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Tree-nut allergy questions (coconut? palm oil?)

Posted on December 1st, 2008 by Alison Read 100 Comments - Add Your Own »

Tree-nut allergy confusion? Hope this helps…

Is coconut considered a tree nut?

There is conflicting information on whether coconut must be avoided by people who are allergic to tree nuts.

Coconut has not in the past been considered a tree nut, but in 2006, the FDA began to define coconut as a tree nut. However, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, “the available medical literature contains documentation of a small number of allergic reactions to coconut; most occurred in people who were not allergic to other tree nuts. Ask your doctor if you need to avoid coconut.”

According to Allergy New Zealand, “coconuts are not tree nuts but are monocotyledonous plants of the palm family Arecaceae. Nut bearing trees, on the other hand, are dicots and are only distantly related to the palm species. Coconut rarely causes allergy. Most allergists will not suggest coconut avoidance unless there has been an allergic reaction to coconut.”

My daughter, who is allergic to cashews (and we don’t know yet about other tree nuts), eats coconut. We have never avoided it and never had a problem. I think that some people may have a coconut allergy in addition to a tree nut allergy, but whether the two are related remains unclear.

What about palm oil?

A friend told me that a pie she saw in a store had on the ingredient label “palm oil (a tree nut allergen)”. This is a case of the manufacturer not understanding what constitutes an tree-nut allergen, because palm oil does not come from a tree nut.

Palm oil comes from directly from the tree but has nothing to do with a tree nut. In addition, palm oil does not contain any [tree nut] proteins to which people are allergic. I verified this fact on the phone with FAAN. Palm oil is safe for tree-nut allergic individuals, unless they also have an allergy to palm oil (highly unlikely). [Correction: I meant to say that palm oil does not contain any tree nut proteins, but someone could be allergic to palm oil as a separate allergy from tree nuts.]

Is a water chestnut a nut?

A chestnut is a nut, but a water chestnut is a vegetable. No problem for the tree-nut allergic!

Does nutmeg come from a nut?

Nutmeg comes from the seeds of a tropical tree. It is not a nut and therefore safe for nut-allergic people. Someone might be allergic to nutmeg for other reasons, but a nutmeg allergy is probably rare.

Any other questions? Comment below and I will try to answer!

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  1. My daughter has a tree nut allergy. She also cannot use Shea butter products. She broke out in hives wherever I put the shea butter lotion. Is this considered a tree nut?

  2. Shea butter lotion should be fine with a tree nut allergy. I use it with no problem .
    I want to consult someone professionally who can help me with my diet. Local allergists do not seem to,be able to figure things put beyond what I am allergic to . For example, I cannot have any uncooked fruits(except blueberries and pineapple)or raw vegetables. I am allergic to tree nuts. But I am trying to figure,out what foods contain processed fruits or nuts so that I might be able to try them (I.e. almond milk?) are there specialized nutritionists or allergists out there that could sit down and help me. I am willing to consult by email or phone if necessary. I live in NJ. Does anyone have any recommendations ? Just a note to some past posters: if you hear of someone allergic to a fruit that has a stone or seeds, they are likely to be allergic,to other seeded or stone fruits.(ifmtheynare allergic to grapes, they will still be allergic to non seeded grapes) One melon usually means (or will eventually mean) all melons. Bananas are related to kiwi and birch and ragweed and chamomile…all the same family. This is called oral allergy syndrome . Any suggestions for me would be great , I really want to,improve my diet

  3. Hello
    I am severely allergic to all tree nuts and peanuts and fruits
    And I was at a salon and they put this lotion and/or oil on my hands and it had sweet almond oil/pecan oils in there and I didnt react…How come I test positively and severely to nuts yet I dont react from lotions? Is it because I have to ingest it to go into anaphalactic or because the lotions and nut oils are processed? just curious! I was fine but took Benedrayl as a precaution

  4. My son was recently diagnosed with PA. I’m feeling a littering overwhelmed as I’m sure you all did when you found out. My question is….are a avocados considered a vegetable or are they in the nut family? I never even thought about these things before! I thank God we live in the time of technology that we do where answers are at our fingertips.

  5. Stephanie,
    Avocado is not a nut. It is actually a fruit.

  6. I’m relieved to find this site. I have suffered from skin rashes for 20 years, also loose bowel movements every day. In addition I have Fibromyalgia. I realised years ago that “Vegetable oil” was the culprit but it is almost impossible to exclude this from ones diet since it is in almost every processed foodstuff in the U.K. I see that others are making the same comment regarding Vegetable oil. I also have wondered if Palm Oil is the main culprit since it has flooded the U.K over the last 20 years. Could the problem be an allergy to the protein Avenin?

  7. I am 30 years old and have been severely allergic to peanuts and all tree nuts my whole life (as well as dairy products and olives/olive oil). I’ve had allergic reactions to both coconut (raw/natural) and to nutmeg as well. If you have questions as to whether or not you should try a food, meet with your allergist and have some food allergy tests done. I knew i was allergic to certain nuts but I wanted to know if i was allergic to all of them…my allergist did blood work and could tell me that i was in fact allergic to all tree nuts, including nutmeg and coconut and it had ranges of severity on it as well which was really helpful.

    What is really frustrating is companies like WHITE WAVE – SILK are now creating coconut milk and there are warning labels on all of their SOY milks says it uses the same product line as items that use ALMONDS and COCONUT. So there goes another product for those who are allergic to tree nuts or coconuts.

  8. Aimee – bummer about the soymilk, but if you call the company they might be able to reassure you that they thoroughly clean the lines and it might be safe for you. Better to not take the risk of course if you are unsure.

  9. My name is brooke. I am 20 years old and this past weekend I had eaten some walnuts AND pecans. My throat was almost all the way closed before i got to the e.r. I have grown up with peanut butter and other nuts as well at theses two but just somehow became allergic. I am also allergic to some citrus, dogs,cats, honey and i am lactose intolerant.. My brother is allergic to cashews and pistachios, so when I got an allergic reaction to the nuts it was no surprise. but, is there any way that I will know if I can eat peanuts again? I know I am not airborn as we have it in our house but I would like another persons opinion. I have my epipen just in case i ever need it but i would like to know if anyone else has had new oncoming allergies to tree nuts. and if they can eat some tree nuts and not others. and if they can still eat peanut butter with tree nut allergies. I have read online that peanuts grow ion different plants and are not associated with tree nuts but I would still like other peoples opinions please. Much help!! :)

  10. Hi Brooke,
    If you have tree nut allergies, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are allergic to all tree nuts or to peanut butter. You should go to an allergist and get tested for the specific nuts and for peanuts. Yes, I know people who can eat one type of nut but not another. However, should you decide to do that, you have to make sure there is no cross-contamination with the nuts you are eating. For example, you may be able to eat almonds if they come from a dedicated almond grower (like Blue Diamond) and are never re-packaged in a facility that contains other types of nuts. Hope that helps.

  11. Nut allergies are among the scariest for restaurant goers but there is this huge uproar online about allergy bullying at schools. It really is scary to this that kids are deliberately exposing allergic kids to things that can harm them. Ridiculous. Sorry, daily rant… Great post BTW.

  12. If you have allergies to tree nuts please read your product labels as a lot of baked goods are now made with walnut flour. The spread that is being advertised to put on bread, Nutella is filled with tree nuts. Also, honey nut cheerios is made with almonds in the honey. Check also labels to see if the food has been processed on equipment that processes tree nuts. The oil from the tree nut can be left on the conveyer belt and contaminate the next food item. Candy canes are one such items that fits this scenario among others. Food is also cooked with peanut, coconut oils and Vitamins, the gummy ones are shined with walnut and coconut oils.

  13. I am looking for some information regarding tree-nut allergies. I am looking to start producing chocolate bars and have found that the cacao beans are typically cross-pollinated by surrounding plants which give chocolate it’s unique flavor profiles. Many are cross-pollinated with tree-nuts. Is there any chance of a reaction from chocolate that has been cross-pollinated as I am trying to keep all of the chocolate I make allergen-free. Any advice on where I can find the answer to this question would be helpful as well.

  14. I jus wanted to say that this is great blog! I am allergic to some tree nuts and not to peanuts. It all started with rocky road ice cream as a child. Everytine I would consume it, my throat would feel graspy, the. After every episode it would get worse and start to itch. It didn’t take long for me to quit that ice cream, but I did notice that milk would calm my allergic symptoms down. On one occasion while in high school, my friend ordered a chinese chicken sandwhich which contained mayo, and he is allergic to eggs and milk products. I ordered a plain turkey sandwhich with no mayo or milk products it, so I did him the favor and switched with him. This was my tisrt time eating a chinese chicken salad sandwhich and in high school. I had no idea of the bomb that was about to unleash! I had no idea that the sandwhich contained pecans. I took a couple of bites and soon noticed my first severe allergic reaction. My body started to itch, I was covered in hives, my throat started to swell up, and couldn’t breathe. I felt that I couldn’t make it to the hospital which was about 5 miles away, so I went to urgent care which was about a mile away. Upon getting there I remember all the nurses and doctors there rushed me in and were all over me, injecting me with medication and then I passed out. When I regained conscious the doctor explained that I was now severly allergic to nuts and prescribed me with epipens. I am not allergic to all nuts though. I can eat peanuts, almonds, pistachios, and at one point cashews. I just wanted to share my story.

  15. I think by eating or drinking coconut milk or coconut water causes any kind of allergy. Rather it is believed that coconut water is good for health.

  16. I am allergic to nuts. I am also allergic to coconut due to eating popcorn made with coconut Oil I was in ER. I think anyone with a nut allergy should avoid palm oil and coconut oil. I found out the hard way so be careful what you eat! Also some tom’s potato chips, cookies and bugles have sent me to ER. Bugles are fried in coconut oil. Keep Benadryl and an epi pen with at all times!

  17. If I eat anything containing PALM OIL, I experience stomach pain a few hours later. This is more an intolerance than a frank allergy, I suppose. I am 55 years old, male. Also feel nauseous if I eat coconut oil.

  18. I am allergic to coconut milk (the tinned variety or from a fresh coconut) and also to tea tree oil. I always develop a skin rash (eczema) after drinking the milk and break out into the itchiest rash after using tea tree oil on my skin. Pity, as I adore the smell of coconuts.

  19. I am going way back to 2009 and the mom asking about her daughter who eats squirrels and venison. My son is severely allergic to tree nuts, and I also wondered about game. The allergist looked like I was out of my mind talking about eating squirrels. He could only come up with, “don’t puncture the stomach cavity and I think it will be fine.” As we have always been game eaters, we have continued with no ill effects. I don’t know why it wouldn’t be cross contamination but we haven’t had any problems.

  20. Is Vanilla considered a tree nut?

  21. I have recently been diagnosed with severe nut allergy to ALL nuts however they did not specify tree nut and other nuts. I am allergic to all tree nuts: Brazil, Cashew, Walnut, Peanut, Hazlenut, Almond etc… But I am also allergic to Coconut too along with coconut oil, Argan oil, macadamia but oil. I wondered whether I would also be allergic to palm oil due to my other allergies. Every site or forum all state that if you are allergic to tree nuts then you shouldn’t really be allergic to coconut and vise versa however due to both my coconut and tree nut allergies I am unsure! If anyone could help I would be very grateful, thanks!

  22. I also have an allergy to Cottonseed + Palm Oil I have kbown about the Cottonseed oil one for a good 10-15 years and just discovered the Palm in the last 4 years. When I was researching Cottonseed I found a site that said that the cottonseed has mold growing on it!! ?? If thats true no wonder so many people have allergies to it. Why are they using this on our food??

  23. As you know, first of all stay away from all the stuff that you know you are allergic to. If you haven’t done so already, take an allergy test with an allergist specialists. For the most part what I have found out online is if you are allergic to tree nuts, then you are most likely not allergic to non tree nuts, and vice versa. For example I am allergic to some tree nuts, but not all. I am allergic to Pecans, Walnuts, and now Almonds and Cashews(as before I could eat cashews and almonds like nothing, also this new almond and cashew allergy just sparked up within a year). I am not allergic to Pine nuts, brazil nuts, peanuts(legume), and hazelnuts. Again I am no doctor and this is just my opinion, but do go see a specialist in allergies.

  24. Also it isn’t a bad idea to have a doctor prescribe you an epipen just in case of an emergency. Just about a day ago I read on CNN that a lady passed away because she fell into anaphylactic shock after about 15 wasps stung her. Her coworker that was interviewed stated she wasn’t allergic to wasps, but that we probably wouldn’t know. I don’t mean to scare you, but it’s just a very wise idea to have one with you at all times. I keep two in my car, two at work, and two at home.

  25. Deborah, Vanilla is not a tree-nut so you are safe there.

    Beth, I am allergic to tree-nuts and coconut and do just fine with Organic Palm Oil. In saying this, any food that has a protein in it can cause a reaction. I would use it with caution or maybe even see if you could get tested for it.

  26. I have an allergy to sunflower, does that mean I have an allergy to safflower?
    Also, does that mean I have an allergy to sunflower lecithin?

  27. Hi Lori,
    The sunflower and the safflower are related, so you should be careful!

  28. In the past few years I have developed an intolerance to peanuts and pineapple and more recently palm oil. I get horrible migraines the next day and sometimes get sick from it. I am reading labels closely and everything has palm oil in it and it’s really tough. Also a lot of stuff has palm kernel oil in it. Is it likely that palm kernel oil is ok or should I stay away from that also?

  29. So if you have a soy and treenut allergy should palm oil be avoided?

  30. Hello,

    My 5 year old is allergic to tree nuts, can she eat pineapple (is pineapple a dirivitive of the pine tree?)


  31. Cashew nut allergy warning!!!
    Sumac, the spice, (not poison sumac), is related to the cashew nut tree.
    I have two children allergic to both.
    Sumac may be found in Persian and Arabic dishes.
    Stay away from shawarma, ftyre (spinach pie), zataar, etc. unless you are certain there is no sumac.
    I even found it sprinkled on Greek yogurt at a middle eastern restaurant.
    A simple spinach pie at my neighborhood market led to a 6 hour visit to the emergency room for my child!

  32. It took ages to figure out that I have a Palm Oil allergy. The first reaction was to hearts of Palm. It is hideously severe and takes weeks to recover. I have to carry an epipen because of this particular allergy (none of the dozen or so other food allergens cause the same severity of reaction) and it is the hardest to avoid. One study did find correlation between tree nut allergy and Palm oil allergy. Also Palm Oil allergy patients have respiratory responses to the pollen. It is a common cause of allergy in Palm producing countries. Be warned, it is as bad as having a peanut allergy.

  33. My daughter has a severe peanut and tree nut allergy- walnuts, almonds and pistachios cause the worst reaction almost immediately. I recently bought a Shea Butter Hand Cream from L’Occitane. On the ingredient label is listed:
    prunis amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond) fruit extract. No one in the store could tell me what sweet almond fruit extract was or if it was related to tree nuts. Would my daughter be allergic to this ingredient?

  34. Sorry Alison, I didn’t see the box about receiving folloup comments via email.

  35. I am allergic to coconut oil and palm oil! I had a severe reaction to coconut oil in popcorn and a reaction to palm oil in Little Debbie snack cakes. I have to read all labels. If you notice swelling in your stomach or bloating, read your labels and stay away from both oils. Large amounts could be deadly!

  36. Is palm sugar considered part of the nut family and can people with tree nut allergy eat palm sugar?
    Thank You

  37. Hi Russ,
    Palm sugar is made from the sap of sugar palm tree (also called date palm). Therefore, it is not related to nuts. Palm sugar should be fine for someone with nut allergies.

  38. I have a tree nut allergy (but not allergic to almonds or peanuts). I also have “oral allergy syndrome.” For example if I drink chamomile tea or eat kiwi,radishes, raw broccoli or melons, I get the itch in my throat, but not the reaction like I accidentally ate a pistaschio. Trying to buy whole food organic vitamins, but they are so filled with different flower and herb extracts, afraid I may be doing more harm than good. Vita-min-herb by pure synergy or RAW by Garden of Life are the vitamins I am exploring. Thanks for any insight you can provide.

  39. Allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, and most recently discovered I’m allergic to coconut. I had always eaten coconut without trouble, albeit mostly just in a candy or cookie once in a great while, but after trying some roasted coconut chips I had a reaction (swollen lips, itchy throat). Ever since then I can’t eat it. Shortly after that, I started reacting to anything with palm oil in it. My palm oil reactions are strange though, I get red pimple-like bumps (not itchy) up the side of my face and have aches up my facial nerves. I also get red patches in my arm pits. When I told him, my allergist looked at me like I was nuts (pun intended)! It’s so frustrating because so many “nut-free” or “allergen friendly” products are using palm oil or coconut oil and it’s just not fair! I’m tired of being told it’s not possible or it “shouldn’t be a problem”.

  40. thanks everyone for all the great info. I was trying to figure out if i might be allergic to palm oil, cause i am allergic to nuts and peanuts, eggs, fish etc, on the foods It’s a long list. Also allergic to alot of medicines. It very difficult. But thanks for all the info,

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