You know spring is here when your allergies start to kick in. But instead of reaching for Kleenex, you might try grabbing a joint instead. Turns out, cannabis might help reduce some of those dreaded allergy symptoms.
That's because in many cases, allergy symptoms manifest as inflammation. Common symptoms like nasal inflammation, airway hyper-reactivity, allergic asthma and immune overreaction can all be treated to some degree by taking anti-inflammatory medication. And as cannabis researcher Dr. Sue Sisley explains, cannabis is actually a pretty good anti-inflammatory.
"Cannabis seems to inhibit the inflammatory pathway," Sisley told Leafly. "And that certainly does relate to allergies because if you can cut the inflammatory pathway, then it could certainly help the untreated allergies, all the classic symptoms, the itchy, runny nose, itchiness, hives, all those kinds of things."
Cannabis might help reduce allergy symptoms in another way too. Several studies have shown that consuming cannabis may help prevent or reduce the release of histamines in your body. Histamines are the primary compounds associated with all these not-so-wonderful things you experience when allergies hit you. By reducing their presence in your body, cannabis may actually reduce the severity of your allergies.
However, all of that is hypothetical at the moment because there hasn't been much research on cannabis as an allergy medication. This means that while there is reason to believe cannabis can help people suffering from allergies, we can't say it will help for sure.
"It makes sense. It's just that I can't back it up with science," said Sisley. "It's like most things in cannabis research, we have a mountain of anecdotal reports, but very little objective controlled data to back it up."
While consuming cannabis could offer some allergy relief, experts like Dr. Peter Grinspoon - an instructor at Harvard Medical School - don't think it will be more effective than other anti-histamines.
"I don't think cannabis, as we're taking it now, is nearly as strong as, for example, [the nasal spray] Flonase," said Grinspoon. "I don't think it's a great treatment per se for allergies. That isn't to say it doesn't help people. If it helps people, that's great."
But if researchers figure out which compounds in cannabis hold the greatest anti-allergy properties, marijuana could become "a very effective treatment in the future."
However, it probably won't help those unlucky few who are allergic to cannabis.