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Can You Be Allergic To CBD?

Date 29th Oct 2021

Can You Be Allergic To CBD?

Yes, it's possible for some people to be allergic to CBD. 

Exposure to cannabis pollen, smoking, touching, or eating cannabis can result in allergy symptoms from itching, swelling, hives, and in care cases, anaphylaxis.

The human immune system is incredibly complex, and although rare, you can develop an allergy to CBD or one of the many compounds in the hemp plant, such as terpenes, pollen, or pesticides used on the crops.

In this article, we'll dive into the differences between what a CBD allergy may look like and the side effects of CBD, as well as the different factors that could lead someone to develop allergy symptoms.

CBD & Allergies Facts:

  • Cannabinol (CBD) is a naturally derived compound from cannabis that does not produce an intoxicating high.
  • CBD is well-researched for its potential to support a healthy immune response, reducing feelings of nervousness and pain relief [1, 2, 3].
  • CBD is available in various products from vape juices, capsules, oils, gummies, and topicals. You may be allergic to other ingredients in CBD products.
  • CBD is considered safe and well-tolerated by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Poor quality hemp crops and manufacturing processes could leave behind pesticides, mold, and other contaminants that trigger allergic reactions.
  • A 2018 study found that people who are hypersensitive to pollen, dust mites, and pet dander are more likely also to be allergic to cannabis [4]

What Causes An Allergic Reaction?

Allergies arise when the immune system overreacts to a foreign substance that it believes is a threat.

Healthy immune systems can distinguish between safe and dangerous substances. However, allergic reactions are usually a result of a compromised immune system that identifies normal substances that aren't a threat to most people, like pollen, dust, pet dander, or food, as potential threats.

When the immune system is exposed to allergens, it triggers the release of histamines and antibodies.

The antibodies spew inflammatory chemicals to fight the invader, but they also cause itching, hives, runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, and constrict muscles in the lungs, resulting in anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that is potentially fatal if it's not treated immediately.

The most common medications to combat allergic reactions are antihistamines, like Claratin and Allegra, and steroids. Antihistamines prevent cells from recognizing histamines, while steroids can calm the inflammatory effects.

Those with severe allergic reactions prone to anaphylaxis carry epi-pens, which contain a dose of epinephrine injected into the body to open up airways and increase blood pressure to prevent vital organs from starving.

What Does An Allergic Reaction To CBD Look Like?

Some people can experience an allergic reaction to CBD oil, and the signs of CBD allergies can manifest in many ways. Sometimes it's difficult to differentiate between someone having an allergic reaction to CBD or experiencing the mild side effects of CBD.

Potential side-effects of CBD oil include:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea

These adverse effects of CBD oil are common when users take CBD in high doses, so by taking the appropriate dose, you'll avoid these negative experiences.

Allergic reactions look much different than this and may include:

  • Skin irritation: If you're using a CBD topical, it's important to patch test the product on your arm to ensure you don't have a reaction to the CBD or other ingredients in the formula
  • Migraines: The link between allergies and migraines is complex, but it's a common allergy symptom in people with sensitive nervous systems.
  • Difficulty breathing: If you've taken CBD oil and are experiencing difficulty breathing, seek help immediately.

Sometimes it's not the CBD that's causing the allergies, but additional ingredients in product formulations or poor manufacturing practices that result in CBD extracts with contaminants from pesticides, residual solvents, other nasty chemicals, and mold.

How Can You Tell If You're Allergic To CBD

If you think you're experiencing allergic reactions to CBD, you should stop using it and speak with your primary health care professional for advice.

Your doctor can confirm allergies to CBD through two common methods:

  1. Skin Prick Test: Skin tests are the fastest and simplest way to confirm allergies, though they may not be as accurate as testing for antibodies through blood samples. Skin tests are a common way to test for allergies, and it involves taking a diluted form of the allergen, in this case, CBD, and applying it to the skin with a needle. If you're allergic to CBD, you'll see signs of redness and inflammation at the site of the prick.
  2. Blood Testing: Testing for allergies with blood tests is much more accurate. It involves drawing a blood sample and measuring the amount of IgE antibodies.

What Can Cause CBD Allergies?

The immune system is one of the most complicated systems. It's equipped with multiple protective mechanisms to protect us from potential threats like viruses, bacteria, poison, and injury.

Let's go over some of the common culprits of CBD allergies.

Terpene Allergies

Terpenes are a class of naturally occurring compounds in the plant world that contribute to the plant's scent and flavor—they're also the primary constituents of essential oils and may lend their benefits towards health and wellness.

Some of the most notable terpenes in the cannabis plant are pinene, caryophyllene, linalool, and limonene, which are also associated with skin allergies.

Duke University School of medicine conducted a study and found that 20% of the 100 participants had allergic reactions to linalool and limonene through skin patch testing [5].

Full spectrum CBD extracts and broad spectrum CBD contain a range of terpenes to support the benefits of CBD. However, some people may experience some irritation due to the terpenes, which is why they'll opt for CBD isolate.

CBD isolate contains only one ingredient from the cannabis plant—CBD. It may not be as strong or well-balanced as having a CBD oil with a diverse cannabinoid and terpene profile, but it will still provide you with some of the benefits of CBD.

Hemp Seed Allergies

Hemp seed oil is a popular carrier oil for CBD oil. It's used to make CBD extract easier for the body to absorb, dose, and make it more palatable.

While there are instances of people being allergic to hemp seeds, there isn't a lot of research on it.

Some experts believe that the high protein in hemp seeds could lead to allergy symptoms. If you believe you're allergic to hemp seeds, you can ask your doctor for an allergy test to confirm and switch to a CBD oil made with a different carrier oil such as MCT coconut oil or olive oil.

Additional ingredients

It's rarely hemp or CBD itself that causes allergic reactions.

Frequently, allergic reactions to CBD oil could come from additional ingredients like artificial flavors, alcohol, chemical preservatives, and fragrances in the formulation or extract method.

Can CBD Oil Help with Allergies?

One of the most popular reasons people take CBD oil for their health is to support a healthy inflammatory response. CBD has been shown to reduce some of the general effects of inflammation, such as swelling, redness, and pain, but there isn't a substantial body of research surrounding CBD oil's potential to alleviate allergies.

As such, you should not use any CBD product to treat allergies. Consult with your doctor for more guidance on managing your allergy symptoms, especially if you've experienced a severe allergic reaction.

How To Shop For Quality CBD Oil

Though CBD allergies are rare, if you've confirmed that you have an allergic reaction to CBD, there's not much you can do but avoid using it altogether.

If you find that some CBD products feel better for you than others, there may be something else going on that's causing reactions to CBD oil. Here are some quick tips for shopping for CBD products that are good practices overall, regardless of whether you have sensitivities.

  • Check The Ingredient List. Please get in the habit of reading the product's ingredient list before purchasing to ensure it doesn't contain any substances you may be allergic to.
  • Read the Certificate of Analysis (CoA). A non-biased third-party lab usually does a CoA to confirm the safety and purity of hemp extract. This document should be on the company website and will tell you about the cannabinoid and terpene profile of the extract and test for potential contaminants from the farming and extraction process.
  • Shop With Reputable Brands. It seems like there's a new CBD brand popping up every day. Shop with brands that have a trusted record for maintaining quality and integrity with their customers, and you'll run into fewer issues with the product.
  • Speak With Your Doctor: For those seeking CBD to manage symptoms, it's advisable that you speak with your doctor to make sure it's right for you and that it won't cause any negative interactions with current medications.

The Takeaway: Possible Allergic Reaction To CBD Oil

If you're prone to hay fever, sensitive to mold or pet dander, you should be careful when shopping for CBD products as you may also be more suspectable to sensitivities from terpenes, pesticides, mold, or other ingredients in those products.

You must seek advice from your primary health care practitioner if you plan to use CBD to treat or manage any symptoms, as it may cause negative interactions with other medications or worsen symptoms in some cases.

You should always read the full ingredient list, reference the third-party lab tests, and shop with reputable brands as a best practice. At Neurogan, we offer a 30-day money-back guarantee on all our products, so no problem if it doesn't work for you. Send it back, and you'll receive a refund.

Resources:

  1. Nagarkatti, P., Pandey, R., Rieder, S. A., Hegde, V. L., & Nagarkatti, M. (2009). Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future medicinal chemistry, 1(7), 1333-1349.
  2. Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders. Neurotherapeutics, 12(4), 825-836.
  3. Russo, E. B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management, 4(1), 245.
  4. Min, J. Y., & Min, K. B. (2018). Marijuana use is associated with hypersensitivity to multiple allergens in US adults. Drug and alcohol dependence, 182, 74-77.
  5. Nath, N. S., Liu, B., Green, C., & Atwater, A. R. (2017). Contact Allergy to Hydroperoxides of Linalool and D-Limonene in a US Population. Dermatitis : contact, atopic, occupational, drug, 28(5), 313–316.
Katrina Lubiano
Katrina Lubiano

Katrina Lubiano is a content writer in the health and wellness space based in Vancouver, Canada — Canada's epicenter for cannabis culture. When she's not working, she enjoys sailing, watercolor painting, and cooking.