Birch Tree Pollen contains salicylates

Every year, birch season is rough. While I have gone many times for testing to see if I had birch allergy, or a similar tree-allergy, nothing ever came up. Only after realizing that plants (some more than others) contained salicylates, did I make the connection that birch pollen contains sals! This paper shows a list of plants to be concerned about, and a case study of a boy with salicylate sensitivity immensely aggravated during birch pollen season landing him in the hospital for months.

Article referenced: Shelley WB. 1964. Birch pollen and aspirin psoriasis: A study in salicylate hypersensitivity. JAMA. 189(13). doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03070130005001.

*Alders are in the birch family, Betulaceae. I haven’t confirmed that they have salicylates in their pollen. 


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Hi everyone! Short video today I’m not going to go through a whole paper, but I am going to pull out a few time sensitive little tidbits in here. So the paper we’re going to look at is Birch pollen and aspirin psoriasis a study and salicylate hypersensitivity. It’s by Walter Shelley in 1964. So not exactly cutting-edge research, but sometimes you have to go find the older papers to find like the little building blocks and stepping stones that everybody’s referencing in the new stuff.

What I wanted to let you know is I have been struggling big time, this week and last week. It is pollen season tree season for birches. And I have such a hard time I have known for over 10 years, maybe maybe 15 years that during birch tree season, I am super, super sick. And I have gone in tested for birch allergy and all you know all the other trees that are pollinating and you know, between March and May, and I have come up negative for those. So I am not allergic to birch trees, but I always have a really hard time. And now that I know that I’m salicylate sensitive or aspirin sensitive. I’ve always been trying to figure out what that connection is, and this paper makes that connection for us. So this this study covers it’s a case study of a boy who has psoriasis, it’s pustular psoriasis and he ended up in hospital I think for about one or two months. In April when he lived in Philadelphia. Now he actually lived in another place in the country and those Aprils he was fine, but only in two Aprils in Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, did he have an issue? And what they ended up coming to the conclusion was that they first of all got an aspirin sensitivity diagnosis. And then they correlated it to natural salicylates from food. And especially during the pollen season in Pennsylvania, where they have a very high number of birch trees.

So one thing that’s interesting is that, you know, I studied Salicaceae, the willow family, which actually does have salicylates in it. And I’ve never really noticed an issue with them. There’s also other plants like Spiraea and Gaultheria, this paper also references those as having wintergreen oil. And so some of the questions are, you know, do we need to be concerned about those pollen seasons as well, in this paper actually addresses the fact that birch trees are wind pollinated, and so they have to make a very large amount of pollen so that the wind can take their pollen and take it to another tree so they can reproduce, where willows and other high-salicylate plants tend to be insect pollinated. Very interesting.

I’ve always struggled with birch tree season. So some things that I’m doing right now to manage my salicylate light load and keep my levels low and my reactions low. One is I try and go out when it’s like if I go for a walk or run, try and go out early when it’s still cold. Like right now, like yesterday I did a it was 34F degrees in the morning. So you know as a little bit better time it’s not 55 or 60F degrees when the trees are really open and releasing their pollen. So I try to be active as early as possible. I also use antihistamines. Either eye drops or maybe, I don’t do very well with daytime antihistamines, but this would be the time when I do use them and for short periods of time. So I can handle you know, maybe every other day with those for myself, a Claritin and Zyrtec work better if you can take it every single day. So if you can do that, talk to your doctor that might be a good option. Maybe use an air purifier in my office or keep my central air going to kind of take out some of those pollen, the pollen particles out of my environment. So they’re just some things that I try and do Oh, I also… Also because salicylates are in food – I obviously have a fragrance free home. And then I also make sure that I eat very, very low on the negligible list. Well, while, during the rest of the year, I might be able to eat off like the moderate list, you know, like maybe, you know, small amounts of maybe like a jam or something like that. During this time, I will eat basically all animal products, mostly, and like iceberg lettuce. That’s about as exciting as I get.

So in this paper, he mentioned that the leaves, flowers, fruit stem bulbs, bark and roots can be found in aspens, poplars, and willows. All of those are in the Salicaceae family (the willow family), birches and acacia, Spireae, teaberry, Calycanthus, Camelia (Camelia is the tea family), hyacinth, marigold, milkwort, tulips and violet. And the violets he specifically referenced that the flowers of Viola, violet flowers, have salicylates – so don’t talk your cakes with those! Alright, there’s a lot of other plants listed on here. Nothing that I saw really jumped out at me so I will link this if you want a copy of it. Email me at and have a great and safe spring season.