Cannabidiol (CBD) products are growing increasingly popular. While more research is necessary to understand its effects on the human body, evidence suggests CBD is safe. However, as with any drug, some people may experience side effects when using CBD.

CBD is a cannabinoid, which refers to a group of substances present in the cannabis plant. These compounds can affect human health by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, a biological system that regulates and balances a number of key bodily functions.

The potential benefits of CBD may range from helping with discomfort to treating serious medical complications. However, while CBD generally appears to be tolerable, more research is still necessary to understand the potential long-term effects of using it.

In this article, we will discuss whether CBD is safe to use and its potential benefits.

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.

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The cannabis plant contains roughly 540 chemical substances, of which CBD is one of over 80 different active compounds present in the plant. Unlike other components of cannabis, such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, CBD typically does not impair individuals. It does not result in the euphoria that many people may associate with cannabis.

Companies and researchers obtain CBD from hemp and other nonhemp plants. Hemp refers to varieties of cannabis that typically contain higher amounts of CBD and less THC. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, also known as the Agriculture Improvement Act, the United States no longer includes hemp in the legal definition of cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act. This means that CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC are federally legal.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD is generally safe, does not appear to have the potential for misuse, and may have therapeutic benefits. However, researchers are still investigating its potential benefits and adverse effects. As such, until health experts understand more about dosing and how CBD can affect the body, it may still have the potential to cause harm.

At present, many CBD products do not currently undergo regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As such, individuals need to be aware that some CBD products may contain other ingredients, such as THC, pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, or fungi. Furthermore, some products may also make unsubstantiated health claims.

Therefore, health experts recommend that a person purchases CBD products from a reputable source and discusses taking them with a doctor first.

People who use products containing CBD may experience potential side effects, such as:

  • changes in mood
  • changes in appetite
  • interference with other medications
  • diarrhea
  • drowsiness or sleepiness

In addition, CBD may cause adverse effects that a person may not notice at first. They can include:

  • possible liver damage
  • possible fertility issues in males
  • interactions with other medications
  • slowed brain functioning when paired with alcohol or certain medications, such as those people use to treat anxiety, stress, or sleep disorders

Additionally, it is important to note that any CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of cannabis. Currently, there is no federal law allowing the legal use of medical cannabis. As such, it is illegal to use or prescribe medical cannabis in any state that does not have laws allowing people to do so.

Although many U.S. states have passed legislation to allow some use of medical cannabis, each state varies in these rulings, which are regularly changing. Therefore, it is advisable for anyone considering taking any CBD or THC products to check their local laws.

Currently, the FDA has only approved one medication containing CBD: Epidiolex, a prescription drug that may be beneficial for treating certain seizures. Evidence notes that CBD may possess anticonvulsant properties.

Learn more about CBD and seizures.

Research into other the potential benefits of CBD continues. At present, evidence indicates that it may be useful for:

Other research notes that in addition to the above, CBD can also help with overall well-being. However, while it may ease moderate or severe symptoms, it may be less effective at addressing mild symptoms.

The American College of Cardiology also notes that CBD may have some benefits to cardiovascular health due to its potential anti-inflammatory effects. However, the institution adds that more research investigating dosage and potential drug interactions is still necessary.

CBD may offer an over-the-counter solution to several different health conditions, such as pain and anxiety. However, individuals with concerns about safety may be interested in alternative options.

A 2021 study notes that one potentially safe alternative to CBD is palmitoylethanolamide. This endocannabinoid-like lipid mediator may possess anti-inflammatory effects, neuroprotective qualities, and pain-relieving effects. It is a naturally occurring substance that comes from egg yolks and the human body.

People looking for other natural alternatives to CBD may want to discuss options with a doctor. Different supplements may offer some support according to their underlying condition and presenting symptoms. A doctor may be able to better direct someone to supplements that may provide some relief according to their condition and concerns.

CBD is a compound that comes from the cannabis plant. It is not an impairing substance and may offer several health benefits, including pain management, overall well-being, and more. However, some people may also experience side effects from CBD, such as changes in mood and appetite.

If a person is considering CBD, they can discuss this with their doctor, who can provide guidance. Additionally, when using CBD products, health experts recommend following the instructions on the packaging to ensure a person does not take an excessive dose.