Cannabis is a flowering plant and its most widespread species is Cannabis sativa. Hemp seed is a variety of the Cannabis sativa species that is grown for the industrial uses of its derived products. Cannabis as a drug and hemp are both derived from the same species and contain the psychoactive component THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), but they are distinct strains. Hemp has a lower concentration of THC and a higher concentration of cannabidiol, which decreases THC’s psychoactive effects. Hemp seeds from the plant has many nutritious benefits. The increased availability in the food industry has contributed to the increased frequency of hemp seed allergy and possible cannabis cross reactivity.
Until 2018, growing of hemp in the United States was not permitted but imported hemp was legal in food products and as of 2000 has been sold in health food stores. Cannabis allergy has been recognized but its probably been underreported because of past illegal status.
Reactions can vary from mild eye and nasal symptoms, hives, swelling or severe whole body reactions. Anaphylaxis These symptoms are provoked with smoking or handling cannabis. Allergy testing is usually done with fresh cannabis buds. Marijuana Testing
Typical symptoms of hemp seed reactions are generalized hives and swelling of the lips and eyelids usually within an hour of ingestion. There is a strong association of those allergic to cannabis to have a hemp seed allergy as well. Cannabis exposure can sensitize patients first and then have a hemp seed reaction after its first exposure. Alternatively, tree or weed allergy may result in cross reactivity sensitivity to the proteins in hemp seed and cannabis.
As we see a rise in Cannabis allergy because of its legalization and increased use, hemp seed allergy will also become more prominent as a result of its cross reactive proteins. Hemp seed is a highly nutritious supplement that will be used more and more by the food industry. Patients need to be aware that if they are allergic to cannabis/marijuana, they are more highly susceptible to hemp seed allergy too.