According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), roughly 50 million Americans experience allergies each year. Perhaps even more surprising is that allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness.
With that in mind, is it at all surprising that the pharmaceutical industry makes a killing through prescription and over-the-counter allergy medications? Unfortunately, there’s no magical cure for allergies. Some get them, and some dodge the genetic bullet. But if you deal with issues like allergic rhinitis (hay fever); or experience sensitivities to foods, drinks, or topical products, allergy symptoms can quickly ruin your day.
CBD for allergies isn’t a novel idea, but it hasn’t received a lot of mainstream attention. Then again, the key to CBD’s anti-allergic benefits (if any) may lie in its other effects.
But can CBD products prevent allergy symptoms from seasonal allergies, contact allergies, certain foods, or other triggers?
Existing evidence suggests it’s indirectly possible.
How Does CBD Work?
CBD is a phytocannabinoid, which means it’s a cannabis Sativa constituent found outside the body – specifically in the plant species of the same name.
However, we also produce internal varieties of these compounds called “endocannabinoids.” These play a crucial role in maintaining mental and physical homeostasis – a critical state of equilibrium.
We wouldn’t access these essential benefits and functions without the CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors, located primarily in the central and peripheral systems, respectively. These are the driving forces behind our endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Some cannabinoids bind to both the CB1 and CB2 (like THC), while others only interact with one. In some cases, certain phytocannabinoids don’t attach to either; CBD is one of them.
Instead, CBD works through other pathways, eventually altering the shape of the endocannabinoid receptors and, in turn, the way they respond to cannabinoids. This effect allows CBD to modify or even block the effects of other cannabinoids.
What Are The Benefits of CBD That May Help with Allergies?
Evidence for CBD’s therapeutic value continues to mount. “Hemp” or “marijuana” derived CBD products have a long list of alleged health effects.
While we’re still separating fact from fiction, increased interest in CBD and cannabinoid medicine found unveiled some potentially good news for allergy sufferers everywhere.
Although it’s uncertain whether CBD targets allergies, many allergic reactions trigger symptoms that CBD is strongly believed to address.
There is a lot of evidence that suggests CBD may have anti-inflammatory properties. Many people believe it helps reduce swelling from chronic illnesses, like arthritis, or injuries, such as sprains.
Allergy symptoms vary, but skin irritations are often the result of seasonal allergies or other sensitivities.
People exposed to allergens may experience rashes, hives, swollen faces, or puffy eyes. But is CBD effective on allergic reactions like these? Research suggests it’s possible, especially since CBD’s anti-inflammatory benefits have strong (but not conclusive) scientific support.
A 2018 review in the Journal of Pain Research showed CBD reduced inflammation associated with chronic pain. Admittedly, research doesn’t focus on CBD’s anti-inflammatory impact on allergic reactions. But if CBD products help reduce inflammation from chronic pain, allergic reactions may see similar anti-inflammatory results.
Some allergic reactions can cause gastrointestinal irritation. Certain foods, like milk, can spell big trouble for anyone lactose intolerant. Nausea, vomiting, and gas are just a few of the symptoms caused by food sensitivity. And that doesn’t count a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.
Every human being knows how unpleasant gut issues can be, whether they’re allergic or not.
If you have food allergies or other sensitivities, there’s a notable about of information suggesting CBD’s many benefits to gut health.
The Canadian Digestive Health Foundation points out CBD’s beneficial effects on gastrointestinal health. They mention preliminary evidence that CBD can help with colitis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Both of these are ultimately the result of inflammation in the intestines.
More importantly, inflammation is a typical immune response that affects the intestines in the same way. So, if the inflammatory responses triggered by IBS and colitis could respond well to CBD, could we see the same effect for allergies? Again, that’s a big “maybe,” but a promising one.
Immune System Balance
Allergic reactions are excessive immune responses to something benign that your body perceives as hostile. This immune reaction is the driving force behind inflammation, gastrointestinal problems, and other unpleasant symptoms.
If CBD’s effects can curb the immune reaction, it may help people experience fewer allergy symptoms. There’s strong evidence of CBD’s involvement with our body’s internal defense system.
A 2015 publication in the Journal of Immunology discovered that CBD and THC might both help suppress the immune response that triggers an allergic reaction, making them useful against an overactive immune system.
CBD for Allergies: Does CBD Oil Help with Allergies?
CBD oil may help reduce allergy symptoms incidentally due to its potential therapeutic effects, precisely thanks to its immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory properties. Most experiments involve ingestible CBD, which strengthens the case for oral CBD products like oil.
Mild symptoms from hay fever aren’t dangerous, but a severe allergic reaction isn’t appropriate for CBD. If you experience anaphylaxis or any other strong immune system response, immediately seek medical attention.
Studies on CBD and allergies have been promising and alarming, depending on the condition. A 2020 review of existing literature published in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology explains that “Several studies have demonstrated the participation of the ECS in the development and maintenance of allergic diseases, but the data related to the actual role of cannabinoids in allergy are still controversial.”
However, they also note, “In contrast, other studies have shown that CBR-2 (CB2)-mediated signalling contributes to the exacerbation of asthma.”
So, on the one hand, CBD could help relieve some allergy symptoms but might be dangerous for others. This unpredictability is why you have to be very careful when experimenting with supplements.
How Does CBD Compare to Other Allergy Treatments?
CBD (as far as we know) doesn’t block histamine to relieve allergy symptoms. It’s not comparable to Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or Claritin (loratadine).
From what people say about CBD, the side effects (if any) are much less severe than some OTC drugs. Benadryl, for instance, is notorious for its sedative properties. While CBD allegedly triggers relaxation, it won’t put you to sleep in the middle of the day.
Is CBD as effective as OTC allergy medication? That’s a question experts still can’t answer.
Is It Safe to Try CBD for Allergies?
CBD is considered relatively safe, with no potential for abuse or addiction. However, there could be issues if you use certain prescription medications. Don’t try CBD oil before speaking with your doctor.
What CBD the is Best for Allergies?
Let’s assume a future hard-hitting peer-reviewed study proves CBD works for allergies and ends up on drug store shelves. What kind of products would they be, and what would the instructions say?
The CBD products will likely be just like other allergy medications, available in oral or topical formats.
Broad-spectrum CBD would be the best option since it carries a variety of other compounds that can contribute to the overall effect without THC (although topical THC won’t cause intoxication).
Properly cultivated, extracted, and tested CBD is the best choice. The trick is how to spot it.
Third-Party Lab Reports
Third-party lab reports are a must-have for any CBD vendor worth its salt. If they don’t test their products, it’s a sign of laziness. And if they’re too lazy to test their products, odds are they cut corners in other, potentially dangerous ways.
Certificate of Analysis
A certificate of analysis is the most reliable way to confirm the quality of your CBD. It verifies that the product was tested (potentially several times). COAs contain crucial information like ingredients, contaminant levels, and cannabinoid content.
The reports should be easy to read and contain all the information necessary to make the correct purchase. For an excellent example, check out these lab reports from Colorado Botanicals.
But don’t assume all reports are accurate. Some companies fake their results. To verify authenticity, look for the following red flags:
- Lab tests are done in-house
- Testing company isn’t listed on the paper
- Missing information (i.e., contaminants, THC, terpenes)
- Sloppy presentation (different fonts, misaligned letters, faded images, etc.)
Would you go to a car dealership that won’t say anything about the models they sell? We hope not! So it’s fair to say the same logic applies to anything you buy, including CBD products.
Trust your instinct. If a company seems shady, it likely is. Here are a few things to look for:
- Are the ingredients listed?
- Do they mention their hemp source?
- Is the vendor’s customer care accessible and helpful?
- Is the Certificate of Analysis (COA) posted and accessible?
- What (if any) guarantee do they offer?
Businesses understand that reputation can make or break them. A brand may seem reputable, but sometimes their internal practices don’t reflect their big words and fancy labels. However, if something’s rotten inside, it eventually shows on the outside. Sloppy procedures can have disastrous results for customers.
Unfortunately, many review sites are biased, often exaggerating a product’s benefits while downplaying or excluding severe pain points. See what independent reviews tell you before buying CBD oil, softgels, or other products. Try sites like Reddit or Trustpilot, where you find experiences from genuine customers.
Odds are, you’ll see a plethora of opinions covering products, customer service, shipping, and more. There will always be unhappy clients, so don’t let a few bad reviews sway you. Instead, see what those reviews tell you and check if the good opinions substantially outweigh the bad.
Can You Be Allergic to CBD Oil?
To date, we don’t know if CBD itself causes allergic reactions. However, the cannabis plant – like many plants and plant products – may cause mild allergic reactions. These include spring allergy symptoms like sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, and coughing.
Cannabis might also cause skin irritations, like rashes or hives. It could potentially trigger anaphylaxis as well. This is because terpenes in common plants cause some allergies.
Unfortunately, we have little to go on at the moment. A single small 2018 study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence noted that people who have allergies to multiple allergens like animal dander, dust mites, pollen, fruits, or vegetables are more likely to experience adverse reactions.
However, we need a lot more research to determine the validity of those findings.
How Much CBD to Take for Allergies?
Aside from the FDA-approved epilepsy drug Epidiolex, there are no dosing guidelines for CBD products.
The golden rule for dosing cannabis is “start low and go slow.” Start with a low dose and work your way up. We suggest this CBD dosage calculator if you’re at a loss for where to begin.
How Long Does CBD Oil Help with Allergies?
As we mentioned earlier, CBD oil (or any ingestible CBD) can remain effective for up to eight hours. However, over time, you may notice the effects waning. This is a sign you’ve built a tolerance to CBD, which will likely require a gradual dosage increase.
Summary: CBD Oil and Allergies
CBD oil for allergies is a unique concept. The cannabinoid’s immune system suppression and anti-inflammatory properties are well-documented but primarily anecdotal evidence.
Still, people might use CBD oils as alternatives to over-the-counter or prescription drug administration. Although CBD for allergies may seem like a good idea, cannabis plant medicine has a long way to go. Don’t try CBD without talking to a medical professional.
AAFA. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2021, from https://www.aafa.org/allergy-facts/.
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Darkovska-Serafimovska, M., Serafimovska, T., Arsova-Sarafinovska, Z., Stefanoski, S., Keskovski, Z., & Balkanov, T. (2018, April 23). Pharmacotherapeutic considerations for use of cannabinoids to relieve pain in patients with malignant diseases. Journal of pain research. Retrieved December 6, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5922297/.
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Published November 23, 2021. (2021, November 23). Curaleaf now faces 7 suits in Oregon over CBD-THC mix-up. Hemp Industry Daily. Retrieved December 6, 2021, from https://hempindustrydaily.com/curaleaf-now-faces-7-suits-in-oregon-over-cbd-thc-mix-up/.
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