Allergy information for: Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum)

  • Name: Aniseed
  • Scientific Name: Pimpinella anisum
  • Occurrence: Aniseed is normally added whole or crushed as a seasoning to a wide variety of foods including cakes, candy, cheeses, cookies, breads, pickles, stews, fish and shellfish. It is an ingredient of root beer.



  • Allergy Information: Aniseed allergy is relatively rare. The most common symptom reported is the oral allergy syndrome. However, anaphylaxis after eating aniseed has been reported and in one patient was associated with reactions to other spices such as caraway and coriander.

    Supplementary information on Spices Allergy

    The term spice contains an endless number of plant-derived ingredients used in the cuisine to refine foods. All parts of the spice plants from seeds, flowers, leaves, barks to rhizome or roots can be used for refinement of foods. In this overview, also celery, sesame and mustard which belong to the category spices, will be briefly touched too, even if detailed descriptions can be found in separate sections. Names, synonyms and biological classification of the most popular spices are given in Table 1.

    Few spices are added raw to the dish. Many of them are used in dried or freeze-dried condition, as dill, parsley or celery, which then contain most of the allergic proteins also present in the raw spice. Allergens in pickled spices are unchanged or better conserved than in the dried ones, e.g. in the case of green versus black pepper. Additionally, mechanical grinding of the dried material may destroy some allergens, e.g. in the case of paprika, but still leave a considerable number of allergenic proteins. Roasted spices may keep their potential for allergenicity, as poppy seeds or sesame, the latter often consumed toasted on bread. Spice allergens can, therefore, be expected in raw, toasted, grilled, baked, cooked, tinned, pickled or dried food when eating out or at home, in freshly prepared or fast food.
    Spices may produce mild symptoms: itching, swelling, burning at lips, tongue and palate or severe local reactions in and around the mouth: swelling of the throat, flush, breathing problems, stomach indigestion, vomiting, diarrhoea, and systemic reactions such as hayfever, asthma and anaphylactic shock.

    How much is too much?
    For most spices, the current scientific evidence is unsatisfactory to establish an intake threshold. However, for the spices taken up into the food allergen list of the EU (see below) some data on lowest reactive threshold are available since recently: for dried celery spice 160 mg, sesame 30 mg, and mustard 40 mg. Below, allergic reactions did not occur in the tested patients. It may be considered that thresholds for other spices may be comparably low and, consequently, low-dose challenge trials are recommended. 

    Related foods (cross reactivity)
    In most cases of reported spice allergy, IgE-cross reactions with pollen were reported. Especially birch pollen, and mugwort pollen allergy represents a risk for the development of reactivity to spices. Cross-reactivity to latex has been reported, too. The elicitors are plant proteins that are similar in different plants. Common reactivity is more likely in plants that are botanically closer related (Table 2). 

    Who, when, how long, and how often?
    Spice allergy represents 2% of all food allergy cases. It is rare in children and more prominent in adults. Allergic reactions can be seen as occupational allergy in spice factory workers. Besides allergic reactions also contact eczema may occur. No data are available today on the outgrowth of spice allergy. For yet unknown reasons women have a double risk to develop food allergies including spices.

    Spices are often hidden in the prepared food and not obvious to the consumer. Therefore, a careful recollection of the allergic reactions is the first important step for the diagnosis of this type of allergies. The safest and least invasive procedure for the patient is blood samples, On the other hand, spices may produce false positive results in skin prick or scratch tests through their contents of irritating substances (in particular in pepper, and cayenne.). (For the same reasons skin tests for diagnosis of allergic contact eczema due to spices, may not be sufficiently reliable). Thus, ideally skin tests should be combined with blood samples. Challenges represent a useful tool for the evaluation of the threshold for reactions and for ultimate diagnosis, but has only rarely been applied in spice allergy. Also inhalation challenges with spices have been made, but are infrequent. This is possibly due to the risk for the development of severe side-effects during provocation tests and unfavourable cost assessments.

    When diagnosis of spice allergy has been made, absolute avoidance of the spice is recommended. This should include botanically related spices, because they contain similar proteins that with high probability will also act as allergens (see Table 2). Spices are routinely used by cooks in restaurants or private environments in an automated way, and sometimes are handled as kitchen secrets. Therefore, the person in charge of cooking must be advised in advance to prepare the foodstuff on clean dishes without the possibility of contamination with traces of spices. If severe allergic reactions have occurred in the patient before, the recommendations should be even stricter and consumptions in restaurants or of tinned or fast food can no longer be recommended, considering the today's labelling policy.

    Labelling of spices was for a long time insufficiently regulated, e.g. was “spice” as a category sufficient for the whole large panel of different ingredients. According to the aim that all ingredients should be labelled regardless of the quantity contained in the finished food, in 2004 a defined list of foods with allergenic potential has been taken up in the EU labelling issues. They are listed in Annex IIIa of Directive 2003/89/EC, to be brought into force by November 25, 2004. Importantly, this list includes celery, mustard and sesame seed which have a well documented allergenic potential. At least for these common spices the option to declare them as ingredients by category will no longer apply. Facing the fact that spices are hidden in foods in low amounts, the new legislation will improve the consumer's situation. However, severe allergic reactions have also been observed to a number of other spices as e.g. poppy (2), coriander, cumin, dill, curry, or saffron. Therefore, complete labelling of spice ingredients should be an ultimate goal.
    Table 1.

    Spices: Synonyms and biological description.



    Biological Description


    Jamaica pepper, myrtle pepper, pimento, newspice

    Unripe and dried fruits

    Anise 1)


    Dried fruit of annual herb


    tomato herb, herb of kings

    annual, spicy herb, fresh or dried leaves

    Bay Leaf

    sweet bay, laurel

    Oval, dark-green, dried leaves

    Caraway Seed


    Dried fruit of a biennial herb


    green cardamom, greater c., Nepal c.

    Dried, unripened fruit


    Chili pepper, red pepper

    ripened dried pots

    Celery 2)


    dried fruit or root of a biennial (sometimes annual) herb


    Garden chervil, French parsley

    small, low-growing annual



    reed-like stems of a perennial, bulbous plant


    Indonesian c., Cassia, Vietnamese c.

    White cinnamon

    Dried inner bark of evergreen trees



    Dried, unopened flavour buds


    Cilantro, Chinese or Indian parsley

    Vietnamese coriander or mint

    Dried fruits, fresh leaves and roots

    leaf of annual herb

    Cumin seeds


    Black cumin

    dried ripe fruit of the annual herb

    dried ripe fruit of the annual herb

    Curry Powder


    blend of coriander, turmeric, cumin, nutmeg, onion, and other spices


    Dill seed or dill weed

    Annual plant: dried fruit or dried leaves.


    Sweet cumin

    Dried ripe fruit of the annual plant



    Bulb (cloves)



    dried knobby shaped rhizome (but not root) of perennial herb


    Nutmeg flower

    scarlet membrane (arillus) enwrapping the shell of the nutmeg


    Sweet marjoram, knotted marjoram

    Dried leaves and floral parts of herb



    Seeds from annual herb



    Dried, aromatic seed (called “nut”)


    Scallion, shallots (young onion)

    single-bulbed, biennial, herbaceous plant


    "Wild Marjoram", oregan

    leaf of the plant


    Bell pepper, pod pepper, sweet pepper

    Fruits are used dried and ground



    dried and fresh leaves and roots of biennial plant

    Pepper: black, white, green


    berries of tropical vine, dried or pickled (green pepper)

    Pink Pepper-corns

    Baies roses, pepper rosé

    berries native to the Island of Reunion

    1.  Spices with reported allergenicity are underlined.
    2.  Spices taken up in the Annex IIIa of Directive 2003/89/EC of the European Community guidelines are underlined and bold.

    Table 2. The botanical relationships among important spices.

    Botanical family

    Spices to be avoided


    Anise 1), caraway seed, celery 2), chervil, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, parsley


    Cayenne (chilli), paprika


    Allspice, cloves, mustard

    Lamiaceae = Labiatae

    Basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme


    Bay leaf, cinnamon


    Cardamom, ginger, turmeric


    Chives, garlic, onion


    Mace, nutmeg


    Black, white, green pepper


    Vietnamese coriander


    Sesame seeds


    White cinnamon


    Pink pepper


    Poppy seeds




    Star anise





    1.  Spices with reported allergenicity are underlined.
    2.  Spices taken up in the Annex IIIa of Directive 2003/89/EC of the European Community guidelines are underlined and bold.

  • Other Information:
  • Taxonomic Information: The genus Pimpinella is NEWT .
  • Last modified: 18 October 2006

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      Clinical History

      • Number of Studies:1-5
      • Number of Patients:11-20
      • Symptoms:

        Garcia-Gonzalez et al. (2002) [790] reported a patient with general malaise, drowsiness, abdominal bloaring and epigastric cramping pain on challenge.

        Jensen-Jarolim et al. (1997) [791] report symptoms from 15 patients reacting to spices. 10 had IgE binding to aniseed. 8/10 of these suffered oral allergy syndrome or rhinitis with wheezing or asthma in 5/8 cases. 6/10 suffered gastrointestinal symptoms.

        Stricker et al. (1986) [522] reported a case of anaphylaxis to aniseed.

      Skin Prick Test

      • Number of Studies:1-5
      • Food/Type of allergen:Garcia-Gonzalez et al. (2002) [790] prepared protein extracts by stirring aniseed, cinnammon, carrot, celery, asparagus, cumin, parsley, majoram, caraway, dill, fennel, coriander, pepper and clove in 50 mM phosphate and 150 mM NaCl, pH 7.5, overnight at 4 degrees. Samples were centrifuged, dialysed and freeze dried. Extracts were diluted to 20mg/ml in phenolated and glycerinated saline.
      • Protocol: (controls, definition of positive etc)Histamine was the positive control in both Garcia-Gonzalez et al. (2002) [790] and Stricker et al. (1986) [522]. The latter define a positive wheal as >5mm diameter.
      • Number of Patients:

        Garcia-Gonzalez et al. (2002) [790] test a single patient.

        Stricker et al. (1986) [522] tested 102 patients

      • Summary of Results:

        Garcia-Gonzalez et al. (2002) [790] reported an immediate wheal area of 64 mm2 for aniseed, rising to 1,009 mm2 at 24 hours. Asparagus, caraway, coriander, cumin, dill and fennel were positive. Carrot, celery, cinnammon and parsley were negative.

        Stricker et al. (1986) [522] tested 102 patients who had suffered idiopathic anaphylaxis (such as reactions to an unknown allergen) with a battery of 79 skin tests. 5 were positive to aniseed and this was clinically relevant in one case.

      IgE assay (by RAST, CAP etc)

      • Number of Studies:0
      • Food/Type of allergen:Garcia-Gonzalez et al. (2002) [790] prepared protein extracts by stirring aniseed, cinnammon, carrot, celery, asparagus, cumin, parsley, majoram, caraway, dill, fennel, coriander, pepper and clove in 50 mM phosphate and 150 mM NaCl, pH 7.5, overnight at 4 degrees. Samples were centrifuged, dialysed and freeze dried. Extracts were diluted to 20mg/ml.
      • IgE protocol:RAST and immunoblotting
      • Number of Patients:

        Garcia-Gonzalez et al. (2002) [790] used serum from a single patient.

        Jensen-Jarolim et al. (1997) [791] used sera from 15 patients.

      • Summary of Results:

        Garcia-Gonzalez et al. (2002) [790] reported 7.03 kU/L (class 3) for aniseed, 2.2, 1.0, 1.8 and 2.1 kU/L for caraway, coriander, cumin, and fennel, (Class 2), 0.7 and 0.6 kU/L for celery and cinnammon (Class 1). Negative for asparagus, carrot, dill and parsley.

        Jensen-Jarolim et al. (1997) [791] reported immunoblotting for several spices and total IgE.


      • Immunoblotting separation:

        Garcia-Gonzalez et al. (2002) [790] used 1D SDS-PAGE in reducing conditions with a 12.5% separating gel.

        Jensen-Jarolim et al. (1997) [791] used 1D SDS-PAGE with a 12% separating gel. Samples were heated at 95 degrees for 5 minutes.

      • Immunoblotting detection method:

        Garcia-Gonzalez et al. (2002) [790] transfered proteins to PVDF membranes (Immobilon-P, Millipore, Millford, MA) with detection by chemiluminescence.

        Jensen-Jarolim et al. (1997) [791] transfered proteins to nitrocellulose strips. These were blocked in phosphate buffer (pH 7.5) with BSA and Tween 20 and incubated with sera (diluted 1:4) overnight. IgE binding was detected by 125I rabbit antihuman IgE.

      • Immunoblotting results:

        Garcia-Gonzalez et al. (2002) [790] reported that immunoblotting showed bands at 48, 42, 39, 37, 34, 33 and 20 kDa for aniseed; 54, 42, 38, 31 and 2.8 kDa for caraway, 66.5, 51.6, 43, 38, 32, 28, 25.8 and 19 kDa for cumin; 57, 42, 38, 33, and 20 for fennel and 57, 50, 39.5, 34 and 20 kDa for coriander.

        Jensen-Jarolim et al. (1997) [791] reported intense IgE binding to 14, 17 and 50-70 kDa allergens of anise and fennel. Only one patient showed strong IgE binding to coriander and cumin (at 69 kDa). This patient's IgE also bound to anise, fennel at 69 kDa. Two others bound the 17 kDa band of coriander and cumin weakly. The 10 patients showing IgE binding all suffered from pollen allergy. IgE binding could be inhibited by pollen extracts from mugwort, birch and with celeriac extract.

      Oral provocation

      • Number of Studies:1-5
      • Food used and oral provocation vehicle:capsule containing 1mg of aniseed
      • Blind:yes. Dextrose used as placebo.
      • Number of Patients:1
      • Dose response:Reaction 6 minutes after first 1 mg. dose
      • Symptoms:General malaise, drowsiness, abdominal bloaring and epigastric cramping pain with chest tightness (Garcia-Gonzalez et al. 2002 [790]).

      IgE cross-reactivity and Polysensitisation

      Garcia-Gonzalez et al. (2002) [790] showed cross reactivity in one patient to caraway, coriander, cumin, and fennel, celery and cinnammon. However, this patient was not pollen allergic to birch or mugwort.

      Jensen-Jarolim et al. (1997) [791] showed cross reactivity to fennel, coriander and cumin and also to celery, birch and mugwort.

      Other Clinical information

      Fraj et al. (1996) [792] report a case of occupational asthma induced by aniseed without associated food allergy.

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        References (4)

        • Fraj J, Lezaun A, Colas C, Duce F, Dominguez MA, Alonso MD.
          Occupational asthma induced by aniseed.
          Allergy 51(5):337-339.. 1996
          PUBMEDID: 8836339
        • Jensen-Jarolim E, Leitner A, Hirschwehr R, Kraft D, Wuthrich B, Scheiner O, Graf J, Ebner C.
          Characterization of allergens in Apiaceae spices: anise, fennel, coriander and cumin.
          Clin Exp Allergy 27(11):1299-1306.. 1997
          PUBMEDID: 9420134
        • Stricker WE, Anorve-Lopez E, Reed CE,
          Food skin testing in patients with idiopathic anaphylaxis.
          J Allergy Clin Immunol 77: 516-519.. 1986
          PUBMEDID: 3950255
        • Garcia-Gonzalez JJ, Bartolome-Zavala B, Fernandez-Melendez S, Barcelo-Munoz JM, Miranda Paez A, Carmona-Bueno MJ, Vega-Chicote JM, Negro Carrasco MA, Ameal Godoy A, Pamies Espinosa R.
          Occupational rhinoconjunctivitis and food allergy because of aniseed sensitization.
          Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 88(5):518-522.. 2002
          PUBMEDID: 12027075