Contact sensitization from Compositae-containing herbal remedies and cosmetics

Contact Dermatitis. 2002 Oct;47(4):189-98. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0536.2002.470401.x.


The Compositae (Asteraceae) family of plants is currently an important cause of allergic plant contact dermatitis in Europe. The family comprises some of the oldest and most valued medicinal plants, and the increasing popularity of herbal medicine and cosmetics may theoretically result in a growing number of Compositae sensitizations from these sources. According to the literature at least 15 species, including among others arnica (Arnica montana), German and Roman chamomile (Chamomilla recutita and Chamaemelum nobile), marigold (Calendula officinalis), Echinacea and elecampane (Inula helenium), have been suspected of sensitization or elicitation of Compositae dermatitis. Epidemiological data are available for 2 species only, arnica and German chamomile, the rest of the evidence being anecdotal. Based on this, sensitization seems to occur relatively frequently with a few species such as arnica and elecampane, and occurs rarely with the majority, especially the widely used German chamomile. Sesquiterpene lactones are the most important allergens, but there are a few cases of sensitization from a coumarin, a sesquiterpene alcohol and a thiophene. The risk of elicitation of dermatitis by using Compositae-containing products in Compositae-sensitive individuals is by-and-large unknown.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / adverse effects
  • Arnica / adverse effects
  • Asteraceae / adverse effects*
  • Cosmetics / adverse effects*
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / epidemiology
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / etiology*
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunization
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Patch Tests
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • Plants, Medicinal / adverse effects*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Allergens
  • Cosmetics
  • Plant Extracts