This article has been reviewed by Thanai Pongdee, MD, FAAAAI
Unlike many allergic conditions, there currently are no proven treatments for food allergy. Management of food allergies remains dependent upon avoiding substances that trigger allergy symptoms.
Allergic reactions to food normally occur within minutes of eating the trigger food, though they can sometimes appear a few hours later. In some cases, food allergies can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis.
Chinese Herbs Research Related to Food Allergy
In China, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is routinely used as a single form of treatment for many health conditions, or as a complement to conventional Western medical treatment for many chronic conditions. Yet food allergy is not frequently found in China, so research in TCM for food allergy is very limited.
Thus far, one herbal formula is being investigated for the treatment of food allergies. Treatment with FAHF-2 protected peanut allergic mice from anaphylaxis when challenged with peanut. This protection remained persistent for six months after discontinuation of treatment (ref. 1). Recently, a Phase I clinical trial was completed with a successful outcome (ref. 2). The Phase II trial is currently enrolling in the United States.
Although these studies hold promise for the use of Chinese herbal formulas, the AAAAI strongly warns against using them as a substitute for managing food allergy through avoidance.
Food Allergy Research Successes
While treatment of food allergy may be a long way off, research about outgrowing food allergy is promising, especially milk allergy (ref. 3). Also, several peer-reviewed studies have shown that heating egg or milk to a certain temperature when baking can lead to improved tolerance of these substances for some people. Research regarding oral food challenges and oral immunotherapy (inducing tolerance to foods) for food allergy continues to gain momentum. Many methods of inducing tolerance are under investigation including oral, sublingual, epicutaneous (patch on skin), and vaccines. There have been promising results for many foods including milk, egg, and peanut; however, none have been implemented in clinical medicine at this time and remain in the research phase.
If you have questions about managing your food allergy, talk with your doctor before introducing herbal remedies or food allergic substances into your diet.
1. Srivastava KD, Kattan JD, Zou ZM, Li JH, Zhang L, Wallenstein S, et al. The Chinese herbal medicine formula FAHF-2 completely blocks anaphylactic reactions in a murine model of peanut allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2005;115:171-8.
2. Wang J, Patil SP, Yang N, Ko J, Lee J, Noone S, et al. Safety, tolerability, and immunologic effects of a food allergy herbal formula in food allergic individuals: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, dose escalation, phase 1 study. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2010 Jul;105(1):75-84.
3. Clinical Factors And Laboratory Correlates Of Milk Allergy Resolution In A Cohort Of Infants With Milk Allergy (CoFAR)R. Wood, S. Jones, B. Vickery, A. Liu, W. Burks, D. Fleischer, D. Stablein, A. Henning, L. Mayer, H. Sampson, S. Sicherer. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1 February 2011 (volume 127 issue 2 Page AB71 DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2010.12.295)