Salicylates: What are they? Sensitivity, Food Sources and Related Allergies

They are a group of chemicals derived from salicylic acid.

They are found naturally in certain foods and are also produced synthetically for use in products such as:

  • Aspirin.
  • Toothpaste.
  • Food preservatives.

The natural and synthetic forms can cause adverse reactions in some people.

In its natural form, it is produced by plants to defend themselves against harmful elements such as insects and fungi. It can also be found in food, such as:

  • Fruits.
  • Vegetables.
  • Café.
  • Has.
  • Walnuts.
  • Spices and honey.

Compared to food, medications like aspirin contain high amounts of salicylates, so salicylate intolerance is more commonly drug-related.

Sensitivity to salicylate

The adverse reactions that salicylates cause in the body are due to the excessive amount of their consumption, either in food or due to medical treatments or frequent use of aspirin.

People who are intolerant to salicylates have a decreased ability to metabolize and excrete them properly from their bodies.


Also, people with food allergies and inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to have this intolerance.

Symptoms of sensitivity to salicylates

It can cause various symptoms that mimic allergies and illnesses, including the respiratory tract. But the skin and intestinal tract can also be affected.

Among the most common are:

  • Nasal congestion.
  • Nasal and sinus polyps.
  • Asthma.
  • Chronic diarrhea.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Intestinal inflammation
  • Urticaria.
  • Inflammation of tissue.
  • Acne.

The number of salicylates that trigger a reaction can vary depending on the individual’s ability to break them down.

Therefore, some people experience symptoms after being exposed to a small amount of these chemicals, while others can tolerate more significant amounts before a reaction is triggered.

Foods Containing Salicylates

Fruits, vegetables, and spices tend to contain the highest amounts, although they are also found in other foods.

The salicylate level in food can vary based on several factors, including growing conditions, preparation, and maturity status.

For example, dried fruits contain higher amounts than raw fruits due to water removal during processing.

Among the foods with the highest levels of salicylates are:

  •  Fruits: raisins, prunes, apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, grapes, pineapples, plums, oranges, tangerines, strawberries, and guava.
  • Vegetables: broccoli, cucumber, okra, chicory, endive, radish, zucchini, watercress, alfalfa, eggplant, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, artichokes, and beans.
  • Spices: curry, anise, cayenne, dill, ginger, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, mustard, cumin, oregano, paprika, tarragon, turmeric, paprika, thyme, and rosemary.
  • Other sources: tea, rum, wine, spirits, vinegar, sauces, mints, almonds, water chestnuts, honey, licorice, jam, gum, pickles, olives, food coloring, and aloe vera.

This list is not exhaustive, as these compounds contain many other food sources.

Aside from food, they can be found in several non-food products, including salicylates:

  • Mint-flavored toothpaste.
  • Perfumes.
  • Shampoos and conditioners.
  • Mouthwash.
  • Lotions
  • Medicines.

Additionally, salicylates can be absorbed through the skin, so those with an intolerance should also be aware of the ingredients in lotions, cleansers, and perfumes.

How do I know if I am allergic to salicylates?

Currently, there are no laboratory tests to diagnose it. However, specific tests can be done to rule out an allergy.

The standard test for salicylate drug intolerance is exposure or provocation, which involves giving a small amount of salicylic acid and monitoring symptoms.

This test is only administered by medical professionals, as severe reactions can occur.

Those with known intolerance to aspirin and other salicylate-containing medications should be avoided.

This is because medications like aspirin contain much higher amounts than foods, and intolerance is usually dose-dependent.

If intolerance is suspected, an elimination diet that excludes foods rich in salicylates is usually the treatment option of choice.

Should salicylates be avoided?

There is no reason to avoid salicylates unless you suspect you are intolerant to them or your doctor recommends it.

A low salicylate diet can be restrictive. Also, unnecessarily cutting out foods rich in these compounds can be detrimental to your health.

However, people who experience symptoms after consuming foods rich in salicylates should consider avoiding them.

Because intolerance is dose-related and many foods contain these compounds, the best option is to restrict only those foods containing the highest amounts.