Bad Reaction to CBD? [When & When Not to Be Concerned]
CBD products are becoming increasingly popular among people of all demographics regardless of gender, age, and even nationality. There has also been an increase in cases of people reporting adverse effects of CBD. Some of these symptoms are considered to be side effects or sensitivity to CBD, while other symptoms may be allergic reactions to CBD.
Humans commonly experience allergic reactions to certain types of plant pollen. Since CBD originates from the cannabis plant, it’s easy to wonder whether you could be allergic to CBD, and more importantly, whether you should be concerned about it.
Bad reactions to CBD certainly aren’t common, but they are possible.
An allergic reaction can be induced by any product that the body deems to be an allergen. Most commonly, allergies occur from medication, insect stings, foods, pet dander, and pollen. Since CBD comes from the cannabis plant, CBD contains properties like histamine and pollen that could cause allergic reactions.
A bad reaction to CBD can range from an itchy nose to breathing problems – which is a lot more serious. To understand the difference between exhibiting side effects of CBD and being allergic to CBD, we need to understand the different symptoms of each. In other words, determining when and when not to be concerned about having a bad reaction to CBD, we will look at the varying degrees of having a “bad reaction.”
Bad Reactions to CBD
A bad reaction to CBD can manifest in several ways. Two people won’t necessarily experience the same symptoms. Also, it can be tricky to distinguish between a CBD allergy and the normal run of the mill CBD side effects. Remember, side effects are not considered to be allergic reactions to CBD.
Potential side effects include dry mouth, dizziness, lethargy, nausea, diarrhea, and drowsiness. Generally speaking, these effects aren’t anything to be concerned about and are typically caused by using too much CBD at once or just having sensitivity to CBD.
CBD allergies, on the contrary, have different effects. An allergic reaction transpires when the immune system overreacts to any substance that the body deems to be a threat. Here are four signs that may suggest that you are having an allergic reaction to CBD:
- Dry, Red, or Itchy Eyes: Marijuana is known for causing red eyes due to dryness. But THC is the culprit of this, not CBD. That said, some users could experience this after using CBD. If you have bloodshot eyes or experience excessive watering, it could be an allergic reaction rather than a side effect.
- Migraines: Some CBD users may experience a slight headache for the first couple of uses, but migraines are an indication of something more serious.
- Skin Irritations: Especially in the case of topical CBD products, some users may develop hives or a rash. This could be caused by the CBD, but it may also result from one of the many other ingredients found in balms and creams.
- Respiratory Problems: If you are having trouble breathing after consuming CBD, you should seek medical help immediately. Breathing issues linked to CBD products are likely the result of poor-quality products that contain contaminants, such as mold or pollen.
Exploring CBD side effects…
What Makes a Person Allergic to CBD?
If you’re wondering why anyone could be allergic to CBD, the short answer is histamines.
Histamines are hormones that are secreted by mast cells in the body. Mast cells form part of the body’s immune system and are located throughout the body. The moment the mast cells notice any foreign substances in the body, it repels them by secreting histamines. As a result, the body triggers a range of reactions. They range from skin irritations and rashes to sneezing, coughing, watering eyes, dizziness, and other symptoms that we have already addressed above.
People with plant allergies are often advised to try to avoid CBD products, especially full-spectrum ones.
Full-spectrum CBD products contain a variety of compounds, and it can be difficult to tell what caused the bad/allergic reaction. It could be plant waxes, coconut oil, trace amounts of THC, pollen, hemp seed oil, or any other ingredient in the product.
How Are CBD Allergies Diagnosed?
Doctors can diagnose CBD allergies using two methods: A skin prick test or blood test. The skin prick test is simple, and you get results quickly, but it’s not as accurate as a blood test.
With a skin prick test, a diluted allergen, like CBD, is applied to the skin with a needle. You wait 15 minutes and check if the area on which the CBD was applied appears to be red, inflamed, or itchy. If this is the case, you may be allergic to CBD.
A blood test, on the other hand, is when a sample of blood is drawn to check if there are any CBD antibodies present. In the case of there being more antibodies than expected, you are likely to be allergic to CBD.
Final Thoughts on a Bad Reaction to CBD
CBD is known to be a natural, safe, and well-tolerated compound. For the most part, there is nothing to be concerned about when it comes to the potential side effects of CBD. However, there is a cause for concern for those who have an allergic reaction to CBD. Especially in cases where you experience difficulty breathing.
For this reason, you should be careful when consuming CBD. It’s a great idea to begin with a small amount of CBD to check if you notice any adverse side effects. You should also consult with a doctor to check if they can give you any medical advice regarding what to do if you experience an allergic reaction.
Also, keep in mind that although the general side effects of CBD aren’t believed to be all that harmful, CBD is still a fairly new compound, and research is still being done to determine how exactly CBD could affect users.
Most people take CBD without any adverse effects, but in rare cases, a bad reaction can occur. Here's when you should be concerned…
Can You Be Allergic to CBD?
Great question and the vast majority of CBD brands might be making the problem worse.
By vast majority, we’re estimating in the 90 percentile!
We’ll explain later.
Of course, mast cells figure right into this nonsense.
We’ll get into it below.
Most importantly, we’ll touch base on why so many people may have allergic responses when taking “CBD”.
The parentheses are not just there for looks or emphasis.
The type of “CBD” has a huge bearing on the potential for allergic reactions.
Let’s get into it.
Here are the topics:
- Quick intro to the allergic reaction process
- Can a person be allergic to CBD
- Allergies to Full Spectrum CBD
- Allergic to hemp oil
- Allergic to CBD isolate
- Can you get allergic hives from CBD
- Can dogs be allergic to CBD
Quick intro to the allergic reaction process
To really see how allergies may or may not be caused by CBD, we need background.
The allergic response is actually part of our immune system.
It primarily resides in the mast cells!
Mast cells are special cells throughout the body that are designed to look for foreign entities as a sign of attack.
They’re guards so to speak on the lookout for bacteria, viruses, and other intruders.
Their role is to get that stuff out of the body any which way they can.
Watery eyes. Sneezing. Coughing. Hives. Swelling. Etc.
We know all too well what the “symptoms” are but this is just the M.O. of mast cells.
It’s the primary trick they know!
We can appreciate it with a bee sting but really. pet dander??
One of the key weapons Mast Cells has is histamine.
Histamine is a hormone released from these cells when triggered.
It’s the key root of all these allergic reactions in the body.
Interestingly, histamine is excitatory in the brain there’s a whole discussion on CBD for histamine and anxiety here.
So that’s the 101 on our body’s allergic reaction.
Now. to the question at hand…
Can you have an allergic reaction to CBD?
Can a person be allergic to CBD
First, we need to really define “CBD oil”.
We want to focus on just CBD isolate itself.
This is where it gets confusing since CBD oil is not regulated.
People are usually taking in lots of other stuff with their “CBD oil”.
Let’s talk about allergies based on three main ways people take CBD:
- Full-spectrum CBD oil
- Hemp oil
- CBD isolate
These three options will have a very different allergy and histamine profiles.
Let’s look at each.
Full Spectrum CBD and allergic response
Basically, with full-spectrum, you have a lot more of the hemp plant material in the oil.
This gives plenty more ways to have an allergic reaction.
Full Spectrum CBD is allowed to have up to .3% THC which is a known allergen.
Here’s the deal. if you have other allergies, there’s a good chance you’ll have a reaction to cannabis in its raw form.
A study showed that 70% of the 50 million Americans with allergies will have a reaction to cannabis.
It’s not just the THC.
It’s a plant after all and plant material is a known issue for people with allergies.
It turns out that there are proteins in the plant that set off the allergic reaction to cannabis.
One note. CBD oil is derived from hemp which is just another name for cannabis with less than .3% THC.
Full-spectrum CBD is basically extracted CBD added back into hemp oil.
It’s a way to jack up the CBD volume above what naturally occurs in the plant to get a baseline amount.
It’s the hemp oil that’s the issue!
Speaking of which….
Hemp oil and allergic reaction
If full-spectrum is hemp oil with CBD added to increase volume of CBD amounts, hemp oil is just the oil.
It’s amazing for us.
Millions of Americans are using hemp oil and a good percentage of them are probably allergic to it.
They’re buying hemp oil to feel better after all!
Almost all the research is on CBD and THC.
Just google “hemp oil NIH” and it will all be CBD (and maybe THC).
CBD is very different, even directly opposite to THC.
THC has some known issues (new report on how it affects Sperm gene pathways just today!).
The research on CBD has been remarkably positive.
Research on “hemp oil”??
There may be lots of good stuff in there but not if you’re prone to allergies.
This is especially true for:
- Women (allergies and histamine issues have a significant gender effect)
- Adults over 40 (falling hormones affect allergic sensitivities)
- People allergic to other substances
It’s all one system in terms of how we respond to allergies.
Hemp oil has all the same allergy-provoking proteins we mentioned in full-spectrum CBD.
So. what about CBD by itself? Isolate?
Allergic response to CBD Isolate
CBD isolate usually refers to CBD the chemical, being added to a base oil.
The common base oils are:
- MCT oil (extract from coconut oil)
- Hemp oil
- Olive oil
You can also get just CBD as a crystal (it’s raw form) but this is not as popular since it’s more difficult to deal with.
Obviously, the hemp and olive oil may pose the same issues we discussed above with just hemp oil.
MCT oil is an extract from coconut oil.
It’s basically medium-chain fats from coconut oil.
CBD is best absorbed in the presence of fats (see CBD and food article).
The key with MCT oil is that it’s an extract rather than the full plant material.
Coconut is technically a fruit and not a tree nut.
Let’s look at just the cannabidiol (CBD) itself.
Allergic responses to the cannabidiol chemical itself.
Keep in mind that for any given substance under the sun, there’s someone somewhere who is allergic to it.
Our immune response is incredibly complex with inputs going back to the womb and maybe even past generations!!
That being said, CBD is a chemical.
It’s not a plant material which is good news.
Our allergic response has been primarily owned by our environment over 100’s of thousands of years.
You don’t find much CBD in the wild although cannabis has been around for 1000’s of years in ancient medicinal use (India and China traditions both have extensive use of it).
On the safety profile of cannabidiol, there are no reported results for allergic reactions.
A good indication of an allergic response to a substance can be found it it’s “side effects” profile.
The four most common side effects are:
- Lower blood pressure
- Dry mouth
The first two are related and point to research showing that CBD lowers blood pressure.
Drowsiness is the opposite effect of an allergic response which is usually an anxious or heightened effect (as we know all too well).
Remember that histamine is excitatory and actually battles GABA to control the sleep/wake cycle (see CBD boost GABA).
Cannabidiol has a powerful anti-anxiety effect which you learn about at the CBD benefits for anxiety article here.
In fact, research is showing that cannabidiol has a powerful ANTI-histamine effect.
There are studies showing that cannabidiol can significantly reduce the symptoms of allergic responses across different systems in the body but most importantly….
It helps to move the immune response from T1 to T2 which is directly tied to allergic responses.
It’s a big reason why your friend can have a cat but you can’t.
Again, if you’re reading about allergies, check out the CBD and histamines article. It’s fascinating.
How to avoid an allergic response to CBD
So here’s the net net.
If you have allergic issues, focus on CBD isolate.
That’s why we deal with CBD isolate at IndigoNaturals.
So many people with allergy or histamine issues are being “sold” on full-spectrum and feeling terrible from it.
That’s going the wrong way!
Stay away from hemp oil and/or as much “plant” material as you can.
Always test first to see how your body responds.
The CBD must absolutely be 3rd party tested free of:
- Heavy metals
- THC (known allergen)
This is a MUST HAVE when choosing CBD.
If the brand doesn’t make this readily available, run. don’t walk.
We actually test our CBD oils twice (once at the biomass and again for the finished product).
The goal is better health after all.
Let’s look at specific questions that come up with CBD and allergies.
Can you get allergic hives from CBD
Yes but the same rules we discussed above hold true.
Our histamine pathway is system-wide.
It may rear its ugly head is specific areas (skin versus stomach versus sinuses, etc) but the chemical pathway is pretty similar.
Hives is just an allergic reaction in our skin.
This may apply more for topical applications directly to the skin or it can be systemic (think of how poison oak moves around the body).
You can test CBD oil directly on the skin to see how you react.
We always recommend going slow when starting anyway. Check out our How to Take CBD article.
We’ve seen countless situations where a person has an allergic response to full-spectrum CBD or hemp oil which goes away with CBD Isolate.
Just read our reviews. Half of them involve this positive difference in response.
That’s the primary reason we created IndigoNaturals. nearly full bottles of very big brands are lying around in a box somewhere.
Can dogs or cats be allergic to CBD
Nature’s pretty amazing.
When it finds something that works, it keeps it!
Every mammal has limbs composed of 1 large upper bone, connected to 2 lower limb bones, connected to a section of smaller “rock-line” bones and then 5 digits.
It’s the same blueprint in us, a bat, a horse, or a whale.
- The horse’s hoof is one giant toenail (the other digits are shrunken).
- The bat’s wing has elongated digits with the skin between for wings.
- The whale has shrunken all of this inside of a flipper.
Pretty cool!! But we digress!
We share more than this with dogs and cats.
Most multicellular creatures have an endocannabinoid system that CBD interacts with.
It’s dated at about 600,000 years old.
Sorry insects, you came too early to the party!
Dogs and cats also have very similar pathways to us in terms of how CBD works.
They share allergic responses as well since those pathways are the same although probably more robust in cats and dogs.
The same rules above hold true for cats and dogs in terms of allergies to CBD in its different forms!
CBD Isolate in MCT oil (just two ingredients) with no other additives here:
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.
Learn why the type of CBD you take can cause a very different allergic response. Can You Be Allergic to CBD?