Salicylate Sensitivity

What are Salicylates?

Salicylates are a group of organic substances that occur naturally in many fruits, vegetables and herbs.  Salicylates are mainly stored in the leaves, roots, seeds, bark and skin of the plant and act as a preservative to delay rotting and a protection mechanism to ward of animals, insects, bacteria and fungi that might attack the plant.

Where are salicylates most commonly found?

Natural Salicylates are most commonly found in healthy wholesome foods with many high and very high salicylate containing foods being popular fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.

Salicylates are also created synthetically and used as preservatives in processed foods and common products include toothpastes, flavoured sweets and chewing gums etc.  They are also found in perfumes and in a variety of medicines such as aspirin, cough mixtures and analgesics.

What is salicylate sensitivity?

Salicylate sensitivity is the inability for the body to process an excessive amount of salicylates at a given time.  The amount of salicylates a person can handle at any period varies between individuals and there can be a cumulative effect in the body.  A person sensitive to salicylates may react to certain fruits and vegetables or products containing aspirin.

Common symptoms of salicylate sensitivity

Symptoms vary between individuals as can the severity of the reactions.  A salicylate sensitivity may show itself at any time throughout a person’s life.  Common symptomatic reactions include

·         Rashes, hives, tingling /rash on lips·         Anxiety, panic attacks
·         Symptoms of ADHD / ADD·         Sleep disturbances
·         Asthma·         Nausea
·         Eczema·         Flatulence
·         Sinusitis·         Irritability, restlessness
·         Rhinitis·         Rapid heart beat
·         Headaches and migraines·         Tinnitus
·         Stomach aches·         Constant clearing of throat
·         Bloating·         Joint pain

If you are suffering from some of the above symptoms and feel you may have a salicylate sensitivity, the best way to assess the situation is a trial for two weeks avoiding foods containing very high and high levels of salicylates from the list provided.  Symptoms will disappear or greatly reduce if salicylates are a causative factor. Low salicylate foods include all fresh meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, shellfish and cereals.


Salicylate Content of Common Foods

NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High
BananaPawpawPear – incl. peelApple –granny smithApricotOrange
Pear – peeledPomegranateApple - redAvocadoBlackberryPlum
Apple - goldenFigGrapefruitBlueberryPrune
LemonKiwi FruitCherryRaspberry


NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High
Bamboo ShootsBeans - greenAsparagusParsnipAlfalfa sproutsCapsicum
Beans-driedBrussel sproutsBeetrootPotato - sweetChilliChicory
Cabbage-greenCabbage – redBroccoliPotato - redCucumberGherkin
Lettuce-icebergMung beansCornSnow peasZucchiniTomato
Potato- no peelPeas - greenLettuce


NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High
CloverChivesAll spiceMustardAniseed
FenugreekMalt VinegarCardamomOreganoCurry
ParsleySaffronCinnamonPepper – blackDill
Sea saltSoy sauceClovesPepper – whiteFish paste
GingerTurmericTomato paste
Mixed HerbsVinegars


NegligibleModerateHighVery High
Coffee - decafPear juice - freshCoffee – regularCiderFruit juicesAll other teas
MiloGinDecaf teaBeerChampagnePeppermint tea
OvaltineWhiskeyHerbal teasSherryCordials
CarobVodkaDandelion teaBrandyPort
MilkCoca colaWine  /  Rum


NegligibleLowModerateHighVery High
CarobCaramelMolassesChewing GumLicorice
CocoaGolden SyrupRaw SugarFruit flavoursMints
Maple sugarMalt extractHoneyRice Syrup
White sugarJam