There are certain components of the cannabis plant, and certain components involved in its production, that aren’t innocuous for every user.
If you’ve ever experienced a funky reaction to pot and wondered if you might be allergic – or, if that’s even possible, know this: it is. There are certain components of the cannabis plant, and certain components involved in its production, that aren’t innocuous for every user.
Smokers and eaters, take heed – nurse, researcher and Founder & CEO of the Canadian Institute for Medical Advancement Sabrina Ramkellawan confirms that “various routes of exposure and sensitization can lead to a primary cannabis allergy; you can become sensitized through inhalation of cannabis allergen – active smoking or vaporizing the drug, while others may become sensitized by ingestion of the drug. Another route could be passive exposure by proxy when allergens become airborne.”
So for one thing, the light-as-air pollen cannabis produces can totally give you a less-than-high-vibe respiratory reaction, just like ragweed can. Cannabis pollen grains are also super buoyant, which allows them to distribute freely across many miles if the wind takes them, which increases their effectiveness as an irritant. Case in point: people who live in areas where large quantities of marijuana plants are grown (shout-out to Omaha, Nebraska, where cannabis pollen accounts for 36% of the total pollen count mid-to-late-August), are especially prone to allergic reactions.
… on a more local scale, you might be wheezing as your room mate chops up bud on the coffee table. If you notice your reactions occur after smoking or vaping (in the form of nasal congestion, runny nose, post-nasal drip, sneezing, red eyes, itching of nose/eyes), consider switching to edibles and avoid any contact with pollen.
Now, if you’re an edibles fan and you find yourself swollen or rashy after consumption, it’s the terpenes in cannabis could be to blame. Sabrina confirms, “terpenes have also demonstrated allergic activity; such as linalool, limonene and caryophyllene.” Terpenes are the different oils secreted by the same glands of the plant that produce cannabinoids THC and CBD, and give certain strains their different flavors and effects. In other words, the thing you love MOST about your favourite strain is the thing that could be causing you irritation.
Apart from naturally-occurring offenders pollen and terpenes, “organic solvents and pesticides / fungicides are sometimes used in cannabis production, so if anyone has allergies to specific ones, they could react,” Sabrina says. There are 21 pest control products currently approved for use on cannabis in Canada – and if you’re super sensitive to any one of them, you could experience some symptoms. On top of this, cannabis can become moldy when stored. If mould makes you mucusy or stuffed up, that’s another possibility.
How is a user to know which part of the plant is causing their distress? Well, you could get an official diagnosis for your allergy, which, Sabrina says, “would be made like any other allergy through allergy testing – it can involve skin prick tests, patch tests, blood tests, or physician-supervised challenge tests.” But regardless, there’s no cure for a cannabis allergy, and across the board, avoidance is the most-guaranteed solution for allergic reactions.
If you want relief from symptoms, Sabrina recommends, simply, “treatment with antihistamines, intranasal steroids, and nasal decongestants.” So, unless your tongue swells up and your throat threatens to close up when you imbibe (in which case, obviously talk to your doctor and avoid pot consumption in any way) an over-the-counter solution is pretty much your best bet.
Do you experience allergic reactions to pot? Have you discovered any other allergy-treatment hacks? Your tip could be a game-changer in another persons’s life. Please share!