Are You Allergic To Cannabis?
more learn blog
No one wants to bare the thought that cannabis allergies actually do exist, but it is true! Cannabis allergies have been on the rise ever since states began to legalize and marijuana became a more common drug amongst Americans. Herbalists who frequently use cannabis or individuals who work with/around it daily have been confessing similar symptoms which leads researchers to believe that there is a rapid growth of cannabis allergies as we speak.
BREAKING DOWN ALLERGIES
For clarification, an allergy is defined as an immune overreaction by the body attempting to protect the respiratory system from outside invaders. Two of the most popular allergens are pollen, a powder released by trees, grasses, and weeds to fertilize the seeds of other plants, and mold, a spore that grows on things that are rotting. And, it just so happens that the two most popular allergens are associated with cannabis. It is important to distinguish, though, that people can experience allergies to either the cannabis plant, or substances found in the flower that are actually not genetic to the plant. For example, if you don’t store your flowers correctly, they can develop mold. The resulting mold is not inherent to the plant, therefore, the individual would be suffering from a mold allergy as compared to a cannabis allergy.
True cannabis allergies are reactions to a specific substance contained within the cannabis plant. The pollen, for example, which is released from the cannabis plant could cause an allergic reaction such as rhinitis (nasal inflammation), conjunctivitis (eye inflammation), nasal congestion, pharyngeal pruritus (itchy throat), dyspnea (difficulty breathing) or asthma. Belgian researchers discovered that the cannabis allergic rhinitis (hay fever), conjunctivitis (pink eye), and skin rashes when smoked, inhaled, or chewed.
Cannabis has also cause bad skin reactions on herbalists. The symptoms can be as minuscule as generalized pruritus (itching), and periorbital angioedema (swelling), to worse conditions such as urticaria (hives), Anaphylaxis (a serious ocular reaction) or dysphonia (difficulty in speaking).
Cannabis sensitization can be influenced by your surroundings. People who live in areas where large quantities of marijuana plants are grown may be somewhat immune to cannabis allergic reactions. A study out of Omaha, Nebraska resulted in 61% of 127 patients with allergic rhino conjunctivitis and/or asthma symptoms had a positive cannabis pollen skin prick test reaction. Another study focused on cannabis-sensitive patients and concluded that there was a higher prevalence of skin test reaction positivity in marijuana smokers (14.6%), with frequent users seeing a four percent increase (18.2%). Non-smokers, however, had the lowest prevalence with 5%.
WHAT ARE CANNABIS ALLERGENS?
Cannabis pollen has been the leading cause of allergic reactions thus far, which is pretty common sense, right? But there are other allergens, or possibilities, that could be causing allergic reactions. Studies have researched the possibility of cannabinoids being allergens based on positive skin prick test reactions in case patients. THC was specifically suggested as an allergen in a case study on a forensic laboratory worker handling sinsemilla variants of cannabis sativa.
Lipid Transfer Proteins (LTP) is another possible allergen. LTP’s are often involved in food allergies. They are responsible for the transfer of lipids and other fatty acids across cell membranes. Can s 3, a nonspecific LTP, has been listed as a potential cannabis allergen as per a study conducted to identify LTP’s.
Further research has been done, including on a protein called RuBisCO, adenosine triphosphate synthase, phosphoglycerate kinase, glyceralderhyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, and luminal binding protein. (These probably sound like another language to you, too. It’s Ok!)
FIGURING OUT YOUR CANNABIS ALLERGIES
Do you find yourself sneezing, sniffling, coughing, rubbing your eyes, scratching random itches when you smoke? It may be time to schedule an appointment with an allergist who would be able to figure out what’s making you have allergic reactions. During this appointment, the doctor will administer a skin prick test, which will result in your skin either showing or not showing sensitivity to certain allergens. If you are sensitive, to protect your body from a perceived threat, your immune system will produce a type of antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Then, an allergen-specific IgE blood test is done to check whether a person is allergic to a particular substance.
CANNABIS ALLERGY TREATMENT
A Colorado based allergist, Dr. William Silvers, stated, “…the relatively low numbers of “presentations since legalization of marijuana in Colorado suggests that cannabis sativa is a mild allergen, with significant exposure required to elicit respiratory and dermatologic allergic reactions.” He published an editorial in February 2016 which focused on 3 of his patients that experienced cannabis allergies. Each patient saw increased symptoms after coming in contact with or increasing the amount of time around cannabis. Therefore, depending on your actual symptoms, there is a treatment for it that does not necessarily require opioids. We suggest talking to your allergist, holistic practitioner or medical marijuana doctor to discuss the best treatment options for you.