Spices on the Autoimmune Protocol

July 26, 2012 in Categories: , by

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Seeds are restricted on the Autoimmune Protocol due to their ability to increase inflammation (they typically contain some lectins, phytic acid and have a high omega-6 content).  Nightshades are restricted on the Autoimmune Protocol due to their high saponin content (which can increase gut permeability and act as an adjuvant, exaggerating immune responses).  Spices from the nightshade family (mainly peppers) also contain capsaicin (one of the chemicals that give them heat), which is a gut irritant.  When it comes to spices, figuring out which ones are safe can be tricky.  Many spices come from the seeds of plants and some are even from the nightshade family.  And what about the spices that come from the fruit or berry of a plant, are they safe?

I have divided spices into several categories (if I’ve missed any, please leave a comment below!).  Herbs and other spices derived from the leaves of fragrant plants are safe to use in your cooking, as are any spices derived from non-reproductive plant parts.  Spices derived from berries and fruits of plants get the “proceed with caution” label.  This is because these typically contain more seed than fruit and you are still consuming the ground seed.  I advise leaving these spices out of your diet at first and them adding the back in to see if they make a difference (some people report having an intolerance to pepper, for example, so be careful).  Seed spices should be avoided at first as well.  Depending on your individual autoimmune challenges, some people tolerate the very small doses of seed-based spices typically used in cooking (I do, as long as they aren’t chili pepper spices).  Again, try and avoid them initially and reintroduce slowly and cautiously.  Spices from the nightshade family cause problems for most people with autoimmune disease.  Don’t reintroduce these until you are ready to reintroduce all nightshades (and I would start with eggplants and bell peppers before trying chili peppers).

Safe Spices (Leaves, Flowers, Roots, Barks)

  • Balm (lemon balm)       Leaf of Melissa officinalis L.
  • Basil Leaves (Sweet)     Leaf of Ocimum basilicum
  • Bay Leaves (Laurel Leaves)   Leaf of Laurus nobilis
  • Chamomile                       Flower of Anthemisnobilis L. or Matricaria chamomilla L.
  • Chervil                               Leaf of Anthriscus cerefolium
  • Chives                                Leaf of Allium schoenoprasum
  • Cilantro (Coriander Leaf)        Leaf of Coriandrum sativum
  • Cinnamon/Cassia          Bark of Cinnamomum spp.
  • Cloves                                Bud of Syzygium aromaticum
  • Dill Weed                          Leaf of Anethum graveolens/Anethum sowa
  • Garlic                                 Bulb of Allium sativum
  • Ginger                               Root of Zingiber officinale
  • Horseradish                   Root of Armoracialapathfolia Gilib.  *(Read ingredients list for horseradish sauce!)
  • Lavender                         Flower of Lavandula officinalis Chaix.
  • Mace                                 Aril of Myristica fragrans
  • Marjoram Leaves        Leaf of Majorana hortensis Moench
  • Onion Powder               Bulb of Allium cepa
  • Oregano Leaves           Leaf of Origanum vulgare/Lippia spp.
  • Parsley                            Leaf of Petroselinum crispum
  • Peppermint                   Leaf of Mentha piperita
  • Rosemary                      Leaf of Rosmarinusofficinalis
  • Saffron                            Stigma of Crocus sativus
  • Sage                                 Leaf of Salvia officinalis/Salvia triloba
  • Salt                                  Mineral
  • Savory Leaves             Leaf of Satureia montana/Satureia hortensis
  • Spearmint                     Leaf of Menthaspicata
  • Tarragon                       Leaf of Artemisia dracunculus
  • Thyme                            Leaf of Thymus vulgaris/Thymus serpyllum/Thymus satureioides
  • Turmeric                       Root of Curcuma longa

Be Cautious (Berries and Fruit)–best to eliminate initially

  • Allspice                           Berry of Pimenta officinalis
  • Star Anise                       Fruit of Illicium verum Hook
  • Caraway                          Fruit or Carum carvi Maton.
  • Cardamom                     Fruit of Elettariacardamomum
  • Juniper                            Berry of Juniperus communis
  • Black Pepper                 Berry of Piper nigrum
  • White Pepper                Berry of Piper nigrum
  • Green Peppercorns    Berry of Piper nigrum
  • Pink Peppercorns       Berry of Schinus terebinthifolius
  • Vanilla Bean                  Fruit of Vanilla planifolia/Vanilla tahitensisMoore

Avoid (Seeds)

  • Anise Seed                     Seedof Pimpinella anisum
  • Annatto Seed                Seed of Bixa orellana
  • Black Caraway (Russian Caraway, Black Cumin)    Seed of Nigella sativa
  • Celery Seed                   Seedof Apium graveolens
  • Coriander Seed            Seed ofCoriandrum sativum
  • Cumin Seed                   Seed of Cuminum cyminum
  • Dill Seed                         Seed of Anethum graveolens/Anethum sowa
  • Fennel Seed                  Seedof Foeniculum vulgare
  • Fenugreek                     Seed of Trigonellafoenum-graecum
  • Mustard Seed              Seed of Brassica juncea/B. hirta/B. nigra
  • Nutmeg                          Seed of Myristica fragrans
  • Poppy Seed                  Seedof Papaver somniferum
  • Sesame Seed                Seed of Sesamum indicum

Avoid (Nightshades)

  • Capsicums                    Seed of Capsicum spp.
  • Cayenne                         Fruit of Capsicum annuum
  • Chili Pepper Flakes           Many Varieties, fruit of Capsicum genus
  • Chili Powder                Blend of fruit of Capsicum genus
  • Curry                              A spice mixture typically containing coriander, cumin, fenugreek, and red pepper.
  • Paprika                          Fruit of Capsicum spp.
  • Red Pepper                  Fruit of Capsicum

Some Common Spice Blends–In general, I recommend against using any spice blends because often the ingredients list doesn’t actually tell you everything that’s in it (why is it okay to label “spices” or “natural flavors” on the labels of these?!).  But, here are some common spice blends you might have in your kitchen with components to worry about:


  • Curry Powder             A spice mixture typically containing coriander, cumin, fenugreek, and red pepper.
  • Chinese 5-Spice         Contains Star Anise, Peppercorns, and Fennel Seed
  • Garam Masala            Contains peppercorns, cumin seeds and cardamom pods
  • Poultry Seasoning    Often contains pepper, nutmeg
  • Steak Seasoning         Usually contains pepper, chili, cumin, and cayenne

I hope this list helps you as you embark on the Autoimmune Protocol.  I know that this can be very overwhelming and feel overly restrictive.  Keep in mind the restrictions you already live with as you accommodate your disease and think about how great it would be to put your autoimmune disease into full remission.  And, note that the largest category of spices above are the safe spices and there are lots of wonderful meals that you can cook with those!



Hey, great post, I had a similar problem in that we went AI Paleo and ditched peppers and then realised I was using all kinds spices with chill in them. In the most recent Loren Cordain book (the paleo answer) he details the different amounts of the active ingredients and the spices are way more problematic than say red bell peppers so I intend a reintroduction of those to see if I tolerate bell peppers and will work up the scale to spices.

That said, I know chilli powder is not working out for me as I had some kimchi with my dinner after some strict spice exclusion and my psoriasis went crazy and has been flared for a few days (which sucks, but now I know).

Anyhow, I detailed our experiences and made a list of some safe spices along with some spice mixes that are working out for us here:


Another great post though. 🙂

I would love to know how it helped your psoriasis. Mine started flaring when we started paleo for the first time ever, so I am hoping AIP will help.

In the year and a half I’ve been eating AIP, I’ve had two or three patches the size of pennies that clear up within a week or so, whereas before, I had what I call “maps” over big lymph node regions (neck, underarms, lower abdomen) that would last for months.

I’ve had steady patches on one knee and both elbows since I was 13. It wasn’t until recently that I actually had the pain and itchiness of it or it expanding.

This was so helpful! I’ve been eating 99% clean, and the last week has had no mistakes for me according to the strict protocol, yet I’m having a flare up. But I ate chicken loaded with cumin and all-spice (such a yummy recipe from Clothes that Make the Girl: Best Chicken Ever). It is indeed a yummy recipe, but DANG! I don’t think I can eat it anymore with those spices. At least now my flare-up makes sense. I had no idea there these many spices to watch out for. Thanks for the info!

I stay away from anything starchy for my AI arthritis ankylosing spondylitis so I’ve always avoided ginger and turmeric – 2 spices known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Wondering your thoughts on this.

Nice to have a list. I’m always saying ” I guess it’s alright, I dunno” when my husband spices food for the smoker.

I have Ankylosing Spondylitis too. I thought ginger and turmeric were good anti-inflammatories, and didn’t know they were considered starchy.

Hey Marni, small, painful world:) they are great anti-inflammatories but they are roots which are starchy. I have never done an iodine test on them (I abandoned that early in my no starch attempts). But a lot of folks say that the anti-inflammation property outweighs the starch part when it comes to AS. I haven’t been willing to test that theory.

Not all starchy vegetables are blacklisted with the autoimmune protocol. I generally go by the SCD and GAPS diets analysis of starchy vegetables (basically, longer denser starches are not good like sweet potatoes but shorter, less dense starches are okay like pumpkin). Both diets consider turmeric and ginger to be okay. They also aren’t high FODMAP, which is the other consideration with digestive symptoms. I personally consume ALOT of ginger and it seems to really help me. So, I think they are a go. 🙂

Thank you! I’m glad that cloves are in! I learned that annatto is a seed! I’m okay with eliminating the “cautious” list except for the vanilla. I know Juniper bothers me; but I hate that because a friend makes some killer venison stew using Juniper berries 🙁 I’m planning on making my own spice blends from the “good” list. What’s your take on licorice and stevia? Also, I caught the tail end of conversations on TPV about green tea and mint. What are the concerns there?

I don’t like stevia because it has a hormone structure. I’m still unsure about licorice. It’s supposed to be very good for protecting the lining of the gut, but I’m not sure why it tastes so sweet. Mint is okay, but I was saying that it can relax the upper gastroesophageal sphincter, which isn’t good for nausea. Green tea has caffeine and also a couple of other stimulants, which might not be the best for people with cortisol issues, but otherwise is fine.

Hi I am slowlystarting the AIP protocol and im ok with all the meals and foods but im starting to wonder what to do about breakfast. I am addicted to smoothies so iwas wondering if hemp powder as well as macapowder would be ok

You can view of all of Sarah’s AIP recipes here: http://www.thepaleomom.com/category/recipes/aip-friendly The Paleo Approach cookbook will contain over 100 AIP recipes, you can read more about the book here: http://www.thepaleomom.com/about-the-paleo-mom/the-paleo-approach-cookbook I do know that Sarah often enjoys sausage and vegetables for breakfast. Hemp is not part of the AIP because it is a seed. You may also want to join our new The Paleo Approach Community group on Facebook and ask for support there. The group has over 4,000 members, you can request to join here:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/TPACommunity/ —- Tamar, Sarah’s assistant

Usually it’s the proteins and fibers in nuts and seeds that are the problem, so nut and seed oils in many cases will be okay (trace proteins will be a problem for anyone with sensitivities). Sesame oil is high in omega-6 and sesame is a common gluten cross-reactor, so I would definitely avoid it at first and then try reintroduction.

I’m a bit late to this post, but am looking to begin AIP at the start of the New Year. A quick question related to off-limit (for now – at least that’s what I’m telling myself to compartmentalize this massive undertaking *smile*) seeds spices. Would those same spices in ground form, e.g. cumin seeds (no), ground cumin (yes?) be acceptable or is the rationale to omit everything during the 30 day period then re-introduce?

Ground seeds are more likely to be problematic than whole seeds. Sensitivity to seeds seems very individual. The warmer spices like cumin, coriander, and pepper seem more likely to cause someone problems. I think it depends on how severe your symptoms are and how willing you are to drag out playing with the autoimmune protocol. The cleanest version of the AIP would be to limit seed based spices first and then start reintroducing.

Thank you for the timely response. I guess I shouldn’t think of this endeavor as boiling the ocean in one fell swoop, but rather boiling it in manageable 30 day chunks. 🙂 Thank you again and I look forward to uncovering additional nuggets from your site (I’ve been scouring it for the past two days in an attempt to set myself up for success come Jan 1).

You can even approach it in two week chunks. When dealing with autoimmune disease, it’s not so much like a Whole30 as it is about tinkering until you find what works. It’s just easier to remove everything that might be a problem and then add things back in slowly.

Thank you, Thank you. Like you, I’ve had to resort to trial an error over the years to relieve auto immune symptoms. I am on a pretty limited diet already, but I’ve been able to tolerate most of this list, except nightshades and annato. Now that my symptoms have returned, your list can help with the process of elimination.

help! i had started some fermented stuff before I realized i needed the autoimmune option…I used a couple T of whey and some mustard seeds in one mix, caraway seeds in another, will that be a problem? thanks

I hate to be so flaky with my answer, but maybe and maybe not. A lot of people can handle seeds, although seeds that have some heat like mustard and pepper tend to be more problematic. That being said, you could probably eat around them. The whey probably doesn’t have that much protein by the time it’s diluted in a big batch, but there may be some and that might still cause a problem. I’d suggest giving the full AIP at least a few weeks and then trying it and seeing how your body reacts.

Question about coriander – is that in the correct list? You’ve got it on the AVOID list here, but it’s one of the ingredients in your garlic beef sausage recipe. Should it be on the maybe list? Thanks!

Over the past six years of trial and error, I first noticed huge reactions to nightshades first, and then to green tea.
I consistently have a systemic response to green tea (lupus flare symptoms). I am wondering if you have heard of sensitivity to green or black tea?

Actually, yes. Green tea has a variety of stimulants (more than just caffeine) which may mess with cortisol which can then stimulate the immune system. It’s also a Th2 cell stimulator, which can cause increased antibody production in some people (depends on exactly which part of the immune system is doing what in your body).

ooh dear no!! I love Matcha green powder!!! I have it every day! Psoriasis, Psoriatic Arthritis = is that Th2 or Th1 ?? Hope my 1 pleasure drink left in my life is ok!! ……. Although because everyones genetics are very different and complex, maybe its ok for some and not for others with P & PsA ?? What do you think?

I think psoriasis is driven by Th1. Did you continue with the matcha? I was wondering if having matcha would be okay too.

Because it affects everyone differently, it may be best to eliminate it for a while and then reintroduce it to see how it affects you, if you suspect it may be a problem. – Christina, Sarah’s assistant


I have Crohn’s diesease and have recently started Paleo and found it was great, no real trouble with my stomach at all, loads of energy etc. The other night made a Chilli and boy the next day did I pay for it. So I looked into autoimmune specific paleo.

My only major question is why no cayenne? I thought it has an extremely high anti inflammatory response?

Yes, it is not included on the AIP. However, it could be that some people can reintroduce it successfully. — Tamar, Sarah’s assistant

For some people probably, for others maybe not. It might even depend on the spice (pepper seems to be a really common problem spice for people, so maybe you can’t get away with it with peppercorns but can with fennel seed for example). I would suggest trying it and seeing if you notice a reaction.

Hi! You have Blac Pepper on the “Be Cautious” list. Do you find that people have issues with it causing flare ups?
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!!

Thank you! I was wondering because I broke out after a small meal of carrots, kale, zucchini noodles and a little bit of uncured bacon. Which usually doesn’t cause me problems. However I seasoned it with black pepper… I apologize for my spelling error as well!!

Ah… thanks! Now it makes sense why I’m starting to notice wanting to eat it all the time. I’ve discovered fruit and caffeine don’t work for me and have been wanting a comfort food to play with and celebrate some recent success with since cutting out all fruits/sweets, alcohol and caffeine.

Thanks again this was really helpful! And I know you cater mostly to women here with your blog, and I want to say some of the recommendations have helped me greatly with my health. I’m an O Blood Type Non-Secretor… non-secretors are more prone to autoimmune/inflammatory and immune system challenges. Since I started Paleo over 45 days ago now… not even full AIP… I’m starting to feel better than I’ve ever felt in my life and I’m 33, so that says a lot!

It’s a common sensitivity and a potential gluten cross reactor (although weakly so only a minority of people with gluten intolerance will produce antibodies that also react to yeast), but if you aren’t sensitive, it has some compelling nutritional value. So, if you tolerate it, I think it’s fine.

Is it ok to drink some of these spices if they are in tea? For example, I drink an herbal chai that has peppercorns and cardamom and more. I know these are in the “maybe” list but I was following every part of the AIP except for these seed spices without much relief, so I recently took them out too. I’m just wondering if the tea has to go as well.

I think the question is whether or not you want to follow this?

I’m celebrating 50 days today on the paleo autoimmune protocol. 5o days of no nuts and seeds (except for walnut oil), no nightshades, caffeine, or fruits. I made no fruit to this protocol because of my mood swings and glucose intolerance.

I misspoke. I mean to say I’d been doing the AIP except for the fruit/berry spices mentioned above without relief, and only because I just realized they could be problematic by coming to this page looking for a missing link. It’s not a question of whether I want to be following this. I was under the impression I’d been following a strict AIP for the last year and a half (spending the first several months low FODMAP and taking a GAPS approach to starches). I just didn’t know there was a gray area for fruit and berry spices. The question is whether it’s necessary to let my high quality herbal chai go stale in a cabinet while I remove all forms fruit and berry spices. If it’s a similar case to nut oils in that when steeped, the water would be totally harmless, then there’s no sense in not enjoying my tea.

Someone else! It is so frustrating, I love onions and garlic, but have a painful and gassy immediate response to raw onions, garlic unless dried powder, and red onions even if I only eat something that has touched them. The milder green onion tops, chives, small amounts of sweet onions seem ok. Alliums are not listed on any allergy info, and I frequently forget to ask at restaurants and get disappointed…. red onions are very popular now. This weekend, ordered a salad that had an extensive list of ingredients, so I assumed it was complete (roasted beets, arugula, etc.). After eating several delicious bites, I ran across the tiny chopped red onions that had settled during tossing. I swapped dishes with my husband, but just eating the bites that had been tossed with the onions left me burping for three hours. Soooooo frustrating. I would like to understand the chemistry better. cooking removes the offensive chemical, although I still avoid red onions even if caramelized.
Avoiding pepper would be so difficult. We love peppers and all spicy food. But my daughter is having joint pain and swelling, and we have to investigate a better diet for her.

Hi Sarah:

Writing in to share that I’m celebrating over 60 days now on the AIP without fruits and just started the next upgrade to Ketogenic removing starchy and sweet vegetables like carrots, winter squash and sweet potatoes!

I have to admit I’m pretty impressed with the AIP. I’m definetly noticing changes like clearer skin and I’m starting to get more ripped and turning into a fat burning man. I also feel more grounded and solid… slowly starting to get my brain function back. A man I respect and look up to told me I feel older which is a compliment. Also, feelings I repressed with sweets/fruits is now coming up… so I’m often raw with rage or hurt. Ironically it is stuff with my mother and your the “paleo mom”! (:

Thanks for your offerings. They have helped me and I’m running with it. I’ll follow back up with the paleo community down the road when I’m even better to let people know what works and doesn’t work for rapid cycling bipolar disorder unless my diagnosis changes when I go to see a specialist in 2014.

Happy holidays to you and your family!

Thank you for this very helpful list! I’m starting an autoimmune protocol Whole30 in the hopes of helping my CFS/ME and the immune system woes I’m experiencing this winter. I’m following the autoimmune menu from Practical Paleo but it’s very useful to have a more comprehensive list as she allows things like mustard and black pepper – if I’m going to do it I want to have the best chance of seeing some improvement.

(I’m eagerly awaiting your book but Amazon UK is taking a long time to make it available!)

Hi Sarah, thank you so much for all your work. I can’t wait to get your beautiful book next week as I want to start the AIP next month (when I have your book). I was wondering if, when on AIP, I can eat chestnuts.

I was so satisfied with the list of spices I could have that I did not really feel deprived of the others, mostly the spicy peppers.

Any word on whether sumac is an AIP friendly seasoning?
P.S. Thank you for creating such a tremendously valuable resource!

Hi, Sarah! I have ankylosing spondylitis, and I’ve heard that a no-starch diet is best for people with AS because of our (supposed) specific gut bacteria that’s problematic. I have been following the AIP religiously for three weeks and don’t feel any pain relief so far. (In fact, I think I’m detoxing based on my symptoms.) Do you ever support a no-starch diet, or should AIP be able to take care of anything?


No, I don’t support a no starch diet because there are no scientific studies validating it as an approach. Anecdotally, it’s worked for many people, but many others have had increased problems with it (probably due to the stress on the thyroid from being too low carb and because of undergrowth after following it for a long time).


I have ankylosing spondylitis too. Were you following the no-starch diet before you started AIP? If you don’t mind saying, what detox symptoms are you having?

I am about a week into AIP after doing the no-starch diet for about a year, and I’m not feeling the best – I’m having lots more pain. I hope it is just detox. I developed adrenal fatigue on the no starch diet and I do feel better on AIP in that regard, with the added starches.

With all the AS no-starch info out there, it’s hard to know what’s best. I don’t feel as alone after reading your comment.

Sarah T.

Hey, Sarah T.! You are definitely not alone. Have you been to the SAA forum? Lots of support there.

I haven’t tried the no-starch diet because I’ve always been leery of it and haven’t seen enough proof to warrant trying it. AIP seems so much more encompassing, nutritionally. Plus, I have other autoimmune diseases I hope to help.

As far as detox goes, I had headaches for about a week after being on AIP a week or so. I’ve had massive sugar cravings and am thirsty a lot. My finger joints are flaring, but I don’t know if that’s related. I’ve had some brain fog. Thankfully, I’ve been sleeping better. Still hoping to just feel better, though I know it can take more than a month for some.

If you ever want to talk outside this site, let me know. I’d be happy to talk/help if I can.


I didn’t see Mace on your list and was wondering where you would put it. Nutmeg is the actual seed of the tree and mace is the covering of the seed. Is that still technically part of the seed? Or is it part of the fruit? Can you tell I want my mace back?

Are curry leaves oke to use in AIP, I would like to know? And I was wondering if you’re book is going to be published in Dutch, cause that would be much easier for me to read 🙂 but the things im reading here and the things I understand are good, so thank you for this site. The AIP is all new for me, but i would like to try it for my auto immuun disease, cause I already am using biologicals, but they don’t really seem to help me. Greetings from Holland.

The curry leaf is okay on the AIP. But most “curry spice blends” are not AIP because of the individual spices they may contain. — Tamar, Sarah’s assistant

Thank you for this! I am new to paleo, but now that I am really paying attention to what I eat, I’ve noticed how some things really trigger a lot of pain. I just started three days ago, but the first couple of days I noticed most of my pain was gone (or at least not as noticeable). But then last night I made pork chops with broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and mushrooms. After I ate, I was very bloated and started having a lot of chest and arm pain. I normally eat onions and mushrooms, but I was wondering if maybe they weren’t causing my pain. Then I remembered that I put pepper in it, and a lot (new container, didn’t think it would come out so fast lol). So I will be cutting pepper out of my diet completely to see if that helps. I normally don’t even like spices on my food, but I wanted my daughter to like the taste so she would actually eat it. I’m wondering if the onions or mushrooms could still be the culprit or cause any problems. I’ve seen them on “safe” lists for AIP, so I really don’t know if I should cut them out for now or keep trying them.

I’m three weeks into doing a GAPS/AIP combo thing – I have Crohn’s and am just trying to prepare foods that can easily pass through my intestinal strictures and won’t get stuck or cause gas. I’m not having any bloating or pain anymore, which was nearly debilitating before this, so I’m pretty happy with the results so far. Hopefully I’ll be able to bring back some of the starchy vegetables at some point, just…not yet. I’ve eliminated the nightshade vegetables already – which is seriously sad because I love tomatoes and bell peppers so much – but it looks like I’ve also got some editing to do in my spice cabinet.

So on that note, what are your thoughts on the benefits of combining turmeric and black pepper? I’ve read that the pepper makes the turmeric much more bio-available or something. Does the benefit outweigh the consequence? How little pepper could I put on and still activate the turmeric?

Thank you for your insights!!

I know this is way late, but there have been studies that demonstrate that the active components of ginger can act the same way pepper does regarding the absorption enhancement of curcumin. And it’s a root!

[…] My version is marinated in lime juice, coconut aminos, garlic, and various spices. If you are following a paleo autoimmune protocol, you can still make this dish but will need to omit the spices depending on your sensitivity and where you are in the reintroduction process. Generally speaking, seed-based spices like cumin are more likely to be tolerated while nightshade derived spices like chili powder and chipotle are more likely to be problematic. For more information, see this post from The Paleo Mom. […]

I can’t seem to find any bacon or all natural meat products that don’t contain fenugreek or celery seed seasoning. Is there a solution to this?

I did the autoimmune protocol last year and went all out with being careful about all spices even from berries and fruit. I had no trouble reintroducing any non-nightshade spices. Since then, I have reintroduced a lot of foods, but then fell off of the paleo bandwagon. I want to start AIP over because I feel like my gut is compromised again, but I was wondering if I had to pull out the spices I was fine with before. I know the answer is probably just pull them all out, but its difficult for my family to remember not to season with pepper along with salt because its so normal.

If you are having symptoms again, you’d get the best results by going back to the full AIP. But if you want to start by including those spices and see how you do before eliminating them, that’s probably fine. – Christina, Sarah’s assistant

[…] for the short ribs: ingredients 2-3 pounds pastured short ribs (we typically pick up some on Market Day at Eden’s) 1 tablespoon bacon fat or other cooking fat 1 small white onion, chopped 2 carrots, peeled and chopped 1 large stalk of celery, chopped 4 pieces of thick bacon (pastured is ideal) 1/2 cup of beef bone broth 1/2 cup of good balsamic vinegar 4 large cloves of garlic, pressed 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or a few sprigs of fresh, left whole, removed before serving) 1 teaspoon dried, crushed rosemary (or a few sprigs of fresh, left whole, removed before serving) 3 medjool dates or 1-2 tsp honey 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 1/2 teaspoon of Real Salt or sea salt 1/4 teaspoon of cracked black pepper (omit if in the first phases of AIP – read what The Paleo Mom has to say about safe spices) […]

I’m wondering about vanilla extract as I’ve seen numerous recipes calling for it. To my understanding; vanilla bean is one of the things to avoid at least initially. Does that mean only the bean itself, or also extract?

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration!

Fruit-based spices are a gray area food you can include or exclude depending on your preference (note that if you include them and don’t see results, they may need to be eliminated). Sarah recommends using the extract only in recipes in which it will be cooked out. – Christina, Sarah’s assistant

Last time I was about to buy ginger tea and the only one I found has black pepper in it (less than 3% – it’s Yogi Tea brand). Is it still okay to drink that ?

Thanks for providing this list. I am transitioning off the AIP and had a really hard day and could not for the life of me figure what I had eaten wrong. I checked the ingredients of my Mother’s Milk tea, which I had eliminated on the AIP and had for the first time today, and found that it has fennel, fenugreek and anise. So glad to have figured out the answer in one day.

Are there times when spices can do more good than harm, like using cayenne for parasites? Even if you have a vey leaky gut?

How common is a reaction to fruit seeds? (Fruits with seeds that are eaten with the fruit, like berries and figs, I mean.) I see them on several sites listed as safe, but I react to them just the same as any other seed. I’m wondering if I’m an outlier or if the reaction is actually fairly common in severe autoimmune disease.

I have not heard from anyone else that has had to remove seedy fruits like berries from their diet due to the seeds. Sarah considers them “generally” safe. – Christina, Sarah’s assistant

Horseradish, wasabi root, watercress (“peppery”), arugula (“peppery”), red radish, galangal ginger, and possibly clove. Some people even perceive red onion and garlic to have a peppery/spicy flavor. There really is nothing that will equal a habanero… but I believe with a combination of some of these (along with smoked salt or liquid smoke) that some good dehydrated spice seasonings, rubs, and marinades can be made!

Thank you so much for this article. I was recently told to eliminate Nightshades and your page is the only one that includes a list of spices. This will make cooking so much easier for me

Garlic is listed as something to avoid on the list Johns Hopkins puts out for autoimmune. I have stopped taking that as well as echinacea since seeing the list.

I read about the seeds that should be exluded and I became very glad to find that you do not list mackerel seeds… Does that mean that I can eat mackerel seeds when on the autoimmune diet? Actually I thought that all kind of seeds is a big no no.. But I would love to have mackerel seeds with coconut milk for breakfast.

Just wondering if chia seeds are acceptable here. I am so limited I am hoping I can incorporate these into my diet. Thanks! So much great info, by the way.

I developed an allergy to coriander/cilantro, a few years ago and now carry an epi-pen. Black pepper, makes my face tingle, but I can typically eat red, yellow or orange sweet peppers without a problem. I also can’t have fennel or caraway. Thanks for the list!

I am thinking of making Kimchi, can I have gochugaru? I am guessing no, since it is related to chili powder. Any substitutes?

I am confused what a nightshade is and why is it not good. Also what about the spice cumin I use it a lot in my food and was just wondering. When you talk about seeds Is sunflower seeds ok?

Hey there,

Many thanks for the information that is helping to realize a sensitivity to nightshades.

I was wondering about other seeds, such as pumpkin, hemp and sunflower.

What about summer fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, elderberries etc

Best regards


[…] The AIP is an evolving protocol. What started as a few general recommendations from Loren Cordain and Robb Wolf (to avoid eggs and nightshades), expanded into a complete protocol contained in the book, The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne, and summarized here. She spent years delving into the scientific research to determine what foods might be inflammation triggers for people with autoimmune disease. Unfortunately, many spices made the list. She separates them into 4 categories: […]

I’m gluten free, dairy free, and nightshade free. I was wondering if you happen to have any ideas about nightshades that may be in herbal teas or even essential oils? I’m having a hard time finding this info, and have had a strong reaction to a tea and an oil in the past couple of months. I’m trying to get to the bottom of it. Thanks!

There is a TON of science being done in this line of thought, and it is supporting and proving to be on target in many ways. Try Googling some of the subject topics outside of the diet and educate yourself before making ignorant and useless blanket statements. Better yet, read JAMA.

I find it interesting that you would post such an opinion on this site – run by a scientist whoe provides a scientific explanation for nearly everything. One of the reasons I enjoy The Paleo Mom is because all of her information is rooted in science, and there is proof not only that a specific guideline works but why it works. That gives me confidence that guidelines are safe and have a purpose.

That’s really not true. There are loads of studies on this stuff. It might be a little hard to find but this diet has been well researched. Sarah Ballantyne is a PhD and can be looked up by her renown contributions to science and health. I encourage you to look her up. 🙂

Sarah is the one who wrote “The Paleo Approach Reverse Autoimmune Disease and heal your body” I’m pretty sure she wrote a cookbook too.

CB- to each their own. I for one have benefited from following the auto-immune Paleo diet and I would still be on intense pain medications that caused problems just from taking them. I for one would appreciate not reading comments such as yours. Go talk with a functional medicine doctor who is also a MD and see what they have to say about it. Remember some medical practices were considered absurd prior to becoming common practice.

I thought peppers etc help pain because of message they trigger in brain when digested/effect taste buds? I thought some of those spices listed, turmeric, fennel eek etc had healing qualities?

chinese 5 spice does not contain peppercorn, Sichuan/Szechuan peppercorn is used and that is not actually a peppercorn but the husk from around the seeds.

also on your safe spice you have mace but mention nutmeg on your aviod list, surely these would be on the same list.

I’m wondering if dried spices (the approved ones) are okay. I heard that sometimes they can include anti-caking ingredients. I’m looking at all my spices and most of them don’t even contain an ingredient label. Should I assume that means they are just the pure spices with nothing added?

Do you have a works cited page for this? I love that you researched all of this and I want to be able to cite your page to use in my research, but I cant cite it unless i know you have your own works cited or that you got your information from reliable sources.

i saw mustard and went, what???? no mustard??
then i thot, helene, you can do no mustard, no red hot sauce, even no apple cider vinegar if you must. you have just fasted 3 days, the first with only water, the rest with only salt, lemon n lime juice. you have eaten only veggies, salt and a tbsp of coconut oil for 2 days after that. food tastes amazing now…the cooked veggies in coconut oil for dinner finally on the 5th day was superb!
if we keep our appetite up and eat very little but what sustains us, it will taste amazing.
seeing as the cravings are gone we can easily forgo the junk too. we will be satisfied.
granted i havent done this more than a few days but ive done other restrictive diets and suffered the whole time. just feeding my body is delighting it now…and thats never happened before but when i went raw, 12 yrs ago, for several months. i will add in meat when i feel i need it, but definitely in 3 wks. that was my downfall with the raw diet, no fat or protein.
we can do this if we must. hopefully we can add back eggs and things, but we do what we must to regain quality of life/lose wgt.
i highly recommend starting with a fast, even a juice fast for several wks. im doing a juice fast rly, its just not juiced veggies but whole or blended. i added the fat to satiate me as veggies alone, even with a little fruit added (juices 80veg/20fruit), can not hold you more than a few days without causing suffering and im done suffering. i want to “eat my juices” for 3 more wks, with rare cooked veggies, yes. no fruit, no protein till i rly need it.
im actually looking forward to watching my body blossom. it has already felt more like my friend in just a few short days.

Coriander is not a seed although it is called that due to the fact that the dried FRUIT is hard and appears seedlike. Like any fruit, it does contain seeds. In this case there are 2, making up a very small percentage of the whole. Try comparing dried coriander to plantable cilantro (which IS coriander) or parsley seeds to see the difference.

Question about tumeric:

I have Hashimotos and am curious if making a drink using a tumeric bug is going to be alright? I believe I have heard that it is great for supporting the immune system, but since I’m dealing with an auto-immune disease, I’m confused on whether or not something like this would be ok, or stimulating in a bad way??? Does that make sense?

I have a question to ask you…

Would Fenugreek leaves (AKA Kasuri Methi) be considered AIP? I am not talking about the fenugreek seeds, which I know are not, but the dried or fresh leaves of the fenugreek plant.
These are often used dried in Indian cooking, often sprinkled over curries etc, and the fresh leaves can be eaten as a green vegetable. They taste a bit like bitter celery leaves…

Everything I have read seems to indicate that they may well be AIP – and from what I have read, they seem to have a beneficial effect on digestion and liver function.

I would value your opinion.


Charlotte, any ‘leaf’ spices such as kasuri methi which is dried fenugreek leaves from the province of Qasar in Pakistan are allowed

Question – US Wellness Meats liverwurst contains coriander seed. Does this mean if you are following the AIP you cannot eat liverwurst from US Wellness Meats?

Musturd is relatively high in omega-3. I’ve actually been eating a lot of it, and I’ve noticed that my psoriasis is much-reduced when I eat it. I doubt it’s a good idea to eat so much of it in the long term, but I’m desperate. It’s basically doing what prescription drugs can do. Likely with the same ill-health effect(s).

Nevertheless, see:
J Dermatol. 2013 Jul;40(7):543-52. doi: 10.1111/1346-8138.12119. Epub 2013 May 19.
“Mustard seed (Sinapis Alba Linn) attenuates imiquimod-induced psoriasiform inflammation of BALB/c mice.”

I cannot tolerate nightshades and feel I am having problems with spices—info contained on your web site VERY helpful—many thanks

I’m confused about the logic of the AIP diet. It excludes even a sprinkle of many spices on the grounds that they are seeds, but as far as I can tell it allows rasp/blackberries and figs, does not caution to remove seeds from plantains, etc.
So… Is there some kind of philosophical reason to believe that seed spices are of a different nature than fruit seeds? Or has the entirely of the AIP blogosphere just not noticed consciously that those lumpy things in fruit are called seeds? The second one seems unlikely, the I haven’t seen any evidence of the first.
I’m a week in (haven’t seen a lick of difference yet, but I’m going to persevere for a while longer), and I’m not sure if I should be being extra-consistent by excluding seedy fruits, or follow logic and include seedy spices in moderation.

I’m going to quote Paleo Mom from another article on her website:

“So, my rule of thumb with seeds in fruit and vegetables is that if they are big enough that you might break them apart with your teeth, don’t eat them (like maybe cucumber seeds or pomegranate seeds), but if they are small enough to enter your digestive system intact (like berries, bananas, kiwis) then they are typically okay (that being said, they are something to look at if you aren’t seeing improvement on the AIP).”

But for a full description you should read her book.

Wow. ASD much? No worries if so me too. Just spot others who have it pretty quick. Not sure if this helps, but not all seeds cause an auto immune flare like nightshades do. Your comment about e fruit seeds made me laugh. I have to agree with you. It is all VERY confusing.

What about a detox tea made with some of these seeds (I think it’s cumin, fennel and coriander). You strain the actual seeds out of course. Still bad?

Thank you for all this helpful information. You have clarified a lot of things for me, but I am still confused about one thing: You say to be careful about spices which contain seeds, but what about fresh berries such as blueberries? Should I also be careful of these seeds at first. And what about the seeds in things like cucumbers and summer squash? I appreciate the help, thank you.

I just learned this today from Sarah’s book!: Seeds found in fruits and veggies have a friendlier defense system… If u can eat it raw, then its fine. If u have to cook it, it has gut damaging lectins.

Thank you so much for the reply. I’ve been wondering about this for several weeks, as I keep seeing AIP recipes that include these foods. So good to know that I can enjoy my fresh berries and cucumbers.

Hi Sarah,
What about Asafoetida powder? I’m doing a Low-Fodmaps version of AIP so I’m missing the flavor of Onion and Garlic. Is Asafoetida safe to try?


Probably not. Asafoetida/hing is usually made with wheat or rice starch. I haven’t seen any that’s AIP friendly, which is a shame because it’s very good for you oterwise.

I have celiac, and just started on the AIP this week. I got tired of scaly itchy rashes from my head to toes, which bled profusely. Painful, difficult to wear clothes, not to mention the itch and takes longer to heal.

A few questions on some items I eat that are not addressed in the AIP protocol (being Chinese ancestry and eating mostly Asian foods):
– water chestnuts;
– lily bulbs;
– hairy mountain yam (aka Dioscorea opposita);
– lotus root;
– lotus seeds;
– taro (both Colocasia esculenta and eddoe);
– konnyaku (devil’s yam, Amorphophallus konjac);
– is there a sago palm starch we can use instead of tapioca from cassava?
Thanks for all your help.

Hi all – I wonder if anyone can tell me if there are any herbs I should be eating fresh rather than dry or if it doesn’t matter either way? I know fresh will be better generally speaking as some of the good stuff can be lost when dried but didn’t know if there is anything I should avoid all together in dried form?

Couldn’t find this in either of the books or on the website. Forgive me if this sounds like a stupid question!

I hope everyone is on their way to better health and healing well.

I purchased the book and am working my way through it as I’m doing a 30 day reset. I am on day 10 right now and just saw black pepper on this list (which I hadn’t realized) I have only been using fresh herbs and salt and pepper because I have been so wary about getting any nightshades or seeds and I thought the black pepper was ok! Do I need to restart the 30 day reset?! Any information would be very much appreciated!

Was wondering if you could answer some questions about bone broth. If I am doing a Low FODMAPs protocol in addition to AIP, can I cook the meat/bones with garlic and onions as long as when I strain I don’t include any in the broth or ingest any with the meat? or is that cheating?

Hi Sarah and Christina,
I have a somewhat esoteric question. I am avoiding eating all of these seed and nightshade ingredients, but what about smelling them? I make hot sauce as part of my work. The spicy aroma definitely gets in the air. Am I setting myself back at work? Thank you for any insight you may have.

There’s no evidence in the scientific literature that the compounds in seed and nightshade spices could be a problem by smell as long as you aren’t anaphylactically allergic.

I know fennel seeds are best to avoid on AIP, but what about fennel pollen? I just came across this spice today and am curious about it.

May I ask this very important question? What about chocolate! I can’t (well I don’t want to) live without chocolate. I have been making sure my chocolate that I eat does not contain any soy lecithin or cocoa processed with alkali but cocoa is a nut, right and I saw vanilla bean listed the list to be cautious about.

Hi everyone,
I have just been diagnosed with Lichen Planus. The skin specialist prescribed Acetretin which I have been taking for a couple of weeks but it doesn’t seem to be working. I am now given to understand that I need to be on it for at least a month before I see any improvement if any and it may not even last.
I am considering the AIP diet after all I have read on here.
I didn’t notice Lichen Planus on the list of AI diseases here and am wondering if anyone can help with any information and advice. I am seeing a Chinese herbalist tomorrow. Has anyone with Lichen Planus had relief with this diet and/ or Chinese herbal medicine or acupuncture? I would appreciate any advice I can get. Thank you very much.

What do you think about seeds in tea? For instance teas that contain milk thistle seed, fennel seed, fenugreek seed?

I’m in desperate need of allergy medicine that is AIP friendly. Food and drink wise I’ve been in AIP a week strictly, no cheating, only to find out all my supplements contain no no ingredients. Loratidine helped a bunch and without it, I can’t stop sneezing and can’t breathe through my nose. Any suggestions ?

Do you have The Paleo Approach? Sarah discusses allergies on pages 306-307. Different food allergies go hand in hand with other environmental allergies so cutting out the foods that are associated with whatever environmental allergens you are reacting to can be helpful. Anti inflammatory foods (which you should be eating in large quantities already with AIP) are also beneficial. And vitamin C has shown to be helpful for allergies. Of course, it’s important that you discuss all of these things with your healthcare provider. -Kiersten

Be cautious as some of the safe spices are not at all, at least for me. These include: horseradish(horrible), chamomile, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper.

Hi, I was wondering about onion powder. I was under the impression that we had to avoid onions, but see onion powder listed as an allowed spice. (I’m sitting here hoping onions are indeed allowed!!!!)


Onions do not need to be avoided on the autoimmune protocol unless you are also avoiding FODMAPs. -Kiersten

Do you have any information on Pippali, or piper longum? It is a cousin to black pepper but not the same, and typically used to respiratory problems in Ayurvedic medicine. Can this be used on the AIP? I need to know if I need to discontinue use.

Hi Dr. Ballyntyne and Co.,
Are Sichuan peppercorns aip acceptable? They are the husk (pericarp) around the seed of a couple of plants in the genus Zanthoxylum, but not the seed itself. Sichuan peppercorns in addition to being spicy have a numbing/tingly quality due to the hydroxy-alpha-sanshool.
I really miss heat in dishes on the aip and would love to know. . . .

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