These days, people claim that cannabidiol (CBD) can help with just about anything under the sun, including allergies.
Unlike germs and other pathogens, allergens are inherently harmless. Things like pollen shouldn’t cause your immune system to go haywire. But in people with specific allergies, the immune system goes into overdrive and attacks “threatening” invaders. This overreaction causes the symptoms we commonly associate with allergies — sneezing, congestion, irritated eyes, itching, and so on.
It’s natural to want some relief from these symptoms, but is CBD really the answer? Find out if CBD can help with allergies.
It’s important to recognize that CBD isn’t a cure-all, and shouldn’t be used as a treatment for severe allergic reactions. Even for mild allergic reactions, you’ll probably have better results with standard allergy treatments than you will with CBD.
Still, research suggests that CBD may have some impact on allergies.
One 2014 animal study on a-pinene, a terpene found in cannabis, suggests that rats pre-treated with the substance had fewer allergy symptoms. You’ll find terpenes in broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD products. However, you’ll need to review the certificate of analysis (COA) for the specific product you’re considering to determine whether it contains a-pinene.
Another animal study published in 2019 looked at the effects of CBD on allergic asthma. The mice that received CBD treatment had reduced symptoms, including airway inflammation.
Research also suggests that because of its anti-inflammatory effects, CBD may help with contact dermatitis.
What we know about CBD and allergies so far is based on animal studies and experimental lab models. Human studies will provide more insight into how CBD can help allergic reactions like contact dermatitis.
Some people may not tolerate CBD and can experience side effects.
It’s also possible to be allergic to certain terpenes such as linalool and D-limonene.
There’s also one recorded case of someone having an Epidiolex-induced skin rash. Epidiolex is the only Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved CBD drug treatment that treats a rare form of epilepsy.
Typical treatments for allergies include:
Your best bet for avoiding allergies is to stay away from triggers, or try to minimize your exposure to them.
While you may want to try CBD and see if it helps with your allergies, there’s little evidence that CBD is an effective allergy treatment. Traditional treatments are backed by more research.
The World Health Organization (WHO) considers CBD pretty safe. However, CBD shouldn’t be used to treat a severe allergic reaction. Additionally, you shouldn’t use it if you know you’re allergic to terpenes or any of the ingredients in the product you want to try.
It’s also possible to experience side effects from CBD. Some people may experience:
- appetite changes
- weight changes
The FDA doesn’t regulate CBD in the same way as supplements or medications. They also don’t guarantee that over-the-counter (OTC) CBD products are safe or effective.
That means that in some cases, companies market CBD products that don’t actually contain what they say they do. It’s crucial to do your own research before buying CBD products.
Talk to your doctor before trying CBD. There is the potential for CBD to interact with some medications and supplements.
Doing your own research is essential, but what should you be looking for?
Look for products tested by a reputable third-party lab. Each product should come with an up-to-date certificate of analysis (COA). The COA should clearly show how much CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) a product contains and whether it has been tested for contaminants like pesticides, mold, and heavy metals.
CBD brands be open about what goes into their products. Look for brands that are transparent about where they get their hemp and how they manufacture their CBD products.
You can also check the FDA’s warning letter database to see if a company has been sent a warning letter recently. The FDA sends these to companies that make fraudulent, overblown claims about CBD or mislabel their products. You can also do a quick Google search and read what customers have to say about the product.
If you have allergies, it’s important to check ingredient lists to ensure you’re not allergic to anything in the product. That goes for whether you’re taking the CBD orally or applying it topically.
Finally, think about the type of CBD you want. CBD isolate is ideal if you’re looking to avoid THC because it’s pure CBD and contains no additional cannabis plant compounds. However, there’s still the potential for trace THC to show up in any cannabis product.
Broad-spectrum CBD is also THC-free, but it contains terpenes and other compounds from the cannabis plant. Full-spectrum CBD has a little bit of everything, including tiny amounts of THC.
You can buy CBD in different forms, too. Companies sell CBD as topicals, oils, capsules, gummies, and more. If you’re interested in treating a skin allergy, for example, using a CBD cream might be helpful.
If you’ve never taken CBD before, start with a small dose. While CBD is unlikely to cause major side effects, it’s crucial to figure out how your body reacts before taking or applying more.
CBD probably won’t do a better job at treating allergies than traditional treatments. But it probably won’t hurt to try.
Talk to your doctor before taking CBD. This is especially important if you have severe allergies that require an emergency Epipen, or if you currently take medications or supplements.
Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.
Steph Coelho is a freelance writer with chronic migraine who has a particular interest in health and wellness. When she’s not click-clacking away on her keyboard, she’s probably nose-deep in a good book.