How can CBD help with Seasonal Allergies [Research Guide]

Each year we get excited about the coming summer months as we emerge from brutal cold winters that coop us up inside. The weather gets warmer and the days grow longer, spring brings blooming flowers, and the return of wildlife. However, the return of spring can also be an uncomfortable time of the year for some individuals with seasonal allergies. 

Allergy Statistics

It is estimated that 10-30% of the global population suffers from seasonal allergies. The symptoms can range from a slight annoyance to more serious life threatening conditions. The severity of the symptoms is different from person to person, yet most agree that current over-the-counter medications for seasonal allergies aren’t ideal. 

CBD as a potential treatment

CBD is a great alternative and there are new discoveries being made as researchers continue to learn more about the cannabis compound. Much of the claims made as to what CBD can do need to catch up to the science, however this is largely due to researchers’ previous inability to study CBD due to its schedule 1 status. Now that CBD is legal, more and more research is being done to better understand its effects on the human body. 

What does research say about using CBD for spring/seasonal allergies? Can CBD help with allergy symptoms? Before we dive into what the science has to say, it’s important to understand how allergies happen within our body and the mechanisms that release histamine, and mechanisms to reduce histamine production. 

What Causes Spring Allergies? 

Our immune system protects us from health threats like viruses and bacteria. While the immune system tends to be effective at performing its role, it still has flaws. Many times the immune system can overreact when exposed to what seem like harmless food or environmental particles. Pollen, mold, dander, and dust can be carried through the air and coat the surrounding environment. In spring, these particles exist in larger quantities when plants start to grow and bloom. Additionally, turning on air conditioning can circulate dust and other particles that have built up over the winter. We do not know why, but the immune system can mistake harmless particles like pollen or dust as a threat. The immune system then kicks into overdrive in an attempt to eliminate the threat. 

The overactive response of the body's immune system when particles in the surrounding environment pick up in the spring is actually what is responsible for symptoms that are known as spring allergies. 

Symptoms of Spring Allergies

The immune response to allergens can create many different symptoms. The symptoms can last two months or more depending on the weather and environmental factors. 

Symptoms include:

  • Runny nose

  • Nasal congestion

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue

  • Wheezing

  • Coughing

  • Itching and Dermatitis

  • Rashes and Hives

  • Sneezing

  • Watery eyes

  • Swelling

  • Inflammation

For most people, spring allergies are a small annoyance. However, those with severe allergies can experience more frightening symptoms such as throat swelling, and difficulty breathing. Individuals with asthma may have increased difficulty breathing as a result of allergies, which can be life threatening. 

Typical Over The Counter Treatment for Seasonal Spring Allergies

Allergies have been traditionally treated with over the counter antihistamines and decongestants. Common medications for seasonal allergies include:

  • Zyrtec

  • Allegra

  • Claritin

  • Benadryl

  • Visine

  • Sudafed

Over the counter medications can be effective at treating allergy symptoms, but they can also come with some undesirable side effects such as:

  • Anxiety

  • Sweating

  • Stinging

  • Drowsiness

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Restlessness

  • High blood pressure

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Confusion

  • Moodiness

  • Blurred vision

  • Dry mouth

Due to the long list of potential side effects from over the counter medication, many individuals seek alternatives to over the counter medications for spring allergies. 

Does CBD Help Fight Allergies?

Much research still needs to occur regarding CBD, but many studies have found a number of different benefits from CBD usage ranging from reducing anxiety to reducing chronic pain. Does CBD help fight allergies? Many people have been experimenting with CBD for allergy relief with positive results, but not all. 

A Reddit user had the following to report:

“What I didn’t expect was for it to completely neutralize my seasonal allergies — which are pretty severe — and, relatedly, my asthma. For once, I can breathe through BOTH my lungs and nostrils during the spring without having to drown myself in cetirizine”

Another Reddit user had the following to report regarding her dog’s allergies:

“My dog has really bad allergies. For years his throat has been nasty, hairless, wet and scabby, even with vet meds. He’s been on K9 CBD for a few months and he’s got hair coming back, no redness or wetness and he’s got more energy”

There isn’t yet enough research to confidently proclaim that CBD is an appropriate solution for allergies. However, there is research to support that CBD can assist with allergies in a number of different ways. 

The Endocannabinoid System and The Immune System

As discussed earlier, allergies are caused by an overactive immune system Histamines are chemicals the immune system produces to help the body get rid of allergens. By reducing histamine, you can potentially reduce allergy symptoms. The endocannabinoid system regulates the immune system response through endocannabinoid receptors. CBD, which interacts with the endocannabinoid system, has been shown to play a role in helping to regulate the immune system. The discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is fairly recent, and we are still learning how it works with and inside the body. With the things we have learned, however, we know that the ECS helps establish and maintain homeostasis, or balance, between the various systems in the body. Your body produces endocannabinoids as needed to help modulate or regulate cell function, including the cells in your immune system.

How CBD Affects the Immune System

As we mentioned earlier, studies have found that CBD can influence your immune system. More specifically, studies have found that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, and it functions as an immunosuppressant and immunomodulator. A large amount of studies discuss CBD’s immunosuppressant effects, but these studies are full of unfamiliar scientific terms. Here’s a quick breakdown of how CBD works as an immunosuppressant:

  • CBD has anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce the immune system’s inflammatory response. Inflammation is a vital, but annoying response that isolates infected areas and prevents toxins from spreading.

  • CBD can promote apoptosis, or cellular death. All cells are scheduled for death and  then copies are reborn through other mechanisms, so this isn’t always a bad thing.

  • CBD can prevent proliferation, or rapid cellular growth.

  • CBD can modulate or suppress the function and secretion of cytokines. Cytokines are large groups of proteins, secreted by specific cells in your immune system. Their function is to signal molecules that regulate your body’s immunity, inflammation, and white blood cell production.

  • CBD can also suppress the production of chemokine, which is a group of cytokines that act as chemoattractants. They lead immune cells to an infection site so that the white blood cells can attack and destroy invading microbes.

  • CBD can suppress T-cell production and function, ultimately suppressing the immune system’s ability to remember foreign invaders.

As you can see from CBD’s impact on the immune system, a healthy person with no symptoms of allergies or more severe chronic pain, anxiety, etc. may be wise to avoid frequent CBD consumption. CBD suppresses the immune system, which is usually only good when the immune system has gone into overdrive. Seasonal allergies, and more serious autoimmune diseases are examples of when suppressing immune function may be a desirable outcome. 

 CBD Counters Inflammation

CBD interferes with the functions of mediators of inflammation. It blocks the release of histamine from mast cells (inflammatory cells) and keeps the manifestations of allergies like redness, swelling, and pain at bay. CBD essentially exerts similar actions to antihistamine drugs commonly used to treat allergy symptoms. 

CBD May Reduce Airway Secretions

The anti-inflammatory action of CBD reduces the amount of secretions in the airways. This helps keep the airways clear and improves breathing. It can also help prevent coughing and wheezing typically associated with allergies and clear up clogged nasal passages and sinuses. 

CBD May Relieve Skin Rashes and Eczema

CBD (especially topical preparations) may help with skin manifestations of allergies. Eczema is commonly associated with allergies, especially seasonal allergic asthma. CBD helps alleviate the skin redness, flakiness, and itching associated with eczema.

CBD May Improve Immune Homeostasis

Allergies send the immune system into overdrive, and CBD helps stabilize the internal body environment. It interacts with the CB2 receptors located on the immune cells, enhancing immune system homeostasis to restore balance and ward off allergies.

Is CBD an Allergy Medication?

Based on the current research available, CBD should not be considered an allergy medication, largely because it hasn’t yet been studied completely. However, research does support that it may be helpful in relieving some symptoms of seasonal allergies. It may bring your immune system into homeostasis, taking it out of overdrive and reducing the symptoms associated with allergies. 

Before using CBD to help with allergy relief, you should consult with your doctor. 

About the author:

Nate Spock is the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer for Potter, a hemp wellness company that produces CBD, CBG, and terpene optimized products in Massachusetts. He has been researching cannabis for more than a decade largely due to health conditions such as IBS, IBD, SIBO, and resulting anxiety. Nate’s been able to utilize cannabis products to improve his quality of life and wants to educate the public on the helpful information he has uncovered during his research. His goals are to bring the cannabis industry forward by creating optimized natural medicines, educate consumers about the truth of cannabis research, remove the potential of a “poor experience” with cannabis, and reduce the intimidation factor for the “canna curious” so that all consumers can experience the benefits that cannabis has to offer.