Aside from adding distinctive flavors to many dishes, spices provide a wide range of nutritional and health benefits and some assist in food preservation. As with any ingested substance, however, allergies and adverse reactions, including inflammation, can occur. If you tend to react to certain foods, the underlying cause might be the spice it is often cooked with and not the food itself.
Oregano may increase severity of asthma attacks or interfere with medications, in some people, according to a study published in the February 2004 issue of the journal "Annals of Pharmacotherapy." In the review of hospital admission records, researchers found that 42 percent of patients admitted for asthma had used herbal preparations to treat asthma. Among the most common herbs, 28 percent reported using oregano. The study was conducted by the University of Texas at El Paso/University of Texas-Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program.
Curry spices may contain allergens that cause itching, difficulty breathing and asthma-like symptoms in some people, according to a study published in the January 2009 issue of the "Journal of Dermatology." The study documented a case of a 22-year-old woman who reacted with the symptoms after eating curried rice. The patient also had a pre-existing allergen to certain foods, along with atopic dermatitis -- an inflammatory skin condition, allergic rhinitis and pollen sensitivity. Blood tests revealed the symptoms to be associated with the recent curry meal.
Cinnamon has been known to cause allergies and inflammation in susceptible people, writes K.V. Peter, editor of the "Handbook of Herbs and Spices, Volume 1." Chronic use of cinnamon can cause inflammation in the mouth and an oil in cinnamon can cause skin burns and redness. The oil is more likely to cause problems, however inhaling cinnamon dust, such as in people who handle cinnamon in their work leads to high risk of asthma, skin irritation and hair loss. Susceptible individuals may experience inflammation of the mouth or skin when they use cinnamon-based toothpastes or ointments. Use small amounts at first, to learn your body's reaction to cinnamon and avoid it if you have an allergy.
Sage can cause inflammation of the lips in rare cases, says naturalist Charles R. Boning, author of the book "Florida's Best Herbs and Spices." Sage contains salicylates, which can be problematic for some people and cause inflammatory hives and rashes, swelling of the hands, face and feet and asthma. Sage is also a uterine stimulant. Avoid sage if you are pregnant.
- "Annals of Pharmacotherapy"; Herbals and Asthma: Usage Patterns Among a Border Population; J. Rivera; February 2004
- "Journal of Dermatology"; Curry Spice Allergy Associated with Pollen-food Allergy Syndrome and Latex Fruit-syndrome; A. Yagami, et al.; January 2009
- Handbook of Herbs and Spices, Volume 1"; K. V. Peter; 2004
- "Florida's Best Herbs and Spices"; Charles R. Boning; 2010