The agave plant is used as a popular sweetener and is also processed to make tequila. There are more than 130 different types of agave that grow throughout the Southwestern United States and Central America. The blue agave plant, or Blue Tequilana Weber, is tapped for the sap, which is called agave nectar. This nectar is used as a sugar substitute in products such as candy, drinks and sauces. Though it is not one of the more common allergies, agaves produce mild-to-severe allergy symptoms in some people.
About the Agave Plant
Agave grows as a medium-size succulent, similar to aloe vera. It is round, with green or greyish, spiky leaves. Both the sap and juice can be used as ingredients. Since agave nectar is touted as a healthier sweetener than high-fructose corn syrup, agave is increasingly added to prepacked products. If you cannot tolerate agave, consult an allergist who can perform tests to determine your reaction to this and other related allergens.
Blue agave is harvested in order to make tequila. Traditionally, the juice of this succulent is fermented and then distilled. If you have an allergy to agave, you will need to carefully avoid tequila as well as any mixed drinks or flavorings that contain it. Mild reactions to agave usually include hives, wheezing, coughing and itchy, watery eyes. Your allergist may recommend an antihistamine medication for mild allergic reactions.
When to Seek Emergency Help
According to Mayo Clinic's website, the most common symptoms of a food allergy include tingling or itching in the mouth, hives, swelling of the lips, tongue or throat, congestion, diarrhea and nausea or vomiting. In rare cases, a food allergy to agave or another allergen can trigger a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. This condition can cause life-threatening symptoms, such as constriction and tightening of airways, a feeling like a lump in the throat, drop in blood pressure, rapid pulse and dizziness. Seek immediate medical attention if you or someone else experiences these symptoms.
Avoiding the Plant
If you have a severe allergy to agave, you may need to avoid the plant, its flowers and the pollen it produces. Use caution when hiking in areas where various types of agave plants grow. Your doctor may prescribe an emergency inhaler or injection in the event you come in contact with an agave by accident.