Whether conventional or complementary, all medications can create side effects, and CBD oil is no exception. Even over-the-counter products have warnings on them. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. No matter how much better medicine makes you feel, you’re putting foreign substances into your body – substances that the brain and organs simply aren’t programmed to anticipate. But every patient is different. Some people take well to medication, while others reject it outright with nasty results.
It’s important to note that we’re talking about CBD hemp oil, which is not to be confused with CBD oil derived from marijuana. The former is taken from the hemp plant, while the latter is derived from marijuana. The fundamental difference between the two is that hemp contains very little THC (no more than 0.3% THC), as does its extract. This is why marijuana extract is a controlled substance that requires a prescription, while hemp is considered an herbal supplement in the government’s eyes.
If you’re considering CBD hemp oil for therapeutic purposes, side effects are something that should’ve crossed your mind. If you forgot to look into it, well, consider yourself reminded. While we’re at it, let’s also call your attention to an even bigger issue – is CBD oil safe? For the most part, researchers have done a semi-decent job of answering that question. The final answer, however, depends on a lot of things.
Before we jump into information on CBD oil side effects, let’s take a look at the most important question that has hopefully crossed your mind. Using CBD hemp oil for medical purposes is still a new concept. Like any new form of complementary therapy, it’s important to know what you’re getting into.
One of the biggest concerns with medical marijuana is how it affects cognitive skills and judgment. This is because a lot of people don’t know the fundamental differences between the psychoactive chemical, THC and its non-psychoactive counterpart, CBD. According to a 2015 Senate testimony by Dr. Nora Volkov published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) CBD is actually quite safe. In Volkov’s words:
“For reasons discussed previously, despite its molecular similarity to THC, CBD only interacts with cannabinoid receptors weakly at very high doses, and the alterations in thinking and perception caused by THC are not observed with CBD. The different pharmacological properties of CBD give it a different safety profile from THC.”
A review of 25 studies on the safety and efficacy of CBD did not identify significant side effects across a wide range of dosages, including acute and chronic dose regimens, using various modes of administration.
However, Dr. Volkov does go on to warn that, “…additional safety testing among specific patient populations may be warranted should an application be made to the Food and Drug Administration.”
So what’s the verdict? Well, it looks promising, but we don’t have the full picture. Considering the many stories we’ve heard in the past about disastrous medications, CBD appears to be on the safer side of things. And seeing as CBD hemp oil is virtually THC-free, the risks are even lower.
Great, so CBD oil looks pretty safe, but what about kids? A lot of conventional prescription medications (i.e. anticonvulsants) work for adults, but can have devastating effects on childhood development. Historically, CBD has been used on children with severe epilepsy, for instance, but does that mean it’s safe or just a desperate last resort? A scientific journal publication from the US National Library of Medicine seems to have an answer.
According to the paper, researchers used CBD on a 10 year old girl who was suffering from a variety of symptoms related to PTSD, including anxiety, insomnia and behavioral issues at school. After administering the oil, they noticed a huge improvement in all of these areas to the point where she was living a virtually normal life. The publication says that:
“Our patient did not voice any complaints or discomfort from the use of CBD. We routinely asked about headache, fatigue, and change in appetite or agitation in addition to conducting a routine psychiatric evaluation. Although CBD is considered generally safe, the long-term effects are yet to be studied.”
CBD seems to be safe to administer to children as well. But like Dr. Volkov, researchers admit that they can’t make any definitive claims without more research.
As many seniors are aware, with age comes a slew of health concerns. Until recently (and still most commonly), elderly patients have been forced to take multiple prescription medications to deal with their symptoms – a practice called “polypharmacy,” according to an article by Registered Geriatric Nurse, Eloise Theisen.
We established earlier that CBD appears to be generally safe, but it could be a bit different for seniors. Since “…90 percent of adults over the age of 60 are taking at least one medication and 30 percent of those adults are taking five or more a day,” according to Thiesen, prescriptions are a mitigating factor with CBD. She explains that “Cannabidiol (CBD) is attractive to older adults because of the mild psychoactivity associated with it.” But, she warns that, “CBD can interfere with the metabolism of other drugs thereby making CBD and other medications ineffective.” Metabolism of other drugs and CBD is an important topic. We cover CBD-drug interactions in more detail later in this article.
Simply put, a patient’s age doesn’t seem to be a factor, but the vast majority of elderly people could experience adverse effects or medicinal complications with CBD because they’re likely to be on at least one additional prescription drug.
Believe it or not, the benefits of CBD hemp oil aren’t exclusive to humans. Dogs and cats can experience the same health issues we do, like degenerative diseases, cancer, arthritis, and even epilepsy. Using CBD to treat a variety of animal issues may not have crossed everyone’s mind, but owners have tried it with surprising results.
An article by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation reports beneficial effects for health issues in cats, dogs, and even horses – some of which had stopped responding to mainstream treatments. But despite this, the veterinary community wants to exercise caution.
According to Dr. Dawn Boothe of Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, there simply isn’t enough evidence to conclusively support the use of CBD. “I’m saying there’s enough justification that we need to study it,” she explains. Of all the potential uses, giving CBD oil – or any other hemp/marijuana product – to your pets is by far the riskiest. The reason is that animals aren’t humans. They may share some similarities as far as bones and organs are concerned, but in this case, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid it unless absolutely necessary. This doesn’t mean it’s dangerous, it just means we have little information to go on.
Now that we’ve covered safety, let’s see what we know about side effects. Unlike potential risks, side effects are very well-documented and quite diverse.
The answer to whether CBD hemp oil causes side effects is much more promising. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “A review of 25 studies on the safety and efficacy of CBD did not identify significant side effects across a wide range of dosages, including acute and chronic dose regimens, using various modes of administration.”
This doesn’t mean that side effects won’t occur. But aside from things like dry mouth, temporary dysphoria, dizziness, diarrhea, and drowsiness, CBD seems to be quite mild and – for most people – free of any unpleasantness.
The only major risk identified so far, according to a journal entry in the US National Library of Medicine, is a potential impact on fertility.
As an individual who has benefitted from using CBD oil to complement my epilepsy treatment, I’m happy to report that I’ve experienced no side effects from using CBD.
CBD oil has allowed me to reduce the dosage of valproic acid that I take to control my absence seizures by 250 mg per day. In consuming less of this drug, it’s allowed me to avoid some of the nasty side effects that often come with this type of prescription. The tremors in my hand, jitteriness, and anxiety that were typical after taking my medication are all but gone.
But the bottom line is that, like any substance – be it foods, drinks, or drugs – everyone is different. I can’t speak for others, but the studies and journals we’ve addressed speak for themselves.
According to the same source mentioned above, drug interactions can be a problem when using CBD hemp oil. It states that CBD can cause “inhibition of hepatic drug metabolism.” This is a fancy way of saying that taking CBD oil might make it difficult to absorb and process medicines metabolized in the liver. This includes medications that fall into the P450, 3A, 2C and 2B categories.
When you ingest any kind of medication, it has to pass through your liver, just like everything else. Your liver then breaks it down and distributes it into your bloodstream. Everything from antidepressants and anticonvulsants to over-the-counter medications, like Tylenol, need to make it past this barrier. But if your liver can’t properly metabolize these chemicals, the effects will be reduced and the CBD could be more of a hindrance than a help.
** Before you start using CBD hemp oil, do an inventory of the medications you are on. Research or consult a health professional about how the medications you are taking are metabolized. If CBD will impact another medication you are on, you may want to reconsider taking it or waiting until you are off certain medications you take. Important: always consult a health professional you trust, especially a health professional who specializes in cannabis medicine. **
We don’t want to sound blunt, but the bottom line is that you’re likely not an expert. No amount of research or reading – even through the most reliable of sources – is a substitute for the advice of a health professional.
Do not consider using CBD as complementary therapy if you’re on any other medication until your specialist gives you the green light. Full stop.
From what we’ve seen, the main points you need to take away are as follows:
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