This article was written and verified for scientific accuracy by Dr. Leah Zitter, PhD.
CBD is all the rage in the health and wellness world today, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about it. While the only CBD treatment currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is Epidiolex, for two rare types of epilepsy, many people use CBD as a treatment for common ailments like anxiety, pains and headaches. In fact, supermarkets and mainstream stores like Walgreens and CVS, along with regular mom-and-pop stores and gas stations, regularly stock their shelves with CBD-based wellness products. It’s also easy to find CBD online. Some CBD wellness products are edible, others can be vaped or rubbed on the skin, or used as drops under the tongue. The most popular of these is CBD oil; used not just for treating pain but also for its benefits to sleep, anxiety, and more. But there may be some CBD side effects you should know about.
What does the research say about CBD Side Effects?
While plenty of anecdotal reports and studies promote the wellness benefits of CBD, there is still limited research on CBD. With only a handful of CBD treatments approved by the FDA, we’re reliant on preliminary research to understand CBD side effects. That said, what we know so far indicates minor and infrequent side effects associated with CBD.
From what we know today, CBD side effects can include:
- Changes in appetite
- Drowsiness or sleepiness
- Medication interactions
Interestingly, some of these side effects could be considered benefits, depending on why you are using CBD – for example, people who take CBD for sleep may see drowsiness as a benefit rather than a side effect.
It’s important to note that in most cases, these side effects are considered minor and insignificant. Most users of CBD note few or no side effects at all.
While that may be the case, we still need more rigorous and consistent testing that include long-term double-blind tests to prove that these products are conclusively safe to ingest and won’t cause long-term and unforeseen effects.
Side effects of CBD oil vs other methods of ingestion
Taking CBD oil sublingually is associated with some minor side effects as listed above. At present, there is not significant research to show a variance of side effects by ingestion method – from what we know today, the side effects are more or less the same regardless of how you take CBD. That means that vaping CBD isn’t known to carry significantly different side effects than oral or sublingual consumption.
However, CBD products don’t contain just CBD – there may be side effects caused by other ingredients in your CBD products. For example, vape products containing vitamin E acetate can be associated with lung illnesses – but don’t worry. Here at AmericanMarijuana, we stay on top of our research, and will never recommend a product known to have harmful side effects.
When using CBD topically, like in a cream or lotion, some users may experience side effects from other ingredients in these products. For example, if you are sensitive to essential oils, it’s important to make sure that your CBD topical products don’t contain anything you’re sensitive or allergic to. Many CBD lotions and creams contain essential oils like lavender or sage.
Is CBD Safe?
Short answer: yes. There are a number of studies on the safety and side effects of CBD, and it is generally considered to be safe and well-tolerated. A 2017 review noted that the “favorable safety profile of CBD in humans was confirmed and extended by the reviewed research.” This confirms that CBD is generally safe for people to ingest based on the latest research. They once again noted that the “most commonly reported side effects were tiredness, diarrhea, and changes of appetite/weight,” which aligns with other research on CBD side effects. These side effects are considered to be rare and insignificant.
In a nutshell: yes, CBD is safe to take.
CBD side effects compared to traditional medicine
Since CBD is used for so many different ailments, there are a lot of side effects to compare and contrast. That said, the above-mentioned 2017 review compared CBD side effects against traditional medications, predominantly in epilepsy and psychotic disorders, and found that, “in comparison with other drugs used for the treatment of these medical conditions, CBD has a better side effect profile.”
When CBD is used for pain, it’s useful to compare the side effects with those of traditional painkillers. Opiate drugs used for pain management carry a host of severe side effects, including addiction, disorientation, extreme sluggishness, and even death from overdose. When compared with these medications, CBD is notably more safe and carries fewer serious side effects.
Although cannabidiol is all the rage, we’re still in the beginning stages of research. What we need are strong and consistent studies that show proper dosage, proper frequency, reliable ways to minimize side effects, and which CBD products to avoid. It’s also important to study the long term effects for people who use CBD regularly.
The Most Common CBD Side effects
- Appetite changes. The cannabinoid has diverse effects, increasing or inhibiting the metabolism, making people in turn either hungry or suppressing their appetite. One article in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior, for example, reported that 13% of 117 parents noted a significant increase in their child’s appetite when their child was administered CBD-rich cannabis oil. Another study in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, on the other hand, found mixed results where 23 children with Dravet syndrome who received up to 25mg of CBD per kilogram of body weight per day experienced either an increase or a decrease in appetite.
- Dizziness. Various studies report dizziness as a result of taking CBD. The thing is, in most of these studies, CBD was taken alongside THC, so it is uncertain which compound produced the adverse effect.
- Diarrhea. Some users report diarrhea after consuming CBD.This may be because they are unused to the substance, or because the product lines use medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil to dilute the product. An alternative carrier oil, like olive oil or coconut oil, rarely causes issues. A 2018 study published in the journal Epilepsia tracked the effects of long-term CBD treatment. in patients with Dravet syndrome and reported that diarrhea occurred in 34% of the 278 patients.
- Low blood pressure. This side effect could cause lightheadedness and fainting. A number of studies report reduced blood pressure as a side effect of CBD. One of these, for example, found that all it took was a single dose of CBD to lower blood pressure in healthy volunteers.
Other side effects include tiredness, especially if you take CBD early in the morning or during a stressful day. Some users report feeling thirsty including having dry mouths, also known as xerostomia. Contrary to some anecdotal reports, there is no evidence that CBD has any adverse effect on kidney function.
How to avoid negative side effects of CBD
While these side effects are, for the most part, very minor, you may be wondering how you can avoid any adverse effects of CBD.
- Buy high-quality CBD – Buy high-quality products from reputable companies and scan their bar codes to check the product origin.
- Purchase independently tested CBD products – Go for companies that mention they use third-party labs to test their oils. This assures you really get what’s listed on the product label.
- Start low and slow – Your best bet is to start with small amounts and to gradually increase your frequency and dosage until you find your sweet spot.
Finally, if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, on blood thinners, or taking medication, it’s recommended to speak with a doctor before using CBD.