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Can You Be Allergic to CBD?

Using cannabis products, including cannabidiol (CBD), allergic reactions are the exception rather than the rule. In fact, there’s no traceable evidence that CBD causes allergies at all. It is not beyond the realm of possibility, however, as people’s physiologies differ. Yet it is safe to assume that when taking especially pure CBD, allergic responses are completely unheard of so far. Any symptoms will, more likely than not, be ascribed to other allergens.

Marijuana Allergies or CBD Allergic Reactions?

The only cannabis-related culprit in this regard is marijuana. In fact, preliminary evidence points to CBD having exactly the opposite effect—anti-inflammatory and perhaps even anti-allergenic. Read on for more about this.

First, let’s take a look at what could perhaps cause apparent CBD allergic responses after taking a product labeled as cannabidiol. “Apparent,” because unfortunately not all manufacturers are ethical, and labels don’t always reflect the product content truthfully. Therefore, it’s still possible to be duped, meaning the “CBD oil” is perhaps cannabis or marijuana oil.

Cannabis oil and marijuana products are often high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which, researchers are speculating, is probably the allergenic compound in cannabis.

The first case study of a marijuana-associated allergic response was reported as early as 1971, when a young woman had an anaphylactic (very severe allergic) response to smoking weed. [1]

While it’s not common, it still occurs, and there is even some alarming evidence that allergic responses due to marijuana use are on the rise. This was examined in a recent article published in the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (2016):

IgE‐mediated Cannabis (C. sativa, marihuana) allergy seems to be on the rise. Both active and passive exposure to cannabis allergens may trigger a C. sativa sensitization and/or allergy. The clinical presentation of a C. sativa allergy varies from mild to life‐threatening reactions and often seems to depend on the route of exposure. In addition, sensitization to cannabis allergens can result in various cross‐allergies, mostly for plant foods. This clinical entity, designated as the ‘cannabis‐fruit/vegetable syndrome’, might also imply cross‐reactivity with tobacco, natural latex, and plant‐food‐derived alcoholic beverages.” [2]

In layman’s English, this means the following:

  • Marijuana seems to cause allergic reactions in both passive and active smokers.
  • The responses vary from mild to very severe, even life-threatening, depending on how it is taken.
  • Cannabis sensitization seems to also cause cross-reactivity in allergies, mostly in foods. This means that the proteins in one food source can cause the same reactions by similar proteins in another source. This reaction was so prevalent in fruit and vegetable cross-reactivity with cannabis that it received its own syndrome, predictably called “cannabis‐fruit/vegetable syndrome.” The foods most associated with this syndrome are peach, apple, nuts, tomato, and sometimes citrus fruit such as orange and grapefruit. [3]

Symptoms associated with any cannabis allergy depend on the means of exposure, as said. Smoking or vaporizing, for instance, typically causes respiratory-related symptoms such as rhinitis, conjunctivitis, asthma, and palpebral angioedema. These symptoms, as well as contact urticaria and dermatitis, have also been seen where cannabis was handled directly.

Anaphylactic responses (the life-threatening kind of allergic reactions) have been reported upon ingestion of hemp seed, drinking marijuana tea, and smoking.

The authors of the review also note that the allergic reactions to these plant foods are often triggered or exacerbated by cofactors such as exercise or nonsteroidal anti‐inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). [2]

So, if any of these symptoms appear after ingesting, vaping, or applying CBD, the problem may very well lie with the quality of the particular product. Because, as mentioned, so far the evidence points to CBD doing exactly the opposite of allergenic substances.

Is CBD Allergic Reaction a Myth? What Research Says

The rationale is that CBD has been shown, at least in petri-dish and animal studies, to have properties more associated with the treatment of allergic responses than their causation.

For instance, one research article highlighted cannabidiol’s anti-inflammatory property in allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), while another demonstrated the efficacy of transdermal CBD as an anti-inflammatory treatment in mice. Inflammation is associated with all allergic responses, and addressing this is always part of the treatment.

Also, allergies are immune responses in the body, as explained in this John Hopkins article on allergies and the immune system:

When a harmless substance such as dust, mold, or pollen is encountered by a person who is allergic to that substance, the immune system may overreact by producing antibodies that “attack” the allergen.” [6]

These antibodies cause the symptoms associated with any given allergy. The good news is that CBD and other cannabinoids and terpenes seem to mediate this immune response. Continued study is needed, but this compound’s potential to not only treat allergies, but also autoimmune and other inflammatory diseases is very apparent at this stage. [7]

So, based on the available evidence, it is not unrealistic to assume that CBD is not responsible for any allergic reactions. To reiterate, though—not all bodies work the same, and there may be the exception, but there is no clear scientific link between CBD, allergic responses, and allergies. It is also not the experience of millions of CBD users. The compound is used for many purposes and is commonly regarded as safe, even in high doses. Any alarming allergic reaction should immediately be reported to a qualified medical professional.

There's no traceable evidence that CBD causes allergic reactions at all. In fact, preliminary evidence points to CBD having exactly the opposite effect.

Can you have an allergic reaction to CBD oil?

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Contents

  1. CBD oil overview
  2. Allergies in the body
  3. Allergic reactions to CBD oil
  4. Can CBD oil help with allergies?

Whether it’s sniffling, watery eyes, itching, or asthma, many of us are all too familiar with symptoms of allergies.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergies are the No. 6 cause of chronic illness in the United States. To narrow that down,there were 19.9 million adults diagnosed with hay fever in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is estimated that 32 million Americans live with food allergies; more than 170 foods may lead to allergic reaction.

Considering the increasing awareness and use of cannabidiol (CBD) and the existing potential for pollen and food allergies, allergy sufferers may wonder whether they are at risk for an allergic reaction to CBD oil or whether CBD can provide treatment or relief for other types of allergic reactions.

Though there’s not much in the way of allergy research specifically for CBD oil at this point, the cannabis plant itself has been linked to allergic reactions.

“Marijuana is a plant and produces pollen and one can become allergic to the pollen and the plant, especially if one has pre-existing allergic tendencies,” said Dr. William S. Silvers, clinical professor of medicine in allergy and immunology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

That being said, only male marijuana plants produce pollen, and are exceedingly rare in cannabis and hemp production because they produce less oil and CBD than female plants. Therefore, a consumer’s exposure to pollen would be extremely rare.

CBD oil overview

CBD is the second-most-prominent cannabinoid derived from the cannabis plant, after the intoxicating cannabinoid THC. CBD oil, extracted from marijuana or industrial hemp, has gained popularity for its potential benefits for a number of conditions, including inflammation, arthritic pain, depression, seizures, and anxiety.

There’s not much in the way of allergy research specifically for CBD oil, but the cannabis plant itself has been linked to allergic reactions in some people. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Though research is still limited in regards to many supposed benefits, in 2018 the FDA approved Epidiolex, a CBD oral solution, to treat seizures associated with two severe types of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Allergies in the body

A properly functioning immune system works to protect the body from pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and attack these unwanted microorganisms in order to help prevent disease. In the case of allergies, the immune system reacts to plant pollen and other substances in the environment to trigger the body’s defense mechanisms. The result, depending on the type of allergy, can be a variety of symptoms, including itchy eyes, runny nose, asthma, hives, skin itching, or more severe reactions such as anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.

Allergic reactions to CBD oil

Humans commonly experience allergic reactions to many kinds of plant pollen. However, only male cannabis plants produce pollen, whereas female plants are more widely used for oil and cannabinoid production. Large-scale industrial hemp fields may include a variety of mature males (pollen) as well as fertilized females (oil and seeds). The impact of hemp pollen on everyday consumers, as well as the communities that work and live near these production facilities, has not been studied.

People can also develop allergies to some of the terpenes found in cannabis. For instance, researchers from the Duke University School of Medicine found that about 20% of the 100 people they tested had an allergic skin reaction to linalool, whereas 8% had reactions to limonene. These kinds of contact allergies may not be common in the general population, but individuals who are employed in the production of cannabis products and CBD oil could be more at risk.

In addition to the skin, the lungs are another target for allergic reactions to terpenes. Assessing the risk is somewhat complicated because some terpenes are irritants, whereas others, such as eucalyptol, may actually provide a protective, anti-inflammatory role and might help to control inflammatory diseases like asthma and COPD.

Dr. Gordon Sussman, an allergist in Canada and professor at the University of Toronto, said there is very little published research on CBD oil allergies.

“It’s an unknown area at this point,” he said. “But we know that cannabis sativa is an allergen and we know that it’s a common allergen.”

Humans commonly experience allergic reactions to many kinds of plant pollen. Only male cannabis/hemp plants produce pollen. Most cannabis products, including CBD oil, are made using female cannabis plants. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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He said that cannabis allergies, like other forms of allergies, can worsen as exposure to the allergen continues. Most people with cannabis allergies suffer from a runny and stuffy nose (rhinitis), eye irritation (conjunctivitis), and sometimes wheezing, Sussman explained. But there have been cases of more severe reactions such as anaphylaxis, which have primarily resulted from ingestion of hemp seeds.

According to a letter entitled “Marijuana and stoned fruit,” written by medical doctors from the University of California, San Diego, and published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology on Feb. 2, 2018, a 24-year-old man who smoked marijuana daily visited their allergy clinic two weeks following an anaphylactic reaction after eating yogurt with hemp seeds.

“This was his first known ingestion of hemp seeds. Immediately after consumption, he developed oral pruritus [itching] that progressed to shortness of breath, facial swelling, and pre-syncope [sensation prior to fainting],” the letter stated.

Those with food allergies may also be susceptible to cross-reactivity.

“You can have a cross-reaction with certain foods that share certain antigens, certain components, with the cannabis plant itself,” Silvers said.

Such foods may include tomatoes and stone fruits containing pits such as peaches, he said. It’s a similar cross-reactivity to what is seen in people with ragweed allergies who might experience symptoms such as itchy mouth if they eat fruit in the melon family, he added.

“The same thing goes with cannabis and tomatoes and peaches and almonds and a number of other foods … eggplant, grapefruit, apples,” Silvers said.

There is no clinical evidence CBD oil can help allergies. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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A 2013 study from the “Internal Archives of Allergy and Immunology” tested 21 patients with food allergies for reactivity to cannabis lipid transfer proteins (LTPs), which are probable allergens. Twelve of the 21 test subjects were allergic to cannabis, and all 12 had more severe reactions to food allergy than those without a cannabis allergy. A 2008 study, also from “Internal Archives of Allergy and Immunology,” tested 32 subjects for an allergic reaction to cannabis LTPs, as well as tomato, peach peel, and pollen extracts. The study found that all test subjects sensitive to tomato allergens were also sensitive to cannabis. There was also cross-reactivity noted with peach peel.

Silvers said that the type of allergic reaction depends on the type of exposure. In addition to cannabis pollen allergies and food-based allergies, skin allergies are also a possibility.

“Touching the plant can very easily develop a dermatitis, itching, and skin reactions,” he said.

Can CBD oil help with allergies?

While there isn’t much research supporting the idea that CBD oil can help the discomfort associated with common allergy symptoms, there is some research related to its general effects on inflammation, which is part of the body’s allergic reaction process.

A 2011 research report published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine examined the potential role of CBD in various inflammatory-type conditions. George W. Booz, a professor in the department of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, concluded in the report: “Inflammation and oxidative stress are intimately involved in the genesis of many human diseases. Unraveling that relationship therapeutically has proven challenging, in part because inflammation and oxidative stress ‘feed off’ each other. However, CBD would seem to be a promising starting point for further drug development given its antioxidant (although relatively modest) and anti-inflammatory actions on immune cells … .”

According to Silvers, there is no clinical evidence CBD oil can help allergies and, while experimental laboratory research suggesting anti-inflammatory effects exists, there’s no clinical patient substantiation.

Can you have an allergic reaction to CBD oil? Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents CBD oil overview Allergies in the body Allergic reactions