The concept of an allergy to cannabis might sound strange and farfetched to some, but we think it could be a real thing. Not only are more and more cases of cannabis allergies emerging, but modern science seems to support its existence. To learn a little more about cannabis allergies and symptoms, keep reading.
It seems that the more that cannabis comes into contact with the community, the more cases sprout up regarding cannabis allergies. At first glance, the argument seems to be built on completely shaky grounds. However, when we look closer, what emerges could in fact be an allergy to cannabis.
When we consider the genetic makeup of this plant, and some of the reasons it produces these allergens, it starts to make sense. Cannabis allergies are somewhat rare, but definitely real. There is treatment for those who are allergic to cannabis – but how unfortunate to be allergic to this magical plant!
What constitutes an allergy to cannabis?
Interestingly, there seems to have been a rise in cannabis allergies as it continues to be legalized across the world. This sparks interest for researchers, obviously. There seems to be a connection between the frequency of exposure and the allergic reaction itself. Apparently, people can be allergic both to the smoke of cannabis or the plant material. However, it is more likely that people are allergic to the pollen or plant material.
Symptoms of a cannabis allergy are a lot like the symptoms of other allergies, meaning it comes with runny nose, red eyes and an itchy throat. For those who have developed allergies from touching the plant, hives and itchy skin can come into the picture. And there have even been reported cases of asthma triggered from the pollen produced by cannabis.
It is not unheard of for budtenders to develop (after some time) an allergy from constantly touching the plant. It might seem unusual given that the female plant doesn’t contain pollen, but sometimes the hermaphrodites do. Apparently, cannabis allergies can get pretty serious sometimes, too. There has been a reported case of anaphylaxis after a man ate some hemp-seed encrusted seafood. For those who don’t know, anaphylaxis takes over the whole body and it can be fatal if it isn’t treated immediately.
An allergy to cannabis is usually just mildly uncomfortable, but at times it can also be extreme. It is a real thing to be allergic to cannabis, anywhere from itchy eyes all the way to potential fatality. This allergy also has an interesting background in the way of scientific research, which backs up the possibility of a cannabis allergy.
Why might cannabis be an allergen?
It’s hard to say whether the increase in cannabis allergies is due to an increase of its use – or if it’s just because now that it’s legal in so many places that people don’t mind opening up to their doctors. In any case, it has given scientists more of a reason to explore the world of cannabis allergies and why they happen. To start with, cannabis pollen travels a pretty far distance, meaning it’s not so far out that it could be a strong irritant.
It is also interesting to consider that we have been focusing on increasing the percentage of THC for decades. As a result, cannabis is much stronger these days than it was in the past. This could play a huge role in why more and more people are developing allergic reactions to using this plant. This point is also going to mean a lot more later on! As a potential allergen, high dosages of THC may be contributing to the rise of allergy cases.
The research behind cannabis allergies
Researchers in Belgium have been studying the possibility of cannabis emerging as an allergen. Their findings are that cannabis can produce the same kinds of hay fever symptoms that other plants do. Basically, marijuana can increase the pollen count the same way some of our other favourite flowers do. For those who are sensitive to pollen, that could mean a season of hay fever symptoms.
Interestingly, we might have known about this for a long time. There was a study published in the 1940s by the Nebraska Medical Journal surveying people with allergies in the area. Of the 119 patients, more than 20% of them were found to be allergic to hemp pollen from a skin prick test. More studies have been conducted in Omaha, Nebraska since, which have also confirmed that 61% of allergies were a result of hemp. If you haven’t caught on, wild weed and hemp happens to grow a lot in Nebraska. This would explain the high rate of allergies in the state. And lo and behold, this Nebraska survey found that 22 of the 119 patients that were tested were actually having allergies to cannabis pollen.
The difference between cannabis allergies and mouldy weed
It’s important to make a note of the difference to an allergy to cannabis and an allergy to something naught inside of the cannabis. Sometimes we end up with mouldy weed, which happens when buds aren’t looked after properly. It is common for people to experience allergic reactions to mould, but this does not constitute an allergy to cannabis.
An allergy to cannabis means being allergic to THC or to the plant itself, rather than being allergic to a contaminant within the cannabis. This is extremely important when diagnosing cannabis allergies. So, before you go running off to your doctor, check that you haven’t been using mouldy or off weed!
Other reasons THC might be an allergen
It has been suggested that one of the reasons cannabis produces THC at all is as a part of the plant’s defence mechanism. The smell of the terpenoids and the intoxicating effect of THC could be one of the ways marijuana avoids being eaten in the wild. At the same time, this cannabinoid is the same reason that we cultivate and use marijuana at all. There’s a catch 22 in there, right?
If we consider this as a possibility, then it seems justified that people might experience allergies. It is quite common for growers and trimmers to experience at least some slight skin irritation from touching their trichome covered plants. This is probably because the plant receives being handled in such a way as a threat, which is completely true.
This “defence mechanism” theory is not scientifically proven, and we don’t really know if this is indeed why THC is an allergen. However, science has confirmed that it is entirely possible to be allergic to cannabis. If you are experiencing hay fever symptoms, it might just be your favourite plants in your garden causing it… Want to find out if you are indeed allergic to cannabis? It is as simple as getting tested by your doctor with a skin prick to see if your body produces the allergic reaction to cannabis.