Is CBD Oil Safe & Effective? How to Use It Responsibly
The buzz around CBD is at an all-time high.
This non-psychoactive cannabinoid has given rise to a multi-million dollar industry that is predicted to hit $2.1 billion by 2020.
CBD (cannabidiol) won’t get you high, but it holds a great promise for treating a wide range of chronic illnesses. It succeeds where prescription drugs fail, but above all, CBD is safe for human consumption.
Speaking of which, the safety of CBD was one of WHO’s key topics of discussion in November last year at the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence in Geneva.
What did the World Health Organization find out?
Is CBD entirely safe? Does it really succeed where the conventional medicine doesn’t?
How can I use CBD responsibly to avoid potential side-effects?
Defining CBD: A Quick Reminder
Before we proceed to talk about WHO’s groundbreaking statements at the Geneva Drug Abuse convention, let’s have a brief overview on what CBD is and how it produces its therapeutic effects.
Basically, CBD is an active compound in the cannabis plant. Its secret to success, so to speak, is that it doesn’t induce psychoactive effects.
In other words, CBD won’t get you high.
That’s because unlike THC, CBD doesn’t directly bind to any of the receptors in the brain.
Instead, it stimulates the endocannabinoid system to produce more of its natural cannabinoids and thus maintain homeostasis (chemical balance) in the body.
On top of that, CBD allows those human cannabinoids to last longer in the system and level up the endocannabinoid deficiencies, a state which — according to recent studies — can be responsible for triggering some of the most severe physiological and mental diseases.
Is CBD Oil Safe?
Some folks say this is too good to be true because if CBD comes from the marijuana plant it must be a “drug”; and what’s worse — an illegal one.
Here are some issues with this understanding:
- Cannabidiol can be isolated from THC even if it comes from the marijuana plant.
- CBD occurs in abundance in the industrial hemp variety of cannabis, one that typically holds less than 0.3% of THC.
- Other, perfectly legal plants also contain cannabinoids (Echinacea spp., Acmella oleracea, Radula marginata, Helium italicum).
Of course, THC and CBD are “drugs” if we look at them from the biomechanical standpoint. But so is Paracetamol, Tylenol, Motrin, and other over-the-counter medications.
Even high-dose nutritional supplements can be considered drugs, some are even quite dangerous if used incorrectly. Too much vitamin C for example will leave you in severe gastrointestinal distress.
Fortunately, the World Health Organization is up to date with recent studies on CBD.
Let’s see what they have to say about the safety of cannabidiol.
The WHO Deems CBD Safe and Claims it Has No Impact on Public Health
The WHO is a reliable source of reference when it comes to advising planet Earth — and us humans — on all health-related subjects.
Like we said earlier, when the WHO invests financial resources into researching something, and then takes a definitive stance about that subject at a worldwide event, they’re up to something serious.
During the meeting of the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, the organization defined CBD as not associated with abuse potential”, which means the compound cannot cause physical dependence.
WHO’s conclusion stays in stark contrast to the US federal law. The government still maintains CBD under the same category as heroin, MDMA, and ecstasy, all of which are stated to have no medical applications and show high potential for abuse.
The recent findings may speed up the incoming changes in the federal legislation around hemp and cannabis, as Canada has recently become the first G7 country to legalize the herb nationwide.
But is CBD oil entirely safe to use?
Researchers are yet to find out.
Evidence On the Safety of CBD Oil
To begin with, let’s make something clear: scientists all over the world are showing great support for CBD.
For example, a comprehensive 2017 review of clinical data and relevant animal studies on safety and side effects of cannabidiol states the following:
“In general, the often described favorable safety profile of CBD in humans was confirmed and extended by the reviewed research. The majority of studies were performed for treatment of epilepsy and psychotic disorders. Here, the most commonly reported side effects were tiredness, diarrhea, and changes of appetite/weight. In comparison with other drugs, used for the treatment of these medical conditions, CBD has a better side effect profile.”
Simply put, yes, CBD does have a few side effects, but they sound like an April Fool’s joke in comparison with other drugs.
Further, the review underlines that “some important toxicological parameters are yet to be studied, for example, if CBD has an effect on hormones.”
We could have some quality studies on the influence of CBD on hormones in relation to the production of estrogen, as more women are turning to CBD oil to handle their menopause symptoms.
Taking CBD With Other Medications
Drugs are metabolized by the liver due to the presence of the cytochrome P450 enzyme system, which is responsible for metabolizing potentially toxic molecules, including the majority (over 60%) of any drugs you’ve ever taken.
CBD can inhibit the cytochrome P450 system’s function to process certain drugs. This, in turn, may lead to an overall increase in metabolizing times.
When you take CBD oil along with other medications, you can end up with higher levels of certain drugs in your system at a time.
The Indiana University Department of Medicine lists the drugs known to use the CYP450:
- Angiotensin II blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
- HIV antivirals
- HMG CoA reductase inhibitors
- Immune modulators
- Oral hypoglycemic agents
That being said, always make sure to consult using CBD with your doctor if you’re taking any of the above drugs.
Is CBD Oil Effective?
The non-intoxicating marijuana extract has gained a reputation of a versatile drug that can treat a plethora of medical problems, from seizures to anxiety to inflammation to insomnia.
This reputation didn’t come out of the blue, as CBD has a couple of well-documented health benefits. Also, the Internet is full of success stories where patients claim they were able to give up on their regular drugs in favor of CBD oil for their conditions.
Many of these stories involve patients who were left hopeless by their doctors.
But this, dear friends, is where we need to take a peek at the neverending battle of science versus personal experience.
Scientific Evidence vs. Anecdotal Evidence
From the scientific standpoint, anecdotal evidence is no evidence.
If something is to be approved by scientists as a “drug” it has to undergo human clinical trials which could prove its repetitive effectiveness.
Currently, the legal limbo in which cannabis remains makes it difficult to perform quality studies on this matter.
We can only draw conclusions from preclinical or animal studies, but then again, it’s not the golden standard for drug-related research.
That being said, while CBD may help thousands of patients with chronic pain, anxiety, depression, neurodegenerative diseases, tumors, and more, it will never be approved by any health administration if the above conditions haven’t been met.
As of right now, clinical trials have supported the use of CBD to treat epilepsy and chronic pain.
The FDA has even approved the use of Epidiolex and Sativex — two CBD-based medications.
Epidiolex is used to treat two severe forms of childhood epilepsy, whereas Sativex, a 50:50 THC/CBD oral spray, can be administered to patients with Multiple Sclerosis.
Of course, this only applies to synthetic mixes made by the companies entitled by Patent No. 6,630,507 to manufacture cannabinoid-based drugs.
CBD sourced from the whole marijuana (or hemp) plant is still a Schedule I substance, and as such, it can’t be sold as a medicine.
Oh, sweet hypocrisy…
Quality Matters: How to Identify High-Quality Products
A large share of the CBD industry belongs to hemp businesses.
Hemp-derived CBD oil is classified as a food supplement, and thus, it’s not regulated by the FDA.
Such a policy creates ripe opportunities for fly-by-night companies who want to capitalize on the booming industry.
Many online manufacturers and retailers claim to offer pure CBD while their products have nothing to do with cannabinoids.
Always buy your CBD oil from a trusted source.
It’s easy to do a background check on a company these days, so if you’re wondering whether your supplier is a decent one, look for the following:
1. Where Did They Source the Hemp for the Hemp Oil? Hemp is a natural bioaccumulator, meaning it absorbs everything from the soil it’s grown in.
Every self-respecting CBD company sources their CBD from organic, non-GMO, certified hemp. This allows them to obtain a healthy base material for their extracts, not to mention that properly cultivated hemp plants have remarkably high CBD content.
2. What Extraction Method Was Used
CBD can be extracted in two ways: by using an alcohol-based solvent or treating the hemp with CO2 in multiple chambers at high pressures.
Alcohol extraction is the old-school way to make cannabis extracts and it can give you a potent product. However, this method can sometimes leave excess residue or unwanted plant matter. Plus, alcohol extraction can be harmful to both you and the environment.
The CO2 method is more expensive because it requires high-tech equipment to run the whole process. It’s considered the gold standard for hemp extraction because it’s highly efficient, avoids adding toxic solvents to the mix, and maintains most of the hemps naturally occurring constituents. Not every company can afford such a luxury, but if they do, you can rest assured that you’re dealing with an honest supplier.
3. Are Their Products Third-Party Lab Tested?
Third-party lab testing reports allow you to verify the content of your CBD oil before you put your hands on it.
They typically test for the presence of cannabinoids, terpenes, as well as over 200 common contaminants which could potentially compromise the quality of the final product.
Never trust a company that doesn’t show such reports on its website.
Why CBD Oil Might Not Work For You
Some people claim CBD oil is a rip off because it’s not working for them.
CBD is a wonderful compound but it’s not a miracle worker by any means.
So maybe, just maybe, you’re doing something wrong?
We’re not telling you are, but you have to admit it is possible.
Here’s why CBD oil might not work for you:
- You’re using inferior-quality CBD oil
- The dosage is either too low or too high
- Your CBD product has low bioavailability
- Your genetics make you less receptive to cannabidiol
- You’re using an isolate instead of a full-spectrum extract
Read our CBD dosage guide to find out how much CBD oil you need for your condition.
How to Use CBD Oil Responsibly
It may be tempting to pull the heavy guns out with CBD at the very beginning of your treatment/supplementation, but as with anything, moderation is the key to success.
Below we shed some light on the do’s and don’ts of using CBD oil.
DO: Start With Baby Steps
Keep in mind that your body needs to adapt to the sudden influx of cannabinoids, so it’s wise to start at the lowest recommended dose for your body mass range.
Consuming too much CBD oil at once can trigger the aforementioned side-effects, such as drowsiness, dryness in the mouth, lowered heart rate, and diarrhea. This can discourage you from further using cannabidiol.
But most importantly, your system’s natural reaction to such a high dose of CBD will result in a sudden adaptation, which means you’ll need to stop taking the oil for a week to return your “tolerance” to the previous stage.
DO: Gradually Work Your Way Up the Optimal Dose
It’s actually the best thing you can do when starting your treatment with CBD.
When starting at low doses, you can test the efficacy of the oil for, say, a week, and if you’re not satisfied with the results, increase the dose by 2-3 milligrams.
Repeat until you start feeling better – simple as that.
DON’T: Treat It As A Miracle Worker
People tend to oversimplify things when it comes to finding an effective treatment for their illnesses, especially when they’re desperate.
They often forget that humans are actually complex beings and there is no magical pill capable of turning a disease off on demand.
Don’t focus too much on treating the symptoms. Instead, think of using CBD oil as a way to bring back the chemical balance in your body and solve the problem in its roots.
Depending on the severity of your condition, it can take up to a month of regular CBD administration to feel the improvement.
Only patience will save us.
A Final Hit on the Safety of CBD
If a random pedestrian told you “Hey, you there! CBD is totally safe!” or “CBD is amazing and doesn’t get you high!” it probably wouldn’t mean much for you.
But when an organization like WHO makes similar statements with even more optimistic comments on the safety and effectiveness of CBD, there must be something in the water.
Thus, it would be wise if you took a moment and listened.
Cannabidiol has a well-documented list of health benefits and a surprisingly short list of negative side effects. If you use it responsibly, there’s no chance to trigger an undesired reaction.
However, if you’re on any other medications, we strongly recommend checking the list of drugs that interact with CBD to make sure you’re not enhancing their effects by accident or putting too much burden on your liver.
Other than that, it’s hard to go wrong with a good quality CBD oil.
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About James Reed
James Reed is the founder and editor-in-chief at iSum. He’s a big advocate of marijuana and spent most of his time writing about these topics, sharing what he learned over the years.