Young woman taking off glasses.

Industries have been talking a lot about the benefits of CBD. Although CBD is largely safe, a few side effects have been reported in the literature and by the consumers. We decided to walk you through the potential side effects of this cannabinoid. It’s worth noting that most side effects stem from the quality and source of the CBD product used. A major safety concern with CBD is that it’s marketed as a supplement, not a medicine, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate the safety and ingredients of supplements. In many cases you cannot know for sure if the product that you’re buying carries any unknown ingredients or impurities not listed on the label.

With good-quality CBD products, the side effects are usually mild and the benefits still outweigh them.

Before delving into an exhaustive list on the side effects of CBD, it’s important to know that not every person reacts in the same way to any new substance, including CBD — the effects of which may vary widely.

1. Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is the most common side effect reported by CBD users as well as documented in scientific literature. In a recent survey of CBD users, about one out of every three users reported a non-serious adverse effect. Amongst these side effects, dry mouth topped the list, affecting about 11.73% of users.

While the exact cause of dry mouth secondary to CBD use is not yet clear, a suggested reason is that the production of saliva ceases in response to the activation of the densely present cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) in the mouth glands. The endocannabinoid anandamide has a high affinity for these receptors, and because CBD raises the levels of this endocannabinoid, it may indirectly activate these receptors, leading to dry mouth.

To ward off the cotton-mouth feeling after CBD use, keep yourself hydrated. Chewing a xylitol gum can also help stimulate the glands to produce saliva and keep your mouth moist.

2. Sedation or Insomnia

Sleepiness is also a common side effect reported by various CBD users. Because CBD facilitates the actions of a sedative brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid, it’s no surprise that the cannabinoid can make you drowsy — no wonder this side effect benefits CBD users who have difficulty sleeping. If CBD makes you heavy-eyed, try not to drive or operate any machinery after taking the product.

In contrast to its sleep-promoting effects, a 2014 study showed that CBD is also a wakefulness-promoting agent, meaning that it makes you feel more alert by tweaking the sleep-wake cycle.

CBD can cause alertness or sleepiness depending on the dose or the strain that you’re using. Low doses may make some consumers more awake whereas higher doses tend to make them groggy. Moreover, the indica CBD strains are likely to make you drowsy as compared to the sativa strains that are more alerting. If you have insomnia, you may be better off with the indica strains and vice versa.

The effects of CBD on sleep still vary widely from person to person. In general, CBD works by bringing your body into a state of homeostasis, or balance, meaning that it’s likely to promote sleep in people who have difficulty sleeping but regulate the sleep-wake pattern in those with a disrupted circadian rhythm.

3. Low Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by the blood on your blood vessel walls. Your blood vessels have a certain tone to maintain optimal blood pressure. Anything that widens up the blood vessels will lower your blood pressure. CBD is shown to indirectly activate the CB1 receptors scattered in your blood vessels and increase the diameter of the blood vessels, thus lowering your blood pressure.

This side effect may be beneficial for those with high blood pressure. CBD may also lower high blood pressure when it’s stress-induced, owing to its anxiolytic (anxiety-fighting) properties. That being said, CBD is not approved to treat high blood pressure directly.

If you suffer from any blood pressure problems, especially low blood pressure, talk to your doctor about whether CBD is the right choice for your particular case.

4. Lightheadedness

CBD users may feel dizzy, possibly due to a drop in blood pressure or changes in the blood flow to the brain. This lightheadedness is typically mild, doesn’t last for more than a few minutes and usually subsides on its own, or can be fixed by lying down for a few minutes or drinking a cup of coffee.

5. Nausea

Studies show that CBD may be effective against nausea and vomiting. In a subset of consumers, however, this cannabinoid paradoxically seems to induce nausea. As opposed to cannabis, the scientific literature doesn’t report any cases of CBD-induced nausea, though. It’s also not so obvious why CBD would aggravate nausea. It may be due to a dose-related dual response in humans similar to that seen in some animals — with low doses of CBD countering nausea and higher doses promoting the stomach upset. So, if nausea kicks in after taking CBD oil, try cutting down on the amount you take and see if this benefits you.

6. May Aggravate Parkinsonian-Like Features

Parkinsonism is a degenerative brain disorder that causes shaky movements of the limbs at rest (tremors), rigidity, and slowness in movements and thinking.

If you have Parkinson’s disease, you may want to be cautious about CBD use as it has been shown to aggravate the symptoms in a few cases. An older study showed that CBD at doses over 300 mg per day worsened the tremors and further slowed down the movement in people with movement disorders.

7. Headaches

CBD oil is currently being studied as a therapy for different types of headaches, and so far no studies show any link between CBD use and headache as its side effect. However, consumers here and there are still seen complaining of headaches after starting a new CBD product.

If headaches from CBD oil are a concern, it’s likely that you’re taking a higher dose. Try cutting down on the dose and see how it goes.

8. Curbing Appetite

Unlike THC, which often stimulates hunger and accounts for the “munchies” in its users, CBD is shown to suppress appetite. For THC, it’s the activation of the CB1 receptors in the appetite center that makes a user crave food. Since CBD doesn’t rely on the activation of the cannabinoid receptors for its actions, using this cannabinoid spares the appetite-stimulating effect of THC. In fact, it modifies the CB1 receptor’s shape in such a way that prevents THC from binding to it, thus neutralizing the munchies of THC if used in combination.

Again, this side effect of CBD holds within it a benefit for users who struggle with overeating and obesity.

9. CBD Can Interact with Various Prescription Medications

Your body processes CBD by way of a liver enzyme system. This liver enzyme system is also involved in metabolizing (breaking down) other medications. Other than being processed by these liver enzymes, CBD also strongly inhibits them, thus preventing your liver from effectively processing and breaking down other medications — the levels of which rise. The increased levels of these meds thereby add to their risk of serious side effects.

One such medication with which you need to practice caution when intending to use CBD along with it is a blood thinner called warfarin. There have been reports where taking CBD with this blood thinner has potentially increased the risk of bleeding.

CBD is also seen to interact with another class of medications used to treat recurrent seizures called antiepileptics. A CBD formulation has shown promise against recurrent seizures, but the safety of this cannabinoid gets compromised if it’s used along with prescription antiepileptics. By raising the levels of these medicines in your system, CBD tends to worsen their side effects — especially their ability to damage your liver functions.

Better be safe than sorry! We strongly recommend talking to your doctor before trying out a CBD product if you’re on some regular medicines.

Key Takeaway

When starting a new CBD product, remember to “Start Low & Go Slow!” If, however, you face any of the above-listed side effects, try reducing the dose further and see if the side effects go away. Moreover, the side effects may be due to impurities in a CBD extract, in which case, switching to a different supplier may help.  


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