Saffron’s Potential Allergic Reaction
Spice allergies are a growing problem, with strict avoidance of allergens as the only effective treatment. Since spices are extensively consumed in homemade meals and also contained as hidden condiments in many pre-packaged foods, harmful reactions are often difficult to prevent. We are going to talk about the most important spices responsible for immediate allergic reactions, with special attention given to Saffron.
Allergies are one of the illnesses that have increased on a worldwide scale over the past ten years, particularly in developed countries. It was expected that by the year 2020, over 50% of the population in westernized countries suffer from allergies. An allergic reaction can be caused by any form of contact with allergens, i.e. by ingestion (eating or drinking), inhalation (pollen, house mites, etc.), or direct contact.
Food allergies affect 6% of young children and 3-4% of adults in westernized countries. There is no treatment for food allergies so specialists recommend strict avoidance of offending food allergens. A common feature in patients allergic to a particular factor is their awareness of other allergenic sources. Cross-reactions have been reported among similar agents in closely related species, such as birch and hazel pollen or fruits of the same botanical family.
Spices are commonly used in cooking in order to add flavor, odor, and visual appeal to food. They are usually made from seeds, bark, roots, fruits, or flowers of plants, and they are generally used as dried products with a brown, black or red color and a pungent smell. According to the United States Code of Federal Regulations, most spices are recognized as safe for human consumption, although spices considered toxic may provoke allergic reactions, ranging from mild and local to severe systemic. They can enter the body through inhalation or ingestion even after prolonged cooking, thus suggesting the existence of resistant allergens.
Allergy to Saffron
Saffron is a spice derived from the dry stigmas of the Crocus sativus flower. It is used in cooking as a seasoning and coloring agent and considered to be the most expensive spice in the world.
Saffron is traditionally used for medicinal purposes as a stimulant; aphrodisiac and antidepressant, while evidence of antitumoral effects in various cellular models is also present (Schmidt et al. 2007). Saffron has three main pharmacologically active metabolites: Crocin, the water-soluble carotenoids that give Saffron its color; Picrocrocin, responsible for the bitter taste; and Safranal, the volatile compound that provides odor and aroma.
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The planting of Saffron corms is a difficult task with bulbs being planted one by one and by hand. Harvesting and removal of saffron stigmas are also done manually. The conditions of cultivation and handling of Saffron facilitate the development of allergies by inhalation (pollinosis, asthma) and by contact.
Saffron allergy can even produce anaphylaxis. Studies reported the case of a German farmer who experienced a severe anaphylactic reaction after consuming a Saffron rice dish. This reaction was due to high molecular weight proteins.
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