People who suffer from allergies, especially as a result of hay fever or other pollen reactions, can experience additional complications of their allergies if they try certain herbal remedies, particularly remedies from sources in the same plant family as their allergens. Having a solid knowledge of which plants trigger allergies and which herbs share the same pollens is key to health safety in people with allergies.
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Chamomile is best known as a soothing herb that relieves stress, cold symptoms and skin reactions such as itching or hives. Chamomile can be found in topical lotions, in numerous marketed products and in tea formulations. However, this popular herb is not necessarily safe for people with allergies to ragweed pollens, because chamomile and ragweed are in the same plant family, Compositae.
Similar to the chamomile cross reaction, echinacea can induce allergy symptoms in people with an existing ragweed allergy because of the shared plant family. Echinacea is often used to relieve symptoms similar to allergies, such as sore throat from colds and flu. People with an allergy to ragweed pollen who ingest echinacea may experience worsened allergy symptoms as well as stomach upset and rash. Severe reactions, including shock, are possible.
Although a distinct plant species from chamomile, echinacea and daisy, dandelion is also a member of the larger Compositae plant family. However, its allergy risks are not limited to the ragweed cross sensitivity. People with an allergy to latex may experience allergic reactions to dandelions, whether through the inhaled pollen, actual contact, or ingestion of an herbal liquid or capsule formulation. Latex may be produced from one species of the dandelion plant; latex contact may lead to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening shock reaction, in particularly sensitive individuals.
Food and Plant Allergies
Sometimes, herbal sources lead to reactions from specific foods in people with severe allergies. The reactions may be full-body allergies or an oral allergy syndrome, or OAS, in which the only symptoms are usually itching and redness around the mouth after eating certain foods. Allergies to herbal plant groups like birch, for example, can cause OAS with tree fruits like apples and cherries and can cause allergic cross reactions with hazelnuts from the related hazel tree. Similarly, people with severe ragweed allergies may be unable to eat cantaloupe or sunflower seeds because of the shared plant family.