Low Salicylate Diet

Many people with CU are sensitive to salicylates. Salicylates are the active ingredient in aspirin and are found in all plant matter to some extent (fruits, veggies, herbal supplements, etc). If you find that taking aspirin makes your hives worse, you may have discovered your cause. This is also true if you cannot tolerate other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Ibuprofen or Aleve, since they are cross-reactive with salicylates.
The following low salicylate diet may help.



Of all foods, fruits have the highest levels of salicylates, especially berries, pineapple and dried fruits. Avoid all fruits with the exception of fresh, peeled and cored apples, pears and mangoes. Read labels carefully to avoid foods sweetened with fruit juices.


Veggies are generally low in salicylates, except for gherkins. Peeling and cooking removes some of the salicylates they contain. Choose only fresh ones, or frozen or canned ones that have no added ingredients other than salt. This eliminates canned tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, etc.

Animal Protein

This category, which includes dairy products, is the lowest in salicylates. Cheeses containing artificial colors or preservatives should be avoided. Continue to abide by any dietary restrictions regarding fat, cholesterol, etc., while pursuing the elimination program.

Legumes, Seeds, Nuts, and Cereals

These generally fall within the acceptable range, with the exceptions of almonds, water chestnuts, and peanuts.

Herbs, Seasonings, and Spices

These vary wildly from fresh to dried and brand to brand. Two fresh herbs may contain vastly differing amounts according to what kind of soil they were grown in. Stick to table salt or sea salt.


Stay away from all juices, since these concentrate the salicylates present in fruits and vegetables. Avoid soft drinks because of the artificial flavorings and colorings. Decaffeinated teas and coffees appear to be acceptable as long as they aren’t flavored or contain chicory. Alcoholic beverages are difficult to assess, but white wines appear to be acceptable. Red wines, liquors, and liqueurs tend to have quite high levels and should be avoided. Water is the beverage of choice.

Miscellaneous Foods

Eat nothing that has been pre-processed. Read all labels for artificial preservatives and colors, particularly red and yellow. If a product contains an ingredient you are not familiar with or cannot pronounce, put it back on the shelf. Be especially careful to read labels of products you buy frequently and take for granted, like bread, pasta and cheeses. The two highest levels of salicylates in foods were measured in licorice and mints. Therefore, avoid items like hard candy and chewing gum.

Non-food Issues

Be vigilant in your avoidance of anything labelled “all-natural”, because this generally means derived from plant products. Try to avoid any of the things listed below, even though it may mean making drastic changes in your lifestyle.

  • Avoid aspirin and all non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil. Take Tylenol instead.
  • Avoid oleander, aloe, ginseng, seed oils, nut oils, bioflavonoids, menthol and metholatum, St. John’s Wort, geranium, flower oils, plant oils, Rose hips, quercetin, camphor, castor oil.
  • Vitamin supplements derived from “natural” sources must be avoided completely.
  • Take special care to read cosmetics and personal care item labels.
  • All arthritis creams contain high levels of salicylate, as do sunless tanning products, and sunscreens.
  • Avoid all lip balms except for plain Vaseline.
  • Acne medications, astringents, and facial cleansers often contain salicylates.
  • Herbal shampoos, conditioners and hairs styling products should always be avoided.
  • In dandruff shampoos, avoid salicylic acid compounds, selenium sulfide and coal tar.
  • All wart and callous removers contain salicylates, as do mouthwashes and other gum care products.
  • Brush your teeth with a paste of baking soda and water and flossed with unflavored, unwaxed dental floss.
  • Pepto Bismol is almost pure bismuth subsalicylate.
  • When gardening, wear gloves and cover any portion of the body that might come in contact with the plants.