What to Know About CBD for Allergies

Allergies can greatly affect a person’s quality of life, causing symptoms like sneezing, congestion, rash, and swelling. These symptoms can disrupt your daily life, by causing discomfort, sleep loss, and lower productivity at work. If you experience any or all of these symptoms, it’s natural to want to seek relief.

People with allergies may consider CBD (cannabidiol) to help relieve their symptoms. While research into the effects of CBD on allergies is limited, there is evidence that the compound can help relieve pain and inflammation, and mitigate some of the body’s immune responses to allergens.

This article will discuss how CBD can help with allergies, the best types of CBD to use, and any side effects.

Girl wiping nose with tissue in a field

Martin Leigh / Getty Images

CBD and the Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a role in many of the body’s systems and processes, including metabolism, immunity, and the central and peripheral nervous systems. The body produces cannabinoids that are received by cannabinoid receptors to keep the body functioning normally.

Cannabinoids help regulate the immune system by lowering inflammation in the body. When the body’s cannabinoid system is not working properly, inflammatory and immune-related disorders, such as allergies, can occur.

Because it’s a cannabinoid, CBD may be helpful in relieving allergy symptoms such as itchy eyes, congestion, and runny nose.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD oil is derived from the cannabis sativa plant, otherwise known as marijuana. Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the other cannabinoid compound derived from the cannabis plant, CBD is non-psychoactive.

While CBD and THC are the most commonly discussed compounds from the cannabis plant, more than 100 other cannabinoids have been identified.

CBD vs. Hemp Seed Oil 

The cannabis sativa plant has been cultivated in two different ways: “drug hemp” (marijuana) and “industrial hemp” (hemp). Drug hemp contains high levels of THC, whereas industrial hemp has a THC level less than 0.3%.

Hemp plants grown for recreational or medicinal use have high THC and high CBD levels.

Industrial hemp is legal throughout the United States and is grown for fiber, paper, hemp seeds, construction materials, textiles, and hempseed oil.

Like CBD oil, hempseed oil has been touted for its health benefits. Hempseed oil is known for its nutritional value, as it contains a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Hempseed oil also contains polyphenols, tocopherols, proteins, and carbohydrates, which have nutritional benefits.

Cannabis Allergy

While you may seek CBD or hemp to treat your allergies, be aware it’s possible to develop an allergy to cannabis itself. Hemp allergy is similar to other allergies, like pollen allergies. Symptoms can range from skin irritations, like rashes or hives, to respiratory afflictions such as asthma, congestion, and runny nose.

Though more research needs to be done, smoking marijuana or hemp may increase the likelihood of developing asthma and other allergic diseases. If you have allergic asthma, you may want to avoid smoking the compound.

Allergy Symptoms and Triggers 

Allergies occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to a foreign substance that is normally harmless in most people. Common allergens include, but are not limited to:

  • Pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Pets and farm animals
  • Insect stings and bites
  • Foods
  • Medication
  • Contact allergens, such as metals for fragrance ingredients
  • Mold

Many allergies are triggered by situations and environmental factors, such as a bee sting or eating certain foods.

Seasonal allergies can be triggered by pollen in the air when plants are blooming. Pet allergies can be triggered upon entering someone’s home where there is pet dander in the air.

Any of these types of triggers can cause symptoms. Common allergy symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Runny nose, coughing, and sneezing
  • Breathing problems
  • Watery or swollen eyes
  • Itching
  • Rash or hives
  • Stomach or bowel problems

When to Seek Emergency Help

If you experience difficulty breathing or your throat begins to close or swell, call 911 immediately. This can be a sign of a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.

CBD for Allergies

While research into the effects of CBD on allergies has been limited mainly to small studies and animal studies, there is promise that CBD can help mitigate or eliminate allergic symptoms and reactions.

Congestion

CBD is known to work on one of the pathways of the ECS that produces histamine-activating cells in the body. There is some evidence that CBD could greatly reduce the amount of histamine produced in an allergic reaction, which would reduce congestion.

Skin Rashes

The ECS helps regulate and control immune function in the body, and more recent research suggests that the ECS also plays a role in maintaining skin health.

Some studies suggest that CBD applied directly to the skin can help with rashes and other inflammatory conditions of the skin, such as eczema, but further research is still needed.

What Are the Side Effects of CBD? 

Studies have shown that CBD is relatively safe to consume, however these studies are limited. Further research is needed to determine the effects of CBD on the entire body and its effects over long-term consumption.

The most common side effects of CBD are:

  • Drowsiness or lethargy
  • Mood changes and irritability
  • Lower appetite and weight loss
  • Diarrhea

Best CBD for Allergies 

The most common methods for consuming CBD for allergies and inflammation are topical treatments, herbal extracts, and edibles. Choosing a method depends on the type of allergy symptom being treated.

For rashes and skin inflammation, a topical cream or ointment may be best. For hay fever and other full-body symptoms, an herbal extract, edible, or nasal spray might work best. A nasal CBD spray may be beneficial, as the lining of the nose is thin, and CBD can pass directly into the blood, which produces faster effects.

The other factor to consider is the type of CBD: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or an isolate.

  • Full-spectrum CBD uses all extracts of the cannabis plant, which includes CBD, terpenes, flavonoids, essential oils, and other cannabinoids. The THC concentration in full-spectrum is 0.3% or less.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD contains CBD and other cannabinoids, but it has no THC.
  • A CBD isolate is pure CBD with no other parts of the cannabis plant.

The “Entourage Effect”

Some evidence suggests that broad- or full-spectrum CBD produces better benefits, due to the synergistic effects of the other compounds within the spectrum, including THC. This is known as the “entourage effect.”

Dosage

CBD dosage will depend on the delivery method chosen and what symptom is being treated.

Doses ranging from 300 mg to 600 mg have been shown to help treat anxiety disorders. Another study showed that a dosage of 25 mg helped improve poor sleep.

There is very little regulation on the dosing of CBD, so you may need to experiment until you find the right dose for your body and symptoms. You can also talk to your healthcare provider about appropriate dosing.

How to Buy CBD

Buying CBD will depend on where you live. In states where marijuana, and thus CBD derived from the “drug hemp,” is legal, you can find CBD at a dispensary. In states where marijuana is not legal, you will have to buy CBD that is derived from “industrial hemp.” As with all supplements, it is best to research the product to make sure it’s good quality.

A Word From Verywell

While much research still needs to be done on CBD and its effects, there is promise that it could be useful for treating allergy symptoms. If you are considering taking CBD to help alleviate symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider to discuss the best options. In the meantime, remember that there are many over-the-counter antihistamines that can help with seasonal and year-round allergies.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is CBD a decongestant?

    CBD is not a decongestant, but it is theorized to work on the endocannabinoid system, which can reduce inflammation and congestion.

  • How do you use CBD for allergies?

    Using CBD for allergy treatment can be used the same way as other allergy medications, though it is important to note that the FDA has not approved CBD use for allergies. If you choose to try CBD to help manage your allergy symptoms, you can use a nasal spray, edible, or topical treatment.

  • Can CBD make respiratory problems worse?

    Allergic asthma can worsen in people who are allergic to CBD, or the marijuana/hemp plants and their seeds. A severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can occur.

  • Do terpenes help with allergies?

    Terpenes are compounds in plants that cause their fragrance. Cannabis is known for its fragrance and therefore its terpenes. Terpenes are found in full- and broad-spectrum CBD. In one study on the effects of CBD for epilepsy, it was discovered that the full- and broad-spectrum versions had better outcomes, thus suggesting that terpenes play an important part in CBD’s effectiveness.

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