Can CBD Oil Cause Itching? [Explained]
Most experts consider cannabidiol (CBD) to have an excellent safety profile and minimal risk of side effects. However, some patients have reported experiencing itching after using CBD oil. Could this be a CBD side effect or merely a coincidence?
In this article, we’ll answer the question, “can CBD oil cause itching?” Read on to learn more.
Does CBD Make You Itch?
One of the reasons CBD has become so popular is that it generally causes very few adverse effects.
A 2017 review for Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research investigated the safety and side effects of CBD. It concluded that CBD has a favorable side effect profile in comparison to many pharmaceuticals that treat the same conditions.
That said, side effects did occur, with the most common being tiredness, diarrhea, and appetite/weight changes. The report makes no mention of itching as a potential CBD oil side effect.
However, over in the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had different findings. The MHRA runs something known as the Yellow Card Scheme. The scheme provides consumers with an opportunity to report adverse reactions after using a specific medicine or supplement.
The 2019 report suggests that there were at least two cases of rashes and itching after using CBD oil. One patient took CBD orally and experienced urticaria, a severe skin reaction involving red welts, swelling, and intense itching. Another used CBD both orally and topically, and also experienced itching.
It seems that the most likely explanation for these adverse effects is an allergic reaction to CBD oil. So, how common is this problem, and are there any other symptoms?
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Itching and Other CBD Oil Allergic Reaction Symptoms
There is little information available on CBD oil allergies. However, there is some research into cannabis allergies in general. The Annals of Asthma, Allergies, and Immunology conducted a study in 2013. It concluded that there had been cases of hypersensitivity and even anaphylaxis after using marijuana.
Anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock, is an extreme allergic reaction. It results in swelling of the airways, inability to breathe, and can potentially be fatal. Other cannabis allergy symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Rhinitis (nasal inflammation)
- Nasal congestion
- Shortness of breath
- Watery eyes
The research also suggests that high doses of cannabis could lead to asthma and bronchitis.
Furthermore, it states that workers in hemp processing facilities may experience higher rates of respiratory problems. The authors point out that most cannabis allergies occur due to smoking and direct handling. However, consuming edibles could also potentially cause a reaction.
The AAAAI (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology) says that cannabis allergy can develop due to “inhaling, smoking, touching, and eating marijuana.” It states that touching the plant could cause rashes, hives, and swelling in sensitive individuals.
Since CBD comes from cannabis plants, it is reasonable to assume that those with cannabis allergies could also be sensitive to CBD. However, more research is necessary to confirm how many people are allergic to CBD oil, and to what extent.
Can CBD Oil Cause a Skin Rash?
As we have already mentioned, there have been isolated reports of CBD causing a skin rash. This side effect may be more common with a particular form of CBD known as Epidiolex.
Epidiolex is the only form of CBD with full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, scientists have tested it rigorously for both potential benefits and side effects. The drug’s prescribing information lists rashes as one of the most common side effects of Epidiolex.
It also states that the drug could cause liver problems. One of the symptoms of this is itching. Other signs of liver issues include:
- Reduced appetite
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Dark urine
- Pain in the upper-right abdominal area
Anyone experiencing these side effects after taking Epidiolex or CBD oil should seek medical advice immediately.
Can CBD Oil Cause Itchy Eyes?
Itchy eyes are a common allergy symptom. Pollen allergies often cause the eyes to become red, watery, and itchy. Therefore, someone coming into contact with cannabis or hemp pollen could experience these effects.
Those who use marijuana regularly may be familiar with the tell-tale side effect of red or bloodshot eyes. However, this is not due to CBD but the intoxicating compound in cannabis, THC.
Red eyes are the result of THC causing the blood vessels to relax and widen. Many believe that, for the same reason, marijuana could be a useful glaucoma treatment.
We couldn’t find any reliable reports of CBD oil causing itchy eyes, but that does not mean it is impossible. Let us know in the comments at the end of the article if you have experienced this.
CBD and Itching: The Problem or the Solution?
Although some people have experienced itching after using CBD oil, this reaction only affects a minority of users. In fact, some research suggests that CBD could offer a solution to itching in skin conditions such as psoriasis and dermatitis.
CBD impacts the body by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is present in most of the body’s tissues, including the skin. Experts believe that it regulates the growth and development of skin cells and influences their immune function.
The ECS is also present in the skin’s nerve endings and plays a role in sensory perception, including pain and itching. These effects are under the control of numerous cell receptors, including cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). These receptors become active when they bind with chemicals called endocannabinoids that our bodies naturally produce.
It seems that CBD works primarily by increasing the levels of these endocannabinoids to enhance ECS function. This effect means that CBD could be more likely to relieve itching than cause it.
A 2006 study for the German journal Der Hautarzt tested a compound called N-palmitoyl ethanolamine (PEA) in 22 patients with itching due to various skin conditions. The chemical is a cannabinoid agonist, meaning that it stimulates receptors in the ECS. Of the 22 participants, 14 experienced reductions in itching. The average reduction was an impressive 86.4%.
This study, unfortunately, had a very small sample size, and more research is necessary to confirm its results conclusively. However, these preliminary findings suggest that, unless you have a CBD allergy, the compound is more likely to act as a solution to itching than a cause.
Can CBD Oil Cause Itching? Final Thoughts
It seems that CBD oil may cause itching in a small number of consumers. This reaction is most likely the result of a CBD allergy or sensitivity to other ingredients in the product. The latter could be especially true when using topical CBD products as these contain a variety of components that could potentially irritate the skin.
We advise anyone thinking about using CBD skin creams to look for a product containing all-natural ingredients and as few of them as possible. This precaution is especially important if you have sensitive skin or other allergies.
As always, we only recommend buying CBD from reputable brands that publish third-party lab reports on their websites. Products that have not undergone testing may contain contaminants and increase the risk of adverse reactions like itching.
And finally, if you do experience itching after taking CBD, we suggest that you stop using it immediately. Make an appointment with a physician, who will be able to run tests and advise you further.
CBD is known to have very few side effects, but can it cause itching? We take a look at whether CBD can cause allergies and itchy skin.
Can you have an allergic reaction to CBD oil?
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- CBD oil overview
- Allergies in the body
- Allergic reactions to CBD oil
- Can CBD oil help with allergies?
Whether it’s sniffling, watery eyes, itching, or asthma, many of us are all too familiar with symptoms of allergies.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergies are the No. 6 cause of chronic illness in the United States. To narrow that down,there were 19.9 million adults diagnosed with hay fever in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is estimated that 32 million Americans live with food allergies; more than 170 foods may lead to allergic reaction.
Considering the increasing awareness and use of cannabidiol (CBD) and the existing potential for pollen and food allergies, allergy sufferers may wonder whether they are at risk for an allergic reaction to CBD oil or whether CBD can provide treatment or relief for other types of allergic reactions.
Though there’s not much in the way of allergy research specifically for CBD oil at this point, the cannabis plant itself has been linked to allergic reactions.
“Marijuana is a plant and produces pollen and one can become allergic to the pollen and the plant, especially if one has pre-existing allergic tendencies,” said Dr. William S. Silvers, clinical professor of medicine in allergy and immunology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
That being said, only male marijuana plants produce pollen, and are exceedingly rare in cannabis and hemp production because they produce less oil and CBD than female plants. Therefore, a consumer’s exposure to pollen would be extremely rare.
CBD oil overview
CBD is the second-most-prominent cannabinoid derived from the cannabis plant, after the intoxicating cannabinoid THC. CBD oil, extracted from marijuana or industrial hemp, has gained popularity for its potential benefits for a number of conditions, including inflammation, arthritic pain, depression, seizures, and anxiety.
There’s not much in the way of allergy research specifically for CBD oil, but the cannabis plant itself has been linked to allergic reactions in some people. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Though research is still limited in regards to many supposed benefits, in 2018 the FDA approved Epidiolex, a CBD oral solution, to treat seizures associated with two severe types of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
Allergies in the body
A properly functioning immune system works to protect the body from pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and attack these unwanted microorganisms in order to help prevent disease. In the case of allergies, the immune system reacts to plant pollen and other substances in the environment to trigger the body’s defense mechanisms. The result, depending on the type of allergy, can be a variety of symptoms, including itchy eyes, runny nose, asthma, hives, skin itching, or more severe reactions such as anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.
Allergic reactions to CBD oil
Humans commonly experience allergic reactions to many kinds of plant pollen. However, only male cannabis plants produce pollen, whereas female plants are more widely used for oil and cannabinoid production. Large-scale industrial hemp fields may include a variety of mature males (pollen) as well as fertilized females (oil and seeds). The impact of hemp pollen on everyday consumers, as well as the communities that work and live near these production facilities, has not been studied.
People can also develop allergies to some of the terpenes found in cannabis. For instance, researchers from the Duke University School of Medicine found that about 20% of the 100 people they tested had an allergic skin reaction to linalool, whereas 8% had reactions to limonene. These kinds of contact allergies may not be common in the general population, but individuals who are employed in the production of cannabis products and CBD oil could be more at risk.
In addition to the skin, the lungs are another target for allergic reactions to terpenes. Assessing the risk is somewhat complicated because some terpenes are irritants, whereas others, such as eucalyptol, may actually provide a protective, anti-inflammatory role and might help to control inflammatory diseases like asthma and COPD.
Dr. Gordon Sussman, an allergist in Canada and professor at the University of Toronto, said there is very little published research on CBD oil allergies.
“It’s an unknown area at this point,” he said. “But we know that cannabis sativa is an allergen and we know that it’s a common allergen.”
Humans commonly experience allergic reactions to many kinds of plant pollen. Only male cannabis/hemp plants produce pollen. Most cannabis products, including CBD oil, are made using female cannabis plants. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
He said that cannabis allergies, like other forms of allergies, can worsen as exposure to the allergen continues. Most people with cannabis allergies suffer from a runny and stuffy nose (rhinitis), eye irritation (conjunctivitis), and sometimes wheezing, Sussman explained. But there have been cases of more severe reactions such as anaphylaxis, which have primarily resulted from ingestion of hemp seeds.
According to a letter entitled “Marijuana and stoned fruit,” written by medical doctors from the University of California, San Diego, and published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology on Feb. 2, 2018, a 24-year-old man who smoked marijuana daily visited their allergy clinic two weeks following an anaphylactic reaction after eating yogurt with hemp seeds.
“This was his first known ingestion of hemp seeds. Immediately after consumption, he developed oral pruritus [itching] that progressed to shortness of breath, facial swelling, and pre-syncope [sensation prior to fainting],” the letter stated.
Those with food allergies may also be susceptible to cross-reactivity.
“You can have a cross-reaction with certain foods that share certain antigens, certain components, with the cannabis plant itself,” Silvers said.
Such foods may include tomatoes and stone fruits containing pits such as peaches, he said. It’s a similar cross-reactivity to what is seen in people with ragweed allergies who might experience symptoms such as itchy mouth if they eat fruit in the melon family, he added.
“The same thing goes with cannabis and tomatoes and peaches and almonds and a number of other foods … eggplant, grapefruit, apples,” Silvers said.
There is no clinical evidence CBD oil can help allergies. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
A 2013 study from the “Internal Archives of Allergy and Immunology” tested 21 patients with food allergies for reactivity to cannabis lipid transfer proteins (LTPs), which are probable allergens. Twelve of the 21 test subjects were allergic to cannabis, and all 12 had more severe reactions to food allergy than those without a cannabis allergy. A 2008 study, also from “Internal Archives of Allergy and Immunology,” tested 32 subjects for an allergic reaction to cannabis LTPs, as well as tomato, peach peel, and pollen extracts. The study found that all test subjects sensitive to tomato allergens were also sensitive to cannabis. There was also cross-reactivity noted with peach peel.
Silvers said that the type of allergic reaction depends on the type of exposure. In addition to cannabis pollen allergies and food-based allergies, skin allergies are also a possibility.
“Touching the plant can very easily develop a dermatitis, itching, and skin reactions,” he said.
Can CBD oil help with allergies?
While there isn’t much research supporting the idea that CBD oil can help the discomfort associated with common allergy symptoms, there is some research related to its general effects on inflammation, which is part of the body’s allergic reaction process.
A 2011 research report published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine examined the potential role of CBD in various inflammatory-type conditions. George W. Booz, a professor in the department of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, concluded in the report: “Inflammation and oxidative stress are intimately involved in the genesis of many human diseases. Unraveling that relationship therapeutically has proven challenging, in part because inflammation and oxidative stress ‘feed off’ each other. However, CBD would seem to be a promising starting point for further drug development given its antioxidant (although relatively modest) and anti-inflammatory actions on immune cells … .”
According to Silvers, there is no clinical evidence CBD oil can help allergies and, while experimental laboratory research suggesting anti-inflammatory effects exists, there’s no clinical patient substantiation.
Can you have an allergic reaction to CBD oil? Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents CBD oil overview Allergies in the body Allergic reactions