Allergies are caused by an overactive immune system that treats potentially neutral compounds as a threat to your body.
Allergy symptoms include itching, droopy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, rashes, etc.
People can be allergic to plant pollen (seasonal allergies) or certain foods (food allergies) – and since CBD oil is a plant-based supplement, people are starting to wonder if it can cause an allergic reaction too.
As CBD products become increasingly popular and relevant, it is not uncommon to hear stories about people experiencing adverse reactions to CBD. Whether they were caused by CBD or by a low-quality product is up for discussion, so in this article, we explain everything you should know about CBD and allergies.
From potential allergic reactions to CBD to managing different types of allergies with CBD oil, we will cover it all in this article.
A brief overview of allergies
Allergies can be recognised by their telltale symptoms, such as itching, sneezing, a runny nose and sometimes difficulty breathing.
But what exactly causes allergic reactions?
Researchers have concluded that our immune system is responsible for allergies. Normally, the immune system is able to distinguish between harmless and harmful substances, protecting us against the latter. But sometimes the immune system identifies harmless compounds as potential threats and creates antibodies to eliminate these invaders. Antibodies are released every time the body encounters an allergen.
The most common food allergies are related to foods high in protein, such as soy, wheat and nuts. The high protein content makes hemp seed oil a potential contributor to hemp allergies. However, it is important to mention that hemp seed oil isn’t the most commonly used carrier oil for CBD extracts.
Can you be allergic to CBD oil?
Although not common, CBD products can cause an allergic reaction.
Full-spectrum CBD oil is made from whole hemp plants, so there is a risk of transferring the pollen into the CBD product. When this happens, a person can get in contact with allergens and experience an allergic reaction.
Only male hemp plants are capable of producing pollen. While industrial hemp farmers grow both male and female plants, CBD oils are derived from female ones. This is because female plants yield flowers that are richer in cannabinoid.
There would need to be a cross-pollination to pass the pollen into the CBD extract.
It is important to note that very little is known about the effect hemp pollen might have on CBD. However, high-quality extraction methods might reduce its content to zero.
Studies have shown that the terpenes in CBD oil can also cause allergic reactions. Certain terpenes, such as limonene and linalool, are known to cause skin rashes in those who are sensitive to them. However, allergies to terpenes are extremely rare.
Full-spectrum CBD oil contains a range of terpenes, therefore some users may experience an allergic reaction.
Hemp seed allergy
As mentioned earlier, allergies can be triggered by products with high protein content. Hemp seeds are used as a common base for different CBD products, such as creams, lotions, serums and cooking oils. Hemp seeds are also rich in protein, and when processed differently (unrefined), they may cause some people to experience symptoms such as hives and redness. Users with adverse reactions to hemp seed oil should look for CBD products suspended in different carriers, such as MCT oil or olive oil.
What are the symptoms of being allergic to CBD?
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, individuals with allergies to CBD may show symptoms after inhaling, touching, smoking or eating products containing CBD.
An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system treats a substance as a threat. To protect the body against the ‘invader’, the system produces antibodies called Immunoglobulin E, which trigger an allergic reaction.
These reactions vary from person to person depending on the immune system and the number of Immunoglobulin E in the bloodstream. An allergic reaction may not always occur during the first exposure to the allergen; it may also change over time.
Since CBD oil is derived from the hemp plant, most allergic reactions to CBD are similar to those caused by fungi and pollen. These symptoms should go away if you stop using CBD. Some common allergic reactions to CBD oil include:
- Runny nose;
- Eye irritation;
- Sore throat.
The most common skin reactions to CBD are the following:
- Dry skin;
We will discuss some of these symptoms in more detail.
Can CBD oil cause itching?
It depends on what kind of itching we are talking about. When it comes to red, itchy eyes, they might occur when a person is allergic to CBD oil or any of the additional ingredients such as carrier oil, terpenes, flavourings, etc. The fewer ingredients CBD oil has, the better. The base should only contain cannabidiol (CBD) and MCT oil. It should be stressed that allergic reactions to high-quality CBD products are extremely rare.
CBD can cause itching when applied to the skin, but the itching may not be directly related to CBD. Carefully read the list of ingredients to make sure the product doesn’t contain any skin irritants or potential allergens.
A 2019 report by the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency found that there were at least two cases of itchy skin after using CBD oil (of 221 subjects). One patient took an oral formulation and experienced urticaria. Another person used CBD both orally and topically and also had itching skin.
Can CBD oil give you a rash?
Although users of full-spectrum CBD rarely report any allergic reactions, some forms of CBD can cause a skin rash in certain individuals. This side effect may be more common with Epidiolex, a CBD containing drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (this is not relevant in Lithuania where CBD has not yet been approved as a possible ingredient in medicinal products).
Since Epidiolex has been rigorously clinically tested for both potential benefits and side effects, the prescribing information lists rashes as one of the most common side effects. It also mentions liver problems and itching.
Anyone who experiences these side effects after taking Epidiolex or CBD oil should seek immediate medical attention.
Can you have a bad reaction to CBD oil?
CBD is generally considered an extremely safe compound.
According to a recent review of the safety and side effects of cannabidiol, CBD is well tolerated by the human body. The review looked at CBD servings ranging from 300 to 1,500 mg per day. The study lasted for several weeks and didn’t find any severe or life-threatening side effects.
However, high doses of CBD oil can cause some mild allergic reactions, such as:
- Dry mouth;
- Fluctuation of appetite;
CBD can also interact with various medicinal products. If you are taking any prescription medications and want to add CBD to your daily routine, consult with your doctor to avoid potentially negative interactions. Seek professional advice from holistic practitioners with experience in CBD.
Can CBD oil help with allergies?
CBD supports the endocannabinoid system (ECS), the main regulatory neurochemical network in your body. The ECS keeps all your systems and their organs in a state of homeostasis by producing its own cannabinoid molecules (endocannabinoids).
CBD stimulates the body to produce more of its own cannabinoids through ECS signals. On top of that, it helps maintain optimal levels in the body for the proper regulation of essential functions, including the immune response.
Here is how CBD oil may help with allergies:
5% CBD Oil (Full Spectrum)
15% CBD Oil (Full Spectrum)
30% CBD Oil (Full Spectrum)
CBD capsules (600mg)
CBD can boost your immune system. Allergies don’t just happen. They are caused by an overactive immune system that identifies harmless molecules as potential threats. When CBD is used for allergies, it interacts with CB2 cannabinoid receptors of the immune system, improving the communication between its cells and prompting a healthy immune response. For more information read the article ‘CBD for immune system boost’.
CBD has significant anti-inflammatory effects. The potential positive impact of CBD on allergies is mostly attributed to its anti-inflammatory effects. Again, the endocannabinoid signaling allows CBD to stop the production of pro-inflammatory compounds called cytokines. Reducing inflammation may lower the discomfort associated with allergic reactions.
CBD has antimicrobial properties. Allergies tend to make you more susceptible to infections. CBD and terpenes in full-spectrum CBD oil have antimicrobial properties that can reduce the side effects of allergies. It can be achieved through the CBD’s interaction with the body, which helps it fight off the real infection instead of trying to eradicate the falsely identified ‘invaders’.
CBD improves stress response. Allergies can be distressing both physically and mentally. Increased levels of stress can make the symptoms worse because chronic stress further weakens the immune system. Regular use of CBD oil can help you with sneezing, runny nose, coughing and itching.
Read more in the article ‘CBD for anxiety and stress’.
Below, we take a closer look at how CBD oil can help alleviate different types of allergies.
CBD oil for food allergies
Food allergies can be easily avoided by simply not eating the food that triggers the allergic reaction. The most common symptoms of food allergy are tingling in the mouth, swelling of the lips and hives. Similar symptoms occur after an insect bite; this can also cause swelling at the itching site and shortness of breath. A food allergy usually presents with a combination of these symptoms.
There is also a risk of anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening condition manifested in a severe allergic reaction. During an anaphylactic shock, CBD won’t help because it is not a medication.
However, CBD can relieve the symptoms of common allergies, such as itching, swelling and inflammation.
CBD oil for hay fever
The antibacterial effect of CBD can help mitigate the side effects of seasonal allergies. High-strength (e.g. 30%) full-spectrum CBD oil can open up sinuses and reduce pressure in the airways, preventing nasal congestion. Seasonal allergies cause inflammation and increased histamine production, making it difficult to breathe, eat, drink and speak without a tickling sensation in your throat. Current studies show that CBD oil can reduce these symptoms and the discomfort caused by seasonal allergies.
Benefits of CBD oil for allergies
Although scientists have not yet conducted studies looking into the direct effects of CBD on allergies, there are many reports from CBD users and related studies suggesting that CBD oil can provide relief from various allergies.
Promote an anti-inflammatory response (source);
Mitigate the symptoms of allergic reactions (source);
Block histamine release (source).
As noted by a 2005 study, CBD can inhibit the release of histamines using a similar mechanism to antihistamines. Histamine is the cause of many allergic reactions such as wheezing, sneezing, coughing and red eyes.
An increased concentration of histamines in the body causes inflammation. In addition to the potential inhibitory mechanism on the release of histamine, CBD can also promote an anti-inflammatory response by blocking the release of proinflammatory cytokines. This, in turn, leads to less swelling and irritation that people experience during an allergic reaction.
These health benefits are due to CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system. CBD can boost the immune system through endocannabinoid signaling, making it beneficial in allergy prevention.
CBD dosage for allergies
It is natural to expect some sort of dosage system for CBD oil, but to be honest, there is no one-size-fits-all dosage.
We are all different and therefore our reactions to CBD are also different. Factors such as weight, gender, age, metabolism, the severity of symptoms and the time of day can affect the right dosing interval.
For daily use, to strengthen the immune system, most people choose to take 20 to 50 mg of CBD per day. Depending on your situation, you may need more or less CBD.
Experts suggest that new users start with 1 to 6 mg of CBD per 10 kg of body weight. Don’t give up if you don’t feel immediate effects. Sometimes, CBD may need more time to level the cannabinoid deficiencies and help your body return to homeostasis.
Read more in the article ‘When is the best time to use CBD oil?’
CBD oil and allergies: bottom line
Food allergies and seasonal allergies affect millions of people around the world. While allergic reactions to CBD oil are extremely rare, there have been a few clinical cases of itching, rashes, sneezing, coughing and other typical symptoms of pollen allergy.
You are more likely to have a reaction from products containing other ingredients, such as terpenes, plant-based extracts or other ingredients that you might be sensitive to.
If your CBD oil is infused in hemp seed oil, you may experience a food allergy, in particular if you are allergic to other high-protein plant food, such as soy, wheat or nuts. Fortunately, most premium CBD oils are suspended in MCT oil.
On the other hand, many studies have praised CBD for its immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties. Not only can CBD reduce inflammation, but it can also inhibit the release of histamines, thus easing the common symptoms of allergy.