Case history: adult male with cannabis pollen allergy

A 27 year-old man grew 2 marijuana plants from seeds in flower pots in a San Francisco apartment. These were grown indoors with only morning sun through a window with an eastern exposure and no ancillary lighting. The plants grew only to several inches tall, and never fully matured. One had small upright tufts in its branches. The other one was noted to develop little “bells” which pointed down, and opened, shedding some powder. He assumed this one was a male plant. Minimal, if any, psychoactive effects were noted from smoking the resulting leaves of either plant, and there were no adverse effects noted.

1 or 2 summers later, the patient was growing 6 marijuana plants outdoors in a dry sunny climate, against a fence with a southern exposure. From his prior experience, he noted one to be male and sacrificed it early, allowing the 5 remaining female plants to become largely unfertilized, therefore “without seeds” or “sensimilla”. (The results was approximately 12-16 ounces of sticky sensimilla bud.)

The male plant was allowed to dry indoors, and sometime later, the patient began to strip the dried plant material from the stalk. During this procedure he noted his nose and eyes began to water, and without thinking, he rubbed one eye with his hand, which within a minute became red and swollen. It became apparent to him that he had an allergy to the male pollen, since he never had this reaction when handling the female plants. Realizing this, he went and washed his hands and face, so that the direct pollen contact to his face and eyes would be minimized, then returned to stripping the plants. The allergic rhinitis symptoms continued, but fortunately, the direct contact allergy to his eyes did not worsen.

It should be noted that he did not have an asthmatic reaction that day, or when subsequently smoking the dried male plant. Although there was a strong family history of allergic rhinitis and asthma, he had no such history himself, but has subsequently been known to have mild allergic rhinitis to acacia, and rare episodes of mild reactive bronchospasm.

One or two years later, he helped a friend identify about 20 male plants at a hillside grow. These were sacrificed, and he took them home to his partner who, at the time, was learning Asian Indian cooking. One of the recipes in the cookbook she was studying was a recipe for Bhang, a drink made with cannabis usually prepared for the Shiva Festival.

Although the recipe calls for a certain amount of marijuana “preferably from the female plant”, the available male plants were used.

The resulting beverage was drunk. Within an hour or so, the man noted some mild psycho-active effects, but at approximately the same time, he also noted the onset of epigastric pain.

Deducing this was an allergic gastritis, 25 mg of Benadryl was taken and the epigastric pain resolved within an hour.

Discussion

It is noted that the man did not have an asthmatic reaction to smoking the male cannabis plant. This is presumed due to allergenic protein being destroyed or denatured by the heat of burning (but apparently not from the lower heat of making the Bhang drink.)

The man notes also that in some cases, he coughs more with vaporized cannabis than with smoking cannabis. One hypothesis is that the lower temperatures of vaporization do not denature the potential allergens as much as burning. One would not expect as much allergic reaction from the female sensimilla plant material, but perhaps there would still be some allergenic antigen present in sensimilla.


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