Do the Benefits of CBD Oil Outweigh the Risks?

The benefits and risks of CBD oil

The media can be biased when it comes to the new favorite, CBD oil. Find out the benefits, and the risks. Image Credit: By ozok on Shutterstock

CBD oil is an active ingredient in the cannabis plant. The scientific term for CBD is cannabidiol. It is one out of hundreds of chemical compounds (known as cannabinoids) found in the plant. CBD is a naturally occurring chemical compound and its extraction involves a mixed carrier oil (coconut oil or hemp seed oil). While cannabis is commonly associated with getting “high”, the compound CBD is unlike the most well-known compound known as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) as it is not psychoactive.

The Possible Benefits of CBD

The potential medical use for cannabis has been in the news for years, especially when it comes to CBD. CBD does not seem to bind to the CB1 receptors in the brain, which is the receptor that is affected by THC. However, CBD does affect other brain signaling systems, and this may be the source of the potential therapeutic effect and why so many people are intrigued by what CBD oil can do. While more in-depth studies are needed, many preclinical studies suggest that CBD oil has therapeutic properties such as;

  • Anti-anxiety
  • Anti-seizure effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory effects
  • Analgesic effects (pain)
  • Anti-Tumor effects
  • Anti-psychosis effects
  • Neuroprotective effects

CBD could treat a wide range of medical conditions such as

  • Migraines and headaches
  • Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)
  • Arthritis
  • PTSD
  • Various skin conditions
  • Digestion issues
  • Sleep disorders

The Side Effects of CBD

Multiple studies on the cannabis plant and CBD have very few documented side effects when used for therapeutic medical purposes. Best results are achieved under the care of a qualified medical provider in order to monitor the quality of the product, the dosage, the method of delivery, and any interactions with prescription medications to avoid lesser-known side effects reported anecdotally. As CBD legalization progresses throughout the United States, more studies will be done with a larger sample size over a larger period of time.

So far, it is said that most people who use CBD oil for treatment don’t experience any negative effects. However, because people know that CBD is a natural resource, it doesn’t mean that it’s “good for you”, or that “it doesn’t come with side effects because it’s natural”, for example, poison ivy and poisonous berries. In saying that, CBD is proven to hold therapeutic effects to some degree, and it does have few side effects (that we know of). According to current preclinical and clinical studies, CBD oil shows very few side effects. So far, researchers have found that the oil can cause

  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Previous studies tend to use smaller sample sizes, making it harder to draw reliable conclusions, although initial results are overwhelmingly positive. An additional study involving 5 patients with muscle spasms in 1986 published in The International Journal of Neuroscience also reported that CBD oil side effects were minor, including dry mouth, slow thoughts or movements, and lightheadedness. In 2006, a group of researchers looked at several studies to evaluate the safety of CBD oil.

In findings published in The Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, they concluded that CBD oil was safe when administered in a wide range of doses. Although older studies tend to use smaller sample groups, increased legalization of marijuana and CBD oil, in particular, is stimulating larger and more in-depth studies that will add to the knowledge of the benefits and side effects of CBD oil.

These studies are being proposed by not only private research groups, but also national groups with an interest in specific diseases or disorders. These organizations that support specific diseases will be able to launch research with much more funding and involving larger sample sizes and longer length of study. Dr. Volkow also mentions that

“The National Institute of Health is currently supporting a number of studies on the therapeutic effects as well as the health risks of cannabinoids.”

These include studies of the therapeutic value of CBD for the following uses, among others:

  • Treatment of substance abuse
  • Diminishing cognitive deficits caused by THC
  • Neuropathic pain due to spinal cord injury
  • Examination of the potential of CBD as an antiepileptic treatment

The results of these and other research studies will add to the national conversation about the benefits and side effects of CBD oil with more evidence to add to our current research results. Many of these larger studies are being undertaken due to the positive feedback, both clinical and anecdotal, of the benefits of CBD oil used therapeutically to treat a wide variety of diagnoses.

The quality and purity of the CBD oil product used are also extremely important. While most formal studies on CBD oil have found very few side effects, patients anecdotally do report many side effects, most of which can be traced back to using an impure or substandard product. These side effects include a headache, diarrhea, nausea, cold sweats, a feeling of paralysis and lack of appetite. In nearly all cases, the side effects diminished when the CBD oil was discontinued. These side effects may be a result of an impure product.

Patients should look for a CBD oil that is naturally extracted rather than chemically extracted. Another consideration should be what stock was used. Hemp that is grown specifically for oil extraction is likely to be a purer product than hemp that was used primarily for rope or seed production. The way the plant was grown can influence the final product.

Cost isn’t always an indicator of purity, it is important to know the history of the CBD oil. CBD oil is a popular commodity, so more and more suppliers may offer CBD products. Doing your research and having a good idea of what makes a pure product can eliminate the unwanted side effects of impure CBD oil.

According to most medical professionals, one of the specific areas that need more study is the administration and dosage of CBD oil. The administration is defined as the path by which the CBD oil is delivered to the body. In the case of CBD oil, this can include oral, sublingual (under the tongue), spray, vapor, rectal, intravenous, and even tea bags, shampoo or body lotion.

Obviously, the effectiveness varies widely and different routes of administration would be more effective for specific disorders. The amount of CBD oil to be administered can also vary, depending on the patient and the severity of the disorder.

Because there are many issues that affect dosage, consulting with a medical provider who is familiar with the use of CBD oil is recommended. While the documented side effects of CBD oil are few, other prescription medications can metabolize differently when combined with CBD oil. This means that the CBD oil may block the way some prescription drugs interact with liver enzymes, resulting in more of the drug reaching the bloodstream. This could result in possibly toxic levels of the prescription drug, and the dose of the prescription drug may need to be reduced. This was discovered in a small clinical study at Massachusetts General Hospital involving epileptic children who were also receiving an anticonvulsant medication along with CBD.

The CBD interfered with the prescription drug metabolism, and resulted in a higher level of the drug in the bloodstream, leading to a reduction of the prescription drug dosage. Safely reducing the dosage of a prescription drug may actually be an additional benefit of using CBD oil, although a medical professional should always be consulted before changing or discontinuing a prescription.

How is the best way to find a medical doctor who is familiar with the use of CBD oil? The answer to that question can vary depending on what state you live in. CBD oil is currently legal in 44 states. Some of those states have legalized marijuana, which includes CBD oil and other products. However, 16 of those states have only legalized CBD oil for very specific use, such as for children with epilepsy. Other states have very specific laws regarding the amount of CBD oil that a person can have in his or her possession, or what the CBD oil may be used for.

These legal restrictions can make it difficult to find a doctor who is comfortable using CBD oil for his or her patients. A recent news story in Oklahoma reported that even though CBD oil is legal in Oklahoma, doctors seem reluctant to recommend it to their patients, likely because they are unfamiliar with CBD oil or the laws which affect its use.

The good news is that as further studies are conducted regarding the use of CBD oil, and as its use is legalized in more and more states, doctors will become increasingly familiar with using CBD oil products and recommending them to their patients. Many online websites currently display lists of doctors that are familiar with the use of CBD oil.

Doctors who are CBD oil-friendly can also be found by word of mouth. It is important to take the time to research not only CBD oil but a doctor that can manage your medical situation and any prescription medications that you may be taking so that you can maximize the benefits and reduce the side effects of CBD oil. Explore and research how CBD oil can help you and invite your doctor to join the discussion.

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
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