Can you have an allergic reaction to CBD oil?
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- CBD oil overview
- Allergies in the body
- Allergic reactions to CBD oil
- 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
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
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
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
Can you be allergic to marijuana?
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People can have allergic reactions triggered by marijuana, just as they can with many other plants and pollens. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe.
In recent years, there seems to have been an increase in the number of reports of marijuana allergies. This may be because marijuana, or cannabis, is becoming more popular as a medicinal treatment for a range of conditions. Some states have also legalized the drug for recreational use.
Cannabidiol, or CBD oil, can also cause negative reactions in some people.
Read on to learn more about the causes and symptoms of marijuana allergies, and the possible effects of CBD oil.
Share on Pinterest A marijuana allergy may be triggered by eating, smoking, or touching the plant or its products.
More than 50 million Americans have allergies. While marijuana may have some medical benefits, marijuana pollen can trigger allergy symptoms in some people.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), a person can develop an allergy or allergic sensitization to marijuana after exposure to the plant. People can be exposed to cannabis allergens in the following ways:
- inhaling pollen in the air
- smoking marijuana
- touching marijuana
- eating marijuana
Research published in 2013 suggests a particular strain of cannabis called Cannabis sativa may be especially irritating.
A recent small-scale study from 2018 reports that people are more likely to have a cannabis allergy if they have allergies to cat dander, molds, dust mites, or plants.
More research is needed, however, to establish this possible link.
Common symptoms of a marijuana allergy, many of which are similar to seasonal allergy symptoms, include:
- a dry cough
- itchy eyes
- red, itchy, or watery eyes
- a runny nose
- sore or itchy throat
Handling the drug may also cause contact dermatitis, a skin reaction that can have the following symptoms:
- dry skin
- red, inflamed skin
Symptoms of marijuana allergies can come on immediately after exposure to the plant, although, in other cases, they may not begin for an hour or more.
To stop symptoms from getting worse, a person who notices these effects should immediately stop touching or smoking the drug.
Less commonly, marijuana can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This condition can be life-threatening and occurs within seconds or minutes of exposure to an allergen.
Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- difficulty breathing
- itchy and flushed or pale skin
- low blood pressure
- swollen tongue or throat
- weak and rapid pulse
Anaphylaxis can result in a coma or death, so it is essential to get emergency medical attention if this reaction is suspected.
Along with anaphylaxis, the main risks linked to a marijuana allergy are that it may be linked to cross-reactivity with other allergens.
Cross-reactivity happens when the proteins, such as pollen, in the marijuana plant resemble the proteins in another plant. An allergic reaction may then occur when a person comes into contact with similar proteins elsewhere.
Foods with proteins that resemble marijuana proteins, and which may, therefore, cause an allergic reaction in people with marijuana allergies, include:
Doctors diagnose marijuana allergies in the same way as other types of allergies, by using skin tests or blood tests.
A doctor will first take a person’s medical history and perform a physical examination. They may then use a skin prick test. This test is not very invasive, and the results come back quickly.
In a skin prick test, the doctor will apply a diluted allergen, such as marijuana, to the skin’s surface with a needle. If a red bump or wheal, itching, and redness develop in that area within 15 minutes, a person may be allergic to that substance.
A doctor may also use an intradermal test. This test involves using a thin needle to inject a diluted allergen just below the skin’s surface.
Blood tests are another way of checking for marijuana allergies. A sample of blood is drawn and tested for the presence of antibodies to marijuana. If a person has more antibodies in the blood than expected, they are more likely to be allergic to marijuana.
Blood tests may be better than skin prick tests in some cases because they involve a single needle prick. They are also less likely to be affected by any other medications. However, the results take longer to come back, and the tests are more expensive than skin tests.
At present, no treatment is available for a marijuana allergy. A person can take antihistamines to manage symptoms and reduce discomfort. Antihistamines are available for purchase online.
For some types of pollen allergy, a course of allergy shots is prescribed to reduce a person’s sensitization to the substance. But these are not currently available for marijuana pollen.
Because of the lack of treatment options, those who are allergic to marijuana should avoid smoking, eating, or touching the plant or the drug to prevent allergy symptoms.
If a person has a severe allergy to marijuana, they should carry an epinephrine injection (Adrenaclick, Epipen, or others) in case of accidental exposure and subsequent anaphylaxis.
Avoiding exposure to marijuana is the only way to prevent an allergic reaction to the plant or drug.
A person who is using medical marijuana and suspects that they may be allergic to it should speak with their doctor to find an alternative treatment.
People who work in a marijuana processing plant should limit exposure by using:
- allergy medications
- face masks
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a substance that comes from the marijuana plant. Medicinal uses include treating some seizure disorders.
CBD is different from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive substance in marijuana. Pure CBD does not have mind-altering effects. Only THC produces these “highs.”
In contrast, CBD may have antipsychotic and anti-inflammatory properties.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved one CBD-based drug, Epidiolex. This prescription-only treatment can help people who have two types of rare and severe epilepsy. The drug received approval in June 2018.
For most uses, research has not yet confirmed how safe and effective CBD- or marijuana-based products are, and there are no regulations controlling the production or sale of CBD oil and other marijuana products.
Some CBD products contain THC, but it is not always clear how much, even when there is a label.
For this reason, most consumers do not know how safe their CBD oil is, especially when used in high quantities.
A 2011 review of previous studies on CBD oil reports conflicting findings. The researchers suggest that, while long-term use and high doses up to 1,500 milligrams a day may be well tolerated by people, some adverse reactions have been observed.
At high intakes, CBD oil may cause:
- dry mouth
- interactions with other medications
- low blood pressure
A 2017 study recommends more research be carried out on the effect of CBD on certain enzymes, drug transporters, and the effects of other drugs.
Some people use CBD oil as a topical treatment for skin disorders or neurological pain. A person should try applying a small amount of the oil first, to ensure they will not experience an unwanted reaction.
In addition to Epidiolex, the FDA have also approved three drugs that contain a synthetic form of THC. Marinol and Syndros treat the severe weight loss that can occur with AIDS. Cesamet can help prevent nausea and vomiting in people who are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
As with other medications, it is possible to experience an allergic reaction to Epidiolex, Marinol, Syndros, and Cesamet.
A person can develop allergies to marijuana, as with other plants. This can occur after touching, smoking, or eating cannabis products (edibles), or inhaling the pollen. Symptoms are similar to other allergies, including sneezing, a rash, and itching skin. A person can also have a reaction to cannabidiol oil or CBD.