A Parent’s Guide to CBD Oil for Children

Should parents be giving their children CBD oil? What are the benefits of CBD oil for children? What short- and long-term effects does CBD have on kids? What serving size is correct for a child? Can too much CBD oil hurt a child? Can it become addictive? Will CBD oil get my child high? These are just a few of the myriad of questions that come up when parents begin to consider the idea of giving their kids CBD oil. It this guide we’ll answer each of these questions as well as look at what exactly CBD is, and how it affects the human body.

If you’re like the vast majority of parents, then you are not willing to experiment on your kids. Most parents want to know exactly how a product will affect their children before they try it. For this reason, parents are more likely to give their kids FDA approved pharmaceuticals than they are to try natural herbal remedies.

Unfortunately, once a parent begins looking for answers to questions surrounding the use of CBD, it quickly becomes apparent that there are no black and white answers when it comes to natural, plant-based products such as CBD oil.

Hemp, the plant from which CBD oil is derived, is one of the most complex known to man. Cannabis, the family of plants to which hemp belongs, contains scores of active compounds, many of which can have powerful or subtle effects on our bodies. And, furthermore, each of these compounds can affect every individual differently.

The combination of dozens of active compounds makes it extremely difficult to provide exact answers as to how CBD oil will affect your child. However, a little knowledge can go a long way towards putting you on the right track when it comes to giving CBD oil to children.

What is CBD oil?

Most of us have heard of the term essential oils. The word, “essential,” in this term, refers to the “essence” of a plant. The oils which are responsible for each plant’s aromas and flavors are contained in a plant’s essential oils. That’s why the essential oils of mint smell and taste like mint, and the essential oils of vanilla smell and taste like vanilla, and so on. Hemp oil is the extract of the resinous flowers of the hemp plant and it contains the essence that makes hemp unique.

Among the scores of compounds found in hemp, a family of oily compounds known as cannabinoids is the most abundant. There are scores of cannabinoids in hemp extract. Some, such as CBD, are abundant while others occur in just trace amounts. Each cannabinoid molecule is slightly different in its structure and produces a particular set of effects. Hemp-derived CBD oil can contain levels of CBD and other cannabinoids as high as 25 percent.

Another family of beneficial compounds found in hemp extract is known as terpenes. These are the oils that give plants their scents and flavors. Like cannabinoids, terpenes come in a variety of structures and each terpene has its own set of effects on the human body. The terpenes found in essential oils have been used for millennia in a healing method you may be familiar with — aromatherapy.

It is a combination of cannabinoids and terpenes that gives hemp its many health benefits. The essential oil extracted from hemp which contains these cannabinoids and terpenes is known as a full spectrum CBD oil.

Products that are made by adding purified CBD to an oil base do not qualify as full spectrum products. The difference is important and we’ll discuss it below.

How does CBD oil work?

One of the systems in the human body that helps to keep our health in balance is known as the human endocannabinoid system, or ECS. The ECS consists of two components — hormone-like chemicals produced by the brain and central nervous system, and receptors on the surface of individual cells with which those compounds interact. Because the brain cannot communicate with every single cell in the body, it uses this system of signaling to control bodily functions at a cellular level.

These signaling chemicals which are naturally produced by our bodies are called endocannabinoids, while those produced in plants such as hemp are known as phytocannabinoids. The term cannabinoids, alone, collectively refers to both types.

Some of the common cannabinoids found in full spectrum CBD oil:

  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)

It’s no coincidence that the cannabinoids produced in plants have the ability to mimic some of the effects of our own naturally produced cannabinoids. The human diet has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, and for most of that time hemp was part of the human diet.

The ECS is highly complex and still not fully understood, even by scientists. However, we can use simple analogies to try to explain how it works.

Think of the ECS as a system of traffic signals. Although the individual drivers on the road are not connected to each other, the behavior of each individual driver can be controlled using signals such as traffic lights, signs, lines on the road, turn signals, horns, sirens and so on. Each of these signals works in a unique way with its own set of rules and controls a particular set of behaviors.

The job of the ECS is to bring balance to a variety of bodily functions. When we’re in need of rest, the ECS is partly responsible for making us sleepy. And when we’ve had enough sleep, the ECS helps wakes us up. When we are in need of nutrients, the ECS is partly responsible for making us feel hungry. When we’re in danger, the ECS puts us on edge. And when the danger passes, the ECS brings us back down and makes us feel safe. These are just a few of countless examples of how the ECS works to maintain balance within the body.

As you can imagine, when traffic signals malfunction traffic becomes chaotic and dysfunctional. If you remove the road signs we get lost. If you remove the lines on the road we may get into accidents, without sirens emergency vehicles would be stuck in traffic and so forth.

The same holds true for the human ECS. When this system gets out of balance and produces too much or too little of any particular endocannabinoid, or if our diets are deprived of phytocannabinoids, our health might fall out of balance. We might lose our appetite, or develop sleep disorders, or have anxiety issues, or suffer from any number of other conditions as a result. Supplementing one’s diet with full spectrum CBD oil can help to bring some of these systems back into balance.

Terpenes, although produced at much smaller levels than cannabinoids, also have powerful effects on our bodies. Although terpenes are measured in parts per million, it takes very little to produce a physical effect.

Terpenes evolved in plants to act as both repellents for pests and attractants for pollinators. In order to work, they must have the ability to physically affect the behavior of pests and pollinators. This can explain the powerful effects terpenes have on humans.

An example of how terpenes can affect us comes from a terpene known as pinene. Pinene, as you might guess, is the terpene that gives pine its distinct aroma. You are probably familiar with a cleaning product that is made with pinene known as Pinesol. Next time you walk into a room which has been freshly cleaned with Pinesol, notice that it increases your alertness of your surroundings. Another terpene known as limonene is produced in citrus fruits. The scent of citrus fruits can have an uplifting effect. Lavender is another example. A terpene known as linalool, which gives lavender its distinctive scent, is renowned for its relaxing properties.

Terpenes, like cannabinoids, can affect a wide variety of human systems such as moods, sleep, digestion, inflammatory response, pain response and much, much more. They also play a role in the functioning of the ECS by interacting with both receptors and cannabinoids.

Some of the common terpenes found in full spectrum CBD oil:

  • Pinene
  • Limonene
  • Citronellol
  • Myrcene
  • Linalool
  • Humulene
  • Eucalyptol
  • Camphene

What are the benefits of CBD oil?

When people first hear about CBD oil and its wide variety of health benefits, it’s easy to become skeptical. Your typical herbal supplement or pharmaceutical medication is generally only going to have a limited number of benefits. There are a number of reasons that CBD oil provides such a wide range of benefits.

First of all, as we discussed, CBD oil comes from one of the most complex plants known to man with scores of active compounds. Again, each of these cannabinoids and terpenes has multiple effects on the human body.

Secondly, the ECS is responsible for regulating a wide variety of bodily functions including functions of the brain itself. Furthermore, a lack of particular endocannabinoids or receptors can result in a variety of health issues.

Thirdly, CBD and other cannabinoids, as well as terpenes, have effects outside of the realm of the ECS. For example, they have been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects, antioxidant effects and antibiotic effects.

You don’t have to take our word for the fact that full spectrum CBD oil provides a variety of health benefits. In an article on MindBodyGreen.com, the author interviewed a number of medical professionals who use CBD oil in their practice. Here’s what a few of them had to say about CBD oil and its benefits.

“I have been using CBD on various patients at my functional medicine center for some time now, and we are loving the clinical results! I use it to support healthy balanced inflammation levels in people with autoimmunity, pain, and anxiety. For some, CBD has truly been the missing link in their health puzzle. It’s one of the few things that I, too, take every day.” – William Cole, D.C.

“Ultimately there is a role for CBD in a variety of conditions. It decreases anxiety, is anti-inflammatory, and can help with sleep. It does also have some positive impact on pain… I do have patients who anecdotally find that it is helpful when used topically… for pain.” – Carrie Diulus, M.D.

“… [CBD] does produce many positive changes and has many medical benefits including improving the immune system, being anti-inflammatory, improving mood, appetite, [and] cognitive function… Physicians also recommend CBD oil in patients who want to quit smoking as well as decrease opioid usage. It seems to be the wonder drug everyone wants!” —Bindiya Gandhi

Let’s go over some of these benefits individually.

CBD oil helps reduces pain and inflammation

Many people who use CBD oil for pain claim that it is more effective than traditional painkillers. Cannabinoids and terpenes help to reduce pain in two ways. First, they have been shown in studies to reduce inflammation at the site of injuries and infections, which is often a major cause of pain. And second, they have the ability to regulate the body’s pain signaling and calm overactive nerves.

In a 2016 study entitled, “Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviors in a rat model of arthritis,” authors stated,  “These data indicate that topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of… pain-related behaviors and inflammation without evident side-effects.”

CBD oil helps regulate sleep cycles

One of the responsibilities of the ECS is to help regulate sleep patterns. Studies have shown that CBD not only helps some of those who have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep to get the rest they need, it also helps to induce more wakefulness and attention during the day. As we stated earlier when the body and mind need rest, the ECS is partly responsible for making us feel sleepy, and when we’ve had enough rest it brings us back to wakefulness.

CBD oil helps regulate moods and reduce anxiety

Two of the most commonly reported benefits of taking CBD oil are reduced feelings of anxiety and depression. Many scientific studies have confirmed these effects. CBD has been shown to directly affect levels and effects of hormones in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine which are associated with feelings of comfort and safety. Most U.S. states with medical cannabis programs list a variety of anxiety-related conditions such as panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as qualifying conditions for the use of medical cannabis.

CBD oil helps regulates the immune system

Many common physical ailments are the result of what is known as an autoimmune response. Autoimmune conditions arise when the immune system mistakes our own tissues for foreign invaders. Common symptoms of AI conditions include inflammation and pain in joints and muscles, ulcers and other digestive system issues, skin conditions, and more. Studies show that CBD has the ability to down-regulate the immune system and reduce damage done by AI response.

Other common benefits of CBD oil

As mentioned above, full spectrum CBD oil provides benefits outside of the workings of the ECS.

Here’s a partial list of CBD oil benefits outside of the realm of the ECS:

  • Antioxidant – protects cells from damage
  • Anti-inflammatory – reduces pain and swelling
  • Antibiotic – kills germs
  • Antiviral – destroys viruses
  • Antifungal – kills fungus

More serious medical conditions

There are numerous studies which show that CBD oil can be an effective part of the treatment regimen of a number of serious medical conditions. If CBD has been shown to be effective for the condition you’re interested in, a quick online search for the medical condition along with the term “CBD oil” will oftentimes bring up a myriad of information including clinical studies, articles in professional journals and forums where people interested in the condition can share their experiences in using CBD as a treatment.  

Does CBD oil have side effects? Does it cause a high? Is it addictive?

CBD oil is one of the safest herbal supplements known to man. It is completely non-toxic and non-addictive. Because CBD is non-toxic and very well tolerated by the human body, actual adverse side effects are extremely rare. In fact, there is no known record of anyone ever overdosing or experiencing any adverse long-term health effects as a result of using CBD oil.

What about unwanted side effects? While pharmaceutical drugs are often developed to target particular bodily systems and provide particular effects, Mother Nature is not always so exacting. The effects of organic compounds can be many and often vary from person to person. In some cases, an herbal compound can have both desired effects and unwanted effects. These unwanted effects, we call side effects.

Some effects which might be considered desirable for some might be unwanted by others. A good example of this is that some people use CBD to increase focus and alertness during the day, while others may use it to help them enjoy better sleep at night. If increased alertness is your desired effect, then sleepiness would be considered an unwanted side effect. On the other hand, if a good night’s sleep is what you’re after, then increased alertness would be an unwanted side effect.

Another good example is metabolism. CBD has been known to reduce appetite in some people which would make it desirable for losing weight. On the other hand, some people report that CBD actually increases their appetite, which, while great for someone trying to put on weight, for someone trying to lose weight this would certainly be an unwanted side effect.

In regards to the question of whether or not CBD oil is addictive, not only is it not addictive, it has been shown to help those who are addicted to opioids, alcohol, nicotine and other addictive substances — as well as behaviors — to kick the habit. This effect is thought to be due to the ability of cannabinoids to help regulate the production and uptake of compounds associated with the brain’s reward circuits.

How much CBD oil should kids take?

Although CBD is not harmful to humans, it’s still a good idea to start with a small amount and monitor its effects — especially when it comes to children.

The key to determining the ideal serving size for a child is patience. Because CBD oil affects people differently, you should always start out with the lowest reasonable serving size.

Start with just a few milligrams per day. If there are no adverse effects after a few days you can increase that amount. Eventually you’ll reach a serving size beyond which no additional benefits are observed, in which case you can go back down to a smaller serving.

For most day-to-day uses, children only require small amounts of CBD — usually under 10 milligrams. For more serious conditions larger serving sizes may be required. However, when serious illnesses are concerned, you should always consult with a knowledgeable physician for advice.

At what age can kids begin taking CBD oil?

The age at which a child should be given CBD oil is highly dependent on the reasons that CBD is being used. Some children have debilitating conditions at very early ages that might respond well to CBD oil. Others can benefit greatly from a small daily serving.

If you’re planning on supplementing a child’s diet with CBD oil for everyday health benefits such as reducing pain or reducing anxiety or assisting with sleep, you should generally wait until an age where the child is able to communicate intelligently about the way they feel. Depending on the child this could be anywhere from 4 to 6 years of age.

And again, if you’re interested in using CBD oil to treat any kind of medical condition you should discuss the issue with a knowledgeable physician.

What kind of CBD oil product is best for kids? How much should they get and when?

Some people feel that giving kids CBD in the form of candies such as gummy bears makes it easier to administer — however, young kids need to understand that CBD isn’t candy. It should be clearly spelled out to them why they are taking it.

Tinctures are the most highly recommended option for kids, not only because they are associated with medicine, but also because they allow you to adjust the serving size depending on the child’s size and condition. Most capsules contain a minimum of 10 milligrams, making them impractical for serving sizes below that amount.

What’s the best time of day to give a child CBD oil?

If a child is having problems sleeping, obviously the best time is before bedtime. If a child has problems concentrating during the day or other behavioral issues, the best time to give them CBD is before sending them off to school and other social activities.

If you’re using CBD oil to help with temporary issues such as pain, coughing or nausea, then CBD can be administered in the same way that you might use aspirin or cough syrup — once every 4 hours or so.

If you’re giving a child CBD oil for the sudden onset of anxiety then the best time is while it’s happening or in situations in which it commonly arises.

Should you discuss CBD oil with your pediatrician?

Due to government restrictions, there has not been nearly enough research into the use of CBD products by children — or adults for that matter. This causes two problems.

First, it means that very few physicians are truly knowledgeable about the use and benefits of CBD oil. And second, those that are aware of the few scientific studies that have been done, but don’t have experience treating patients with CBD oil can only give vague advice.

However, there are some physicians and pediatricians who are not only educated on the benefits and uses of CBD oil but are also monitoring numerous patients who use CBD oil and can provide experience-based guidance.

Having said that, it’s important that your pediatrician knows about any dietary changes your child is undergoing such as the daily use of CBD oil.

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