We’ve heard of the number of ways cannabidiol (CBD) can benefit us – alleviate acute/chronic pain, manage anxiety, fight inflammation, stress, insomnia, and attention deficit.
Quite a few studies  on CBD have shown that it has anti-histamine properties that can provide relief from nasal blockage, sneezing, or allergic reaction to pollen, dust mites, or even animal dander or hair.
But, we’ve also heard of certain side effects of consuming hemp extracts – even if they’re lab tested and are of good quality. They include nausea (rare cases), diarrhea (also rare), fatigue (one usually feels a bit drowsy when taken in high doses), loss of appetite and/or weight (quite rare too), low blood pressure and lightheadedness, and dryness of mouth (happens usually if vaped or smoked).
Are there any other ways that people could experience an allergic reaction to CBD, or its other components – other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, hemp seed oil, fatty acids, etc.?
Studies [1, 2] have shown that CBD oil, especially if administered topically can help with different kinds of allergic reactions, like bug bites, seasonal rashes, toxic reaction to food, pollen, metals, etc. CBD oil, when taken orally (sublingually or ingested), can also help with internal inflammation and pain.
Besides, we’ve also learned that CBD, when applied on the skin, doesn’t usually reach the bloodstream before addressing the affected (localized pain, rash, etc.) areas. But then, is it possible that the very agents that help cure skin issues can be responsible for triggering skin issues? Let’s find out…
Allergic reactions to cannabis & their causes
Cannabis, whether it is hemp or marijuana, is but a plant. While some people are allergic to pollen, others are allergic to peanuts. Many people have pets at home, but only some are allergic to their dander/hair. In fact, over 50 million Americans suffer from some kind of allergy. The relationship between our biological system and nature can be quite complex. Not everyone reacts to the elements in the same way.
It has usually been seen that people who are otherwise allergic to some of nature’s common allergens , like molds, dust mites, cat dander, or plants, are also more vulnerable to weed allergy. Sometimes one need not smoke it to exhibit allergic reactions. At times, simply inhaling marijuana pollen or coming in direct (skin) contact with the plant can trigger an allergic reaction. And, of course, eating marijuana leaves can have similar reactions too. 
Some of the common signs of cannabis allergy are:
- Dry cough & throat congestion
- Running nose & sneezing
- Sore throat
- Redness and irritation of the eyes, constant watering
Additional skin reactions may include:
- Dry skin
- Skin irritation
- Redness and inflammation of the skin
While some people react immediately on coming in contact with marijuana, others may take an hour or so to experience anything is wrong.
A more severe, but rare form of an allergic reaction to marijuana is a condition, known as anaphylaxis, which can turn fatal within seconds of coming in contact with the plant or its extracts. You’ll know you or any other person is experiencing this condition when you see these signs:
- Unable to breathe
- Feeling dizzy, unable to see clearly, loss of consciousness
- Itchy and flushed/pale skin
- Experiencing a sudden drop in blood pressure
- Sudden swelling of the tongue and/or throat
- Erratic and/or weak pulse rate
- A sudden surge of nausea, followed by vomiting
An anaphylactic shock can send an individual into a coma or even kill him.
Other triggers suggesting you’re allergic to cannabis
It’s possible you may not know if you’re allergic to marijuana. However, if you have experienced any sort of allergic reaction to any of the following foods , you are most likely to suffer from the same symptoms when you come in contact with marijuana:
The reason for that is that these foods share a similar protein structure as marijuana [9, 10].
Then, does it mean you can be allergic to CBD and all of the components of CBD oil? Not necessarily. It’s more of a maybe-yes-maybe-no kind of situation. Let’s find out why!
Can you be allergic to CBD oil?
Although it has generally been seen that CBD oil has antihistamine and anti-allergic properties, it can sometimes be the cause for allergies.
To determine if you’re allergic to CBD oil, you must first understand the properties of its ingredients.
Full-spectrum CBD oil contains a wide range of cannabinoids, including CBD and even THC, terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, and hemp seed oil (or other carrier oils like MCT, olive oil, etc.). To ascertain the effects of CBD oil we need to understand the effects of these individual components.
In the case of broad-spectrum CBD oils, you can forget about THC’s effects, as they are removed from the equation.
In the case of products containing only CBD isolates, you don’t have to worry about any of the other components, except CBD.
Coming back to full-spectrum CBD oils, we have all heard of the entourage effect. This is why a lot of people are keen on trying out this type of CBD product, as they believe they would get a synergistic benefit of all these components, most of which have been independently found to be great for the body and mind.
While the entourage effect has been proven to a certain extent by some scientists [6, 7], i.e. all these components enhance the effects of CBD and the presence of CBD suppresses the effects of psychoactive compounds (cannabinoids) like THC, not much is known for certain.
So for convenience sake, we will look into three distinct forms of Cannabis extracts – Full-Spectrum CBD oil, Hemp seed oil, and CBD isolate – and discuss their allergy profiles.
Full-Spectrum CBD oil
Although many people have felt a wholesome experience from using full-spectrum CBD oil, many others have suffered an allergic reaction after using it.
This type of CBD oil contains up to 0.3% of THC — a known allergen.
While terpenes have a variety of therapeutic benefits, they may also be responsible for the allergic reaction people experience when they consume full-spectrum CBD oil. For example, linalool has been found to trigger an allergic reaction, especially on skin, when oxidized .
Now coming to hemp seed oil, which is often used as carrier oil while making CBD oils, people have found it to be quite beneficial. However, those who have marijuana allergy will exhibit the same allergic reaction to this component (a plant extract after all) as the rest of the plant (ingested, smoked, consumed sublingually, or vaped).
Besides, people who are allergic to plants or plant extracts will usually experience an allergic reaction to marijuana or hemp extract as well. The most intrinsic cause for marijuana/hemp allergy is the group of proteins or more precisely, the Lipid Transfer Proteins (LTPs) , contained in cannabis. This is present in the hemp seed oil, the fatty acids, the flavonoids, and basically most parts of the cannabis extract. The cannabinoids are chemical compounds that have some very different effects when isolated.
Hemp Seed Oil
Most of the research studies done on cannabis have focused mostly on CBD and THC, with not much information on hemp seed oil is currently available. However, as we mentioned a bit earlier, hemp seed oil may also cause an allergic reaction similar to what’s known as cannabis allergy, as it contains the same proteins.
Ah! This is where things get a little interesting!
CBD and other non-psychoactive components usually do not pose any threat to the human constitution; unless you consume 20,000mg of CBD all at one go .
While CBD itself seems to have a comparatively better safety profile , mixing it with any carrier oil that is extracted from plants (cannabis or otherwise) can still have the same effect, if you’re allergic to these plants. For instance, hemp seed oil, olive oil, or MCT, which is a derivative of coconut oil. Although coconut oil is not extracted from a seed or nut, it can still have a similar effect, if you’re specifically allergic to it.
However, consuming too much CBD may also trigger some adverse effects, like drowsiness, nausea, lightheadedness, low blood pressure, and dry mouth. You must understand, CBD is, after all, a chemical compound, and any chemical compound put into the body will cause some effects that may not always be desirable.
That is why it is always advised to practice restraint while exposing our body to any new chemical. And, of course, consult your doctor before you do so.
What makes a person allergic to CBD oil?
Why is anyone allergic to anything in nature? And what triggers it?
The short answer is histamines.
Histamines are hormones secreted by mast cells of the body. Mast cells are part of our body’s immune system and are distributed all over our body. The moment the mast cells detect any foreign entity in our system, it repels them by secreting histamines. This triggers a range of reactions in our body – from sneezing, rashes, and coughing to inflammation, soreness, watery eyes, dizziness and even anaphylactic shock.
Which part of cannabis triggers the release of histamines?
Like most other plants, marijuana or hemp is known to contain Lipid Transfer Proteins (LTPs), a group of proteins, which kick up quite a storm inside our entire system. These potential allergens are found in different plant-based foods and pollen. These trigger an overproduction of histamines in the body that tells your body that you’re allergic to those plants.
According to a 2019 study  published in The Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology: In Practice, about 80% of the cannabis allergy patients tested exhibited signs of sensitivity to the “Can s 3” protein, which was prevalent in the strain of cannabis used.
Another study , published in the French Journal of Clinical Pneumology in 2017, showed cross-reactivity of other plants having similar proteins as cannabis.
CBD oil interaction with prescription medications
CBD oil indeed has a good safety profile. It does not usually interact with prescription drugs. But when it does, it can cause some mild to severe side effects, ranging from ineffectiveness or delayed effectiveness of those medications to overstaying of those drugs in the system, leading to some quite dangerous consequences.
Certain medications that interact with CBD are steroids, beta-blockers, antihistamines, immune modulators, benzodiazepines, antiarrhythmics, antibiotics, anesthetics, antipsychotics, antidepressants, etc.
Our Takeaway: The solution
People who generally suffer from different kinds of allergies must be extra careful while using CBD oil. Look for CBD isolates; they have much lower chances of triggering an allergic reaction.
If you are using CBD isolates to make your vape juice or tinctures, be careful to avoid ingredients you may be allergic to. Besides, it is also a good idea to make your own CBD oil at home in case you’re allergic to some plant extracts. That way, you can have absolute control over your CBD oil.
Moreover, check to see if you’re allergic to the plants/plant derivatives we’ve mentioned that have a similar protein profile. If you are allergic to those, you are most likely to experience an allergy reaction.
If you buy your CBD oil from a local vendor or online, always trust brands that make the third-party lab reports of their products public. This will tell you if you’re going to encounter any known allergens.
Lastly, consult your family doctor or a physician who is aware of your medical history. The doctor will, most probably, run a few diagnostic tests on your skin and blood to establish your allergy profile.
No matter what, always stay safe.
Research citations [n]:
- A therapeutic effect of CBD-enriched ointment in inflammatory skin diseases and cutaneous scars; Clinical Therapeutics; March-April 2019; Palmieri B, Laurino C, Vadalà M; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30993303
- Cannabinoids in dermatology: a scoping review; Dermatology Online Journal; June 15, 2018; Eagleston LRM, Kalani NK, Patel RR, Flaten HK, Dunnick CA, Dellavalle RP; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30142706
- Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment; Molecules; September 27, 2018; Natascia Bruni, Carlo Della Pepa, Simonetta Oliaro-Bosso, Enrica Pessione, Daniela Gastaldi, and Franco Dosio; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6222489/
- Marijuana use is associated with hypersensitivity to multiple allergens in US adults; Drug and Alcohol Dependence; Volume 182, 1 January 2018, Pages 74-77; Jin-YoungMina & Kyoung-BokMin; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376871617305550
- Allergy Testing; American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology; https://acaai.org/allergies/allergy-treatment/allergy-testing
- The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain; Frontiers in Plant Science; January 9, 2019; Ethan B Russo; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6334252/
- Potential Clinical Benefits of CBD-Rich Cannabis Extracts Over Purified CBD in Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy: Observational Data Meta-analysis; Frontiers in Neurology; September 12, 2018; Fabricio A. Pamplona,1,* Lorenzo Rolim da Silva,2 and Ana Carolina Coan; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6143706/
- [Cannabis and crossed allergy with food]; Revue de Pneumologie Clinique (French, translated as Pulmonology Clinic Review; Nov 6, 2017; Drouet M, Hoppe A, Moreau AS, Bonneau JC, Leclere JM, Le Sellin J; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29122396
- New food allergies in a European non-Mediterranean region: is Cannabis sativa to blame? International Archives of Allergy & Immunology; Mar 15, 2013; Ebo DG, Swerts S, Sabato V, Hagendorens MM, Bridts CH, Jorens PG, De Clerck LS; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23549061?dopt=Abstract
- Sensitization and allergy to Cannabis sativa leaves in a population of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum)-sensitized patients; International Archives of Allergy & Immunology; Feb 11, 2008; de Larramendi CH, Carnés J, García-Abujeta JL, García-Endrino A, Muñoz-Palomino E, Huertas AJ, Fernández-Caldas E, Ferrer A; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18268387?dopt=Abstract
- Linalool – a significant contact sensitizer after air exposure; Johanna Bråred Christensson Mihály Matura Birgitta Gruvberger Magnus Bruze Ann‐Therese Karlberg; January 19, 2010; https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1600-0536.2009.01657.x
- Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa Constituent; Current Drug Safety, 2011; Mateus Machado Bergamaschi , Regina Helena Costa Queiroz, José Alexandre S. Crippa and Antonio Waldo Zuardi;
- An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies; Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research; June 1, 2017; Kerstin Iffland and Franjo Grotenhermen; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/#s028title
- Exploring the Diagnosis and Profile of Cannabis Allergy; The Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology: In Practice; March 2019; Ine Ilona Decuyper, MD, Athina Ludovica Van Gasse, MD, Margaretha A Faber, MD, PhD, Jessy Elst, MSc, Christel Mertens, MLT, Hans-Peter Rihs, PhD, Margo M Hagendorens, MD, PhD, Vito Sabato, MD, PhD, Hilde Lapeere, MD, PhD, Chris H Bridts, MLT, Luc S De Clerck, MD, PhD, Didier Gaston Ebo, MD, PhD; https://www.jaci-inpractice.org/article/S2213-2198(18)30594-4/abstract
Table of Contents
- 1 Allergic reactions to cannabis & their causes
- 2 Other triggers suggesting you’re allergic to cannabis
- 3 Can you be allergic to CBD oil?
- 4 What makes a person allergic to CBD oil?