The myths that tarnished the reputation of cannabis for decades are finally starting to subside. Millions of Americans now use cannabis and its derivatives to promote recovery, naturally manage pain, and improve their mental well-being.
However, there is still one question that many first-time users have about the drug — can you be allergic to cannabinoids?
In short, yes. You can be allergic to cannabinoids. However, the reality is usually far more complex than that, as cross-reactivity and other allergy triggers may be the true cause of your reaction.
Symptoms of Cannabinoid Allergy
Like any substance or food, you can be allergic to cannabinoids. However, unlike the allergic reaction you may have while eating peanuts or stroking a cat, some cannabinoids can have mind-altering effects. Thus, if you are taking a substance with THC, it’s best to learn the symptoms of a reaction to avoid paranoia or a bad high.
Typical symptoms of a cannabinoid allergy are similar to other allergic reactions. You may experience:
- A runny nose;
- Itchy, watery, swollen eyes;
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing;
- Skin rashes and hives.
Anaphylaxis has occurred in individuals who ingested hemp seeds, most commonly. This typically presents as a skin rash, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and shock. It’s possible that cannabinoids occur in trace amounts in food or items that you use regularly, so check the ingredients list if you experience any of the above symptoms.
It is worth noting that allergies and side effects are not the same things. You may experience common side effects of CBD products like sleepiness, lack of appetite, and potentially some liver issues. However, most of the research around CBD side effects is in the fledgling stages as the science catches up with the widespread usage.
It is possible to be allergic to cannabinoids. However, it may be that you are experiencing a cross-reaction. This is the interaction of the cannabinoid and another substance within the product you are using or ingesting. This may be the case if you’ve been using cannabinoids previously and suddenly develop a reaction when using a different product or consuming a different food.
If you suspect that cross-reactivity is the cause of your allergy, it may be worth getting in contact with your supplier. They may be using a new ingredient that mixes poorly with the cannabinoid you are using and is causing a reaction. Further, you should note all of your dietary choices surrounding the allergic reaction. Common sources of cross-reactivity with marijuana include:
Avoiding products that use these ingredients — and avoiding them in your diet in conjunction with cannabinoid use — may save you a bad reaction. If you take a close look at your diet, this may also help you figure out the source of your allergy. It could even be unrelated to the cannabinoids and an entirely different allergy in itself.
If you’ve been using cannabinoids for a while and start to feel that you are having reactions unrelated to the above cross-reactions, it may be worth getting in touch with your supplier. At present, not all legalized states require testing for things like pesticides, fungicides, and molds. By contacting the source of your cannabinoid, you can figure out if changes to their production methods have caused your reaction. More and more suppliers are investing in high-tech cannabinoid testing and production to ensure the safety of consumers.
Best Practices to Avoid a Reaction
The best way to avoid a reaction to cannabinoids is, of course, to stop using any cannabinoids. However, the same could be said for any potentially allergy-inducing food or substance. If the allergy isn’t severe, you can implement a trial-and-error strategy.
If you want to use CBD oil to improve your skin, for example, you should start with very small doses. Put a small amount on your forearm for a few days and look out for any forms of bumps, hives, or rashes. If you develop any symptoms, stop using CBD immediately.
If you’re looking to use cannabinoids in higher doses, ensure that you are with trusted friends and have all of your medical details nearby. This might sound like over-preparation, but if something does happen, responsible adults should be able to get you to a medical facility quickly. If your medical history is available, doctors can treat you promptly and efficiently without the allergy escalating to a life-threatening state.
Most people are not severely allergic to cannabinoids. However, allergies can occur — particularly if you have an existing allergy to tomatoes, peaches, or hazelnuts. You can minimize your chance of a bad reaction by using a very small amount. Do not continue to use any type of cannabinoid if you develop a reaction and work with your doctor to ensure your safety.