Can CBD Oil Cause Itching?

Illustration of a women with itching problem on her skin
Written by Nina Julia | Last updated: November 18, 2021

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

CBD Oil Drops to Finger

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
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry eyes
  • Swelling
  • 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:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • 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?

Hand Skin Touching Hemp Leaves

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!

References:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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.

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