Can CBD help with allergies?

  • Allergies are among the most common health conditions in people around the world. A person exposed to allergic substances like pollen, mold, or dust may experience excess production of antibodies in their immune system.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive compound derived from Cannabis sativa, is said to possess anti-inflammatory properties that could be useful in managing allergies ⁽¹⁾. One example of how CBD can help with allergies is by reducing the antibodies that trigger inflammatory responses from the body.
  • Several studies on CBD suggests that the phytocannabinoid has the potential of being an effective treatment for allergies ⁽²⁻⁵⁾.
  • Although the findings on CBD are very positive, medical experts warn that many of the therapeutic properties of CBD products are still hypothetical. People that are interested in including cannabidiol in their regimen should consult a doctor to avoid complications.

Why People Are Using CBD for Allergies

An allergic reaction is one of the most prevalent chronic health conditions in the world. When a person encounters substances that they are allergic to, such as with pollen, mold, or dust, the immune system may overreact by producing excess antibodies.

Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive compound from the Cannabis sativa plant, reportedly contains anti-inflammatory properties that could be useful in treating allergies⁽⁶⁾. One way CBD can help with allergies is by reducing antibodies that trigger histamine –the leading cause of inflammatory responses in the body. 

How CBD Oil Works to Help with Allergies

A study in 2009 found that cannabinoids are capable of inhibiting the activation of a specific type of white blood cell (T-cells) in mice.  By impairing the release of these cells, CBD may be able to lessen antibody responses and reduce allergic symptoms ⁽⁷⁾.

Terpenes, which are present in full-spectrum CBD oil, have also shown to help lower antibody levels, as seen in a 2014 study. Researchers learned that alpha-pinene, a common terpene in Cannabis sativa, decreased the clinical symptoms of allergies in mice ⁽⁸⁾.

Researchers observed that the rodents rubbed their nose, eyes, and ears less frequently, indicating an improvement from allergic reactions. Lower levels of immunoglobulin E, a vital component that releases histamine, were also noticed in the mice. Histamine is responsible for the symptoms such as a runny nose, itching, and swelling in the nasal cavities.

Another study in 2005 suggests that cannabinoids may prevent heightened histamine responses. The research shows that certain cannabinoids could suppress the activation of mast cells that trigger histamine release ⁽⁹⁾.

Inflammation plays a crucial role during the onset of allergies, and one way that cannabis may help alleviate allergic symptoms is by reducing or preventing inflammation. Dr. Sue Sisley, a researcher on medical marijuana, notes that the Cannabis sativa plant may inhibit the inflammatory pathway.

“And that certainly does relate to allergies because if you can cut the inflammatory pathway, then it could certainly help the untreated allergies, all the classic symptoms, the itchy, runny nose, itchiness, hives, all those kinds of things,” Dr. Sisley states.

Besides reducing the symptoms of itchy skin, watery eyes, sneezing, and runny nose, cannabidiol can also alleviate allergy symptoms such as difficulty breathing in asthma. A study released in 2019 reveals that CBD treatment reduces inflammation in the airway, wheezing, and scarring of lung tissue in allergic asthma ⁽¹⁰⁾.

Another research study suggests that cannabinoids may affect mast cells similar to antihistamines ⁽¹¹⁾.

Despite these preliminary findings, Dr. Sisley cautions that the therapeutic properties of CBD tincture are still theoretical. Although proof of its effectiveness is not yet proven, the initial studies show CBD to have the potential of being a possible treatment for allergies.

The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Allergies

The Pros

  • The studies mentioned above show that the anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties of CBD oil may help treat allergies.
  • Cannabidiol, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), does not alter the consciousness or trigger a “high” in individuals that consume its products ⁽¹²⁾.
  • Based on a report from the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD oil is generally well tolerated and comes with an excellent safety profile ⁽¹³⁾.
  • Although mostly performed on animals, the findings above show that CBD may be an effective treatment in reducing allergy symptoms.

Cons

  • The studies on the efficacy of CBD in human beings are minimal and do not clarify whether or not the compound can reliably treat allergies.
  • According to Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician that advocates the use of cannabis, states that fatigue, irritability, and nausea are common side effects of CBD ⁽¹⁴⁾.
  • Most of the research on the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD were clinical trials carried out on rodents and not human beings.

The labeling accuracy of cannabidiol products sold online leaves much to be desired. Dr. Grinspoon, as well as several researchers in a 2017 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), share the same sentiment⁽¹⁵⁾.

Consulting a doctor that is knowledgeable in CBD use is highly recommended. At the very least, seeking such medical advice can help ensure that the extract does not have a negative interaction with other allergy medications currently being taken ⁽¹⁶⁾.

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Allergies

At the time of writing, no evidence points to CBD as a proper antihistamine. Based on findings, scientists theorize that CBD can affect mast cells enough to reduce allergic symptoms ⁽¹⁷⁾.

Many people suffering from seasonal allergies find that traditional antihistamines are only effective if started early. Over time, its efficacy begins to diminish to the point where it may no longer be useful against an allergic response.

As mentioned earlier, CBD has anti-inflammatory potential that may be useful in treating allergy. Several studies suggest that there are therapeutic properties present in cannabidiol.

One frequently cited study is in 2009 published by Future Medicinal Chemistry. The researchers in the study analyzed the importance of the CB1 and CB2 receptors and how cannabinoids could play a crucial role in regulating the immune system ⁽¹⁸⁾.

The main point of the said research is that cannabinoids can potentially be active anti-inflammatory agents. The authors learned that CBD is as effective as many of the widely available anti-inflammatory medications in the market.

Nagarkatti and associates looked at cannabidiol’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and how it appears to inhibit inflammation ⁽¹⁹⁾. The ECS is a system in both humans and animals that regulates much of the immune system.

A more recent study in 2018 analyzed how chronic pain and inflammation can be treated through various cannabinoid delivery systems. 

The researchers mentioned that the trials support the potential anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids. This data makes cannabinoids suitable candidates for nano-sized drug delivery systems ⁽²⁰⁾.

The majority of findings on CBD’s effects on inflammation ultimately points towards its effects on the endocannabinoid system.

Scientists in a 2014 study had the same sentiment when they analyzed how the ECS plays a considerable part in handling inflammation. Their findings suggest that activating the ECS in a certain way can help regulate inflammation linked to various diseases ⁽²¹⁾.

In theory, the use of CBD oil to treat allergies may promote the increased production of healthy cannabinoids in the ECS. Although CBD does not directly affect the receptors present in the system, it may be sufficient enough to promote anti-inflammatory effects.

How to Choose the Right CBD for Allergies

A CBD nasal spray containing a concentration of anti-inflammatory cannabinoids and terpenes is something that the marijuana plant advocate Dr. Grinspoon envisions can treat allergies. Full-spectrum CBD oil is an example of a CBD product that contains all of the phytonutrients from industrial hemp as it comes with THC, terpenes, flavonoids, and essential oils.

There are also broad-spectrum CBD products, or CBD without the THC content, for consumers that have cannabis allergy to THC.

CBD isolates are also available, which are extracts that are made up of pure cannabidiol. Farmers typically obtain this type of CBD from hemp plants, due to its low or non-existent THC content.

Whichever type of CBD product people choose to use, it is always in their best interest to consult a doctor first before deciding to apply CBD oil for allergies.

The following factors are essential to ensure the safety and reliability of the CBD products purchased:

  1. Research on the exact legal stipulations applicable to CBD in the area where it would be purchased and used.
  2. Purchase only high-quality CBD products from legitimate and reliable brands. The majority of companies that manufacture the best CBD oil products grow their hemp from their farm, or they purchase from licensed hemp producers.
  3. Research product reviews before buying from an online store. When purchasing from a physical store or dispensary, check whether the store is authorized by the government to sell CBD.
  4. One important thing to look for in CBD products is certification codes. Several certification authorities approve certain products only after some thorough screening tests.
  5. Compare company claims about their products’ potency with that of the third-party lab reports.
  6. Consulting with a trusted medical professional who is experienced in CBD use is ideal before one purchases his or her first bottle of CBD.

Conclusion

Allergies are one of the most common medical conditions that people around the world experience, especially in the United States. Common allergens such as mold, pollen, dander, or dust, which are seemingly harmless for most individuals, may cause an overreaction (as with anaphylaxis) in the immune system of people who are allergic to them.

CBD is said to possess anti-inflammatory properties that may help allergy sufferers, especially those with rhinitis or hay fever. One example of how CBD can address allergic symptoms is by inhibiting antibodies that trigger histamine, or the main compound responsible for inflammatory responses.

Many other studies are suggesting that cannabinoids can potentially deal with allergies.  Much of the research ultimately points towards how CBD can affect the endocannabinoid system.

Despite preliminary findings, medical experts caution that the therapeutic properties of CBD oil are still theoretical. It is always best for people to consult a doctor first before deciding to include any CBD product in their regimen.


  1. Nagarkatti P, Pandey R, Rieder SA, Hegde VL, Nagarkatti M. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Med Chem. 2009;1(7):1333‐1349. doi:10.4155/fmc.09.93
  2. Haitian Lu, Barbara L. F. Kaplan, Thitirat Ngaotepprutaram, and Norbert E. Kaminski. Suppression of T cell costimulator ICOS by 9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and Center for Integrative Toxicology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA.
  3. Vuolo F, Abreu SC, Michels M, et al. Cannabidiol reduces airway inflammation and fibrosis in experimental allergic asthma. Eur J Pharmacol. 2019;843:251‐259. doi:10.1016/j.ejphar.2018.11.029
  4. Small-Howard AL, Shimoda LM, Adra CN, Turner H. Anti-inflammatory potential of CB1-mediated cAMP elevation in mast cells. Biochem J. 2005;388(Pt 2):465‐473. doi:10.1042/BJ20041682
  5. Nagarkatti P. et al. op. cit.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Haitian Lu. et al. op. cit.
  8. Sun-Young Nam, Cha-kwon Chung, Jun-HoSeo, So-YoungRah, Hyung-Min Kim, Hyun-JaJeonge. The therapeutic efficacy of α-pinene in an experimental mouse model of allergic rhinitis. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intimp.2014.09.010.
  9. Small-Howard AL. et al. op. cit.
  10. Vuolo F. et al. op. cit.
  11. Small-Howard AL. et al. op. cit.
  12. Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019;23:18‐041. doi:10.7812/TPP/18-041
  13. World Health Organization (2018, June). Cannabidiol (CBD) Critical Review Report. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/WHOCBDReportMay2018-2.pdf
  14. Peter Grinspoon (2018, August 24). Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476
  15. Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708‐1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909
  16. Grinspoon, P. op. cit.
  17. Giudice ED, Rinaldi L, Passarotto M, et al. Cannabidiol, unlike synthetic cannabinoids, triggers activation of RBL-2H3 mast cells. J Leukoc Biol. 2007;81(6):1512‐1522. doi:10.1189/jlb.1206738
  18. Nagarkatti P. et al. op. cit.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Bruni N, Della Pepa C, Oliaro-Bosso S, Pessione E, Gastaldi D, Dosio F. Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment. Molecules. 2018;23(10):2478. Published 2018 Sep 27. doi:10.3390/molecules23102478
  21. Witkamp R, Meijerink J. The endocannabinoid system: an emerging key player in inflammation. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2014;17(2):130‐138. doi:10.1097/MCO.0000000000000027
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