Just like anything else in this world you can develop an allergy to, cannabis is no different. An estimated 50 million people just in the United States alone suffer from some form of allergy or another.
Allergies are your body’s over-reaction to any foreign substance that it deems harmful. When you come in contact with something you are allergic to, your body produces a substance called immunoglobulin E (IgE). This interacts with the allergen and causes an allergic reaction.
While a cannabis allergy isn’t something that is commonly talked about or well-known, there have been more and more reports on it in the past few years.
Allergies are something that you can either be born with, or develop over time. Interestingly enough, they are also something that can be eliminated in some cases through exposure therapy.
With the rise in popularity of CBD oil, and legalization of marijuana in more countries around the globe, make sure you are aware of the possibility of an allergic reaction happening, what it may look like, and how to treat it.
There are many, many things that one might be allergic to. Some of the ones that are seen most often include:
- Medicine – antibiotics, aspirin, muscle relaxers, NSAID’s, chemotherapy drugs
- Food – peanuts, strawberries, eggs, milk, shellfish, wheat
- Insects – bees, wasps, mosquitoes, dust mites
- Animals – pet dander, urine, saliva
- Pollen/Environmental – flowers, trees, plants, grass, dust, sunlight
Allergies are considered a chronic disease, which is something that occurs frequently or lasts a long time.
When I was a child I was allergic to Tylenol, or rather the acetaminophen that was in it. The reactions that I would get from it included extremely itchy eyes, nose, throat, and ears, and my throat would swell up slightly.
While it was uncomfortable for me, it wasn’t life threatening, and this was one allergy that I was able to overcome through exposure during my childhood and teens. Nowadays when I take Tylenol, the only effect that I sometimes get is a very slightly itchy throat. This is one(very unscientific) example of an allergy being reduced through exposure therapy.
I also developed an allergy to the sun when I was 19, despite having grown up by the beach and spending my entire life outside in the sun. This is something that I’m still dealing with to this day, and I’m 34 now. Definitely puts a bit of a damper on some of the outdoor activities that I enjoy during the warm months, like fishing and softball. Even with massive amounts of sunscreen and protective clothing I will still break out into itchy hives that at some points take weeks to clear up.
Allergies can be extremely frustrating to deal with, especially when it is something that interferes with your day to day life. Antihistamines can be taken in some cases to alleviate allergy symptoms, but can cause some unwanted side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness. There are some non-drowsy formulas available, and studies have shown them to be just as effective as the older, more sedating formulas.
Allergic reactions tend to take form in the respiratory system, as well as producing multiple skin issues. These effects can range from mild to severe, and can be life threatening in some cases. Some of the effects that you may see or feel when experiencing an allergic reaction are:
- Itchy, watery eyes, itchy nose, mouth/throat, ears
- Shortness of breath or tight chest, closing or swelling of throat
- Swelling, localized or all over
- Hives or other skin rash
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
There are ways to test if you are possibly allergic to something. These are generally performed in office by a licensed doctor or medical professional. There are skin tests, where a small amount of the possible allergen is placed on the skin and then poked or scratched into it to determine whether or not there is a reaction, or blood testing.
A severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis, and can be life threatening. Symptoms of this include swelling of the throat or mouth, difficulty breathing, blue skin or lips, or losing consciousness. Reactions of this type need immediate medical attention.
What A Cannabis Allergy Can Look Like
An allergy of this sort can manifest in any of the typical symptoms listed above. Very few cases dealing with cannabis and anaphylaxis have been reported, but there have been some, mainly occurring when ingesting hemp seeds.
If you suspect that you may be allergic to cannabis, similar skin testing would be performed by an allergist, by preparing a mixture of the leaves, buds, flowers etc. and then poking a small amount into the skin.
A very small study was published that may establish a possible link between cannabis and other allergies. It suggests that one may be more likely to develop a cannabis allergy if they are allergic to animal dander, different types of molds, some plants, or dust mites.
More research is needed in this area in order to confirm this possible link.
As studies have shown, there are a few different causes for an allergic reaction to cannabis.
The pollen that cannabis produces has been shown in some cases to cause an allergic reaction, and people with a sensitivity to this are also more likely to have a reaction from the pollen of other plants and flowers.
Another common cause for an allergic reaction to cannabis is mold. When stored for longer periods of time, or in less than ideal or damp conditions, cannabis can definitely grow mold on it. Some people who experience a reaction may not be reacting to the cannabis itself, but rather the mold that comes along with it.
The proteins in cannabis are very much alike those in some other foods, such as peaches, tomatoes, bananas, almonds, eggplant, grapefruit, and more. People who are already allergic to these food items may also experience an allergic reaction when consuming cannabis.
You can also develop a cannabis allergy by ingesting too much cannabis over a long period of time. Frequent prolonged use of cannabis can lead to Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome(CHS). This is a condition where one experiences repeated vomiting, sometimes very severe. This can happen to anyone regardless of how often or not they use it.
CBD is mainly produced from hemp, which is low in THC, but high in CBD. The opposite is true for marijuana, which is high in THC, but low in CBD. They both come from the same family of plants, cannabis, and either plant has the possibility of causing an allergic reaction.
CBD is widely available in a number of different forms, such as oils, edibles, vape products, and topicals. Any one of these, whether consumed orally or applied topically, can cause a reaction.
When starting on CBD for the first time, make sure you begin at a very low dose, and watch carefully for any signs that your body may be reacting negatively.
Choosing a product that goes through extensive testing for purity, and is 100% organic and grown with no harmful pesticides or toxins will always be your best choice, especially when it comes to anyone who is sensitive to mold.
Always choose a company that specifically tests for these toxins and other unwanted possible contaminants. There are plenty of companies out there that only test for cannabinoid content, and nothing more, and these are definitely ones you want to avoid.