Could CBD help relieve allergy symptoms?
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Allergies aren’t fun. They have many different triggers and symptoms, but all share the same root catalyst: an overreaction of the immune system in response to a particular substance. They may seem like a mere irritant, but allergies affect over 50 million people a year in the United States alone, where they are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness.
There are myriad different types of allergies, including reactions to dust, certain foods, drugs, pets, mold, and latex.
One of the most common allergies is allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as hay fever. The condition affects approximately 8% of people over 18 in the US. It can ruin your summer at worst, and have you sneezing and coughing at best.
If you find yourself sniffling while hiking during the spring and summer months, chances are you might have allergic rhinitis. But it’s not just pollen that causes this reaction. Household products such as laundry detergents and cleaning solutions can trigger the allergy too.
Antihistamines and decongestants are the primary conventional treatments for allergic rhinitis—but what about CBD?
In this article, we’ll dig deeper into the nature of allergic rhinitis, and explore how CBD might benefit those experiencing symptoms.
WHAT IS ALLERGIC RHINITIS?
Allergic rhinitis produces a long list of symptoms. These include a runny nose and nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, fatigue, an itchy nose, and swollen eyes. But what causes these unpleasant effects?
Essentially, it’s the body doing this to itself. These symptoms arise when the immune system mistakenly perceives a substance as a threat.
As an act of defense, the immune system proceeds to produce antibodies—specialized blood proteins made to fight infections. The immune system creates these unique substances the first time it encounters specific antigens (toxins), and will release them every time the same toxin enters the body.
In the case of allergic rhinitis, the immune system creates antibodies against allergens such as tree pollen, grass pollen, dust mites, fungal spores, and other external irritants.
The immune system won’t trigger a reaction the first time it comes into contact with these substances. It needs time to get to know them and figure out how to stamp them out in a process known as sensitization. Once the body has developed a sensitivity, it’ll launch an antigen assault every time it encounters these substances.
Antibodies signal other cells to man the ramparts, prompting them to release symptom-causing compounds such as histamines.
Allergic rhinitis only affects a small portion of the population, and has numerous risk factors. These include having a relative with allergies, having other allergies, and living in an environment abundant with allergens.
Although allergic rhinitis isn’t a severe condition, it can reduce quality of life and result in complications like poor sleep, sinusitis, severe asthma, and ear infections.
CONVENTIONAL TREATMENTS FOR ALLERGIC RHINITIS
Antihistamines are a standard treatment for the condition. Histamines can only produce effects if they successfully bind to the appropriate receptors. Antihistamines work by stopping this from happening.
Antihistamines help to prevent symptoms if taken before coming into contact with an irritant. They can only decrease symptoms to a degree if taken afterwards. Despite their effectiveness, antihistamines can produce side effects of dry mouth, headaches, drowsiness, and nausea.
Decongestants are another common form of medication for allergic rhinitis. They help by reducing congestion, causing the small blood vessels in the nose and sinuses to contract, reducing their size and helping to quell swelling.
With this in mind, it’s worth delving into the properties of CBD to see what links, if any, can be drawn between CBD and allergy relief, especially for cases of allergic rhinitis.
CBD VS ALLERGIC RHINITIS: HOW MIGHT THE CANNABINOID HELP?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound chiefly found in cannabis flowers. As of late, the molecule has garnered significant interest from researchers for its biological effects on animals and humans.
CBD is believed to achieve its effects partially by targeting the endocannabinoid system. This regulatory network mediates physiological processes such as mood, sleep, appetite, and memory, and is comprised of CB1 and CB2 cell receptors. CBD is one of several cannabinoids thought to interact, likely indirectly, with these sites.
As a result, CBD has medical researchers more than intrigued. Scientists have yet to explore the effects of CBD on allergic rhinitis directly; however, we can look to the results of preliminary studies in associated areas to provide us with some perspective on the cannabinoid’s potential.
CBD AND GENERAL INFLAMMATION
One of the primary symptoms of allergic rhinitis is inflammation. It’s what causes swelling around the eyes and blockages in the nasal passages. Although there’s no conclusive evidence on CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties in humans, the cannabinoid has been shown to reduce swelling in animal models of inflammation.
CBD AND HISTAMINE LEVELS
CBD may be able to lower blood histamine levels by acting as an antioxidant. According to a 2011 study, antioxidants are able to decrease the secretions of mast cells, the cell types responsible for releasing histamines into the blood.
CBD AND THE SKIN
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can occur beyond the airways and eyes. The condition can also cause an eruption of rashes in the form of allergic dermatitis and eczema. In a 2018 study, CBD was shown to induce an anti-inflammatory effect in an experimental model of allergic contact dermatitis. Moreover, a scoping review on cannabinoids in dermatology invoked CBD’s potential for a wide range of skin conditions, including symptoms related to hay fever, such as pruritus (itch). Still, the researchers recognize a lack of high-quality clinical research in the area and call for further studies.
MORE RESEARCH IS NEEDED, BUT THE RESULTS LOOK PROMISING
It’s hard to draw a solid conclusion when human trials are lacking. However, science often trails behind real-world results. If you experience allergic rhinitis, CBD might be worth a shot. Given its legality, good safety profile, and minimal adverse side effects, human trials on CBD for allergies are inevitable.
We look forward to reading them!