reason. You could try to do a controlled test but you would have to cut out all those things and try a little bit to see if it caused an reaction. Worth speaking to a doctor or dietician to work out a safe way to proceed. Keep an eye out though. I haven’t heard of an allergy to any of the other salad leaves though so I would suspect teh coriander. Depends what else you ate with it?

    • Amanda – Some foods change a lot when they’re cooked. Not a nice reaction by the sounds of it for you. I can have a tiny bit cooked and just glow a bit red but if there is a lot or I eat it fresh. Boom! It’s bad.

  2. I’m not allergic or sensitive to many foods or spices but cilantro is one. Unfortunately Amy’s seems to use cilantro and/or coriander in many of their recipes. Cilantro makes my tongue feel tingly numb and my ears itchy, then my breathing gets labored and I have to break out the inhaler. :/

    • Coriander is used in so many things that are free from everything else I’m allergic to. Bit of a bummer. I’m trying to find out what it is about coriander that causes us problems. Wish they would leave it out. Yukky coriander. It rules out most ethnic food for start.

      • Hi Ruth
        I too have an allergy to fresh coriander leaves, Most people think I am making it up except close friends who have seen me react in a bad way. I also hate the taste and know instantly if its in a food. To begin with I just had an instant reaction, sick, red rash etc but now its got very bad and find it difficult to breath, my face and lips swell and I wish I could be sick but just feel very ill. I avoid it if I can and never eat Indian or Asian foods. I think they should never put it into foods, I once found some in a bag of ready prepared salad leaves from M & S and it was not listed as an ingredient !!
        By the way my name is Ruth too !!

        • Well hello there Ruth. Great comment and sorry you have the vile coriander allergy too. I have found coriander in bags of spinach salad too! Difficult because it’s not on the list of 14 most common allergens and people can be allergic to anything. Surprised about M&S – I hope you told them! They are quite hot on allergies usually.

          • I’m with you ladies! I HATE coriander! I hate the taste & I hate the way my body reacts. Fortunately, I am not allergic. I think mine is more of a food intolerance, although that is not pretty either.
            The way I found out was by an intuitive suspicion, so I intentionally ate it. NEVER AGAIN!!! It gives me IBS & I was sick for a week!! Now I ask for it to be left out of whatever I order & I just say it’s an allergy because it’s easier that way – people know what that means & they don’t argue. And it’s more likely to be left out then, too!
            But it really has a horrible flavour & I don’t understand WHY anyone would want to eat it or use it as flavouring!! But that could be my stomach talking! But I agree with you – they should never put it in foods. You can add stuff if you want, but you can’t take it out!!!
            PS can I be part of the Ruth club? It’s my middle name!

  3. i just ate a coriander based chutney, and i’m allergic! i didn’t know cilantro and coriander was the same thing. i was only aware of my cilantro allergy, lol. i currently have a pressured feeling in my face, im a little warm, and ive got a strange headache from my sinuses. too bad, that chutney was amazing.

  4. Philippa says:

    Hi. Really interesting article. I was diagnosed with coriander allergy over 10 years ago and now carry adrenalin. My only other allergy is hay fever. For years, many people dismissed coriander allergy and did not take it seriously! One day I met a colleague at work who had also been to hospital with exactly the same allergy. Totally agree that coriander is often omitted from list of ingredients. It’s often only after the reaction and investigation that the culprit is revealed. To this day though, I can’t understand why I had a terrible reaction to snack-a-jacks. No coriander in them! Sometimes when I’ve eaten it, I just get stomach cramps/D& V. When I get a strange distant feeling, tingly tongue, swollen eyes , itchy skin and wheezing, I know ive eaten fresh or raw coriander!

    • Always avoid that label ‘ spices’. Crisps can be a culprit too. Spicey crisps can have coriander in it and I so wish YOu could get indian food without it. They use so much of it.

  5. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only out there with this allergy!
    I usually never eat foods that generalize their ingredients to only “spices” but it was good to know that it could really contain coriander!
    I have tried to find places that could confirm that I do have an allergy but I cannot find one. I have already had four reactions and every time I had it the food contained coriander. It wouldn’t be such a problem if I would eat bland food like meat and potatoes but I love mexican, thai, persian foods!
    I get severe reactions when I eat it. The first time I had it my eyes got really watery and I thought make up got into my eye so I removed but then my lips started to swell really bad and the top of my hands were really itchy and I got hives everywhere. Then I went to the hospital and had to take 36 tablets and pills and once and had to sit there for about 6 hours till the swelling went down. I had to take 18 pills for three days after that. I looked like Will Smith in Hitch.
    The second time I had a reaction I ate guacamole at a friends house and two hours later I started to get hives again. My friends mother suggested to me that it could be coriander which proved to be true the third and fourth time where I ate salsa.
    I went to a doctor then who suggested I should get an epi pen but it sort of freaks me out, as I cannot imagine stabbing myself! So I always carry my allergy pills with me.
    I think I got the reaction after a trip to Asia in 2006 where I ate tons of coriander and I think my body just got really sensitive to it!
    I don’t have any other allergies but I will definitely try and see if I maybe have a birch allergy because I do get a stuffy nose!
    Thank you for sharing!

    • Hi Anne. Sorry to hear about your experiences. You are most definitely not the only one! I do wish this would be added to the list of allergens that must be labelled because it can be very dangerous for us allergics. Are your pills antihistamines? or something else? Do take care, and if you are worried about using the EpiPen, I was too, but when I had to I realised it’s not so bad. It didnt’ hurt at all. The other symptoms were giving me far more grief. It could save you life so please think carefully. Interesting about possible sensitisation in Asia. That’s very interesting. Goes to prove you shouldn’t eat too much of any good thing.

      • Philippa says:

        Thanks Ruth. Hi Anne. You mention you wish you could find a place that confirms coriander allergy. If you get a referral from your GP to a hospital allergy outpatient clinic, they can diagnose through skin prick and/ or blood tests. Southampton allergy clinic is very good. I was initially referred to Southampton after my passion for learning to cook Thai food was having extreme effects. As Ruth says ” perhaps we can have too much of a good thing”. On a side note, I flew Thai Airways to Oz. I could smell all this yummy food and I let them know of my condition, so every meal was white potatoes, white rice and chicken for me. They looked after me very well. I’ve yet to find travel insurance that covers allergies!!

  6. I live in New Zealand, and I’ve been a relatively fussy eater, so I managed to generally avoid coriander most of my 20 years. I did react to the odd food, often Chinese, and I have never liked Thai or Indian a lot, but placed that to me just being fussy. Until last year when I was in Vietnam eating a noodle soup FULL of coriander leaves and seeds did my mother click that that’s what it was. I take a reasonably long time to react (around 10 hours) and I vomit profusely. I have only reacted once since that, from a soup the day after my wisdom teeth removal. 5 hours vomiting with stitches and a swollen mouth from 12am. Best night ever. My only other allergy (that I know about) is hay fever, so I’m always on antihistamines.

    Unfortunately as I’m growing out of my fussy eating I can’t eat anything! Coriander has exploded in popularity and its everywhere. Thankfully the odd restaurant don’t use it and I’ve begun to love their curries etc, although cautiously due to the common language barrier. I daunt the day I go travelling to the Mediterranean, more of Asia and Mexico…

    On a side note, I would like to know the chemical composition of coriander oil, as allergies are to proteins, and if theres no protein it should be okay… Proteins are so much larger than fats, so they possibly wouldn’t be in the final distillate of coriander oil. Cooking denatures proteins which would cause allergies to be lessened when food is cooked if the particular protein causing the reaction is denatured sufficiently.

  7. I have a severe Allergy to cilantro, coriander,parsley and dill. It is not commonly known if you are allergic to cilantro chances are you also cannot tolerate parsley and dill. Unfortunately, most prepared foods have parsley. It is even in sour cream and onion potato chips! I have severe reactions where I swell up so I carry an epo pen. Sigh, and I love cilantro!

    • Thanks for the comment Sherry. Ah that’s bad, that you love cilantro. I have always HATED the smell, taste, everything about it. Urgh! Gross and repulsive to me. I often think our bodies sometimes know better than we do what it doesn’t want to eat. I think I too have a small problem with Dill but not as bad as the coriander. And parsley, I seem Ok with. Weird aren’t we? Anyway yes, avoiding coriander is hard. It seems to be in nearly everything these days, sauces, crisps, dips, especially around Christmas when it seems EVERYTHING needs coriander. Watch out for mulled wine drinks as they can sometimes contain it too.

  8. hi,
    I am allergic to coriander, tomatoes, mustard oil and reddish. moreover I m from India, i cannot have outside stuff, cause over there they put coriander in every other thing. and tomatoes cant be avoided at any cost cause they r in all the ketchups, fast food.
    I get hives with itchy skin n sore throat n its very difficult to bear, physically as well as psychologically.
    now i am in Australia, came here just a few days ago n having a lot of hives; may be weather change. hoping to find good places n stuff to eat without tomatoes n coriander. 🙂
    Any sugesstions for some packed food or some brand that doest use these.
    Along with some lotion to use that can ease my itchy skin.

  9. Hi
    I’m pretty sure I have a cilantro/coriander or some kind of spice allergy. Everytime I eat Mexican or Italian food, my ears burn immediately and my throat starts to feel swollen.

    Ugh why does those spices have to be in everything! at least I’m not the only one that’s experienced problems from this…

    • I don’t know, it’s like every nice freefrom food I MIGHT be able eat then has the dreaded coriander in it… damn that coriander. Disgusting stuff. It really does get into EVERYTHING

  10. Hi, I have allergy to coriander too, but very mild, thank goodness…
    I didn’t know & my family had never heard of this allergy (could be that it is very rare).
    I found out my allergy when I ate fish dishes in the Chinese restaurant. They mix pieces of coriander with the fish & I ate the whole thing. Since I didn’t get any reactions from the fishes, it easier for me to find out what I’m reacting to.
    But, the only reaction I got was feeling nausea, vomiting & light discomfort in my stomach only. Interesting thing was that I had to be aware of it by tasting it or even smelling it. If I ate it without tasting the coriander, I could take in without any reactions at all. The only problem is if they mix with the soup, then I can’t drink it…
    Though, the discomfort doesn’t last long & won’t affect my appetite, I won’t eat it…
    Better to enjoy my meal, than having them out of my stomach & leaving me hungry…

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