Allergies to fragrances & medicinal plants

Back to nature – more and more people are following this trend and opting for ointments, Plant-based creams and shampoos. They hope that these products are better tolerated than the conventional range. However, some consumers get itchy nodules after using natural cosmetics or herbal ointments. Mostly, such an unpleasant skin reaction is caused by a contact allergy to the herbal ingredients of the cosmetic product – a so-called contact eczema. The skin reactions range from itching and reddening to extensive wetting rashes.

Contact allergy – a lifelong companion

“For many it is a shock when apparently harmless plant substances such as tea tree oil or arnica cause a lifelong contact allergy. But those affected have reason to hope. There is still no cure, but the specialist can improve the symptoms and give valuable tips on how the allergenic substance can be avoided in the future, “explains Professor Dr. Thomas Fuchs, President of the Association of German Allergists (ÄDA).

Contact allergies are common: now about one in ten suffer from it. The top spots are nickel and fragrance allergies, with women being affected far more often than men.

Fragrance allergy – When fragrances make life difficult

Various studies have shown that a high percentage of the population is affected by a fragrance allergy. Triggers are the essential oils contained in plants, which are used for the production of cosmetics and perfumes. Fragrance allergies to cinnamon oil , oak moss and clove oil are the most common . These fragrances are found in many perfumes, deodorants, cosmetics and cleaning agents.

Fragrance allergies can vary in severity. Some allergy sufferers get eczema if the detergent only contains traces of a certain fragrance. Others only react sensitively to direct skin contact.

Natural remedies and their dangers

Arnica (Arnica montana L) Arnica, one of the most important and oldest medicinal plants, is one of the strongest herbal contact allergens. Arnica is said to have a stimulating, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing effect. Therefore, the ingredients of the plant can be found in numerous approved medicines as well as in cosmetics, toothpaste, shampoos etc. Contact allergies occur primarily when treating injuries and sprains with arnica tinctures. If the arnica extract is not diluted enough, it can even be toxic.

Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) The trend setter among the organic substances is tea tree oil. The oil of the Australian tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is almost treated as a miracle cure. There are countless possible applications on the Internet. For example, it is used for the treatment of injuries, burns, pimples , inflammation and insect bites recommended. But be careful: tea tree oil is made up of over 100 partially toxic substances, and poisoning has already occurred after ingestion. It is also known that a short external application with undiluted tea tree oil can trigger a contact allergy. In contrast, diluted use on healthy skin seems to pose a low risk.

Peru balsam (Myroxylon balsamum ) Another important contact allergen is Peru balsam. This is the secretion of the Peru balsam tree (Myroxylon balsamum ), which is native to Mexico and Panama, among others. As with all natural products, the composition of Peru balsam can vary widely. The balsam is used in medicine (wound healing agents, gargle solutions, mouthwashes and cough syrups), in cosmetics (soaps, shampoos, powders and lipsticks), as a flavoring (sweets, baked goods, tobacco products, beverages) and in perfumes. Numerous studies have shown that contact allergy to Peru balsam is not uncommon.

Propolis Propolis is a putty resin of vegetable origin that bees use to seal their hives. The mixture of substances is used for example for acne or eczema. Propolis is administered in creams or ointments as well as in the form of drops, tinctures or tablets and is also found in cosmetics such as lotions or lipsticks as well as in toothpaste and mouthwash. It is striking that allergies to propolis are increasing .

Yarrow (Achilla millefolium) Yarrow is found in many naturopathic preparations and is used more and more in cosmetics as well as herbal shampoos and baths. Their allergy-causing potential is estimated to be weak to moderate.

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