June 01, 2019

I keep hearing about CBD oil. Is it safe to try?

Q: I keep hearing about CBD oil. Is it safe to try?

A: Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is popular for symptom relief in a number of ailments. While it's mostly considered safe, it's not without risks.

CBD is a chemical derived from Cannabis sativa (marijuana). CBD contains little or no delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces a high. The usual CBD formulation is oil, but CBD is also sold as an extract, vaporized liquid or oil-based capsule.

Reported uses for CBD include relief from:

  • Physical discomfort or chronic pain
  • Involuntary movements related to conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis.
  • Insomnia
  • Symptoms associated with mental health conditions such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and social phobia

While it's generally well tolerated, CBD can cause side effects such as dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness and fatigue. CBD can also interact with other medications you're taking, such as blood thinners. Another cause for concern is the unreliability of the purity and dose of CBD in products since they aren't regulated. CBD products can also be quite expensive.

The only CBD product approved by the Food and Drug Administration is a prescription oil called Epidiolex. It's approved to treat two types of epilepsy. Aside from Epidiolex, state laws on CBD vary. Some states place specific medical restrictions on who can purchase CBD products, while other states may allow people to obtain them openly at a dispensary or store.

If you plan to try products containing CBD, talk to your...