Does CBD Have Side Effects?
One conundrum you’ll undoubtedly encounter while exploring the ever-expanding world of CBD oils and related treatments is whether or not CBD has any side effects. For starters, CBD is a non-intoxicating and non-psychoactive compound, unlike its sister cannabinoid, THC. However, the unparalleled response from government agencies and medical professionals alike is this: More research is needed to understand the potential side effects of CBD.
CBD is a contemporary industry. It was only approved at the federal level in December of 2018, with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. As such, clinical trials have yet to catch up with the purported health claims and anecdotal evidence spouted by users across the United States. According to the federal government, there currently exist more than 50 clinical trials aimed at testing the medical efficacy of CBD and other cannabinoids, so we’ll undoubtedly gain access to more definitive clinical results in the near future.
Until then, let’s take a look at the information we do have.
What We Know About CBD’s Side Effects
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile. Reported adverse effects may be as a result of drug-drug interactions between CBD and patients’ existing medications.”
The WHO is not alone in this sentiment either, with many medical institutions — including Harvard Medical School — coming out in favor of the cannabinoid.
But what side effects do we know exist, in some way or another?
- Dry Mouth
- Low Blood Pressure
Like all medications, the side effects (or lack thereof) you’ll experience after taking CBD vary from person to person. An overwhelming number of users report no side effects at all, one of the many reasons users see CBD as an attractive alternative to traditional medications.
Who Is at Risk for Increased Side Effects?
While CBD has shown a sufficient lack of side effects in most cases, there are certain groups who should consult a medical professional before using CBD oils, topicals, or other products, based on the available evidence or lack thereof.
These groups are:
- Those taking other prescription medications
- Those with pre-existing liver complications
- Those with low blood pressure
- Those pregnant or trying to conceive
- Immune-compromised individuals
CBD & Prescription Medications
Some of the most definitive examples of CBD’s side effects come from clinical trials of Epidiolex, the only FDA-approved medication containing CBD as an active ingredient, used to treat two severe forms of childhood epilepsy. CBD, similar to grapefruit, occupies enzymes that our bodies use to process certain pharmaceutical drugs.
The Medications that should not be taken with grapefruit include: Warfarin, anti-epileptics, HIV antivirals, and chemotherapy drugs. Those taking these medications should speak with a medical professional before using CBD.
In clinical trials of Epidiolex, children aged 2 to 18 were given high doses of CBD, showing signs of tiredness, decreased appetite, gastrointestinal discomfort, and altered liver enzymes. These side effects commonly occurred during the first weeks of trials, while admins were quickly raising the doses of CBD. It’s also important to note that all of these children took medications known to damage the liver. This means that the relationship between CBD and other medications is, as stands, inconclusive.
Until more research is revealed, those taking prescription medications should consult a medical professional before starting CBD treatment.
CBD & Pre-Existing Liver Complications
It is recommended that those suffering from pre-existing liver complications speak to a medical professional before using CBD products. However, this recommendation is speculative: not enough evidence exists to prove whether or not CBD directly affects the liver.
CBD & Low Blood Pressure
This “side effect” is interesting — many CBD users claim that lowered blood pressure is a benefit of CBD, not an unwanted side effect. However, those already suffering from low blood pressure, such as those suffering from hypotension, may want to consult a medical professional before using CBD.
CBD has been shown effective in lowering blood pressure, especially blood pressure in response to stressful events. CBD has also been shown to temporarily lower resting blood pressure.
CBD & Pregnancy or Conception
The active molecules in a mother’s bloodstream can pass easily to a child’s body, usually through the umbilical cord (while pregnant) or breastmilk (while nursing). To date, there simply isn’t enough evidence to support taking CBD while pregnant or trying to conceive as we don’t yet know how cannabinoids like CBD affect the developing brain.
However, it has been shown that endocannabinoids — molecules naturally produced within the brain that closely resemble cannabinoids like CBD — play a vital role in coordinating conception and pregnancy. But we don’t know what the addition of external cannabinoids does in regards to conception and pregnancy.
Furthermore, if you are currently pregnant and using CBD to cope with the anxiety and health complications of being pregnant, it’s important to discuss continued CBD use with a medical professional.
CBD & Immune-Compromised Individuals
CBD is known as an immunomodulator, a classification of medications known to slow down a hyperactive immune system. Taking CBD may harm those suffering from compromised immune systems, such as those suffering from HIV, but no concrete evidence has yet to emerge to disprove or substantiate these claims. Sensing a pattern?
Other research has indicated that CBD may relieve pain and other HIV-related symptoms without causing severe side effects, and tests pitting other cannabinoids against HIV symptoms have shown no cause for alarm.
As with other CBD warnings, those suffering from compromised immune systems should speak with a medical professional prior to using CBD and start using CBD slowly, increasing dosage incrementally as time goes on.