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It may seem as though cannabidiol – or – CBD – has sprung up out of nowhere. Even within just a couple of years, this natural compound – found primarily in hemp plants – has moved from near-anonymity into potential wellness superfood. Whether you’re a senior, middle-ager, or serious athlete, you’ve probably looked at CBD’s touted benefits for reducing pain, lowering anxiety, promoting sleep, and much more. 

But, with all the positivity and enthusiasm around CBD, you may also be wondering – are there any side effects? Are there studies looking into any possible safety concerns? Let’s dive into these and other questions so you’ll be confident you’re making the best decision for you and your family. 

How does CBD work, anyway?

Before jumping into any potential CBD downsides, it may help to understand how the natural compound works. You can review our full article on cannabidiol and the endocannabinoid system, which goes more in-depth. But to recap, CBD is unique because, unlike THC, which predominantly binds to cannabinoid receptors, scientists think CBD boosts our naturally occurring levels of endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids play a critical role in regulating many of our body’s vital systems. Another interesting thing about CBD is that it interacts with other receptors, such as serotonin and opioid receptors to promote biological balance. These unique qualities may explain why cannabidiol is fast becoming a popular alternative therapy.

Looking at the big-picture – some potential side effects to note

While CBD may seem relatively ‘new,’ it’s been on the scientific community’s radar for decades. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of scientific articles out there that reference CBD in some capacity. And the good news is that out of this abundance of preliminary research, it is still challenging to find evidence that points to any dangerous side effects of the compound. 

To date, the most extensive CBD critical trials are from rigorous research efforts put into the epilepsy drug Epidiolex. The drug is now FDA-approved to treat two rare, severe forms of childhood epilepsy. With Epidiolex’s approval from the medical establishment, many believe that other manufacturers will soon surface with additional CBD prescription uses. During Epidiolex clinical trials, however, there were a few side effects that emerged worth noting. Those taking the CBD-based drug may experience side effects, including: 

  • Sleepiness
  • Loss of coordination 
  • Decreased appetite
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Altered liver enzymes 

Overall a good safety profile by the WHO 

Outside of the Epidiolex clinical trials, the World Health Organization (WHO) also looked into the safety profile of CBD. The WHO reported that CBD is a promising treatment for several medical conditions in their view. Further, their study suggests that CBD is well tolerated by most people and that the compound has a good safety profile, which means that it doesn’t appear to be a risk for abuse or other public-health related problems (i.e. withdrawal and tolerance). The WHO cited an animal study that looked at CBD’s dependence potential. During this trial, male mice were injected once a day for 14 days with either CBD or delta-9-THC. According to the findings, there was some potential for tolerance to THC’s effects. However, scientists observed no tolerance to CBD at any of the dosages  

Other trials in progress

While CBD is still not fully approved or regulated by the FDA, there are studies worldwide that are looking into CDB’s potential role in slowing disease progression. One study led by a Slovenia research team looked at the potential anticancer effects of plant-derived and synthetic cannabinoids. While still very early on, researchers speculate that cannabinoids may control cancer cell growth, invasion, and death – as early experimental studies may indicate using cancer cell lines and genetically engineered mouse models.  

There are also several pharmaceutical trials testing the possible pharmaceutical uses of CBD. For example, in the Netherlands, Echo Pharmaceuticals is working on an oral CBD tablet intended to treat various neurological disorders, including schizophrenia and epilepsy. The proposed drug Arvisol® is still undergoing Phase I clinical trials and is not yet registered for treatment. There are numerous other examples of trials happening across the globe investigating CBD’s safety and efficacy and considering its use to treat specific illnesses. You can read more in WHO’s report

Additional animal trials show promise – treating arthritis 

While there may be a lack of human-based clinical trials in the U.S., some promising animal trails are worth noting. One example includes a research effort from the Baylor College of Medicine in collaboration with Medterra CBD. These two groups are collaborating to look at CBD’s possible therapeutic effects for our furry friends suffering from arthritic pain. The results showed that CBD treatment significantly improved quality of life as documented by both owner and veterinarian assessments. Besides being critical for our fur besties, this work supports future scientific evaluation of how CBD may help humans suffering from arthritis.

Dr. Matthew Halpert, the research lead within the Department of Pathology and Immunology at Baylor, also explains that the study looked at rates of absorption and the safety of CBD on patients. Dr. Halpert explains the results further 

“We found encouraging results,” Halpert said. “Nine of the 10 dogs on CBD showed benefits, which remained for two weeks after the treatment stopped. We did not detect alterations in the blood markers we measured, suggesting that, under the conditions of our study, the treatment seems to be safe.”

Intriguing findings, but more clinical evidence is needed 

There’s no denying that there are many exciting results reported by individuals using CBD and by scientists running pre-clinical trials and animal studies regarding cannabidiol. Much of this preliminary research suggests the all-natural compound may have many therapeutic properties, from anti-inflammatory to the ability to relieve stress and promote healthy sleep. However, there are some possible side effects, noted in the Epidiolex clinical trials, for example. And, with rigorous testing still ongoing and trials in humans still limited, most experts believe it’s still too early to make claims about the efficacy and safety of cannabidiol definitively.

Your health and your decision  

On the other side of the equation, many people don’t want to wait a decade for clinical evidence to surface before finding out if adding CBD to their health regimen will pay off. Whatever your decision, it’s best to keep an open mind, stay diligent regarding new research, and listen to your doctor. Only your specific health profile – including the current medications you’re taking and wellness goals – plus specific guidance from your physician can help you make the best personal decisions about CBD. Do you have other questions about the potential effects or safety of CBD? Or do you want to learn more about getting started on a cannabidiol regime? Call or email the CBD Health Collection team!