It is safe to say that CBD is the latest craze. It seems that every health food store is advocating its use, and even gyms are encouraging people to take it for post workouts.
The reason it’s so easy and convenient to buy, even in places wherein cannabis isn’t legal, is because of updated legislature in the U.S. Farm Bill, which legalizes the commerical growing of hemp. Hemp extract lacks addictive properties, and is also non-psychoactive.
Some people say that hemp extract doesn't even have side effects.
Well, that isn’t necessarily true – everything has side effects. From the food you eat to the water you drink, your body reacts in different ways to different substances. In the very same way, CBD from hemnp interacts with your body and may produce unwanted side effects.
So, what are the side effects of CBD? First, let's talk a little about what CBD is in general.
What is CBD?
To understand the side effects of CBD, you first need to understand what CBD is.
CBD is a cannabinoid, a substance that exists within the Cannabis sativa plant alongside its better known (and psychoactive) cousin THC.
When consumed, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS)
, a health system discovered in the 1970s and named after the plant that helped researchers find it in the first place.
This health system, which exists within all mammals, is activated through cannabinoids, both those which our own body create and those that we ingest from cannabis.
When we put cannabinoids into our bodies, the primary receptors in the ECS – CB1 and CB2 – are triggered, creating a myriad of different effects.
These effects are primarily based on where the receptors are located. A great example is that the CB1 receptors are mostly located in the brain and nervous system, meaning that, when triggered, these receptors can help diminish the feeling of pain as well as encourage the release of helpful brain neurochemicals like serotonin and melatonin.
The CB2 receptors, which are spread throughout the body, are chiefly concerned with the regeneration of cells throughout the body, as well as the inflammation response and the repair of certain cell damage.
So, when we imbibe CBD, we are essentially encouraging our bodies to heal themselves naturally, by using the same pathways and methods that we normally use to recover.
However, considering the sheer number of ways in which CBD can trigger different reactions in the body, there have to be some that are considered side effects.
What Side Effects Actually Mean
Very briefly, side effects are the unintended consequences of taking something.
When you take for example a drug – any drug – you are taking it for the purpose of receiving some sort of effect. Whether that be heart medication, insulin to control your blood sugar, or even just a calcium tablet to make your bones stronger, you are ingesting something external that your body doesn’t produce on its own, looking to change your body in some way.
However, as the human body is such a complex system, when you change one thing intentionally, it’s very likely you’ll also change other things unintentionally.
These unintentional changes are called side effects because that’s just what they are – effects that occur on the side that we didn’t want.
For example, a side effect of blood pressure medication that aims to lower your blood pressure might be that you start to get tired more easily when exerting yourself. This happens as a result of the medicine’s effects, but is still unintended.
So, let’s look at a few possible side effects of CBD that not many people might know about.
CBD & Vascular Relaxation
CBD is taken for a variety of different reasons.
Jadoon et al. discovered in their study that CBD helped relax the vascular walls of the circulatory system, allowing for a reduction in blood pressure that could combat the effects of high blood pressure.
While useful if you’re suffering from high blood pressure, this effect can still occur even if you don’t need a reduction in your blood pressure.
This means that, if you take CBD regularly, you might find yourself with a lower than normal blood pressure due to the cannabinoid’s ability to help relax the walls of your arteries and veins, letting the blood flow through more easily.
This isn’t particularly dangerous or deadly, but if you already suffer from low blood pressure, this can exacerbate your condition and be potentially harmful.
Potential Conflict with Prescription Drugs
This one is most pretty unknown, as it requires a bit of knowledge about how CBD is broken down to begin with.
When you consume CBD, it is carried to the liver and broken down by a complex enzyme called CYP450. This enzyme is responsible for breaking down pretty much any drug you’ve ever taken, and is thus incredibly important to your wellbeing.
This enzyme can also be disrupted in a very unusual way.
Some people might know that you shouldn’t eat grapefruit when you’re on any kind of medication; this is because grapefruit has some enzymes within it that accidentally trick the body into thinking it has enough CYP450 enzymes.
Basically, they look just like the CYP450, so the body stops making sufficient amounts of the enzyme.
When you don’t have enough of the enzyme, the drug you’ve taken will stay in your system, unable to be broken down. Then, you’ll likely take another dose of the drug later in the day, which will then be broken down by the replenished CYP450 once the body realizes it doesn’t have enough.
Then, suddenly, you might have an overdose.
This same effect occurs when you imbibe CBD; the body mistakes it for the CYP450 enzyme and can thus cause problems with other important medicine.
However, numerous studies, such as the primary study looking into the CYP450 enzyme by Bailey et al., found that the effect caused by CBD isn’t nearly as significant as with grapefruit.
This means that this side effect is only dangerous if you’re taking an extremely large amount of CBD on top of numerous forms of other medication.
CBD Oil & Saturated Fats – Something to Watch Out for
Though not specifically an actual side effect of CBD, it’s still important to know.
CBD is commonly ingested as part of CBD oil, meaning you will also be eating/swallowing a quantity of inert oil, usually coconut oil.
Coconut oil has a large number of useful health effects, but it is also 90% saturated fats; if you suffer from high cholesterol and take a large dose of CBD oil every day, you might be making the condition a bit worse.
CBD & Unexpected Sleep Effects
CBD, as well as THC, is taken as a sleep aid to help treat patients suffering from insomnia or anxiety that stops you from sleeping.
The reason CBD has this effect is because of the interaction between CBD and the brain’s release of certain hormones. When the CB1 receptor is triggered, it causes a release of melatonin, the chemical responsible for that feeling of drowsiness that lets you fall asleep.
It stands to reason that if you take CBD – a drug that generally is used to treat insomnia, the inability to sleep – you’re going to feel sleepy, right?
Well, it’s actually a lot more complicated than that.
One study published by Rodriguez et al. found that, depending on when you actually imbibed the CBD, the effects on your sleepiness changed.
During the experiment, if CBD was taken during a period of regular wakefulness, such as during the day when you’re not physically or mentally tired, CBD was shown to actually increase awareness and the feeling of wakefulness.
However, if taken during the evening when your body is generally expecting you to be tired, it has in the inverse effect; it makes you sleepier and more prepared to go to sleep.
This fascinating result means that the side effect of CBD changes depending on your usage of it; if you take CBD during the day, it might make you a bit more alert and aware, whereas taking it at night will encourage you to go to sleep easier.
CBD is, like any other drug, not entirely insular. As it affects your body, so too will your body react with it and may create unexpected results. Therefore it is always important to consult with a specialist before taking any form of CBD. Especially if you are a first time user.