Could you be allergic to cannabis? Maybe, let’s talk about it.
It’s that time of year: cars are coated in a layer of pollen as we battle itchy eyes, uncontrollable sneezing, and allergy-induced asthma attacks. So is your cannabis helping or hurting your allergies? Is it possible to be allergic to cannabis?
At the end of the day, cannabis is a plant — and it is possible to be allergic to its pollen or specific compounds found inside it, like THC. We know, we know…we didn’t like hearing that either. The good news is that while cannabis can exacerbate allergies for some people, it can also help with allergic reactions in others.
I have a pollen allergy…does that mean I’m automatically allergic to cannabis?
Not necessarily! The cannabis you purchase for medicinal purposes is from female plants, which do not produce pollen unless they are expressing hermaphroditic male flowers — something that cultivators do everything in their power to avoid. However, if you are around growing cannabis plants, it’s possible that you could be exposed to cannabis pollen, especially if growing outdoors.
How do I know if cannabis is helping or hurting my allergies?
First, it’s important to differentiate between being allergic to a compound in cannabis and having allergic reactions to contaminants that can be found in cannabis, like mold. These are not the same thing. Just because you have an allergic reaction to cannabis once does not mean that you have a cannabis allergy; it could just mean that your supply was contaminated. The best way to avoid contaminated cannabis is to purchase from a dispensary that does their due diligence in reviewing lab reports, like we do at Feel State.
It’s possible to be tested for a cannabis allergy, just like you can be tested for other plant and environmental allergies, but it may be tough to find a doctor in your area capable of it. If you think that you may have a cannabis allergy, track your cannabis use with our free Guidebook Journal and take note of any symptoms that appear after using, such as sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, wheezing, coughing, throat irritation, or ear discomfort. Be sure to also list the method of consumption, cannabinoid, and terpene content when available; it’s possible to have an allergy to just THC or a specific terpene, so identifying those problem compounds can allow you to seek out products that don’t include the things that irritate you.
Note that it’s also possible to develop an allergy to cannabis after months or even years of using it; this is called sensitization. Sensitization happens when your body starts to produce an inflammatory reaction to a specific substance. Over time, this can cause allergies.
That doesn’t sound like me… Is it possible cannabis is helping my allergies instead?
Absolutely! There are compounds in cannabis that may reduce your allergy symptoms. One of the big discomforts of allergies is inflammation, whether that’s of your nasal passages, eyes, lungs, or even skin — and cannabinoids have been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, THC has twenty times the anti-inflammatory potency of aspirin and twice that of hydrocortisone.
Cannabis may also help to reduce the amount of histamine released by antibodies into your system, which is what causes all those uncomfortable symptoms of allergies. Cannabinoids and terpenes like alpha-pinene reduce antibody levels — thereby reducing histamine.
Finally, THC and CBD both show promise as bronchodilators, meaning they may be able to help open up constricted airways. This can be helpful if your allergy symptoms include asthmatic reactions, such as wheezing.
All that said, if you’re experiencing asthma, wheezing, coughing, or sore throat, then inhaling your cannabis may not be the best option; consider a sublingual mint or tincture instead. These take effect within just 5-15 minutes and can be felt for 2-4 hours. Ask your budtender what products are right for you!
If you want to dive deeper into cannabis and allergies, check out this article from Leafly. And if you have a cannabis and allergy story you’d like to share, please hit reply and let us know — we’d love to hear it!