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 wildly from person to person. Also, as with pharmaceutical drugs, oftentimes an herbal compound can have both desired effects and unwanted effects. These unwanted effects, we call side effects. So, what about CBD? Does CBD oil have unwanted side effects?
Today, CBD is one of the most researched compounds on the planet. There exists an abundance of research and anecdotal evidence which suggests that CBD oil can provide a wide variety of health benefits. These potential effects include relieving pain, easing anxiety, lowering blood pressure, reducing epileptic seizures and much more.
With such a wide range of physical effects, one might surmise that CBD is, indeed, likely to have some unwanted effects and that some of those effects might even be harmful. So, let’s take a closer look and see if this is true.
Beneficial vs. Unwanted Effects
Often, active compounds — including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and herbal preparations — can produce both desirable and unwanted effects. In order to determine if an effect is a so-called side effect, you need to know what the desired effects are.
A great example of this is Nyquil. Nyquil was developed to relieve cold and flu symptoms. The desired effects include cough suppressant, decongestant, pain relief, etc. But the developers of Nyquil also found that it had the effect of putting people to sleep. If you’re trying to be productive, then feeling sleepy would be an unwanted side effect. On the other hand, if you’ve got the flu and the congestion, coughing and pain that come with it are keeping you awake at night, then feeling sleepy is a highly desired effect rather than a side effect.
Also, Nyquil contains acetaminophen — an analgesic and painkiller. Acetaminophen is great for reducing fever and pain; however, if overused it can cause kidney damage. This is definitely an adverse side effect that no one wants to deal with.
Let’s take a look at both CBD’s effects and its potential unwanted side effects, and also delve into the question of whether or not some of those side effects can be harmful.
How Does CBD Work?
CBD is one of a family of molecules we refer to as cannabinoids. There are cannabinoids which are produced by our bodies. We call these endocannabinoids. And there are those produced by plants — such as the CBD in hemp extract — which we call phytocannabinoids. Many of the cells in our bodies have receptors with which these cannabinoids typically bind.
The endocannabinoid system is one of the numerous chemical signaling systems used by the human body to regulate activity at a cellular level. You see, your brain can’t directly communicate with every single one of the trillions of cells in your body, so it uses these chemical signaling systems.
Here’s how this works:
The human brain gathers information from your nervous system — a vast network of branching neurons that connect to the brain via the spinal cord. These sensory cells reach just about every area of your body and provide feedback to the brain. If the brain reads these signals and determines that a system is out of balance, it releases signaling chemicals which communicate instructions to individual cells to change what they’re doing. These signaling systems control a wide variety of bodily functions, from metabolism to immune system response to mood regulation.
The receptors for these signaling molecules are located on the outer membranes of cells. No two people have the same amounts of these receptors or produce the various signaling molecules in the same ratios.
The way your body behaves depends on which signaling compounds are produced in what ratios as well as the abundance of receptors which accommodate them. An imbalance of these compounds or receptors can cause a vast array of ailments.
The reason that CBD works is that it mimics some of the chemical compounds used in this signaling process. It also acts indirectly upon other receptors aside from cannabinoid receptors, such as opioid and serotonin receptors.
A prime example of CBD’s ability to mimic endocannabinoids is anandamide — a signaling molecule which instructs certain cells to produce serotonin. CBD mimics anandamide, causing an increase in levels of serotonin, which in turn causes the mind to relax.
An example of where this effect comes into play is in cases of anxiety. Anxiety is a normal response in the face of danger, and when the danger passes the body attempts to turn off the anxiety by producing anandamide. But in some cases, such as with PTSD, those systems can become unbalanced, the anxiety response is unduly activated or not properly turned off, and the result is extreme anxiety.
What Are Your Desired Effects?
As we mentioned earlier, whether or not CBD produces unwanted side effects depends on why you’re using it.
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 relaxation and sleepiness would be considered unwanted side effects. On the other hand, if a good night’s sleep is what you’re after, then increased alertness would be an unwanted side effect.
Here’s another example of how CBD might work differently for different people: Some people take CBD oil in order to help them regulate their metabolism and lose weight. This works like a charm for some people, while for others, CBD might actually increase their appetite. If you’re trying to lose weight increased appetite would be considered an unwanted side effect. On the other hand, if you’re trying to gain weight an increase in appetite is a good thing.
The good news is that CBD doesn’t have just one effect on each system. It has the ability to bring balance to various systems. For this reason, CBD is more likely to provide beneficial results than unwanted results.
Using the above examples, insomnia might be the result of a lack of a particular endocannabinoid. It may also result from a lack of particular receptors. If you get plenty of sleep, CBD will probably not produce a relaxing effect. On the other hand, if you have trouble sleeping, CBD may help you relax. And if you’re not eating enough, CBD is far more likely to increase your appetite, whereas if your body is telling you to eat too often, it’s more likely to help downregulate your appetite and upregulate your metabolism.
These examples are not true for every single case, but the concept of CBD bringing balance to bodily systems is real. Assuming reasonable doses, CBD is more likely to act on systems that are out of balance, providing relief, and less likely to act on systems which are already balanced.
Does CBD Have Any Harmful Side Effects?
CBD is one of the safest herbal compounds known to man. It’s completely non-toxic and non-addictive. You would have to consume copious amounts of CBD in order to experience any harmful side effects.
Because CBD is non-toxic and extremely well tolerated by the human body, actual adverse side effects are pretty much nonexistent. In fact, there is no known record of anyone ever overdosing on CBD or contracting any particular ailments as a result of overuse. On the contrary, CBD has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is also a potent antioxidant, so even if it doesn’t provide you with the effects you were hoping for, it will still be providing health benefits.
What About Your Body?
As with any herbal therapy, there’s only one way to determine the effects that CBD will have on your body — give it a try.
Although CBD is not harmful to humans, it’s still a good idea to start with a low dose and monitor its effects on your body. Depending on a person’s size and weight, it’s best to start in the 5- to 25-milligrams/day range and work up from there.
Pay attention to changes in your energy level and focus, mental state, appetite, bodily functions and so on. If you don’t experience any unwanted effects, you can increase your dosage.
There are a number of factors involved in determining your ideal dosage. If a particular dosage brings you relief, that does not necessarily mean that an increased dosage will provide increased relief.
The vast majority of CBD oil users find that CBD produces no unwanted side effects. On the contrary, many CBD users find that it provides them with the side-effect-free relief they’ve been looking for.