We’ve been asked by customers with tree nut allergies if our soap is made using coconut oil. They were concerned about being allergic to the soap because of the cocoNUT oil used in our recipe. Memories of my college biology class told me that a coconut and a tree nut were NOT the same thing, but I needed more than just my recollections to share with customers.
Much of the information on the web is confusing, some articles warn against coconut as an allergen and others say it is completely safe. So we reached out to Dr. Wade Watson, an allergist who writes articles for Allergic Living Magazine. He wrote an article back in 2005 on the question “Is coconut a tree nut”?
His answer was: “The coconut is a member of the palm family, which is not related to nuts or peanuts. Coconuts are large seeds adapted for water borne dispersal and can remain viable even after having floated in the sea for six months or more. A coconut is really a SEED, not a nut. It is the seed of a drupaceous fruit. A drupe is a fruit with a hard stony covering enclosing the seed (like a peach or olive).
While it is possible to be allergic to coconut, the cross reactivity for those with tree nut allergies is very rare. However, in 2006, the FDA began identifying the coconut AS a tree nut and adding it to the list of allergens. But The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) does not recognize coconut as a nut. No wonder people are confused!
This information is not only good news for those who wish to use natural soaps crafted with coconut oil in the recipe, it is also good news from a nutritional perspective. Coconut oil is growing in popularity as a culinary oil versus canola and olive.
For people with tree nut allergies, is a coconut oil based soap safe to use? The answer is YES, unless they have an allergy to coconut itself.