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The Risks and Side Effects: What You Must Know Before Trying CBD

As the popularity and availability of CBD continue to grow, questions about possible side effects are growing as well. CBD is new to most consumers, so it’s understandable that questions will arise. However, the decision to use CBD is individual and only you can decide if CBD is right for you. 

Before deciding to use CBD, it’s important to understand what CBD is and what it isn’t. A thorough comprehension of its properties and origins will help you determine if CBD offers the benefits you seek in the face of any possible side effects.

What is CBD and Where Does it Come From?

The usual CBD formulation is oil, but this product is also sold as a tincture, a vaporized liquid, and an oil-based capsule. Among the many CBD-infused products available online are food, drinks, and beauty products. Cannabidiol, widely recognized as CBD, is one of 140 identified cannabinoids, or compounds, found in cannabis plant species, namely Cannabis sativa (hemp) and Cannabis indica (marijuana). 

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is also a naturally occurring cannabinoid in these plants. While THC is the major active ingredient in marijuana, hemp contains only very small amounts of THC.

A multitude of studies have shown that cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, provide a wide array of health benefits as they interact with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex network of cell receptors and neurotransmitters that help maintain the body’s internal environment. It’s important to know that CBD-based products are non-psychoactive, while products containing THC may induce psychotropic or euphoric effects on a user. 

What is CBD oil?

Although there is much to learn about the endocannabinoid system, this much is clear: CBD from hemp plants and THC from marijuana plants interact in some way with an individual’s ECS. 

Did you know that CBD offers therapeutic benefits that range from relieving the symptoms of arthritis and helping to manage chronic pain and even treating epilepsy in children? Studies suggest that CBD may also help with both falling asleep and staying asleep, as well as lowering the pain and inflammation caused by arthritis. We know this is why CBD and THC are generally helpful in relieving pain, inflammation, anxiety, and other ailments. 

Recent studies indicate that a malfunctioning ECS could spark autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia as well as migraines. That is why the healing possibilities of CBD are so encouraging and its many benefits are still being explored. In some instances, CBD even appears to aid in the restoration of the body after injury.

As the term “CBD” becomes more widely known, people across the world are becoming more aware of this product’s therapeutic benefits, it’s important to understand that unlike its psychoactive counterpart, commonly known as cannabis, CBD will not cause someone to feel high. In fact, the World Health Organization has declared products like CBD oil to be safe and worth researching.

Studies on the Side Effects of CBD

The majority of studies done on the effect of CBD in humans have focused on the treatment of epilepsy and psychotic disorders. The reported side effects included tiredness, diarrhea, and changes of appetite/weight. According to the National Institutes of Health, CBD has a better side effect profile than other drugs used to treat those conditions. Other reported side effects of CBD include dry mouth, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, and drowsiness. Signs of liver injury have also been reported in some patients, less commonly. 

CBD is often used to address anxiety, and for patients who suffer from insomnia, studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep. A study from the European Journal of Pain showed, using an animal model, CBD could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Another study showed promise in the areas of neuropathic and inflammatory pain. In all instances, more studies on CBD’s therapeutic effect on humans are still warranted.

Other potential side effects?

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Interaction with blood thinner

At this time, CBD is primarily marketed as a supplement, and the FDA doesn’t regulate dietary supplements. The FDA also does not allow CBD to be marketed as a wellness product the same way vitamins and minerals are. As a result, it can be difficult to know exactly what you are getting. That’s why it’s so important to use verified CBD products from companies that offer plenty of information about the growth and production of their product, and openly display their certificate of analysis (COA).

CBD’s Restorative Traits Are Under Review

Although research on cannabidiol continues to evolve, one thing is certain: CBD affects the brain. Why this occurs remains uncertain. However, studies indicate that cannabidiol seems to prevent the breakdown of a chemical in the brain that affects pain, mood, and mental function. Preventing the breakdown of this chemical and increasing its levels in the blood seems to reduce the psychotic symptoms associated with conditions such as schizophrenia. Because research on cannabidiol is still in the early stages, its usage is limited. For example, CBD can’t be included in products marketed with therapeutic claims. It can also only be included in “cosmetic” products if the product contains less than 0.3% THC.

CBD's restorative traits

At this time, the only CBD product approved by the Food and Drug Administration is a prescription oil called Epidiolex for treating two types of childhood epilepsy. However, research is underway to study CBD as a treatment for a wide range of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and anxiety. Research supporting the drug’s benefits is still limited. 

While the benefits of CBD continue to be explored, this also opens up an unregulated market within the CBD industry, which offers a variety of products containing CBD for a variety of uses.

Special Precautions 

Because CBD is relatively new, studies are still being conducted on its overall uses. In certain circumstances, it is recommended that the use of CBD be avoided in an abundance of caution:

  • Pregnancy and breast-feeding: To date, it is unclear if using CBD while breast-feeding or pregnant can affect the infant or fetus. It is best to avoid using CBD in such circumstances until further research yields a definite answer.
  • Children: The FDA has approved the use of the drug Epidiolex, a prescriptive cannabidiol, in some children suffering from certain kinds of epilepsy. The effects of CBD on children for other uses remains unclear, per current research. It is best to avoid using it with children.
  • Liver disease: Research indicates that individuals with liver disease may need to use lower doses of CBD compared to healthy patients. Some studies have shown CBD to lower liver enzymes. Others have shown CBD to cause them to rise.
  • Parkinson’s disease: Early studies suggest that taking high doses of CBD might cause muscle movement and tremors to worsen if someone is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. It is best to avoid CBD until more definitive research is available.

According to a report from the World Health Organization, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

CBD and Allergies: Effective or Not?

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 50 million people in the United States suffer from allergies, which are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. 

If you suffer from allergies, CBD may offer a form of potential relief that you may have never before considered. Whether your allergies are seasonal reactions to environmental factors like pollen and mold or are affected by climate and humidity, animal hair or even food, CBD may provide therapeutic relief.

This potential treatment option can help reduce allergic reactions and overall inflammation. In some instances, CBD has been shown to help prevent the closing of airways, a common allergic symptom. It is considered a lower-risk treatment option than antihistamines, which are often associated with nausea, drowsiness, confusion, and blurred vision.

Allergy season is known for causing a spike in health concerns like throat and sinus inflammation, which can make it difficult to eat. CBD can reduce such symptoms making seasonal allergies easier to withstand. Medical sources indicate that high-strength CBD oil may relieve pressure in the sinus cavities and help ward off nasal congestion.

CBD allergies

However, individuals who suffer from allergies need to make sure they do not have an allergic reaction to CBD itself. CBD oil allergies can cause a range of symptoms:

  • Skin irritations: Topical creams or balms containing CBD could potentially cause a rash or hives if the user is allergic. Check the product’s contents carefully, because reactions could be caused by other ingredients as well.
  • Dry, itchy, red eyes: A minority of users may experience these symptoms after using CBD, although such symptoms are more commonly associated with marijuana, which contains THC.
  • Migraines: Some CBD users experience a slight headache for the first few uses, but migraines are sometimes a sign of something more serious.
  • Respiratory problems: Breathing issues are likely to be the result of poor-quality products that contain contaminants from the hemp plant, such as pollen or mold.

It is suggested that people with plant allergies avoid CBD products, particularly full-spectrum ones, which contain so many compounds that it can be hard to tell what caused the allergic reaction.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a list of precautions in regard to CBD and its possible side effects:

  • Use of CBD with alcohol or other drugs that slow brain activity, such as those used to treat anxiety, panic, stress, or sleep disorders, increases the risk of sedation and drowsiness, which can lead to injuries.
  • Male reproductive toxicity, or damage to fertility in males or male offspring of women who have been exposed, has been reported in studies of animals exposed to CBD. However, other studies have shown that CBD may be beneficial especially for women who are trying to conceive.
  • Use of CBD can cause changes in alertness, most commonly experienced as somnolence (drowsiness or sleepiness).
  • Use of CBD can cause gastrointestinal distress, most commonly experienced as diarrhea and/or decreased appetite.
  • Use of CBD can cause changes in mood, most commonly experienced as irritability and agitation.
  • CBD can cause liver injury.
  • CBD can affect how other drugs you are taking work, causing serious side effects.

The FDA also notes that there are many aspects about the use of CBD that are simply unknown at this time. Among those uncertainties?

  1. What happens if you take CBD daily for sustained periods of time?
  2. What level of intake triggers the known risks associated with CBD?
  3. How do different methods of consumption affect intake (e.g., oral consumption, topical,    smoking, or vaping)?
  4. What is the effect of CBD on the developing brain (such as on children who take CBD)?
  5. What are the effects of CBD on the developing fetus or breastfed newborn?
  6. How does CBD interact with herbs and other plant materials?
  7. Does CBD cause male reproductive toxicity in humans, as has been reported in studies of animals.

A significant safety concern with CBD is that it is primarily marketed and sold as a supplement, not a medication. Currently, the FDA does not regulate the safety and purity of dietary supplements, and not all states require manufacturers to properly label their products. Clearly, this can have significant repercussions. 

A 2017 study that reviewed the labels of CBD products found that nearly 70 percent of the CBD products they analyzed contained less CBD than labeled. Forty-percent of the 84 products examined were “under-labeled,” meaning they contained more CBD than their label indicated. In addition, approximately 25 percent were “over-labeled,” meaning they contained less than the label stated, potentially negating any therapeutic effect. That’s why it is especially important to use reliable brands, known for their quality control.

“The key message with all new drugs and technology is that there is an ongoing learning process that will continue through the lifetime of the drug,” lead author Dr. Nicholas S. Downing told CNN

Before you consume CBD products, it is wise to consult with a physician to make sure you are not putting your well-being or life at risk.

In Conclusion

It’s important to note that while side effects associated with CBD use have been documented, most are mild and more inconvenient than serious. 

Of course, it’s important to be aware of possible drug interactions and pay close attention to your doctor’s advice. However, most CBD-related side effects are minimal compared to those that are often associated with traditional pharmaceuticals. 

Sources: WebMD, mayoclinic.org; Harvard Health Publishing; FDA.Gov; National Institutes of Health; TriadHealthCareCenter.com; Washington Post