CBD Side Effects You Need to Know About

By Jenny Menzel, H.C.

As a trending solution for ailments like pain, anxiety, inflammation, and central nervous system imbalances, cannabidiol (CBD) has been swiftly showing up in preparations ranging from oils, tinctures, pill supplements, topical ointments, and edibles. But is CBD safe and free of side effects?

Contrary to common myths, CBD by itself is not intoxicating, as it is void of the psychoactive component found in the marijuana plant — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, even though pure CBD is one of the safest sources of cannabinoids, product integrity counts for a lot when it comes to the types of added ingredients that have the potential to produce undesirable effects. To ensure you have a positive experience with CBD as part of your wellness routine, let’s touch on the most commonly experienced side effects of CBD — and how to avoid them.

6 Side Effects of CBD

1. Dry Mouth

Commonly referred to as “cotton mouth” by cannabis connoisseurs, CBD use may cause a dry mouth due to CBD’s interaction with the submandibular glands. This interaction with cannabinoid (CB) receptors in the mouth can cause reduced saliva production. Loading up on adequate amounts of water before and after consuming ingestible CBD can easily help offset this side effect.

2. Changes in Appetite

While marijuana-derived CBD has stereotypically been linked to an increased desire to eat due to its dominant THC content, hemp-derived CBD has been shown to counter that effect with appetite suppression, indicates research in Neuropsychopharmacology. Another study administering hemp-derived CBD to 23 children with Dravet syndrome, a form of epilepsy, found some of the kids experienced increased hunger, while some noticed a decrease. However, more research is needed to understand why CBD enhances appetite in some while suppressing it in others.

3. Diarrhea

Remember, products containing CBD vastly differ — not only in types of products but in the additional ingredients as well. While diarrhea is considered a potential side effect of CBD, it’s difficult to determine whether it is from the CBD or other listed ingredients. Even products like CBD oil that only add carriers like coconut and MCT can produce a loose stool effect for some. If you experience this side effect, you can pause use while you rehydrate and rebalance.

4. Drowsiness

Though CBD is generally well tolerated, it may cause drowsiness in some people.

One of CBD’s most praised benefits is its anxiolytic effect on the nervous system. When taking the correct dosage, CBD generally creates a calming effect, making it a popular sleep-enhancer. However, when taken in excess, CBD may cause drowsiness and fatigue. A simple way to navigate this side effect is to start at a low dose, work your way up slowly, and stop if you experience any undesired sleepiness or fatigue.

5. Drug Interactions

Most CBD side effects are typically benign and quickly pass unless CBD is erroneously mixed with prescription medications that pose a risk for dangerous interactions. CBD acts similar to grapefruit in this way, inhibiting CYP3A4 — an important enzyme in the CYP450 family shown to be responsible for metabolizing up to 60% of prescribed and over-the-counter medications: aspirin, antidepressants, proton pump inhibitors, antihistamines, and statin drugs, to name a few. When CBD inhibits this enzyme, the medication can’t be broken down by the body, potentially causing damage from drug toxicity. One study found this reaction to be especially dangerous for the elderly and those with chronic kidney or liver diseases. If medications you take have directions to avoid grapefruit or other citrus fruits, double-check with your doctor to determine if CBD is safe for you to try.

6. Allergic Reactions

Severe and rare side effects from CBD most often result from allergies — with the most severe being from inhaling CBD smoke or vapors. Be sure to consult with a physician if you suffer from symptoms similar to seasonal allergies after using edible or topical CBD. Runny nose, sore throat, eye redness, and dry cough may be signs you have a mild allergy. Skin irritations like hives, blisters, or inflamed areas may also result. If an allergy to CBD is a concern, testing is available. Anaphylactic shock is rare with CBD, but it can be life-threatening. Remember to check labels to ensure you aren’t allergic to other listed ingredients.

Best Ways to Avoid Unwanted Side Effects from CBD

  • Find the best CBD product: The best CBD products will come from the best CBD manufacturers. To ensure label accuracy and product purity, make sure your supplier provides proof of third-party lab reports and uses hemp farmed in the U.S.
  • Take proper dosage: The right dosage for your individual needs will undoubtedly vary, another reason third-party testing is so important. Research found that of 84 CBD products ordered online, only 31% were accurately labeled — a huge component in ensuring the correct dosage is administered.
  • Consider how much you weigh: Generally, people with a lower body weight will require a lower dose compared to someone heavier to achieve the same effect. Always start at the lowest dose and work your way up.
  • Take CBD daily: CBD benefits are not usually experienced right away, although that is the case for some people. Taking CBD on an as needed basis can be helpful, but allowing CBD to consistently build in the body over time will increase its healing efficacy.
  • Don’t mix CBD with medications and alcohol: As mentioned, consult with your doctor if you take any prescriptions — especially hypertension or blood-thinning medications. Alcohol consumption is a common social activity that should be monitored while taking CBD, as the risk for drowsiness may be increased.
  • Avoid other contraindications: If you are pregnant or nursing, refraining from ingestible CBD is best, as little is known of how CBD can affect a fetus. Topical CBD in creams or salves may be an alternative option as they don’t enter the bloodstream.

The Takeaway

Even though studies on the short- and long-term side effects of CBD in humans is limited, CBD is relatively well-tolerated. To avoid unwanted side effects from CBD, be sure to research and purchase CBD products from reputable suppliers for maximum purity, quality, and effectiveness.

References:

  • Alsherbiny MA, Li CG. Medicinal Cannabis—Potential Drug Interactions. Medicines 2019, 6, 3. doi:10.3390/medicines6010003
  • Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Zuardi AW, Crippa JA. Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent. Curr Drug Saf. 2011 Sep 1;6(4):237-49. doi:10.2174/157488611798280924
  • Epidiolex Side Effects: Common, Severe, Long Term. Drugs.com website. https://www.drugs.com/sfx/epidiolex-side-effects.html
  • FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived from Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy. U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-drug-comprised-active-ingredient-derived-marijuana-treat-rare-severe-forms
  • Iffland K, Grotenhermen F. An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):139-154. Published 2017 Jun 1. doi:10.1089/can.2016.0034
  • Morgan CJ, Freeman TP, Schafer GL, Curran HV. Cannabidiol attenuates the appetitive effects of Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in humans smoking their chosen cannabis. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2010;35(9):1879-1885. doi:10.1038/npp.2010.58
  • Pauli CS, Conroy M, Vanden Heuvel BD, Park SH. Cannabidiol Drugs Clinical Trial Outcomes and Adverse Effects. Front Pharmacol. 2020;11:63. Published 2020 Feb 25. doi:10.3389/fphar.2020.00063

Jenny Menzel, H.C., is a Certified Health Coach and branding specialist for various alternative healthcare practices, and volunteers her design skills to the annual grassroots campaign, the Lyme Disease Challenge. Jenny was diagnosed with Lyme in 2010 after 8 years of undiagnosed chronic pain and fatigue, and continues to improve by employing multiple alternative therapies, including Āyurveda, Chinese Medicine and Bee Venom Therapy.

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