Most experts consider cannabidiol (CBD) to have an excellent safety profile and minimal risk of side effects. However, some patients have reported experiencing itching after using CBD oil. Could this be a CBD side effect or merely a coincidence?
In this article, we’ll answer the question, “can CBD oil cause itching?” Read on to learn more.
Does CBD Make You Itch?
One of the reasons CBD has become so popular is that it generally causes very few adverse effects.
A 2017 review for Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research investigated the safety and side effects of CBD. It concluded that CBD has a favorable side effect profile in comparison to many pharmaceuticals that treat the same conditions.
That said, side effects did occur, with the most common being tiredness, diarrhea, and appetite/weight changes. The report makes no mention of itching as a potential CBD oil side effect.
However, over in the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had different findings. The MHRA runs something known as the Yellow Card Scheme. The scheme provides consumers with an opportunity to report adverse reactions after using a specific medicine or supplement.
The 2019 report suggests that there were at least two cases of rashes and itching after using CBD oil. One patient took CBD orally and experienced urticaria, a severe skin reaction involving red welts, swelling, and intense itching. Another used CBD both orally and topically, and also experienced itching.
It seems that the most likely explanation for these adverse effects is an allergic reaction to CBD oil. So, how common is this problem, and are there any other symptoms?
Itching and Other CBD Oil Allergic Reaction Symptoms
There is little information available on CBD oil allergies. However, there is some research into cannabis allergies in general. The Annals of Asthma, Allergies, and Immunology conducted a study in 2013. It concluded that there had been cases of hypersensitivity and even anaphylaxis after using marijuana.
Anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock, is an extreme allergic reaction. It results in swelling of the airways, inability to breathe, and can potentially be fatal. Other cannabis allergy symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Rhinitis (nasal inflammation)
- Nasal congestion
- Shortness of breath
- Watery eyes
The research also suggests that high doses of cannabis could lead to asthma and bronchitis.
Furthermore, it states that workers in hemp processing facilities may experience higher rates of respiratory problems. The authors point out that most cannabis allergies occur due to smoking and direct handling. However, consuming edibles could also potentially cause a reaction.
The AAAAI (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology) says that cannabis allergy can develop due to “inhaling, smoking, touching, and eating marijuana.” It states that touching the plant could cause rashes, hives, and swelling in sensitive individuals.
Since CBD comes from cannabis plants, it is reasonable to assume that those with cannabis allergies could also be sensitive to CBD. However, more research is necessary to confirm how many people are allergic to CBD oil, and to what extent.
Can CBD Oil Cause a Skin Rash?
As we have already mentioned, there have been isolated reports of CBD causing a skin rash. This side effect may be more common with a particular form of CBD known as Epidiolex.
Epidiolex is the only form of CBD with full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, scientists have tested it rigorously for both potential benefits and side effects. The drug’s prescribing information lists rashes as one of the most common side effects of Epidiolex.
It also states that the drug could cause liver problems. One of the symptoms of this is itching. Other signs of liver issues include:
- Reduced appetite
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Dark urine
- Pain in the upper-right abdominal area
Anyone experiencing these side effects after taking Epidiolex or CBD oil should seek medical advice immediately.
Can CBD Oil Cause Itchy Eyes?
Itchy eyes are a common allergy symptom. Pollen allergies often cause the eyes to become red, watery, and itchy. Therefore, someone coming into contact with cannabis or hemp pollen could experience these effects.
Those who use marijuana regularly may be familiar with the tell-tale side effect of red or bloodshot eyes. However, this is not due to CBD but the intoxicating compound in cannabis, THC.
Red eyes are the result of THC causing the blood vessels to relax and widen. Many believe that, for the same reason, marijuana could be a useful glaucoma treatment.
We couldn’t find any reliable reports of CBD oil causing itchy eyes, but that does not mean it is impossible. Let us know in the comments at the end of the article if you have experienced this.
CBD and Itching: The Problem or the Solution?
Although some people have experienced itching after using CBD oil, this reaction only affects a minority of users. In fact, some research suggests that CBD could offer a solution to itching in skin conditions such as psoriasis and dermatitis.
CBD impacts the body by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is present in most of the body’s tissues, including the skin. Experts believe that it regulates the growth and development of skin cells and influences their immune function.
The ECS is also present in the skin’s nerve endings and plays a role in sensory perception, including pain and itching. These effects are under the control of numerous cell receptors, including cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). These receptors become active when they bind with chemicals called endocannabinoids that our bodies naturally produce.
It seems that CBD works primarily by increasing the levels of these endocannabinoids to enhance ECS function. This effect means that CBD could be more likely to relieve itching than cause it.
A 2006 study for the German journal Der Hautarzt tested a compound called N-palmitoyl ethanolamine (PEA) in 22 patients with itching due to various skin conditions. The chemical is a cannabinoid agonist, meaning that it stimulates receptors in the ECS. Of the 22 participants, 14 experienced reductions in itching. The average reduction was an impressive 86.4%.
This study, unfortunately, had a very small sample size, and more research is necessary to confirm its results conclusively. However, these preliminary findings suggest that, unless you have a CBD allergy, the compound is more likely to act as a solution to itching than a cause.
Can CBD Oil Cause Itching? Final Thoughts
It seems that CBD oil may cause itching in a small number of consumers. This reaction is most likely the result of a CBD allergy or sensitivity to other ingredients in the product. The latter could be especially true when using topical CBD products as these contain a variety of components that could potentially irritate the skin.
We advise anyone thinking about using CBD skin creams to look for a product containing all-natural ingredients and as few of them as possible. This precaution is especially important if you have sensitive skin or other allergies.
As always, we only recommend buying CBD from reputable brands that publish third-party lab reports on their websites. Products that have not undergone testing may contain contaminants and increase the risk of adverse reactions like itching.
And finally, if you do experience itching after taking CBD, we suggest that you stop using it immediately. Make an appointment with a physician, who will be able to run tests and advise you further.