• Christopher LovellEmail author


Plants and plant products account for around 2 % of cases of allergic contact dermatitis in western Europe, although this is probably an underestimate. The dermatitis is often severe and may affect the individual’s ability to work. Worldwide the families Anacardiaceae (which includes poison ivy) and Asteraceae (compositae/daisy family) are the major botanical causes of allergic dermatitis. Several occupations are at risk of sensitisation to plants, and plant extracts are increasingly used in cosmetics and household products.

Allergic dermatitis must be distinguished from irritant dermatitis and phototoxicity. Careful identification of the plant is important. Patch testing with a standard series can often give clues about possible plant allergens, and a plant series is helpful. Never patch test with an unidentified plant – you may induce a chemical burn and may sensitise the patient!


Contact dermatitis Allergens Plants Hypersensitivity Irritancy Phototoxicity Compositae Sesquiterpene lactones Patch testing 


  1. 1.
    Brickell C, editor. RHS encyclopedia of plants and flowers. 5th ed. London: Dorling Kindersley; 2010.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Mitchell J, Rook A. Botanical dermatology. Plants and plant products injurious to the skin. Vancouver: Greengrass; 1979.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Benezra C, Ducombs G, Sell Y, Foussereau J. Plant contact dermatitis. Toronto: BC Decker; 1985.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ott A. Haut und Pflanzen. Stuttgart: Gustav Fischer Verlag; 1991.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Lovell CR. Plants and the skin. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific; 1993.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Hausen BM, Vieluf IK. Allergiepflanzen Handbuch u. Atlas. 2nd ed. Hamburg: Nikol-Verlag; 1997.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Avalos J, Maibach HI. Dermatologic botany. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2000.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Vester L, Thyssen JP, Menné T, Johansen JD. Occupational food-related hand dermatitis seen over a 10-year period. Contact Dermatitis. 2012;66:264–70.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Rozas-Muñoz E, Lepoittevin JP, Pujol RM, et al. Allergic contact dermatitis to plants: understanding the chemistry will help our diagnostic approach. Actas Dermosifilogr. 2012;103:456–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kulberg A, Schliemann S, Elsner P. Contact dermatitis as a systemic disease. Clin Dermatol. 2014;32:414–9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ducombs G, Benezra C, Talaga P, et al. Patch testing with the sesquiterpene lactone mix: a marker for contact allergy to Compositae and other sesquiterpene-lactone-containing plants. Contact Dermatitis. 1990;22:249–52.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Green C, Ferguson J. Sesquiterpene lactone mix is not an adequate screen for Compositae allergy. Contact Dermatitis. 1994;31:151–3.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Paulsen E, Andersen K. Patch testing with constituents of Compositae mixes. Contact Dermatitis. 2012;66:241–6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Hausen BM. A six-year experience with Compositae mix. Am J Contact Dermat. 1996;7:94–9.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Jacob M, Brinkmann J, Schmidt T. Sesquiterpene lactone mix as a diagnostic tool for Asteraceae allergic contact dermatitis: chemical explanation for its poor performance and Sesquiterpene lactone mix II as a proposed improvement. Contact Dermatitis. 2012;66:233–40.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Zachariae C, Engkilde K, Johansen JD, et al. Primin in the European standard patch test series for 20 years. Contact Dermatitis. 2007;56:344–6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Paulsen E, Christensen LP, Andersen KE. Miconidin and miconidin methyl ether from Primula obconica Hance: new allergens in an old sensitizer. Contact Dermatitis. 2006;55:203–9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Aplin CG, Lovell CR. Contact dermatitis due to hardy Primula spp and their cultivars. Contact Dermatitis. 2001;44:23–9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Paulsen E, Christensen LP, Andersen KE. Dermatitis from common ivy (Hedera helix L subsp helix) in Europe: past present and future. Contact Dermatitis. 2010;62:201–9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Xu S, Heller M, Wu PA, et al. Chemical burn caused by topical application of garlic under occlusion. Dermatol Online J. 2014;20(1):21261.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Larson D, Jacob SE. Tea tree oil. Dermatitis. 2012;23:48–9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Audrain HA, Kenward C, Lovell CR, et al. Allergy to oxidized limonene and linalool is frequent in the UK. Br J Dermatol. 2014;171:292–7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Bilcha KD, Ayele A, Shibeshi D, et al. Patch testing and contact allergens in Ethiopia – results of 514 contact dermatitis patients using the European baseline series. Contact Dermatitis. 2010;63:140–5.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Hausen BM. Contact allergy to woods. Clin Dermatol. 1986;4:65–76.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Czaplicki CD. Contact dermatitis from Eriodictyon parryi: a novel cause of contact dermatitis in Claifornia. Wilderness Environ Med. 2013;24:253–6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Jack AR, Norris PL, Storrs FJ. Allergic contact dermatitis to plant extracts in cosmetics. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2013;32:140–6.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Corazza M, Borghi A, Gallo R, et al. Topical botanically derived products; use, skin reactions and usefulness of patch tests. A multicentre Italian study. Contact Dermatitis. 2014;70:90–7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    de Groot AC. Propolis: a review of properties, applications, chemical composition, contact allergy and other adverse effects. Dermatitis. 2013;24:263–82.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Rader RK, Mu R, Shi H, et al. Dermoscopy of black-spot poison ivy. Dermatol Online J. 2012;18:8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Hausen BM. A simple method of extracting crude sesquiterpene lactones from Compositae plants for skin tests, chemical investigations and sensitising experiments in guinea pigs. Contact Dermatitis. 1977;3:58–60.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Hausen BM. A simple method of isolating parthenolides from Tanacetum and other sensitizing plants. Contact Dermatitis. 1991;24:153–5.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Marks JG. Allergic contact dermatitis to Alstroemeria. Arch Dermatol. 1988;124:914–6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Lee NP, Arriola ER. Poison ivy, oak and sumac dermatitis. West J Med. 1999;171:354–5.PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Vidmar DA, Iwane MK. Assessment of the ability of the topical skin protectant (TSP) to protect against contact dermatitis to urushiol (Rhus) antigen. Am J Contact Dermat. 1999;10:190–7.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Stibich AS, Yagan M, Sharma V, et al. Cost-effective post-exposure prevention of poison ivy dermatitis. Int J Dermatol. 2000;39:515–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Amrol D, Keitel D, Hagaman D, et al. Topical pimecrolimus in the treatment of human allergic contact dermatitis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2003;91:563–6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Curtis G, Lewis AC. Treatment of severe poison ivy: a randomized, controlled trial of long versus short course oral prednisolone. J Clin Med Res. 2014;6:429–34.PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Sharma VK, Varma P. Parthenium dermatitis in India: past, present and future. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2012;78:560–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Paek SY, Lim HW. Chronic actinic dermatitis. Dermatol Clin. 2014;32:355–61.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of DermatologyRoyal United Hospital, Bath NHS Trust – RD1BathUK

Personalised recommendations