The benefits and side effects of using CBD oil
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This article was medically reviewed by Mia Hazle, MD, a psychiatrist in the Division of Addiction Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
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- CBD oil is extracted from hemp and cannabis plants and infused in products like lotion and edibles.
- Human clinical trials suggest that CBD oil can help relieve anxiety, inflammation, and epilepsy.
- CBD can cause side effects including dry mouth, nausea, fatigue, irritability, and more.
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a concentrated extract from hemp and cannabis plants, which is then mixed with other ingredients to create an array of CBD products including capsules, tinctures, edibles, creams, and vapes.
The purported health benefits of CBD are many, ranging from treating cancer to premenstrual syndrome. But like all popular remedies, the wide majority of marketing claims have yet to be proven.
Does CBD oil work?
There is some evidence in human clinical trials that large doses of CBD may be helpful for treating anxiety, epilepsy, addiction, inflammation, and psychosis, says Jeffrey Chen, MD, co-founder and CEO of Radicle Science, a health-tech company that offers research and validation services for CBD products.
In fact, in 2018, the FDA approved the use of Epidiolex, a CBD-derived drug, to treat rare forms of childhood epilepsy.
Additionally, there have been anecdotal reports of CBD helping with issues like pain, sleep disturbance, and stress. However, more significant human trials are needed to determine how well CBD treats these issues for a broad population, says Chen.
How to use CBD
There are many different ways you can use CBD. Deciding which method is best for you largely comes down to how quickly you want the effects to kick in.
The amount of time CBD takes to reach your bloodstream depends on the mode of consumption, says Chen:
- Inhaling it is the fastest, since it goes from your lungs to your bloodstream, causing the CBD level in your bloodstream to peak in 30 minutes or less.
- Putting it under your tongue allows it to get absorbed directly into your bloodstream. This is the second-fastest method, after inhalation.
- Swallowing it requires the CBD to first pass through your intestines and then your liver before reaching your bloodstream, which can take hours.
- Applying it to your skin often means it only works topically in that area and doesn’t reach your bloodstream. However, using transdermal CBD patches may cause the CBD to penetrate the layers of your skin and reach your bloodstream.
“How long effects last is difficult to predict because people take different doses and experience different effects from CBD — and some do not experience an immediate effect at all,” says Chen.
In terms of dosage, there isn’t an established, recommended CBD dosage, says Chen.
While most consumer products recommend serving sizes of 5 to 50 milligrams, research studies that have demonstrated benefits typically use several hundred milligrams of pure, pharmaceutical-grade CBD per day.
These quantities are “not available, sustainable, or affordable,” says Jordan Tishler, MD, president of the Association of Cannabinoid Specialists and founder of InhaleMD.