CBD oil is popular for many reasons, but some people have sensitive skin or allergies. Will CBD cause skin itching and irritation? What can you do if it does? CBD is a plant-based compound, and allergies to plants are a real thing. But can you actually be allergic to CBD oil? Is it CBD or other hemp compounds that can trigger an allergic reaction? Studies are showing that CBD can reduce itching — but can this symptom also be the result of an allergic reaction to CBD oil? Let’s explain why some people claim that CBD oil can cause itching.
Can CBD Oil Cause Itching?
CBD oil is popular for many reasons, but some people have sensitive skin or allergies. Will CBD cause skin itching and irritation? What can you do if it does?
Many people use CBD topicals to ease pain and discomfort.
Even though CBD is safe, it does come with the potential for side effects.
Some users claim that using CBD oil causes itching, but is this true?
The main reason CBD causes itching is due to allergies to either the CBD directly or another ingredient in the product. It’s very rare for CBD to cause itching on its own and is even a popular treatment for itchy skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.
Table of Contents
What is CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the main cannabinoids found in cannabis. It’s extracted and mixed with carrier oils such as coconut or hemp seed.
CBD is used as a supplement and can help treat many diseases, though the FDA does not approve it. Some patients suffering from pain prefer CBD oil to marijuana because of the absence of mind-altering effects.
Can CBD Oil Cause Itching?
CBD in its purest form is not known to trigger skin allergies like itching, hives, soreness, or irritation.
Other synthetic ingredients in the formula would be the only credible explanation about itching after CBD use.
In most cases, skin allergies, particularly itching, point to an allergic reaction triggered by other ingredients used in CBD oil.
Ingredients That Cause Itching
- Poor-quality or expired carrier oils
- Use of lab-made synthetic additives & perfumes
- Other contaminants (heavy metals, solvents, or microbial contaminants)
Can CBD Oil Prevent Itching?
CBD is more likely to help itching than to cause it.
In fact, CBD shows potential in helping some skin disorders, such as eczema, psoriasis, pruritus, and inflammatory conditions .
In one study, 67% of eczema patients reported a decrease in itchiness, and 50% saw an improvement in their eczema by more than 60%, showing the benefits of topical CBD for atopic dermatitis .
Signs of an Allergic Reaction
If you feel that the application of CBD oil is causing itching, the best thing to do is to discontinue using the oil at the first signs of an allergic reaction to your skin. Check for the formula label to determine if any other ingredients are a known allergen to you.
Make a note of the other active ingredients and check with your doctor if they can create skin allergies or have an itching effect on your skin.
Since CBD is a plant product, it could cause an allergic reaction, though this is rare. It’s always wise to check for allergies before you apply CBD products over large areas of the skin.
Topical creams and lotions with CBD can cause a skin allergy. Unfortunately, these reactions don’t always show up right away — sometimes, it can take days. These symptoms can last a few weeks.
If you notice any of the following, stop using CBD oil right away.
Signs of an Allergic Reaction From Topical Use of CBD
- Puffy areas of skin
- Small, red spots
- Itchy, stinging, or burning sensation
- Swollen lips, eyes, or tongue
- Red, itchy, watering eyes
- Dry, cracked skin
Other CBD products require ingestion or inhalation; any allergic reaction from these methods will show up much sooner.
Again, stop use immediately if you notice any of these signs.
Fortunately, a reaction to a cannabis product is much like seasonal allergies. The symptoms go away rather quickly, and an antihistamine such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) may be able to help ease discomfort.
Signs of an Allergic Reaction From Ingesting CBD
- Dry cough
- Runny nose
- Eye irritation and redness
- Sore throat
Signs of a Serious Allergic Reaction (Anaphylactic Shock)
Though rare, some allergic reactions can be dangerous and even deadly. If you experience any of the following, seek medical attention immediately.
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Dizziness or fainting
- Loss of consciousness
How To Test CBD Oil For Allergies Before Using It
There are two simple steps to check your body’s reaction to CBD oil:
- Using a dropper, place one drop only of the CBD oil on the backside of one hand. Wait for 24 hours to determine if there are any adverse reactions. Some reactions can take longer to show up.
- Use a dropper to take only one drop of CBD oil in your mouth. Wait for a minimum of one hour to see if your body is adversely reacting to it.
Other Side Effects of CBD
CBD is safe and is not associated with any severe side effects. Still, it’s essential to know some of the potential side effects of CBD in both long-term and short-term usage.
Short Term Side Effects
When CBD is used in high amounts, combined with other medicines, or used alongside severe underlying diseases, it may lead to some adverse reactions.
- Low blood pressure
- Dry mouth, medically called Xerostomia
- Loose stools
- Loss of appetite
These side effects are temporary and only last as long as the CBD is in the bloodstream. These symptoms disappear as it wears off.
Long Term Side Effects
These side effects do not appear right away; they come slowly after constant use and are often associated with CBD mixing with prescription drugs or from smoking it.
- Excessive weight loss or gain
- Weakened immunity
- Liver functions
Summary: Does CBD Cause Itching?
CBD is a safe, powerful, natural treatment for many diseases. Problems that do occur are usually from impure or contaminated products. These are off-brands or have cheap ingredients that can trigger skin allergies.
To avoid these issues, only buy high-quality CBD oil from reliable vendors. If you suffer from severe allergies or are allergic to hemp seed, do an allergy test before using any CBD or cannabis product.
CBD Allergies: Can You Have Allergic Reaction to CBD Oil (Itching & Rash)?
Allergies are adverse reactions of the immune system that are not triggered in healthy people. Symptoms of allergies include sniffling, watery eyes, itching, or asthma.
According to official statistics, allergies are the No. 6 cause of chronic illnesses in the United States. Hay fever affects roughly 19.9 adults, as reported in 2017 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CBD is a phytochemical. In other words, it comes from plants — specifically, from cannabis plants.
Given this, it’s natural to wonder whether CBD oil, a product that contains over 400 phytochemicals aside from CBD, can trigger allergies.
Though there’s not much research regarding allergic reactions to CBD oil, the cannabis plant itself has been linked to allergies.
Today, we’ll elaborate on potential allergies to CBD oil, why they happen, what researchers are saying, and whether you can still use CBD if the full-spectrum oil causes you to experience the aforementioned pesky symptoms.
Allergies in the United States in Numbers
Over 50% of the U.S. population has allergies to at least one thing. Hay fever — allergic rhinitis — is the most common allergy, affecting between 10 and 30% of all American adults, and may affect up to 40% of children.
While there’s no cure for allergies, they can be effectively managed with proper nutrition, supplementation, and a healthy lifestyle. Of course, avoiding triggers is also a good strategy.
Some allergies are more severe than others and may require a complex treatment
Below we break down the mechanism of allergies.
A Brief Overview of Allergies and How They Work
Allergies are a common health problem. They manifest in itching, sneezing, a runny nose, droopy eyes, and sometimes difficulty breathing.
But what is the root of allergies? Where do they start?
The answer is: A compromised immune system.
The immune system controls allergic reactions. A properly functioning immune system can tell the difference between harmful and safe compounds to eliminate potential dangers. However, when it goes out of whack, it starts to identify benign substances as potential dangers — creating antibodies to attack these “irritants.”
In fact, the body releases antibodies every time a person is exposed to the allergen.
Histamine is the antibody with plant allergies like hay fever. The antihistamine medications work to prevent antibodies from causing damage to the immune system. Common antihistamine drugs include Claritin, which is available over the counter. CBD allergies fall into the category of plant allergies.
Food allergies are more difficult to treat. The immune system becomes aggressive against proteins in the food, triggering serious symptoms like anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis can be fatal if left without immediate help. Sufferers usually carry special pens with epinephrine to treat an allergic reaction once it begins.
In a 2009 study published in Immunobiology, the authors suggested that cannabinoids such as CBD and THC could take part in immunosuppressive processes (1). This means that they may block the reactions of the immune system against the triggers.
Does it mean you could use CBD oil for allergies directly as well as for preventative measures?
Not exactly, but we’ll get to that later on.
Some people are worried that CBD might cause allergies. Is this claim backed by any scientific evidence, or is it just a rumor?
Can You Be Allergic to CBD?
An allergy to cannabis is a real thing. By the same token, a person might be allergic to CBD. Inhaling, eating, or touching cannabis plants can cause allergic reactions due to contact with pollen. When you inhale that pollen, you may suffer from hay fever.
In a 2018 study, the research team found that people with allergies to mold, dust mites, cat dander, and plants, have a higher risk of developing an allergy to cannabis (2). However, this is the only study regarding this subject as of today. More research is needed to establish a clear link between cannabis and allergic reactions.
Since it’s possible to be allergic to cannabis if you’re allergic to pollen or mold, contaminants in CBD products should be the main concern for you.
When it comes to cannabinoids, things look quite similar. A 1971 study found that THC could produce an allergic reaction (3). CBD and THC have similar chemical structures, meaning that CBD also has the potential to trigger an allergy. However, it’s important to note that the side effects of CBD are different from allergic reactions. The study also didn’t focus specifically on CBD.
Common Allergic Reactions to CBD Oil
A CBD allergy can show up in a variety of ways. Two people may have completely different symptoms, so it can be tricky to distinguish between a CBD allergy from the mild side effects of CBD.
Potential adverse reactions to CBD include dizziness, dry mouth, lethargy, nausea, and diarrhea. These are not the symptoms of an allergy to CBD. Moreover, they are nearly nonexistent in normal doses.
CBD oil allergies have the following effects:
- Dry, Itchy, or Red Eyes: Although this side effect is associated with taking THC due to its ability to dilate blood vessels in the eyes, some users might experience this after taking CBD oil. If you have this kind of reaction, or your eyes are watering, it might be the symptom of a CBD allergy.
- Breathing Difficulty: If you have difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention. With CBD products, this side effect may stem from poor-quality products that contain dangerous additives or mold.
- Skin Irritations: when you use CBD topically, you may notice a rash or hives as the manifestation of your allergy to CBD. However, this could also be triggered by one of the many other ingredients in creams and gels, so make sure to read the list of ingredients carefully.
- Migraines: While some CBD users may experience a slight headache at higher doses, migraines are a severe symptom that can indicate an allergy to some of the compounds in CBD oil.
People who are allergic to CBD oil are advised to try CBD isolate instead of full-spectrum products. Full-spectrum CBD oils are made using the whole plant, so they contain cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, essential oils, proteins, vitamins, trace minerals, and plant wax. As a result, there’s a higher risk of experiencing an allergic reaction.
It’s a good idea to try a few different CBD products with various spectra to determine which form of CBD works without triggering allergies. You should also check with a doctor to seek medical advice about what to do when the symptoms kick in.
Research on CBD Oil & Allergies
- Researchers from the Duke University School of Medicine found that about 20% of the 100 people they tested experienced allergic reactions to linalool, while 8% were allergic to limonene (4). These two molecules are commonly found in cannabis extracts such as CBD oil.
- In a letter entitled “Marijuana and stoned fruit,” written by doctors from the University of California, San Diego, and published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, a 24-year-old male marijuana daily user had an anaphylactic reaction after eating yogurt with hemp seeds (5).
- A 2013 study from the Internal Archives of Allergy and Immunology examined 21 patients with food allergies for reactivity to cannabis lipid transfer proteins (LTP), which are alleged allergens (6). Twelve subjects were allergic to cannabis, and all 12 had more severe symptoms of food allergy than those who weren’t allergic to cannabis.
Can CBD Oil Help with Allergies?
1While research supporting the idea that CBD could alleviate allergies and their symptoms are limited, there are some studies regarding its general effects on inflammation, which is one of the body’s triggers of an allergic reaction.
In a 2011 research report published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, the authors investigated the potential impact of CBD on various inflammatory conditions (7). George W. Booz, a professor in the department of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, suggested in the report:
“Inflammation and oxidative stress are intimately involved in the genesis of many human diseases. Unraveling that relationship therapeutically has proven challenging, in part because inflammation and oxidative stress feed off each other. However, CBD would seem to be a promising starting point for further drug development given its antioxidant (although relatively modest) and anti-inflammatory actions on immune cells.”
According to the research team, there is no clinical evidence CBD oil could alleviate allergies, so while we have some laboratory studies suggesting anti-inflammatory effects exist, we need more longitudinal research to draw definitive conclusions.
Final Thoughts on CBD Allergies
If you want to minimize the risk of experiencing an allergic reaction to CBD, it’s best to purchase from a reputable brand that sells high-quality products. A lot of allergies caused by CBD oils appear to stem from unwanted substances such as contaminants, solvents, or plant residue. Always make sure to check for third-party lab reports when browsing different CBD products. It might be worth spending some extra time to ensure you get a decent product.
Right now, research on CBD allergies is in the early stage. As the number of CBD users grows, so will the data about potential allergic reactions. An allergy to CBD is extremely rare, but people with pre-existing allergies or other health conditions should take particular caution.
Can CBD Oil Cause Itching?
According to many experts and official reports from international health agencies, CBD has an excellent safety profile, with only a few benign side effects.
However, for some patients, CBD may cause reactions that aren’t experienced by other people — such as itching.
Is it a coincidence, or does CBD oil really cause itching?
In this article, we leave no doubt behind potential allergic reactions to CBD products — and how to avoid them.
Can CBD Cause Itching?
One of the main reasons CBD has become so popular is that it generally doesn’t have serious adverse effects. In a 2017 review published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, the authors concluded that CBD is safe and well-tolerated by humans in comparison to many pharmaceuticals that are prescribed for the same conditions ( 1 ).
That said, there are a few side effects that you might experience when taking large doses of CBD oil. The most common side effects of CBD include dry mouth, changes in appetite, dizziness, and — in extreme cases — diarrhea.
According to the report issued by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), CBD might cause itching in some individuals. The MHRA is an agency that provides consumers with the opportunity to report adverse reactions after taking certain supplements.
The report stated that there were at least two cases of itching after taking CBD oil. One person took CBD orally and experienced a severe skin reaction known as urticaria. Another used both oral and topical forms of CBD — and also experienced itching .
Whether these side effects were caused by CBD alone, some other compounds of hemp oil, or by impurities is unknown.
So, how common is itching after CBD oil, and does it have any other alarming symptoms?
Itching and Other Allergic Reactions to CBD Oil
The information on CBD oil and allergies is scarce. However, it seems that people can develop allergies to cannabis in general.
The Annals of Asthma, Allergies, and Immunology conducted a study in 2013, where they reported cases of hypersensitivity and even anaphylaxis after using marijuana ( 3 ).
Anaphylaxis, also known as anaphylactic shock, is a severe allergic reaction that causes the swelling of the airways and makes people unable to breathe. The reaction can even be fatal.
The symptoms of allergies to cannabis include:
- Rhinitis (nasal inflammation)
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Dry eyes
- Shortness of breath
- Nasal congestion
Some studies also suggest that high doses of cannabis could result in asthma and bronchitis. However, the results are conflicted, as there are at least a few studies suggesting that cannabis can be used for the treatment of asthma — being part of the medical cannabis program in many states.
Again, we’d need to consider the purity of cannabis and its derivatives in the studies that indicated the risk of allergic reactions to the plant. Cannabis grown on illegal sites can be contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, synthetic cannabinoids, and blends of drugs that are used to potentiate its psychoactive effects by black market vendors.
The authors of the study also found that workers in hemp processing facilities may have higher rates of respiratory disorders. They point that cannabis allergies occur due to inhaling and direct handling, although edibles could also potentially cause allergies.
Since CBD is derived from cannabis, it’s within reason to assume that people with cannabis allergies can also be sensitive to CBD.
More research is required to draw definitive conclusions, especially with the purity of cannabis products in mind.
Can CBD Oil Trigger a Skin Rash?
As mentioned earlier in this article, the reports of skin rashes and itching after CBD oil are few and far between — at least when it comes to hemp-derived CBD oil. This side effect might be more common with a synthetic form of CBD known as Epidiolex.
Epidiolex is the only form of CBD that has received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, researchers have investigated it in terms of both potential benefits and side effects.
The information on the drug’s prescription lists rashes as one of the most common side effects of Epidiolex.
It also notes that the drug can trigger liver problems. One of the symptoms of this reaction is itching.
Other signs of liver problems include:
- Pain in the upper-right abdominal area
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Dark urine
- Reduced appetite
It’s worth noting that the above reactions refer to synthetic forms of CBD. There have been no such issues with hemp-derived CBD oil that has been tested for potency and purity by an independent laboratory. So, when buying products online, make sure to check and read these lab test results to know the potency of the products you are going to purchase and their contents.
Anyone experiencing the above side effects after Epidiolex should seek medical attention immediately.
Can CBD Oil Make Your Eyes Itch?
Itchy eyes are an obvious indicator of allergies. Pollen allergies often make our eyes dry, red, watery, and itchy. In other words, if you’re allergic to hemp and get into contact with the plant’s pollen, this could trigger itchy eyes.
Marijuana users may be familiar with the tell-tale effect of red eyes after consumption. However, this side effect is not to be confused with the dryness caused by allergies. Dry and red eyes after consuming marijuana result from its effects on the blood capillaries surrounding the ocular nerves; when THC enters your system, the capillaries get dilated, resulting in increased blood flow — and giving you the ruby eyes.
There are no reliable reports of itching caused by CBD oil. However, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Let us know in the comments if you have experienced itching after taking CBD products.
CBD and Itching: The Cause or the Solution?
Although some people have experienced itching after taking CBD products, it seems that this side effect only affects a very small percentage of users. In fact, some studies suggest that CBD could offer relief from itching in skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema.
CBD works in the body by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS has cannabinoid receptors all over the body, including the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and all organs. The ECS has been found to regulate many essential biological processes — such as immune function.
When you take CBD oil for itching, it interacts with the CB2 cannabinoid receptors that modulate the activity of immune cells. CBD can both improve the communication between these cells — ensuring the healthy functioning of the immune system — and reduce inflammation by inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines.
Lower inflammation markers have been associated with an anti-inflammatory response, including a reduction in pain, swelling, redness, and itching.
On top of that, CBD indirectly signals the ECS to release more of its endocannabinoids. It also slows down their breakdown by blocking the enzyme called Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH) Once released, they also bind to cannabinoid receptors, bolstering the immunomodulatory effects of cannabidiol.
In a 2006 German study published in the journal Der Hautarzt , the research team tested a compound called N-palmitoyl ethanolamine (PEA) on 22 patients with various skin conditions. The compound is a cannabinoid agonist, meaning it activates the receptors of the ECS ( 4 ).
Of the 22 participants, 14 experienced relief from itching, with an average reduction score of 86.4%.
Unfortunately, the study had a very small sample size; therefore, more large-scale studies are necessary to confirm these results with greater confidence.
Nevertheless, the preliminary findings are very promising, suggesting that CBD is more likely to solve the problem of itching rather than to cause it.
So… Can CBD Oil Cause Itching?
Although some individuals reported itching after using CBD oil, this adverse reaction might affect only a small percentage of users. Moreover, itching doesn’t have to be caused by CBD itself; instead, it may result from contamination with toxic compounds that can irritate the skin and trigger allergies.
The reaction can also be caused by other hemp compounds that are present in full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD oils. Natural ingredients are known to cause allergies in sensitive users, so if you suspect that CBD oil causes itching in your case, opt for isolate-based products, as they only contain CBD.
There are two things you can do to avoid experiencing itching after taking CBD oil. First, always make sure to buy CBD products from a reputable manufacturer that provides relevant and up-to-date lab reports for every batch. We also suggest that you consult a doctor and run allergy tests if you believe that you’re allergic to any of the ingredients found in whole plant extracts.
Have you ever experienced itching after taking CBD oil? Share your stories in the comment section!
- Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research , 2 (1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034
- Food.gov.uk. (2019) Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products, and the Environment. Available at: https://cot.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/tox2019-32.pdf
- Nayak AP, Green BJ, Sussman G, et al. Characterization of Cannabis sativa allergens. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol . 2013;111(1):32-37. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2013.04.018
- Ständer, S., Reinhardt, H. W., & Luger, T. A. (2006). Topische Cannabinoidagonisten. Eine effektive, neue Möglichkeit zur Behandlung von chronischem Pruritus [Topical cannabinoid agonists. An effective new possibility for treating chronic pruritus]. Der Hautarzt; Zeitschrift fur Dermatologie, Venerologie, und verwandte Gebiete, 57(9), 801–807. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00105-006-1180-1
Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.