For people seeking natural relief from symptoms such as pain and anxiety, CBD has become top of mind. Among its many benefits is the ability to help relieve allergies. But the rapid rise in CBD use has also led some people to report allergy symptoms because of it.
In this article, we’re going to explore whether CBD helps relieve allergies or whether it causes them.
What causes allergies?
Allergies happen when the body's immune system perceives a foreign substance as harmful. Common allergens include pollen, dust, and mites. When exposed to the allergen, the immune system becomes activated and makes proteins called antibodies. Antibodies attach to the allergen and mark them as “foreign invaders” to be destroyed and eliminated from the body.
During this process, the body releases a chemical called histamine. This is what gives rise to signs and symptoms of allergies. The next time your body encounters to that substance, the immune system remembers it as hazardous. Common allergy symptoms include:
- Nasal stuffiness
- Dry, red, or watery eyes
- Dry skin
- Flushing of face
- Abdominal pain
At times, allergic reactions are so severe that they can be life threatening. This is known as anaphylaxis. Symptoms include:
- Urticaria (hives on the skin)
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the lips or tongue
Allergic reactions to CBD oil
So, can you be allergic to CBD oil? It is possible to develop cannabis or CBD allergies, though it’s mostly common in people who are sensitive to pollen and molds. Studies have noted that some people have allergic tendencies towards marijuana, and it’s not impossible for someone to be allergic to certain compounds in a cannabis plant, including THC or CBD.
Put simply, CBD has the potential to elicit allergic reactions in people who are hypersensitive to it. With that said, it’s imperative to differentiate between the side effects of CBD and the symptoms of CBD allergies. The two are not the same.
CBD side effects vs allergy symptoms
CBD may give rise to mild, short-lived side effects that disappear soon after use. They are more common in first-time users and include:
- Dry eyes and mouth
Allergy symptoms of CBD are entirely different and include:
- Skin redness or rashes
- Itchy skin
- Dry, red, and/or itchy eyes
- Abdominal pain
- Breathing difficulty
The impact of CBD on allergies
It’s possible to use CBD for allergies. While it won’t necessarily make the allergies go away permanently, it can help relieve the irritating symptoms.
CBD interferes with the functions of mediators of inflammation. It blocks the release of histamine from mast cells (inflammatory cells) and keeps the manifestations of allergies like redness, swelling, and pain at bay. CBD essentially exerts similar actions to antihistamine drugs commonly used to treat allergy symptoms.
Reduces airway secretions
The anti-inflammatory action of CBD reduces the amount of secretions in the airways. This helps keep the airways clear and improves breathing. It can also help prevent coughing and wheezing typically associated with allergies and clear up clogged nasal passages and sinuses.
Relieves skin rashes and eczema
CBD (especially topical preparations) may help with skin manifestations of allergies. Eczema is commonly associated with allergies, especially seasonal allergic asthma. CBD helps alleviate the skin redness, flakiness, and itching associated with eczema.
Improves immune homeostasis
Allergies send the immune system into overdrive, and CBD helps stabilize the internal body environment. It interacts with the CB2 receptors located on the immune cells, enhancing immune system homeostasis to restore balance and ward off allergies.
How to use CBD for allergies
Different preparations of CBD are available to counter the symptoms of allergies:
- CBD oil may be used for widespread allergic reactions
- Topical CBD products (like ointments and rubs) can act locally to help manage skin irritation, redness, itchiness, or rashes
- CBD nasal and oral sprays can be used to alleviate respiratory allergy symptoms such as breathing difficulty, cough, and congestion
Do not try treating severe anaphylactic allergic reactions at home using CBD oil. Anaphylaxis is characterized by extreme shortness of breath, swollen lips or gums, and/or the development of skin hives. Anyone experiencing anaphylaxis should proceed to the nearest emergency department immediately, as it can be life threatening if not treated promptly.
How to find out if you’re allergic to CBD
Prior to using CBD (or other cannabis-based products), you should test for a potential allergic reaction. The patch test involves applying a small amount of the product you are about to use (CBD oil, tincture, or ointment) to a small skin area. Leave it on for 24-48 hours. If no skin irritation, redness, or itchiness develops after 48 hours, the product is safe for use.
If you notice skin redness or eruptions, you are likely allergic to one or more of the ingredients in the product, including the CBD. To verify the substance you are allergic to, you may wish to visit an allergy specialist.
If you experience an allergic reaction to CBD oil or another CBD product:
- Immediately stop using the product
- Do not attempt to use CBD oil to chase away allergy symptoms
- If the reaction is severe, seek immediate medical aid and, if necessary, call the poison control helpline
- Book an appointment with an allergy specialist who can run skin allergen tests to determine what substances trigger an allergic reaction
While CBD can help alleviate the signs and symptoms of allergies, in some cases it may actually be the root cause. Doing a patch test prior to trying a new CBD product will help rule out the possibility of an allergic reaction.
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