Are CBD supplements safe? What are the short and long-term side effects of CBD and other cannabinoids? Who should avoid using CBD altogether? Curious about how CBD affects the body? CBD has many promising uses. See how it may be able to help with your condition.
What Are The Side Effects of CBD?
In the bureaucratic language of the WHO — this essentially means there’s a lot of evidence to suggest CBD is safe, and that the side effects are mild and manageable.
Despite having an excellent safety profile, there’s still some potential for side effects and few cases where CBD supplements should be avoided altogether.
In this article, we’ll cover the potential side effects of CBD in detail — including both the long-term and short-term side effects.
Table of Contents
Does CBD Have Any Side Effects?
The short answer to this question is yes.
Although CBD (cannabidiol) has been proven time and time again to be inherently safe — nothing is entirely without side effects. Any health supplement or medication that causes a physiological change in the body has the potential to cause side effects.
CBD has many effects on the human body — which means it’s totally possible that some of these changes will be undesired.
These undesirable effects are what we refer to as a side effects.
With that said, the side effects of CBD tend to be very mild. Issues with side effects from CBD most often come from high doses of CBD, combining CBD with other medications, or using CBD alongside other underlying health conditions .
What Are The Side Effects of CBD?
There are five main side effects you may experience when using CBD — low blood pressure, dry mouth, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and tiredness.
Each of these side effects is considered a short-term side effect — which means it only lasts as long as CBD remains in the body. These symptoms will disappear as the CBD wears off.
There are a few CBD-based pharmaceutical preparations on the market, such as Epidolex and Sativex — each of which has had a ton of research done to assess the potential for side effects. This research has given us a lot more insight into the potential adverse effects of CBD and other related cannabinoids.
The side effects of CBD can be broken up into two categories — short-term and long-term. Let’s cover each in more detail.
Short-term Side Effects of CBD
Short-term side effects happen right away as the CBD begins to take effect. They can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Once the CBD wears off, the side effects usually wear off along with it.
Short-Term Side Effects of CBD May Include:
- Low blood pressure (defined as blood pressure below 110/80 mm Hg)
- Dry mouth (Xerostomia)
- Poor appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Skin rash
Long-Term Side Effects of CBD
Long-term side effects don’t appear right away. These side effects develop gradually over time with consistent use. There are very few long-term side effects reported from CBD, and many of these effects can be traced back to other aspects of CBD use instead — such as smoking, vaping, or combining CBD with pharmaceutical medications.
Long-Term Side Effects of CBD May Include:
- Changes in weight (loss or gain)
- Frequent infections (low immunity)
- Abnormal liver function tests (high AST or ALT)
- Feeling weak or tired
Is CBD Safe?
There’s a wealth of research available in the scientific literature that explores the safety profile of CBD — I dug into it to see what I could find.
This research is critical in order for further testing can take place to explore the practical and medicinal applications of the compound in humans. Researchers can’t test CBD on health conditions such as epilepsy before it can be proven safe.
Let’s cover some of the most important safety research involving CBD:
Study #1 — A Meta-Analysis on 132 Different Studies
This review looked at 132 research papers that assessed the safety and tolerability of CBD. These studies included in vitro research, animal testing, and human clinical trials.
The study concluded that CBD is well tolerated and safe in humans, even in high doses over long periods. Researchers made note that there was potential for adverse side effects if CBD was used in combination with other medications or underlying health conditions .
Study #2 — Animal Testing on CBD Safety
This review seeks to build off the research published by Bergamaschi et al., 2011. The results of the study confirmed the initial conclusion for the first review, highlighting CBD as a safe and effective compound for the vast majority of patients.
This study reported the most common side effects to be fatigue, diarrhea, and changes in appetite/weight. Researchers also noted CBD to be significantly better-tolerated than other medications used for similar purposes .
Study #3: Long-Term Safety of CBD & THC
This study examined the long-term health effects of CBD and THC.
Preparations of the two cannabinoids were given to 43 cancer patients every day for two weeks. Researchers of this study reported there to be minimal side effects and concluded that the preparation was “well-tolerated” .
Study #4 — Safety of CBD With Dravet’s Syndrome (Epilepsy)
This randomized clinical trial looked at the effects of CBD in the treatment of a rare form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome over 13 weeks.
34 patients diagnosed with Dravet syndrome (aged 4 to 10) were randomized into four treatment groups — 5 mg/kg, 10 mg/kg, 20 mg/kg CBD, and an inactive placebo control.
The study concluded by stating that CBD was well-tolerated by the majority of patients (94% completion rate), and safety findings were consistent with other research. Some patients were noted to have elevated ALT or AST (indicating changes in liver function), but these elevations disappeared once CBD was discontinued.
This is one of the best studies we have so far on the safety of CBD in children, especially since the doses used in the study were significantly higher than the standard dose of CBD .
What Causes The Side Effects of CBD?
CBD has a long list of effects on humans. It works by binding or modulating various receptors in the body. These receptors control other chemical, cellular, and organ functions. This interaction with receptors is what gives CBD its benefits as well as some of its side effects.
There are other ways CBD may lead to side effects as well — some of which come down to the way CBD was consumed, how much CBD was used, what other medications were taken alongside CBD, underlying health issues, and the presence of contaminants in the CBD extract itself.
Let’s cover each of these potential causes in more detail and what you can do to minimize your chances of experiencing side effects from each one.
1. Smoke or Vapor Inhalation
Different forms of CBD can bring unique side effects. For example, smoking, dabbing, or vaping CBD may lead to short-term side effects caused by the inhalation of compounds through the lungs rather than from the CBD itself.
When smoke is inhaled it causes damage to the lungs along with an increase in carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the blood. This can lead to side effects like coughing, sore throat, fatigue, and nausea.
There have also been some recent reports of a condition known as lipoid pneumonia, which can be life-threatening. This condition is caused by inhaling fatty compounds into the lungs — such as with vape oils or e-liquids. This condition is rare but can happen from any e-liquids, including CBD-infused vape oils.
How To Minimize Your Risk
The easiest way to minimize the chances of experiencing side effects from smoke or vape inhalation is to use CBD orally (CBD oils, CBD capsules, CBD edibles) or topically instead.
There are a ton of excellent CBD products available that don’t rely on smoking or vaping to deliver CBD into the body. This saves your lungs and keeps harmful compounds like carbon monoxide out of your bloodstream.
2. High Doses of CBD
The more CBD you take, the stronger the effects.
This is true for both the positive and negative effects of CBD. Several of the research papers cited above used large doses of CBD (up to 20 mg/kg), which is significantly higher than the standard dose of CBD. However, despite remaining safe at these doses, the larger the dosage of CBD, the more chances there will be side effects.
Learn more about how much CBD you should take.
How To Minimize Your Risk
If you’ve never used CBD before, it’s important you understand how to find the best dose for your body individually. The effective dose of CBD is different for everybody, so you have to use some trial and error to find what works for you.
Most people do this by starting with a low dose and building up slowly over time. Once you reach the desired level of effects, you’ve found your dose.
Some people will continue increasing the dose gradually until they experience some mild side effects, then dial the dose back to the last dose that didn’t produce any side effects and stay here — this is what’s considered the maximum tolerated dose — or the highest dose you can take before experiencing negative effects.
You may want to avoid using exceptionally strong CBD oils if you’re just starting out with CBD as well. It’s easier to take too much when using very strong oils.
3. Interactions Between CBD & Other Medications
Whenever you take medications or supplements, you have to consider how the active compounds interact inside the body. Even if you take them separately, they end up mixing in the digestive tract or bloodstream.
CBD rarely interacts with other medications — but there are a few exceptions. CBD may cause the effects of the drug to become stronger or weaker than intended — which could lead to side effects from the medication.
How To Minimize Your Risk
CBD can interact with medications in many different ways. Even drugs that seem to be utterly unrelated to the effects of CBD can result in a negative interaction because of how the liver or kidneys process various medications. If CBD and the medication both compete for the same pathway of metabolism or elimination, it can lead to a buildup of both in the system — ultimately leading to side effects.
Because of this, you must speak with your doctor first about using CBD if you’re taking any medications. Your doctor will give you more accurate advice on whether or not CBD is likely to interact with any medications you’re taking — and what you can do to reduce your chances of developing side effects.
4. Underlying Health Issues
CBD is well-known to offer benefits to specific health conditions. There’s a lot of research on how this compound offers benefits towards diseases such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, arthritis, and more — however, some people may experience a worsening of symptoms after using CBD for their health disorder.
Some examples of this may include Parkinson’s disease, anorexia, and hypotension (low blood pressure).
Liver conditions can also increase your odds of experiencing side effects.
Most of the compounds you take into the body need to be processed and metabolized by the liver before they can be removed from the body. If the liver is compromised for any reason, CBD and its metabolites can build up in the bloodstream — which can ultimately lead to side effects.
Hypotension (low blood pressure) is one of the most concerning health issues people should be aware of before using this supplement.
Cannabidiol can cause a reduction in blood pressure. For many people, this is one of the major benefits — however, if blood pressure is already too low, this effect can push blood pressure below safe levels. If this happens, the heart may be unable to pump enough blood into the brain, leading to lightheadedness, confusion, and fainting.
How To Minimize Your Risk
The best way to avoid side effects if you have an underlying health issue is to speak with your doctor directly before using CBD.
5. Low-Quality or Contaminated CBD Products
The source of CBD matters when discussing side effects. CBD oil can become contaminated during the cultivation or manufacturing process. These contaminants may lead to both short-term and long-term side effects — some can even be quite severe.
This is why we encourage people to only order CBD products from companies that publish independent lab analyses for each batch of products they produce.
These tests should look for all the main contaminants of CBD products, including:
- Heavy metals
- Organic solvents (like propane, butane, or hexane)
- Microbial contaminants (mycotoxins, bacteria, mold)
- Psychoactive cannabinoids (THC or THCV)
Contaminated CBD products aren’t uncommon, so it’s important you look for a reputable supplier before placing your order. CBD oils that are significantly cheaper than the competition are most likely too good to be true.
Many of these oils are made from cheap hemp cultivated in places like China or India where soil contamination is common — leading to the accumulation of heavy metals or other harmful compounds in the final product.
Contaminants can lead to side effects such as:
- Allergic reactions
- Skin rashes
- Memory loss
- Vision loss
Some low-quality CBD oils may also contain the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC. If the THC content is high enough, it will lead to undesirable side effects as well — essentially causing the same effects of marijuana that make users high.
How To Minimize Your Risk
Always purchase your CBD from a reputable manufacturer that offers clear evidence that each batch of product they produce is completely free from these contaminants. There’s no safe dose of heavy metals, pesticides, or organic solvents, so it’s critical the tests show no trace of these compounds.
If a company can’t or won’t provide this information, we suggest you look elsewhere.
6. Allergic Reactions
Some side effects are purely the result of allergies. This may be an allergy to the CBD itself, other cannabinoids, or additives such as oils, synthetic flavoring, or vape fluids.
Allergies are driven by the immune system, which is continuously monitoring the body to identify and destroy anything that poses a threat. Sometimes the immune system mistakes a harmless compound as a threat — leading to what we call an allergic reaction.
When a threat is discovered (even if by mistake), the immune system immediately mobilizes a fleet of white blood cells and chemical messengers to the area to fight off the invader. This can lead to side effects including skin rashes, swelling, tightness in the throat, or much more severe effects like a closing of the airway, tachycardia (excessive heart rate), elevated blood pressure, and loss of consciousness.
Most allergies to CBD products are triggered by chemical additives from synthetic flavorings or preservatives rather than to the CBD itself.
How To Minimize Your Risk
Allergies can be hard to prevent and even harder to predict. For this reason, it’s wise to test a small amount of a supplement or topical before using the full amount to see if there’s any reaction to it.
For topicals, apply a small amount to the skin and wait for about 30 – 45 minutes to see if any rash or irritation appears. If not, you’re probably safe to apply the topical to a larger area of the body.
For edibles, the process is similar. Start by taking a tiny amount. Hold it in your mouth for a moment, if you can. Wait for 30 – 45 minutes to give the immune system time to react. If you don’t experience any side effects (most commonly, swelling or itchiness), you can safely take a larger dose.
What Can I Do If I Experience Side Effects From CBD?
What happens if you start to experience side effects from CBD? When should you be concerned?
The vast majority of side effects from CBD are mild in nature — meaning that although you might feel uncomfortable, the side effects will soon pass on their own. Depending on which side effects you’re experiencing, there may be some steps you can take to help them go away much faster.
1. Dry Mouth (Cottonmouth)
The best way to eliminate cottonmouth from CBD is to drink something fruity like orange or pineapple juice, sip water, or chew gum. If you remain well-hydrated before using CBD, the chances of experiencing this side effect are reduced.
This side effect is pretty common and usually doesn’t mean anything serious. However, lightheadedness can also signal a deeper underlying problem. The cause of this is typically low blood pressure, so it’s best if you can either sit or lie down for a while. This will allow the blood to flow easily into the brain. It also helps to drink something with electrolytes in it to help stabilize your blood pressure before you take CBD.
If you experience any loss of consciousness or feel excessive lightheadedness, stop using CBD immediately and set up a visit with your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
This side effect is hard to stop once it’s begun. You can take medications to help, but by the time the drugs take effect, the side effects will likely have worn off anyway.
It helps to take CBD along with food to minimize the chances of diarrhea.
If diarrhea continues to occur, it’s wise to speak with your doctor before using CBD again.
4. Fatigue or Tiredness
Feeling tired after using CBD is often a goal for using the supplement, especially in people who have a hard time sleeping. However, not everyone wants this effect from CBD. The easiest way to avoid this is to take CBD alongside caffeine to counteract the sedative effects of the compound.
5. Poor Appetite
CBD can lower our appetite — and while this is usually not a significant problem, it can cause you to go undernourished for long periods if you use CBD frequently. This could lead to nutritional deficiencies, weakness, irritability, and weight loss. It can help to take CBD along with a meal to avoid this effect.
Do Other Cannabinoids Have Side-Effects?
CBD isn’t the only cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. There are over one hundred other cannabinoids also produced in the plant — many of which end up in your CBD oil. This is especially the case for full-spectrum hemp extracts.
So, do any of these other cannabinoids have side effects you should be concerned about?
Overall, the side effects of these other cannabinoids are very similar to the side effects of CBD, with some subtle differences.
1. Side Effects of THC
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis plants. Hemp products have very low levels of THC in them in order to stay within the legal limit and to prevent any psychoactive side effects.
Products that have high THC content (over 2%) may produce side effects related to the psychoactivity of THC.
There is more than one type of THC. The most common is delta 9 THC but there’s also delta 7 THC, delta 8 THC, delta 10 THC, THCP, THCC, and more.
Here are some of the most common side effects of THC:
- Visual disturbances
- Increased appetite
- Dry mouth
- Changes in emotion and mood
2. Side Effects of THCV
THCV stands for tetrahydrocannabivarin. It’s closely related to THC, but has significantly less psychoactivity and is found in much lower concentrations in cannabis plants. This cannabinoid is unlikely to cause any real side effects in CBD products simply because of how low the concentration is.
Here are some potential side effects of THCV:
- Visual disturbances
- Nausea and vomiting
- Changes in mood
3. Side Effects of CBC
CBC stands for cannabichromene — it’s the third most predominant cannabinoid next to CBD and THC. Some hemp strains are high in CBC, so it has a greater potential for impacting the side effects of hemp products than most other minor cannabinoids.
The potential side effects of CBC include:
- Loss of appetite
4. Side Effects of CBG
CBG stands for cannabigerol — it’s the precursor molecule for both CBD and THC. Therefore, plants that have been harvested too early will have high levels of CBG.
CBG has few side effects and is reported to counteract many of the psychoactive effects of THC.
Side effects of CBG may include:
- Muscle weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
5. Side Effects of CBN
CBN (cannabinol) is on the opposite end of the scale to CBG. Instead of being a precursor, it’s a metabolite of THC. As THC breaks down, CBN levels rise.
This compound is not found in high concentrations in hemp plants because of the lack of THC but will still be present in some capacity — especially in plants that have been harvested late or in full-spectrum CBD oils nearing their expiration date.
CBN is more sedative than most other cannabinoids, so the most common side effects are sedation and fatigue.
The side effects of CBN may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased appetite
- Poor memory and concentration
Who Should Avoid Using CBD?
Now that we’ve covered all the side effects of CBD and highlighted some of the factors that can make these side effects more frequent or more severe — let’s discuss a few examples where CBD should be avoided altogether.
1. People With Liver Disorders
CBD is metabolized in the liver — along with just about every other medication or supplement we consume. If there’s already a problem with the liver, it will be difficult to metabolize CBD effectively, causing CBD levels (and other medications) to remain elevated for extended periods.
If you suffer from any liver disorders (hepatitis, fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, etc.), it’s wise to speak with your doctor before using CBD.
2. People Trying to Conceive a Child
CBD and other cannabinoids are untested on a growing fetus, and there are many theories that the compound can negatively affect brain development. Therefore, if you’re trying to conceive, it’s wise to avoid the use of CBD supplements.
3. Pregnant or Breastfeeding Mothers
Similar to the point above, CBD should be avoided in expectant or nursing mothers to avoid losing the baby with CBD. Cannabinoids are highly interactive with our central nervous system and may cause problems in the developing infant nervous system.
CBD is a fat-soluble substance and will transfer to the child through breast milk.
4. People Taking Certain Medications (Ask Your Doctor)
Some medications may interact with CBD, as highlighted in several of the safety studies listed earlier. Here are some of the key ways CBD can interact with a drug:
- CBD may increase the effects of medication — this can lead to side effects from the CBD or the medication being too strong
- CBD may prevent the breakdown and excretion of drugs from the body — this can cause compounds to build up to dangerous levels in the bloodstream over time
- CBD may counteract the effects of a medication — this can cause the medicine to become ineffective for addressing the symptoms it’s being used to treat
Certain drugs are more likely to interact with CBD than others — such as antipsychotics, blood thinners, blood pressure medications, and pain medications.
Always speak with your doctor before using CBD if you’re taking any prescription medications.
5. People Suffering from Low Blood Pressure
As mentioned above, CBD may cause a reduction in blood pressure. If you already experience low blood pressure, taking CBD could worsen the problem.
It’s recommended that people who have low blood pressure (hypotension) should avoid using CBD, or use CBD under the supervision and advice of a medical professional.
6. People With Known Allergies to Cannabis Products
If you’ve had allergic reactions to cannabis products in the past, be very careful when trying CBD. Sometimes these allergies are experienced only from smoking the plant or from additives like synthetic flavorings or preservatives — however, in other cases, the allergies are to the cannabinoids or other phytochemicals in the hemp plant.
In cases of severe allergies, such as anaphylaxis, avoid CBD products altogether.
Conclusion: Is CBD Safe?
Everything has the potential to cause side effects — especially compounds that have apparent physiological effects on the body. This includes CBD — which has a long list of effects and benefits.
CBD has been proven to be a safe and effective compound in animal and human clinical trials many times over. The side effects this compound is most likely to cause are very mild in nature — such as dry mouth, mild drops in blood pressure, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and fatigue, or drowsiness.
Most people can avoid these side effects by following some of the advice listed above — such as drinking plenty of water, taking CBD with food, combining other supplements like caffeine, or limiting the dose of CBD.
However, in rare instances, these side effects are more severe. The most severe side effects come from allergic reactions, smoke or vape inhalation, or interactions with other medications and underlying health disorders.
For this reason, it’s wise that you speak with your doctor before using CBD if you have any underlying health issues or are taking any medications. It’s also a good idea to start with a very low dose of CBD (~2 mg) and build the dose up gradually over time once you know how this compound interacts with your body individually.
Have you experienced any side effects from CBD? Leave your comments below!
CBD: Benefits, Types, & Side Effects
CBD, or cannabidiol, is recommended for everything from anxiety and stress to indigestion and depression. And, a lot of people are using it. A recent Gallup poll found 1 in 7 adults in the U.S. has used CBD.
So, does it help? Studies of CBD are ongoing, but some benefits have been found.
What is CBD?
CBD is an herbal remedy – a treatment that comes from a plant, in this case, it is the cannabis sativa plant. Cannabis sativa has been used for thousands of years for both its healing and mind-altering effects.
There are two types of cannabis sativa: hemp and marijuana. The hemp plant is the source of CBD used in most products.
Hemp and marijuana plants
CBD is one of a group of substances called cannabinoids derived from the cannabis sativa plant.
There are dozens of cannabinoids, as well as other substances, in cannabis sativa.
CBD is the primary cannabinoid in hemp. It has various healing properties. For example, it seems to lessen inflammation, the body’s response to illness or injury. In this way, it may help treat many different diseases.
CBD is not psychoactive; it does not have a mind-altering effect.
CBD vs. THC
To better understand CBD, it helps to contrast it with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Many people are familiar with THC. It is the best known of the cannabinoids. THC was identified long before CBD. THC is the substance in marijuana that causes the high.
Marijuana contains more THC than CBD. Hemp has a very small amount of THC, less than 0.3 percent, and not enough to cause a high. As of 2018, CBD from hemp became legal in the U.S. with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintaining control.
CBD’s main property is healing and it’s derived from the hemp plant. On the other hand, THC’s main property is mind-altering and it’s derived from the marijuana plant.
Excessive and continued use of CBD may lead to side effects, including memory loss, slow reaction time, and changes in mood such as irritability.
How CBD Works
As stated above, CBD is in a class of chemicals called cannabinoids. Because it comes from a plant, it is further classified as a phytocannabinoid.
The human body also produces natural cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids.
Both variations of cannabinoids act on cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are part of the complex endocannabinoid system (ECS). The system regulates the release of neurotransmitters (chemicals that communicate between nerve cells) in the brain, as well as in other parts of the nervous system. The ECS responds to both types of cannabinoids, phyto- and endo-.
By acting on the ECS, CBD may have many different effects on the body. Examples include: balancing the body’s overall physical functions (homeostasis), reducing pain sensation, and lessening the body’s reaction to injury or inflammation.
Medical Uses of CBD
CBD has been recommended for many different purposes, some of them tested, and some not. The prescription drug Epidiolex is the only CBD product approved by the FDA. It may be prescribed to treat two rare seizure disorders, or types of epilepsy, in children and adults.
Studies are ongoing, but some results show that CBD may be effective in reducing anxiety/stress and chronic (long-term) pain like back pain. It may also be effective for insomnia, or trouble sleeping.
There are studies of oral, topical, and inhaled CBD products for use in many other conditions, including dystonia (movement disorder), Fragile X syndrome (rare genetic disorder), graft-versus-host disease (bone marrow transplant rejection), multiple sclerosis (MS), opioid withdrawal, schizophrenia, and smoking cessation. CBD is also used to alleviate symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease, but some study results advise against it.
Types of CBD Products
CBD products can be used by mouth (oral/edible) or applied to the skin (topical). These products have different concentrations of CBD.
CBD oil may be used both ways.
Other oral products include edible gummies and capsules. Topical CBD products may also be found in lotions, creams, or balms. Again, they are available in various concentrations.
The proper dosing of CBD for different conditions is still being studied, so new information is continuing to become available.
CBD should be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure you read and follow the label carefully. Only use the amount instructed. Using more may increase the chance of side effects, interactions, or other problems.
The dose of a CBD product depends on the form and strength, as well as the concentration of CBD in it. It’s also based on whether or not it has other active ingredients.
Side Effects and Interactions of CBD
Common CBD side effects include: drowsiness, dry mouth, vomiting, decreased appetite, weight loss, and abnormal liver function blood tests.
INTERACTIONS: Check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking CBD with other medications. CBD may interact with some commonly prescribed medications including warfarin, lithium, sertraline, tramadol, codeine, captopril, and valproic acid and carbamazepine (both are anti-seizure medications).Fatty foods may increase the absorption of CBD.
CAUTIONS: People with liver problems or Parkinson’s disease should not take CBD.
Do not use CBD with medicines that are prescribed to control seizures or epilepsy (e.g. valproic acid or carbamazepine).
CBD may increase drowsiness when taken with other sedating medicines or herbal products.
Oral CBD for Pain
Research on the safety and effectiveness of oral CBD for pain is ongoing. Some of the research includes:
The National Academies of Sciences (NAS) found significant evidence that cannabis was an effective treatment for long-term (chronic) pain. However, much of the research was done outside of the U.S. And the forms of cannabis studied in the U.S. were not the same as those commonly used.
Reviews and meta-analyses of cannabinoids found the following:
Studies looked at the use of cannabinoids (THC alone and CBD combined with THC) in people with chronic pain. In general, results showed improvements in pain measures, but they were not statistically significant.
Studies found evidence, although not high-quality, that cannabis-based medicines reduced long-term nerve (chronic neuropathic) pain. All but two studies used plant-based THC/CBD mouth spray products (the other two used synthetic oral THC products).
Results of observational studies and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of the effectiveness of cannabinoids in chronic non-cancer pain showed a 30% reduction in pain in 1 out of 3 of those using cannabinoids. These results were considered significant.
Topical CBD for Pain
There is also continuing research on the safety and effectiveness of topical CBD. Some of the research includes the following:
Although not in humans, an animal study found transdermal CBD had the ability to lessen the pain and inflammation of arthritis.
Topical cannabidiol oil was studied in 29 people with lower limb peripheral neuropathy. After using the oil for 4 weeks, results showed less intense and sharp pain and fewer other uncomfortable sensations.
Applications of transdermal cannabidiol were studied in people with temporomandibular (joint of the jaw) disorders (TMD) that caused myofascial (coverings of muscle) pain. Those studied had less muscle tension and pain after applying the topical CBD for 2 weeks.
Oral CBD to Help with Sleep
Oral CBD products may be used to help with sleep. This research includes the following:
Early results of research suggest that a 160mg dose of cannabidiol before bed significantly improves sleep duration compared to a placebo in patients with insomnia. Smaller doses did not have this effect. Also, patients did not feel drowsy the next morning.
Early research on CBD for the treatment of insomnia suggests that it may be effective. Additional studies are needed.
Animal studies of CBD found increased total sleep and improved sleep quality when sleep issues were associated with anxiety/stress.
Medical cannabis users reported they used cannabis with higher CBD and lower THC concentrations for their insomnia. They also reported a decrease in the time required to fall asleep.
A review and meta-analysis of 8 studies with low-quality evidence of cannabis-based medicines found that they were better at reducing sleep problems compared to inactive medicines (placebo).
A review of clinical trials of the effect of cannabinoids on sleep suggested that cannabinoids could improve sleep quality, decrease sleep disturbances, and decrease the time it takes to fall asleep. However, there were limiting factors, such as the small size of the studies.
An app was used to measure changes in insomnia in over 400 people taking medical cannabis. Results showed an average symptom severity reduction of 4.5 points on a 10-point scale, a significant improvement in insomnia.
Another review with meta-analysis of 104 studies evaluated cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain. Within this review and analysis, the effect of cannabinoids on sleep was also examined. There was low-quality evidence of improved sleep.
The takeaway is that the initial research of CBD is promising but there is still much to learn. It may help with some conditions like long-term pain and sleep.
Because it is so widely available and recommended for so many problems, it must be used carefully and purchased from reliable sources.
CBD is just one of many supplements that can alleviate back pain or insomnia. Take a Goodpath assessment for an integrative program that incorporates supplements, nutrition, mind-body therapies, and exercise.