Article by Andy Andersen, WeedMaps News
As marijuana becomes more common and less taboo, veteran and novice users alike are becoming more aware of the way human bodies react to the plant. For those who experience seasonal, plant, or food allergies, the question of “Could I be allergic to cannabis?” may arise.
And if a cannabis allergy exists, what types of signs and symptoms should they look out for?
Cannabis Allergies: What We Know So Far
Though the research thus far is limited, we do know that cannabis allergies exist. Cannabis has a long, storied history of both stigma and mystique, with a wide range of effects and side effects that have been attributed to the plant over the years. Some effects attributed to cannabis have been accurate, while others completely fabricated.
But the possibility of cannabis allergy is neither an overblown anti-marijuana scare tactic nor an indication that the plant is less healthful or therapeutic than we thought. Rather, it is the same as any other plant which, though typically beneficial, may cause allergies in some consumers.
So let’s look at the available research to better understand the mechanisms that cause allergic reactions in some cannabis users.
Lipid Transfer Proteins (LTPs)
Several recent studies have identified lipid transfer proteins (LTPs) as probable allergens in cannabis. LTPs are proteins that act as allergens, often found in plant-based foods and pollen. LTPs cause allergic reactions in humans by triggering an overproduction of antibodies.
In a March 2019 study published in The Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology: In Practice, 120 cannabis allergy patients and 62 healthy control subjects were given a hemp extract through three different administration tests, including a skin-prick test. The hemp extract was rich in Can s 3, a non-specific LTP (ns-LTP) prevalent in cannabis. The study concluded that about 80% of cannabis allergy patients tested were sensitive to the Can s 3 protein, with 72% of anaphylactic patients also testing positive for Can s 3 sensitivity.
In short, this study suggests that LTPs aren’t the only cannabis allergen, but play a prominent role in triggering allergic reactions to cannabis.
Other studies have shown similar results when testing cannabis LTP-sensitivity among cannabis allergy patients. Some of these studies also show a recurring cross-reactivity to other plants that contain similar proteins, according to a December 2017 study published in the French Journal of Clinical Pneumology. Cross-reactivity occurs when someone has an allergic reaction to similar proteins from different substances. About 45% of cannabis allergic patients in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology study also reported allergic reactions to plant-derived foods.