The average person uses a surprisingly large number of products on their head every day. From teeth to hair to skin, each part has specific needs — and, increasingly, a CBD-infused product to get the job done. There’s cannabis toothpaste and antibacterial mouthwash for one’s oral hygiene needs, wrinkle creams and sheet masks for enhancing the complexion, and shampoos and hair oil treatments for all manner of hair types. The final frontier, it seems, is the eyes, and now there are CBD products for those, too.
As you might expect, CBD-infused eye drops are the most commonly used products for eye-related issues. While they bear a superficial similarity to the vials of CBD oil used for cooking or sublingual tinctures, the two products can’t be used interchangeably — while CBD eye drops have been specially formulated for ocular use, “normal CBD oil” contains ingredients that can severely irritate the delicate tissue of the eyes.
CBD eye drops can be used for cosmetic reasons, or to treat medical conditions. They have a number of characteristics that make them adept for both purposes, but they also come with a few strings attached. Here’s what you need to know to determine if they’re right for you.
One of the most common side effects of cannabis is eye redness, so it’s somewhat ironic that a cannabis derivative like CBD oil can now be used to manage it. Bloodshot eyes are caused by tiny blood vessels that become dilated, and since cannabidiol (CBD) has the ability to increase blood pressure, it can constrict these blood vessels and reduce redness.
However, since the doses are so small, it’s highly unlikely that CBD eye drops will have the type of anti-anxiety effects that are typically associated with other products containing the cannabinoid. At the moment, there have been no clinical studies comparing the effectiveness of CBD with other key ingredients typically found in eye-whitening drops, such as brimonidine. While it’s possible that CBD eye drops may one day replace popular products like Visine, it’s not yet clear if they have any real advantages.
One area where CBD eye drops have shown promise is in the treatment of corneal pain and inflammation. According to a study published by Canadian researchers, the drops were effective in triggering cannabinoid receptors that reduced eye irritation and pain. Natural, plant-derived CBD was found to be much more effective than synthetically produced alternatives.
At the same time, CBD eye drops have been shown to be far less effective when treating another common eye condition: glaucoma. Although cannabis has been used to treat glaucoma for years, the reason for its effectiveness is due to THC, not CBD. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, this is because glaucoma is caused by elevated rates of intraocular pressure, which puts stress on the optic nerves. While THC lowers the amount of eye pressure, CBD has the opposite effect — meaning it can actually make glaucoma worse.
No matter what their purpose, CBD eye drops are still a work in progress. Since the oil itself doesn’t mix easily with water (the preferred delivery mechanism for most current eye drops), it’s difficult for them to deliver the key ingredient in sufficient amounts — some estimates suggest that as little as five percent of CBD reaches its intended target. Possible solutions include using mineral oil in place of water, but studies show this can irritate the eyes, and non-irritating formulations are still a theoretical concept at this point.
Still, considering the massive amount of research (and money) currently being poured into the CBD industry, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which it’s tougher to find eye drops without CBD than with it.