Which trees in the family of Anacardiaceae cause dermatitis?

Updated: Jun 10, 2021
  • Author: Glen H Crawford, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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The cashew nut tree (Anacardium occidentale) is a medium-sized tropical tree that grossly resembles the walnut tree. Any part of the tree, except the kidney-shaped nut, can cause dermatitis. The caustic oil contains cardol, a phenol similar to the allergens in Toxicodendron urushiols. This oil has powerful vesicant properties; it has been used in Africa for medicinal purposes and for ritual scarification.

The mango tree (Mangifera indica) is likely the most popular cultivated fruit tree in the world's tropical and subtropical regions. The skin of the fruit and the leaves, bark, and stems of the plant contain sensitizing resorcinols. The pulp of the fruit is nonallergenic. Dermatitis usually involves the hands and the mouth after a person eats unpeeled fruit. [5]

The Brazilian pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius), or Florida holly, may be the most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis in southern Florida. The sap and crushed berries possess a variety of sensitizing phenols.

The Japanese lacquer tree (Toxicodendron verniciflua), which grows to a height of 15-20 m, provides a thick, self-melanizing, viscous sap that is used for varnishing wood. Polymerized urushiol persists in the lacquer and can maintain its allergenicity for hundreds of years. Artisans can develop resistance to the allergenic urushiol by chewing raw lacquer.

The black juice of the Indian marking tree nut Semecarpus anacardium is mixed with alum to mark laundry in India and Malaysia. Indian laundry workers, or dhobies, often develop dhobie mark dermatitis. Approximately 15-20% of English soldiers who were stationed in India during World War II had adverse reactions to their marked garments.

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