Is CBD Oil Safe for Kids?
Some parents are using CBD oil to treat seizures, pain, and even autism in their kids. Before you try it, learn the facts.
You’ve probably seen chatter online about cannabidiol oil, a.k.a. CBD oil. Its popularity is growing as a remedy for issues like chronic pain, anxiety, and side effects from cancer treatments. Some parents even say giving their child the oil has helped with autism and seizure disorders. But is trying it wise—or even legal?
First things first: Though it’s derived from cannabis, CBD oil is not the same as recreational marijuana (or medical marijuana) and doesn’t contain meaningful amounts of THC, the compound in marijuana that produces a “high”. The oil, which is not physically addictive, is typically taken as a liquid under the tongue, via gel capsule, or as a cream. It can also be mixed with food.
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CBD is thought to work on something in the body called the endocannabinoid system, which is involved in maintaining homeostasis, or balance. There are receptors for this system in many parts of the body, including the brain, which is why it’s believed to help a host of different conditions.
The most research done on CBD is for its use with seizure disorders like epilepsy. “The body of evidence that it’s effective for other disorders is much less,” says Jennifer Lowry, MD, Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health and Chief of Medical Toxicology at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. For other conditions, the evidence is largely anecdotal. “Cannabis is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug in the U.S., so it can’t be researched as well,” explains Janice Bissex, a registered dietitian who became a Holistic Cannabis Practitioner after seeing how cannabis relieved her father’s pain. She works with many clients who have seen positive results with CBD oil but cautions that it “doesn’t work for every person every time.”
If you’re wondering whether it could help your child, find someone knowledgeable to consult. “I typically advise people to check with their child’s doctor,” says Bissex, noting that in some cases, the oil may interact with certain medications. “But there are many doctors who are not educated in the use of CBD for various conditions in kids so you may need to broaden your search.” Lowry noted that pediatric neurologists may be more familiar with it. Finding a “cannabis consultant” such as Bissex is also an option for figuring out the right dosing, which varies for each person.
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The most common negative side effects of CBD are drowsiness and dry mouth, but these often go away after a couple of weeks.
Keep in mind that CBD oil can be pricey because of the cost in growing the plants and extracting the oil. The FDA doesn’t regulate CBD oil, so it’s buyer beware. Bissex recommends choosing products that have been independently tested, so you’re sure they contain the amount of CBD they claim. Lowry, who says she personally can’t recommend CBD because there is no safety or efficacy data on it yet, suggests finding out how much THC (if any) the product contains before giving it to a child. “Many current laws limit it to 0.9 percent,” says Lowry. “I would go as low as possible.”
As for whether CBD is legal, that’s still a bit fuzzy. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), these states have approved legislation allowing its use: Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Other states have legalized recreational marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington plus D.C. Some states allow CBD oil as long as it’s derived from hemp, but not from marijuana.
It’s probably safe to say that the DEA has bigger fish to fry than a parent buying a bottle of CBD oil for their child’s medical condition. But to err on the safe side, choose a product made from hemp.
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She is the author of The Snacktivist’s Handbook: How to Change the Junk Food Snack Culture at School, in Sports, and at Camp—and Raise Healthier Snackers at Home. She also collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.
Some parents are using CBD oil to treat seizures, pain, and even autism in their kids. Before you try it, learn the facts.
Is CBD oil safe for kids?
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- CBD oil – What is it and how does it interact with the body?
- Is CBD oil safe for children?
- What parents should consider
- Safe consumption methods for children
- Consult a cannabis specialist
CBD oil — a concentrate, tincture, or cannabis extract with a high concentration of cannabidiol (CBD), whether extracted from marijuana or hemp — is a rising health and wellness trend and one of the most speculated-about products. A couple of factors have contributed to the rise of CBD oil in the 21st century, namely the essential-oil boom in the wellness market, and the growing field of research which attributes many of the most sought-after medicinal effects of cannabis to CBD.
As research continues to investigate CBD’s massive potential to help treat a wide variety of physical and mental ailments, many parents wonder whether CBD oil could be a safer medicine for their ailing children than conventional pharmaceuticals. Is CBD oil safe for kids? We’ll look at what CBD oil is, how it interacts with the body, and the factors parents should consider when considering CBD oil as a treatment option for their child.
CBD oil – What is it and how does it interact with the body?
CBD is the second most prominent compound of the cannabis plant, right behind THC, the cannabinoid most responsible for the plant’s psychotropic and intoxicating effects.
Parents who wish to administer CBD to their children should do so under the advisement of a physician. Photo by: Shutterstock
Phytocannabinoids, or cannabinoids that derive from the cannabis plant, interact with our bodies through the endocannabinoid system (ECS), where they bind to cannabinoid receptors and are broken down by enzymes. CBD elicits therapeutic effects by modulating the interactions that take place at the cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are responsible for maintaining homeostasis, or the body’s means of maintaining a steady function of its vital systems. CBD is also known to interact with more than 60 other sites in the brain and body.
CBD’s interaction with the body through these receptor pathways is complex, which is why the potential benefits of CBD vary widely, both in terms of potency and type of effect. The chemical makeup of the various types of CBD oil, including the actual dosage within the product, will also alter the potency and probability of noticeable effects. CBD oil typically falls into one of three product categories:
- Full-spectrum or whole-plant CBD oil: A mix of CBD, minor cannabinoids, cannabis-derived terpenes, and varying amounts of THC. Full-spectrum cannabis extract is defined by including every compound extracted from the plant.
- Broad Spectrum: An almost-full spectrum of all of the compounds extracted from the plant, but THC has been removed.
- Isolate: An isolation of pure CBD powder, 99.9% or above in purity, usually mixed with a carrier oil for consistency. CBD oils of 99.5% CBD or less may still have trace amounts of THC.
Is CBD oil safe for children?
Because the potential effects of CBD oil vary greatly, being able to say definitively whether CBD oil is safe for children is difficult. However, research has indicated that children may safely take daily doses of up to 20 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. Adverse side effects of CBD are uncommon, even in high doses, with sleepiness being the most common. Several studies have implicated CBD in the effective treatment of child epilepsy, behavioral conditions, and perinatal brain injury in children. In fact, the only CBD treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration treats two rare forms of childhood epilepsy.
CBD modulates interactions that take place at cannabinoid receptors, which helps it elicit therapeutic effects. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
The effects of CBD oil on adults vs. children
The extent to which the effects of CBD oil differ between adults and children remains largely under-researched. Because the nature of CBD absorption varies significantly from patient to patient, and research into pediatric use of CBD is still limited, the precise differences in response between adult and child patients are also difficult to pin down.
What parents should consider
Due to the nature of cannabinoids and the complex ways in which they interact with the body, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to dosing CBD oil for children or adults. Though studies suggest that it’s nearly impossible to take an unsafe amount of CBD, the best approach is to talk to your child’s physician for a consultation and further guidance. Children who take CBD should be medically supervised.
Read CBD oil labels
When considering a CBD oil product for pediatric care, look out for signs of a reputable brand on product labeling and watch out for buzzwords with no scientific value or definition, such as “organic,” “pure,” or “natural.” In the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t currently allow CBD oil labels to make claims of curing or treating diseases and conditions. All reputable CBD products have a certificate of analysis available from the manufacturer or company’s website.
Most reputable CBD oil products will have the following information on a product label:
- Amount of active CBD per serving
- Supplement Fact Panel, including other ingredients
- Net weight
- Manufacturer or distributor name
- Suggested use
- Distinction as full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate
- Batch or date code
Mixing CBD oil with other medications
Are there any risks mixing CBD oil with other medications that parents should know about? Though CBD is generally considered a safe alternative medicine, especially in small doses, it may have unwanted interactions with other medications. CBD may alter the metabolism of compounds found in a variety of other medications by temporarily inhibiting the enzyme system cytochrome P450. If you’re concerned about other medications your child is taking that may interact negatively with CBD oil, consult with a cannabis specialist and your child’s pediatrician to assess the risk.
Children should generally be given CBD oil orally, as opposed to adult-use methods such as vaporizing and combusting high-CBD cannabis flower. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Safe consumption methods for children
When dosed properly, relatively safe consumption methods of CBD include tinctures, drops, and capsules. Children should generally be given CBD oil orally, as opposed to adult-use methods such as vaporizing and combusting high-CBD cannabis flower. Epidiolex is a cannabis-derived oral medicine with CBD as the active ingredient, approved by the FDA for use in treating epileptic seizures in patients ages 2 and older.
Though CBD and THC have been found to enhance the therapeutic effects of one another, it is illegal for anyone younger than 21 to consume THC for medical purposes, though this varies from state to state. Exceptions are made with a physician’s or authorized health professional’s recommendation and parental approval for children younger than 21.
Furthermore, THC remains a Schedule I drug under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, and only hemp-derived CBD produced under the regulations of the 2018 Farm Bill is legal.
Consult a cannabis specialist
If you’re a parent considering CBD as a treatment method for your child, consulting a cannabis specialist in addition to your pediatrician may help you make a more educated decision. Many physicians, including pediatricians, lack exposure to current marijuana research and remain, to some extent, in the dark about medical cannabis. If you’re looking for specific advice on cannabinoids, doses, and product types that will benefit your child’s condition, a cannabis specialist is much more likely to be able to provide helpful answers.
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