Knowledge of cannabis and the constituents within the plant has come a long way over the years but there is still so much more to know.
Quality is extremely important, especially when it comes to how the plant is grown and stored, not to mention processed depending on the method of administration used in consuming cannabis. When we look at how allergies play a role in the overall health of our patients we also have to recommend patients do their due diligence to get high quality strains of cannabis that will not flare up their allergies. The major issue with cannabis and allergies typically comes from how the plant is grown and stored as molds and dust mites can wreak havoc on the plant; many patients are allergic to molds and dust mites. Not only do we want to make sure the plant material isn’t contaminated by molds and dust mites, we also want to test for terpene levels within different strains and products due to several known terpenes being associated with allergies. Terpenes are the “primary constituents of essential oils and are responsible for the aroma characteristics of cannabis. Together with the cannabinoids, terpenes illustrate synergistic and/or entourage effects. They also enhance many therapeutic benefits, especially as aromatherapy” (1).
Limonene, Linalool, Pinene, and Caryophyllene are the most popular terpenes known to be associated with allergies. Research shows this is typically when oxidized … Limonene, Linalool and Caryophyllene have even been associated with contact dermatitis or asthma. Research shows that terpenes released into the air as biologic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) are contributors to seasonal asthma and allergic rhinitis. An increased amount of Pinene and Linalool in the air can predicate respiratory symptoms and increased nasal congestion. Furthermore they are known to induce respiratory inflammation and maintain it, by inhibiting eosinophilic apoptosis. The worst part about it is the lagged response, which means patients are less likely to associate exposure and allergic reaction (2).
If you are not allergic to any of the terpenes, great, because they do offer a wide array of medicinal benefits. For example: Linalool can be stress reducing and sedative, but it also comes from lavender so if there is an allergic reaction to lavender or similar plants, you may have an issue with Linalool. Ever notice you have a negative reaction to black pepper? The terpene Caryophyllene, while known to be highly anti-inflammatory and useful as a sleep aid, is from black pepper. Let’s say we find out you are allergic to pine, well even though Alpha and Beta Pinene are medicinally known to have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and bronchodilatory effects, that will not be the case if you have an immune response to the exposure. One of the most popular terpenes used in perfumes, body washes and numerous other household products is Limonene, however this comes from citrus and if we discover a citrus allergy, this terpene will cause more issues for that particular patient. Limonene is known to help with focus, as well as being anti-anxiety and antibacterial. The University of Arizona Cancer Center showed that women with breast cancer taking 2 grams of Limonene daily for two to six weeks resulted in a “22% reduction in cyclin D1 expression” and “reduced cell proliferation.” Essentially, Limonene shows serious promise when it comes to the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. Many patients love Limonene because of the pleasant aroma it provides and will seek out strains with high levels of it. Basically any strain that has the word lemon or orange in the name should have high levels of Limonene.
This is why it is so highly recommended for patients to test environmental and food allergies in order to best approach their health and wellness. When we use such a versatile plant as medicine we should also take a closer look at which components are not necessarily beneficial for each unique individual. Cannabis is incredibly anti-inflammatory but if you are using strains high in terpenes that cause an inflammatory immune response then we are not doing ourselves any favors.
Luckily regulations within the cannabis industry have helped to reduce the amount of mold and mite contamination being sold to the public, but it does still happen. However, more research and due diligence amongst the patients must be taken to ensure the cannabinoid and terpene content of their medicine is appropriate. Has anyone else noticed certain strains make them sneeze like crazy? That is likely the terpene content in that strain. I urge medical cannabis patients to test for environmental and food allergies not only for overall health and wellness but to make sure the medicine they choose is right for you.
At Compassionate Certification Centers (CCC) and Compassionate Care Medical Professionals (CCMP), we bring together the needs of our patients with the highest quality of service. Let us help you with a more personalized approach. If we know more about cannabis and allergy testing, we can do better for ourselves and our patients.
Dr. Jennifer Hawks, Naturopathic Medicine
Chief Medical Director CCC/CCMP