Treating Allergic Reactions: Corn-free Benadryl

The go-to drug for treating a severe allergic reaction is diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl.  Unfortunately, there is no corn-free version of this drug available off the shelf. Benadryl dye-free liquigels contain sorbitol from corn. Benadryl children’s liquid formula contains glycerin and sucrose from corn. Many generic store-brand versions of Benadryl, such as Wal-dryl, contain corn starch.  All of these are derivatives that would send me to the hospital, especially if I were already reacting when I took them.

The only way to get truly corn-free Benadryl at this time is to get it made specially for you by a compounding pharmacy. This isn’t a post on how to do that, but there is a very nice blog post on getting medications compounded on the News For Corn Avoiders blog. Here are my additional notes on compounding medications and here is some advice on finding a compounding pharmacy.

Another possibility, though it requires a prescription, would be to get a prescription for an injectable version of Benadryl, and then drink it.This is an off-label usage but I am told it works just fine and will be relatively corn free. (It is in water though so if you react to some waters it may not be 100% safe for you.) Always check ingredients. There are probably several versions of the injectable Benadryl and all of them may not be corn free.

When I got my first Benadryl prescription compounded, I spent 30 minutes on the phone with the pharmacist deciding on ingredients used in my prescription. The pharmacist assured me that the microcrystalline cellulose they used for a filler in capsules was corn free. It was not. I got $50 worth of pills I reacted to worse than the corny off the shelf meds, and they wouldn’t take them back or give me my money back. I had very very recently gotten much more sensitive to corn products at that time, and was reacting constantly so feeling very sick and muddled while trying to hold down a full time job, and just did not have the mental energy to get it done right. I just gave up on getting medications compounded.

But I had to have something for reactions. Fortunately, I was still able to take one version of over the counter Benadryl and have it do more good than harm. While I am not *the most* sensitive corn allergic person in the world, I am pretty sensitive, and my reactions are pretty dramatic. However there are some derivatives I react to less than others.

This stuff has *lots* of corn ingredients, but for me the derivatives are ones that don’t cause huge reactions:

Alka-Seltzer Plus Allergy. Active ingredient: diphenhydramine hcl 25mg. Inactive ingredients:  croscarmellose sodium, D&C red #27 aluminum lake, dibasic calcium phosphate dihydrate, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, polyethylene glycol, polyvinyl alcohol, talc, titanium dioxide.

I also found this”sleep aid” which is actually benadryl- the inactive ingredient, diphenhydramine, and the dosage, 25mg, is the same ingredient and dosage as benadryl.

Walgreens Sleep II Nightime Sleep Aid. Active ingredient: diphenhydramine hcl 25mg. Inactive Ingredients: Croscarmellose Sodium, Dicalcium Phosphate, FD&C Blue #1 Aluminum Lake, Magnesium Stearate, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Silicon Dioxide, Stearic Acid


Both of these products still have  a number of ingredients that could be (and often are) from corn. I’ve bolded them. They are definitely *not* corn free. It is the same drug as Benadryl, just a different brand. When I was VERY desperate, I was able to take them for reactions and they helped more than they harmed. I would definitely feel some reaction right when I took them, but once they kicked in the antihistamine effect would overtake the reaction. 

Getting compounded Benadryl made a world of difference though- it works faster and leaves me feeling much less hung over. A good portion of the effectiveness of the drug was previously being spent on counteracting the corn in the pills themselves.

But if you are ever in a very bad spot, you may find that there are some versions of the drug off the shelf that you can tolerate enough to help you out when you are reacting severely.

Note that which version will work best for you will depend heavily on what derivatives bug you. The liquigels contain sorbitol, so are a bad choice for me as sorbitol in toothpaste sent me to the ER once. Granted the quantity in the liquigels is probably small but I just skipped it because of the toothpaste reaction. Others may do better with that tiny amount of sorbitol versus the inactive ingredients in the product pictured above. Please choose carefully, use good sense, and consult your physician.

For those that are allergic to benadryl (this does happen), another option is hydroxyzine hcl (atarax) or hydroxyzine pamoate (vistaril). Atarax is more commonly prescribed for allergies, Vistaril is more commonly prescriped for anxiety. Both forms help both allergy and anxiety. They also are comparably as strong of antihistamines as benadryl. They do tend to sedate more then benadryl, but not everyone experiences this.  Hydroxyzine is prescription only. You would need to either get it compounded or identify a brand and manufacturer that does not contain corn, or does not contain *much* corn. You can use these instructions for finding the inactive ingredients of medications to try to identify something that might be safe.

11 thoughts on “Treating Allergic Reactions: Corn-free Benadryl

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  5. I don’t know if you have figured this out on your own but I believe what people are truly reacting to is the pesticide residue in the corn. If one embarks on a totally organic diet, (and chemical free house) most allergic reactions subside over time. Glyphosate, Atrazine and over 40 others http://www.pesticideinfo.org/DS.jsp?sk=29119 Initially, the body recognizes the entire corn kernel as toxic and reacts to it. But once the pesticides (allergens) are removed by eating organic food, the allergic reaction to the corn kernel begins to subside. There are multiple pesticides entering the body from multiple sources with synergistic reactions that have not been studied. Your web site is the BEST and so helpful. Thank you very much for your work!!

    • I’ve heard similar about wheat. I know that some people seem to be able to eat when in Europe but not here and the hypothesis is that it’s due to the glyphosate being sprayed all over the wheat to make it easier to machine harvest. That sounds like it could be a reasonable supposition for some people with corn allergy, but not most.

      I am in contact with many dozens of people who have eaten chemical and pesticide free for years or decades with nothing but strengthening allergic reactions to corn. If you’ve read this blog at all then you know I am one of those people that has had to eat 100% local, only completely spray free and not just organic (which can involve certified organic sprays) and have done so for many years.

      I definitely am still allergic to corn, and I am still allergic to organic no-spray corn, as I have severe airborne reactions to the stuff sold at the farmers market. I know that corn is spray free as I have frequent contact with the vendors and have done farm visits with many of them.

      I do think that there is a definite connection between corn being such a prevalent and high-use crop and the increase in corn allergies, but I think it has more to do with it being *in* everything and the repeated exposure causing more and more sensitivity and cross-reactions. I don’t think it’s as simple as a pesticide exposure, and I definitely haven’t seen that simply avoiding the pesticide helps.

  6. Helpful article. Thank you.

    Wanted to let you know that there is an “a” in the link you posted “http://no-corn.blogsapot.com/2008/10/getting-medications-compounded.html” which breaks the link. It’s just “blogspot” no “a.”

    Thanks again.

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