CBD Side Effects: Safety, Risks, & How to Manage Them
The list of the health benefits of CBD seems to have no end. For nearly every health concern you hear about, someone raises an argument that CBD oil may come in handy.
As dedicated advocates of cannabis, we’re not going to diminish its wellness value, but to say CBD has no side effects would be an overuse, to say the least. Of course, these side effects are ridiculously mild when compared to the reactions you may experience after taking some of the conventional OTC health supplements — but they DO exist.
Today, we’ll cover the side effects of CBD as well as common reactions to different CBD products. CBD itself is safe and well-tolerated, but hemp extracts are often complemented by other ingredients, some of which may not have a positive effect on your health.
Let’s talk about CBD from the non-hyping perspective for a change.
What Do You Need to Know About the Side Effects of CBD?
When you take CBD oil, you will likely feel calm, relaxed, focused, and in less discomfort. People use CBD for a variety of reasons, mainly due to the high-pressure work environment and other civilizational factors that compromise our daily lives.
CBD doesn’t cause life-threatening side effects, even in doses as high as 1,500 mg daily taken for several weeks. Nevertheless, some side effects may occur when you take too much CBD at a time, but we’ll get to them later in the article. What’s more concerning is the list of potential side effects resulting from product contamination or synthetic additives that can be found in CBD products due to the lack of regulations on the market.
A common misconception about CBD is that all CBD oils are the same. In fact, CBD oil may have different effects depending on how it was sourced, what cannabinoid spectrum it contains, and whether or not it comes from organic farms.
Let’s take a look at the differences between the side effects of CBD based on different products.
Side Effects of CBD Products
As mentioned, CBD extracts vary in terms of their purity, chemical profile, extraction methods, and other ingredients in the formula. Two CBD oils from two different brands may produce different effects, including adverse reactions.
Here’s everything you need to know about the side effects of different CBD formats.
Side Effects of CBD Oil
The side effects of high-quality CBD oil are rare and often involve common reactions like dry mouth, fatigue, or potential CBD-drug interactions.
However, since the market is unregulated, not all companies are honest about their manufacturing and testing practices. There’s a great number of reputable suppliers, but you may also stumble upon dubious vendors claiming to heal the world with plant-based extracts.
The truth is, many companies are cutting corners when it comes to the quality standard. If your CBD oil is extracted from non-organic, mass-produced hemp, it may contain pesticides, herbicides, or contaminants from the soil such as heavy metals. These compounds can later be purged, but this entails sacrificing the potency and the original chemical profile of the plant.
Extraction methods are also paramount for the quality of the end product. CO2 extraction, which is considered the golden standard in the industry, yields clean extracts that maintain consistent potency throughout the batches. It doesn’t require adding extra heat or solvents, so it’s also safer than other extraction methods. On the other hand, products obtained through hydrocarbon extraction — using butane or propane — can be toxic for the user if not purged properly from the extract.
High-quality CBD oil should contain only two ingredients. A hemp extract and carrier oil; alternatively, manufacturers infuse their CBD oils with flavorings to mask the earthy taste of full-spectrum CBD. It’s important that these flavorings come from natural sources such as herbal extracts or terpene blends to minimize the risk of irritation and allergies.
Side Effects of CBD Vapes
Most commercially available CBD vape pens contain hemp extracts mixed with thinners such as vegetable and propylene glycol, or a mix of both. While high-quality vegetable glycerin is generally safe for humans, propylene glycol raises controversies among CBD users. Although regular use of propylene glycol hasn’t been associated with toxic effects, there are reports of people experiencing allergic reactions like rashes, headaches, and nausea after using a product infused with the thinner (1).
Since vaping CBD doesn’t combust the inhaled material, it doesn’t have the same side effects on the lungs as smoking cannabis. However, no study has yet examined the long-term side effects of vaping cannabinoids, so it’s difficult to draw definitive conclusions.
There’s also the question of the quality of your vape pen. If it’s made from titanium or glass heating elements, then you’re in the clear, but plastic vape pens may interact with the vapor from your CBD vape oil and get absorbed into your system.
Side Effects of CBD Edibles
CBD edibles, such as gummies or honey sticks, as well as other oral forms (capsules), don’t have any serious side effects as long as they come from a trusted source. According to the study published in the Journal of American Medical Association, 70% of CBD products sold online are mislabeled (2). Some of them contain little to no CBD, while others come with a significant THC content. THC is the intoxicating cannabinoid in marijuana, so products contaminated with THC can cause a high. If a person has a low tolerance to THC, the high may become overwhelming, causing anxiety and paranoia.
That’s why we always emphasize the importance of third-party testing. CBD companies can send samples of their products to third-party laboratories for content analysis. These laboratories will analyze the potency of CBD, the THC content, and the entire chemical profile of the sample. They will also detect contaminants such as pesticides, herbicides, mold, heavy metals, and residual solvents.
Side Effects of CBD Applied to The Skin
People use CBD to alleviate localized discomfort and improve skin health, but then again, not all CBD topicals are made the same. Aside from the aforementioned risk factors such as poor-quality hemp, cheap extraction, and lack of third party testing, the presence of other ingredients also determines the potential side effects of CBD topicals. Some ingredients may simply cause allergies, while others are straight irritants with a bad reputation in the skincare industry; these include additives like parabens and sulfates. If you want to avoid the side effects of CBD topicals, be sure to choose organic products.
Most Common Side Effects of Cannabidiol
The side effects of CBD are few and far between. Here are some commonly reported reactions to CBD oil:
- Dry mouth – this side effect is uniform among all cannabinoids due to their ability to interact with the salivary glands in the mouth. This interaction inhibits the secretion of saliva, hence the dryness (3). If you suffer from the overproduction of saliva, this side effect may be beneficial. For the rest of CBD users, it’s best to keep something sour at hand, as sour foods stimulate saliva production. It’s also a good idea to drink more water before and after CBD use.
- Dizziness – CBD can cause a temporary drop in blood pressure, especially when taken in large doses. If you take CBD in the evening, it is no longer a side effect, but for people who take CBD for energy and focus, high doses in the morning may prove counterproductive (4).
- Changes in appetite – some users report lower appetite after taking CBD, while others experience a slight increase. This is likely caused by the biphasic nature of CBD and works in a similar pattern to how it affects your energy levels (5).
- Diarrhea – this side effect isn’t as common as the others, and most of the time, it comes from the carrier oil rather than from CBD alone. Consuming large amounts of fat may stimulate bowel movement and cause diarrhea (6).
Although not a side effect per se, CBD may also compromise your liver’s ability to metabolize pharmaceutical medications. That’s because CBD interacts with the CYP450 system, which is a group of enzymes involved in processing active ingredients in drugs. Taking CBD oil with medications that use the CYP450 enzymes may result in a subtherapeutic effect or toxic concentrations of these medications in your system (7).
If you take any medications that could interact with CBD, be sure to talk to a doctor experienced in cannabis use. Doing so will help you avoid them on top of finding the right dosage for your situation.
How to Avoid CBD Side Effects?
When it comes to product-specific side effects, they can be easily avoided by choosing high-quality products made from organic hemp, extracted with clean methods like CO2, and third-party tested for potency and purity. Make sure to check for potential allergens and irritants, especially when browsing through CBD topicals.
The other two types of side effects are related either to the dosage or to the biphasic nature of CBD. If you don’t feel well after taking CBD oil — it makes you feel dizzy or fatigued — try taking a lower dose and see how it affects your energy levels. The latter type of side effects can be avoided by adjusting your dosing schedule to the time of the day you want to take CBD oil.
Who Should Not Take CBD?
The widespread use of CBD makes some people wonder if CBD is actually safe for everyone. While there have been no reports on fatal overdoses on CBD, or at least severe health consequences after taking pure CBD oil, there are two contraindications that potential users should keep in mind.
Doctors and health experts suggest abstaining from CBD during pregnancy and breastfeeding because there’s not enough evidence supporting the safety of both the mother and the child. At the same time, we haven’t heard of any reports about the side effects of CBD in expecting/breastfeeding mothers. This area of science is a little bit tricky because experiments on pregnant women are considered unethical and thus it’s impossible to verify CBD’s safety and efficacy in clinical conditions.
How to Choose CBD Products?
Research is paramount when it comes to buying CBD products. The market is largely unregulated, so if you want to avoid wasting money on mediocre to poor-quality CBD oil, make sure to check the following details:
- Hemp source – hemp plants are dynamic bio accumulators, meaning they easily absorb every substance from their environment. The best CBD oils come from organically grown, non-GMO hemp.
- Extraction method – reputable companies use supercritical CO2 extraction to ensure high purity and consistent potency in their products. If a company uses hydrocarbon solvents, they may contain toxic residue if not purged correctly.
- Third-party testing – as mentioned, outside labs analyze the CBD content and look for potential contaminants in the tested sample. If there are any problems with the product’s quality, the Certificate of Analysis (CoA) will show them. Only purchase CBD products from companies who are transparent and provide the necessary documentation
- User reviews – grapevines have always been the best form of marketing, so if a company has a lot of positive reviews from satisfied users, it is a much safer bet than a brand that doesn’t have any success record of this kind.
- Clear labeling – make sure that your CBD oil doesn’t list ridiculously high amounts of milligrams and uses correct terminology. The label should list “CBD oil” instead of “hemp oil” or “hemp extract” because the latter may refer to hemp seed oil, especially when juxtaposed with extremely high doses. Hemp seed oil is also a hemp extract, but it uses different parts of the plant and is extracted with different methods.
Summarizing the Side Effects of CBD
Current research indicates that CBD oil is safe for human consumption and comes with only a few mild side effects. Although everybody reacts a bit differently to cannabinoids, it looks like most CBD users can consume it without worrying about adverse reactions.
The best way to avoid the side effects of CBD is to choose products from a certified source. Doing so will help you weed out poor-quality products and narrow down your options to reputable brands. Here at Gold Bee, we make organic CBD products that are extracted with CO2 and rigorously tested from seed to harvest in third-party laboratories. We use only natural ingredients in our formulas, including the hemp extract, carrier oils, and the honey our CBD products are sweetened with.
Have you ever experienced any side effects of CBD? Share your stories in the comment section!
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- Bonn-Miller, Marcel O et al. “Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online.” JAMA vol. 318,17 (2017): 1708-1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909
- Prestifilippo, Juan Pablo et al. “Inhibition of salivary secretion by activation of cannabinoid receptors.” Experimental biology and medicine (Maywood, N.J.) vol. 231,8 (2006): 1421-9. doi:10.1177/153537020623100816
- Jadoon, Khalid A et al. “A single dose of cannabidiol reduces blood pressure in healthy volunteers in a randomized crossover study.” JCI insight vol. 2,12 e93760. 15 Jun. 2017, doi:10.1172/jci.insight.93760
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- Iffland, Kerstin, and Franjo Grotenhermen. “An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies.” Cannabis and cannabinoid research vol. 2,1 139-154. 1 Jun. 2017, doi:10.1089/can.2016.0034
- Zendulka, Ondřej et al. “Cannabinoids and Cytochrome P450 Interactions.” Current drug metabolism vol. 17,3 (2016): 206-26. doi:10.2174/1389200217666151210142051