Originally published at Ministry of Hemp.
With all the attention CBD has been getting, it’s easy to find information on all its benefits — but is there a downside? Does CBD have any side effects?
Even here at Ministry of Hemp, we’ve focused a lot on exploring the benefits of CBD oil and the endocannabinoid system over the past few months. Yet, so much has been written about how CBD is helping people that we wanted to take a look at its potential drawbacks too.
To create this article, we looked at both scientific research and anecdotal reports from CBD users. From our in-depth research, what we found suggests that the side effects of CBD oil are usually minor, and, for most people, the benefits far outweigh the rare reports of discomfort.
It’s worth noting that even psychoactive cannabis — what’s often called marijuana — is also considered to be extremely safe, contrary to what the government wants us to believe . It’s so safe that it’s basically impossible for an adult human to ingest a fatal dose, although they can certainly make themselves feel very sick from eating or smoking too much. There’s every reason to believe that CBD extracts from hemp plants are as safe, or even safer, than psychoactive strains of cannabis.
Overall, what we’ve found shows that, just as with any health supplement, the quality and source of your CBD oil can make a big difference when it comes to side effects. In fact, many unpleasant experiences from CBD by consumers could be mainly due to impurities or poor quality CBD oil, as we’ll discuss later in this article.
The War On Drugs Hurts Cannabis & Hemp Research
Due to the the stigma associated with the war on drugs, free and open research into both hemp and its close relative, psychoactive cannabis, is only just beginning in many ways.
For example, the first study into the benefits of cannabis in veterans with otherwise untreatable post-traumatic stress disorder is beginning in 2017, but only after the researchers involved struggled through years of red tape and put their careers at risk in order to do promote the need for this vital research. Fortunately, their work, and that of others like them, have begun to peel back the bureaucracy preventing scientific research.
On the hemp side of the equation, the 2014 Farm Bill which legalized the growth and sales of agricultural hemp in the U.S., and the production of its derivatives like CBD oil, should help to open the way for research into the benefits and possibilities of hemp in all its forms. While we’ll summarize some of what we’ve found from our research into CBD side effects below, we expect to see a lot more research in this field in the years to come.
CBD oil studies find few side effects
Although the medical research is still in its preliminary stages, scientists have devoted considerable effort to proving that CBD oil is safe for human consumption.
A study published in 1986 in the International Journal of Neuroscience, examined the effects of CBD oil in 5 patients with dystonic movement disorders (muscle tremors and other forms of uncontrollable movements). CBD oil’s side effects “were mild and included hypotension [low blood pressure], dry mouth, psychomotor slowing [slowed thoughts or movements], lightheadedness, and sedation,” according to the study’s authors, Paul Consroe, Reuven Sandyk and Stuart R. Snider.
According to this study, CBD seemed to help people with their dystonia, but might have made some symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease (found in 2 of the study’s subjects) a little bit worse. However, other, more recent research has found that CBD can benefit Parkinson’s patients.
One study of 8 healthy volunteers and 15 patients with epilepsy, published in 1980 in Pharmacology, looked at the side-effects of CBD when consumed daily for a month. “All patients and volunteers tolerated CBD very well and no signs of toxicity or serious side effects were detected on examination,” wrote the researchers, who also found that CBD can help some people with epilepsy.
Consuming higher dosage of CBD caused no toxicity
In 2006, a group of researchers studying the potential benefits of CBD in treating psychosis and anxiety, looked at several studies of CBD oil’s safety and summarized their findings in a paper published by the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research. Noting that CBD safety was first proven through animal research, the scientists added:
Acute CBD administration by the oral, inhalatory or intravenous route did not induce any significant toxic effect in humans. In addition, chronic administration of CBD for 30 days to healthy volunteers, at daily doses ranging from 10 to 400 mg, failed to induce any significant alteration in neurological, psychiatric or clinical exams. Finally, in patients suffering from Huntington’s disease, daily doses of CBD (700 mg) for 6 weeks did not induce any toxicity. Therefore, confirming results from animal studies, the available clinical data suggest that CBD can be safely administered over a wide dose range.
A 2007 study published in Phytomedicine found that CBD, along with other similar substances including THC (the main active ingredient in psychoactive cannabis), have potential as an anticoagulant, so people with who have diseases like hemophilia that cause problems with blood clotting should use extra caution with these substances.
An anecdotal look at CBD side effects shows quality matters
Of course, since many of these studies have small sample sizes, and every person reacts a little bit differently to any substance, we looked at CBD oil users’ anecdotal reports, posted on popular online communities and forums, such as Reddit and sites that sell CBD products.
A handful of very sensitive people who use CBD oil report feeling mild mood and mind-altering effects, similar to a low dose of psychoactive cannabis, but these effects appear to be rare. Some people also reported mild digestive upset, including diarrhea, from ingesting CBD oil.
According to one post on Reddit, some people get headaches from using CBD oil, which is a bit unusual since CBD can also sometimes be used to treat migraines. However, other Redditors have suggested the problem was actually the purity of the CBD extract.
“I have just recently started taking CBD for headaches, and after three weeks of getting a worse headaches, I finally figured out that my CBD oil was cheap crap — and that a LOT of it is,” a Redditor named Pellquin wrote last year.
When it comes to CBD, purity & source matters
Pellquin had it right: unfortunately, there’s a lot of poor quality CBD oil from unreliable brands. The CBD oil market is still in its infancy, and it can be challenging for consumers to educate themselves except through expensive trial and error. When Ministry of Hemp investigated CBD oil purity and safety in November, we found a host of potential problems.
CBD oil is a poorly regulated market and most products are imported from overseas. Since hemp absorbs chemicals from the ground, including lead and mercury, growing conditions can make a big difference. Labelling of CBD products is also often inconsistent and unclear, making it confusing for CBD consumers to know what they’re buying.
When we interviewed Carlos Frias, founder of Green Lotus and a cannabis industry expert, he gave us three pieces of advice for buying CBD oil:
- Always ask for third party lab results when buying CBD oil
- Pay close attention to product labeling
- Don’t hesitate to ask a more knowledgeable expert for help.
CBD is safe, but research before you buy and use
Overall, we found that scientists and doctors consider CBD oil to be safe for most people to use, and there are few, if any, serious side effects.
While everyone has their own unique body chemistry, it seems like the vast majority of people can ingest CBD oil without ever feeling any unpleasant side effects at all, and the remaining few will mostly likely experience only minor symptoms like stomach upset or dry mouth. Since scientists are using pure extracts from known sources, it’s likely that some consumer reports of headaches or other minor adverse reactions could be due to impurities in inferior CBD products.
As always, you should closely research the products you buy, and consult with a medical expert if you have any doubt about the best or safest way to use CBD oil.