The CBD market is growing at lightning speed. Each report released about the industry’s value seems to increase by a few extra billion each time. Yet, despite the hype, how much do we really know about cannabidiol? Research is ongoing, and so far, it has been touted as a safe alternative to prescription medication for dozens of symptoms associated with conditions such as Parkinson’s, PTSD, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis.
For a public still cautious about the psychoactive effects of marijuana, the fact that CBD doesn’t produce a high is a major selling point. It makes it more available to children, for example, and is quickly being seen as a viable treatment for a wide range of things.
In December 2018, President Trump signed the Farm Bill into law. It removed hemp, and any cannabinoids derived from the plant, from the Controlled Substances Act. This has made hemp-derived CBD available in many states.
If you browse through the articles on this website, you will find a ton of information on the possible benefits of CBD. In this piece, however, we aim to balance the equation by looking at the possible side effects of CBD.
Common Misconceptions About CBD
1 – CBD Isn’t Psychoactive
Often CBD sellers claim that CBD is non-psychoactive, which is likely due to a misunderstanding of what psychoactive means.
A substance is deemed ‘psychoactive’ if it affects a person’s mood or behavior. Research has clearly shown that CBD has many effects, including antidepressant and anxiety-reducing effects, and is thus psychoactive.
CBD would be better described as ‘non-intoxicating as it doesn’t have the typical effects of intoxication, like THC does.
2 – CBD Isn’t Regulated by the FDA
While the Farm Bill is great news for industrial hemp farmers, it does not prevent the FDA from regulating dietary supplements, drugs, cosmetics, and food, including those that contain hemp.
It recently approved Epidiolex, which includes a purified form of CBD, and Sativex, a pharmaceutical drug that contains THC and CBD. Therefore, while the FDA hasn’t regulated the cannabinoid CBD, it has already approved two drugs that contain it!
3 – CBD Is Legal in All 50 States
Technically, industrial hemp is legal to grow in the United States thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill that took hemp and its derivatives off the controlled substances list.
As alluded to above, CBD can be derived from hemp or marijuana. The main difference between the two is that hemp-derived CBD has less than 0.3% THC. So thanks to the Farm Bill, hemp-derived CBD is legal in all 50 states. The misconception, though, is that ALL CBD is legal nationwide. Marijuana-derived CBD is still illegal anywhere marijuana is illegal.
And it should also be noted that there is no guarantee that you’ll pass a drug test if you consume a full-spectrum CBD product, as there may still be detectable traces of THC.
4 – CBD Is Relatively Unresearched
While it is true that there haven’t been a huge number of clinical trials, CBD has been researched in countries around the world. One Brazilian study published in 2019 found that CBD made people less anxious when faced with a public speaking task. A UK study in 2018 showed exciting results when testing CBD on people with ulcerative colitis.
And the list continues. Now that the federal ban on hemp and its cannabinoids have been lifted, we should see a significant amount of research into CBD in the next few years.
5 – CBD Is Dubious Because the Market Is Dodgy
It is true that the CBD industry is poorly regulated and that con men are selling olive oil labeled as CBD and making money from uneducated buyers.
However, the unregulated state of the market does NOT mean that CBD is ineffective. Hundreds of thousands of people have used CBD and are delighted with the results. And research is backing what users have been reporting for years. So the onus on buyers is to do their research to ensure they’re getting high-quality CBD.
The Potential Side Effects of CBD
Perhaps the most significant danger associated with the CBD market is the lack of regulation. Pretty much anyone can set up a company, slap a label on a bottle, and put whatever they like inside it. In 2017, one study discovered that almost 70% of CBD products didn’t contain the amount of cannabis extract promised on the label. About one-quarter contained too much CBD, while 43% contained too little. Twenty percent of the samples tested positive for THC.
So it’s essential to buy well-labeled CBD from a reputable company that can support and prove its claims with third-party lab reports.
With safe CBD, the reported side effects are few and far between. However, there are a few, so let’s delve into them.
Potential Liver Damage
Aside from alcohol and drugs, even natural supplements can take their toll on the liver if used to excess. A recent study found that CBD could cause liver damage, but the doses given to subjects were significantly higher than what the average consumer takes. Still, if one has liver damage or is on other potentially liver-toxic drugs, please consult with your healthcare provider before taking CBD.
Interactions with Other Drugs
There is also evidence that CBD could interact with other medications, especially when used in high doses. One of the most salient examples is Warfarin, the well-known anticoagulant. It was also found to increase levels of anti-seizure medications. Thus, it’s crucial to monitor the levels of other drugs in someone taking CBD.
Advised Against in Pregnant Women
There is very little research on CBD in pregnancy. Therefore, it is not recommended to consume cannabidiol during pregnancy due to CBD’s unknown potential side effects on the fetus.
Cottonmouth is a common issue with practically all marijuana and hemp strains. It is generally due to the Endocannabinoid System’s (ECS) inhibition of salivary secretion.
Drowsiness is a potentially significant side effect. If you plan on driving or operating heavy machinery, it isn’t a good idea to use CBD beforehand, especially if you don’t know how it will affect you. The truth is, CBD can affect people in different ways, and events are dependent on the dose taken. One person may experience a burst of energy while feeling invigorated, whereas another could feel tired and listless.
Falling Blood Pressure
A study by Jadoon, Tan, and O’Sullivan, published in JCI Insight in 2017, found that a single dose of CBD reduced the blood pressure of healthy volunteers. While this is excellent news if you suffer from high blood pressure, it could be a problem if you have low blood pressure. Therefore, we recommend talking about CBD with your doctor if your blood pressure is on the low side.
There are also reports of a handful of other side effects, but they are generally linked to medical conditions. An example is an increase in tremors among patients with Parkinson’s. However, much more research is needed as we have honestly only scratched the surface of CBD research in general.
CBD Side Effects: The Research
Diarrhea is the most common CBD side effect experienced by epileptic patients. For example, one study published in 2018 investigated the long-term effects of CBD in children and adults with treatment-resistant epilepsy. In the study, epileptic patients received oral CBD for 12 weeks, and adverse effects were monitored. The most common side-effects reported were diarrhea (29% of patients) and drowsiness (22% of patients).
In other studies investigating side effects of CBD in epilepsy treatment, side effects have included
- Changes to appetite
- Increased seizures
- Weight loss
- Problems with blood clotting
Other research into the uses of CBD has included treating psychosis. A study investigating the long-term safety of CBD in patients with psychotic disorders showed side effects in 35% of patients, which included diarrhea, nausea, and headaches.
In these two particular studies, it’s important to note that because the clinical trial patients were already taking anti-epileptic or antipsychotic medications, some of the adverse effects could have been because of drug interactions, as opposed to the CBD. It’s therefore essential that researchers investigate the long-term safety effects of CBD on patients without any pre-existing disorders.
Side Effects of CBD in Animal Studies
Animal studies have highlighted CBD may have dangerous side effects on reproduction. For example, an animal study on Rhesus monkeys showed CBD for 90 days inhibited sperm production and decreased the male’s testicle size.
Furthermore, experiments on pregnant rats found long-term high doses of CBD delayed their sexual maturation, decreased fetal body weight, and increased death of infants.
Although the sexual side effects of CBD haven’t yet been translated into humans, several lines of evidence have highlighted the unwanted side effects of cannabis on reproduction.
For example, a Danish study found that people who regularly smoked cannabis had on average a 29% lower total sperm count than those who didn’t. Furthermore, studies have found an association between cannabis use and patients with infertility.
It’s unknown what role CBD plays in the reproductive side effects of cannabis. However, since scientists have demonstrated several effects of THC on reproductive tissues, CBD alone may be better for reproductive health than CBD taken in the form of medicinal marijuana.
CBD Side Effects: Does the Type of CBD Matter?
CBD Gummy Side Effects
CBD gummies are edible candy sweets that contain CBD oil. To date, there have been no published studies investigating CBD gummy side effects.
One case report was published about a man taken to hospital after eating CBD gummies he legally purchased from a store. The man presented with a reduced level of consciousness, slurred speech, vomiting, and problems breathing, which the doctors linked to his prior consumption of the gummies.
Gummies sold in stores often contain small doses of CBD, which are carefully measured, meaning it may be less likely for someone to overdose on CBD. However, because the CBD in gummies is discreet, it may be easier to contaminate them with other toxic chemicals.
Side Effects of CBD Edibles
As well as gummies, there is a vast range of different edible products containing CBD, all the way from CBD-infused peppermints to CBD cereal bars.
Although there are no formal studies about the side effects of CBD edibles to date, higher doses are likely to cause common side effects, such as dry mouth and drowsiness.
Edibles that don’t require digestion in the stomach, such as CBD soft drinks and teas, tend to kick in more quickly and are better absorbed. On the other hand, edibles that need to be first broken down by the gut, such as brownies, may take longer to kick in, and less CBD may be absorbed into the bloodstream.
These differences in digestion mean certain edibles may be more likely to cause side effects related to overdose.
Legally purchased CBD edibles tend to be evenly dosed, and so are generally safer to consume than homemade products.
CBD Pills Side Effects
CBD pills are capsules or pill mixtures that are taken orally and contain a pre-measured dose of CBD. Because the capsules and other ingredients in the pills need to be broken down, less CBD tends to be absorbed into the bloodstream than CBD oil.
One study investigated the effects of oral CBD capsules on people with paranoia. Side effects in the experiment included tiredness, lightheadedness, nausea, increased hunger, and a slight increase in anxiety. However, participants in this study were given well over the average recommended dose.
CBD pills’ side effects may also occur because of allergic reactions to inactive ingredients inside pills. For example, sometimes lactose may be added as a pill filler, which can cause allergic reactions in lactose-intolerant people.
CBD Tincture Side Effects
A large-scale survey study found that sublingual (dropping CBD oil under the tongue) was the most popular way of administering CBD among users.
Because CBD oil under the tongue is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, CBD oil tinctures tend to kick in most rapidly and have the greatest absorption rate.
The fast absorption rate of CBD oil tinctures means it may be easier to experience CBD tincture side effects relating to overdose than edibles. However, the effects of CBD oil are also more quickly removed from the system, meaning any unwanted side effects tend to last much shorter.
One study investigating the effects of CBD for patients with Crohn’s Disease found that taking low daily doses of CBD oil for eight weeks caused no side effects. However, there was only a small number of patients measured in this study.
Why Choose CBD Instead of THC?
CBD has a different effect from THC because it affects the cannabinoid receptors differently. While THC binds directly to the CB1 receptor, CBD doesn’t directly trigger the CB1 or CB2 receptors. Instead, it modifies the ability of the receptors to bind to cannabinoids and influences other types of receptors while increasing your natural level of cannabinoids through the occupation of specific enzymes.
However, while CBD is not without side effects, they appear to be less of an issue, at least according to the research. In comparison, THC can cause more severe side effects such as paranoia and an increase in anxious thoughts.
Final Thoughts About CBD Side Effects
No one is suggesting that CBD is perfect, nor should they. There is still a LOT of research that needs to be done regarding this popular cannabinoid. At present, we know it won’t intoxicate you like THC, which is one of the reasons why parents feel more comfortable giving CBD, rather than THC, to their children.
Although high-quality CBD isn’t cheap, it could be effective for those unable to afford the ever-rising prices of some prescription medications.
If you decide to use CBD, it is your responsibility to research the cannabinoid to decide whether it is right for you. Also, make sure you use it sensibly. And remember, none of the information in this article should be taken as medical advice.