Do you suffer from seasonal allergies? Are nose sprays and decongestants your best friends?
Well, if you answer yes to both questions and you are ready to try something new, you might want to look into cannabis. Whether it’s because your usual meds are not as effective anymore or you just want something more natural and plant-based, cannabis is worth a try.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, asthma, allergic rhinitis, eczema, and other allergic diseases are common for all age groups in the U.S.
In the U.S., allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness, with an annual cost of more than $18 billion. Over 50 million Americans suffer from allergies annually.
The prevalence of skin and food allergies in children under 18 years old rose from 1997 to 2011. And according to data published from the 2014 National Health Interview Survey, 8.4 percent of American children under age 18 suffered from allergic rhinitis, 10 percent from respiratory allergies, 11.6 percent from skin allergies, and 5.4 percent from food allergies.
What causes allergies?
Allergies are our body’s way of protecting itself from invaders. However, allergic reactions are more often triggered by substances that are harmless by themselves, like a bit of dust, pollen, or mold. When these substances make their way into your system, it reacts by producing custom antibodies that will attack the so-called invader. These antibodies also trigger the release of chemicals like histamine, and this brings out familiar allergic symptoms like itching, rashes, sneezing, runny nose, congestion, watery eyes, wheezing, coughing, inflammation, ear congestion, and even asthma.
What can cannabis do to reduce allergies?
Whether you are dealing with airway hyperactivity, allergic asthma, nasal inflammation, or an immune overreaction, using anti-inflammatory medications is usually helpful. And some of the cannabinoids found in cannabis have anti-inflammatory properties. So, hypothetically, cannabis could help.
Moreover, cannabis can help with allergies by reducing the level of antibodies that trigger the release of histamine into your system.
According to a 2009 study, cannabinoids impaired the activation of mouse T-cells, which is a type of white blood cell. The activation of T-cells increases antibody responses, which in turn leads to increased histamine and, therefore, increased allergic reactions. When this activation is impaired, cannabinoids are also able to lessen the antibody response and reduce your allergy symptoms.
A 2005 cell study also suggests that cannabis can prevent heightened histamine responses via a different route. Researchers found that exposure to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) could suppress mast cell activation. These cells are found in connective tissue and activating them triggers the release of histamine.
Do doctors recommend cannabis for allergies?
Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician at Massachusetts General and one of the heads of the Doctors For Cannabis Regulation advocacy group, told Leafly that while he thinks that cannabis could help, taking it might not be as effective as the over-the-counter allergy remedies. He said that cannabis may not be nearly as strong as, say, Flonase.
According to Dr. Grinspoon, he does not think that cannabis is a great treatment per se for allergies. That does not mean, however, that it does not help at all.
Even if he does advocate for medical cannabis, Dr. Grinspoon says cannabis is not something he would recommend to his patients for allergies. But he said that he could see a nasal spray made from concentrated anti-inflammatory cannabinoids in the future.