Experts Say CBD Oil Is Pretty Safe To Use, But Here's The Catch You Should Watch For

by Julia Guerra
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The first time I was offered cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD, I politely declined. No, the product wasn’t rolled like a blunt, and it wasn’t something to smoke. It was actually an oil supplement, a CBD hemp oil you could take by itself or add into smoothies, intended for stress relief, post-workout muscle recovery, and/or to help you focus better. While I’m all for supplements, weed has never been my thing; all I knew was that CBD was associated with cannabis, so I didn’t know if CBD oil was safe, or what kind of side effects I’d experience. After doing some of my own research, though, and reaching out to experts in the space, the general consensus seems to be that CBD oil is relatively safe to use if you’re interested in experimenting with it — just make sure you talk your doctor before getting started.

While actual cannabis is certainly a controversial topic, it seems that CBD oil is less of a debated subject, and more like something the general public is mildly confused about — is it weed, or is it not weed? Curious minds need to know, especially before you can decide to go ahead and rub CBD-infused products on your skin or add them into your diet. So to clear up the smoke (see what I did there?), I asked Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, what CBD oil is, and what it's typically used for.

For starters, he tells Elite Daily over email, CBD oil is not going to get you high, and that's because it doesn’t come from the part of the plant that does have psychoactive properties. “Cannabidiol or CBD is extracted from the buds of marijuana or hemp plants,” he says, while the “high" you get from smoking weed, he adds, comes from the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compound. In other words, if you’re hesitant to ingest CBD oil because you don’t want to get high, odds are, you won't.

But while it may not give you a buzz in that sense, Glatter says, "CBD has been used to treat seizures and chronic pain, reduce inflammation and muscle tremor, and also to alleviate anxiety and insomnia." However, he clarifies, "evidence-based studies to support the use of CBD to treat these conditions is not conclusive at this time." As of right now, he explains, there is only significant evidence to support the use of CBD to treat epilepsy. In fact, Glatter adds, back in June, the FDA unanimously recommended approval of a CBD medication called Epidiolex to treat two rare forms of childhood epilepsy.

So now that you know the 411 on what CBD oil is and what it’s used for, let’s go over the two main ways CBD oil is typically used: in food and topical products like skincare cream. According to CBD expert Boris Sharansky of Papa and Barkley, the purpose of consuming CBD oil is to allow the supplement to be absorbed into the bloodstream, which he says causes a full-body effect that’s calming, relieves anxiety, and can reduce inflammation. When used topically, however, Sharansky tells Elite Daily CBD oil won’t go into your bloodstream, but instead will act as a pain reliever when applied to the problem area.

As far as limitations go, founding partner and COO of CBD For Life Julie Winter says you can’t exactly “overdose” on CBD oil, but she tells Elite Daily it's recommended that adults only ingest "one full dropper," which equates to, at most, about one milliliter of CBD oil up to two times daily — but even that amount is subjective, she says. Keep in mind, she explains, that every body is different, meaning you might respond better to a higher dosage than someone else will, or vice versa.

With that in mind, Janet Rosendahl Sweeney of the Phoenix Tears Foundation, which is an organization devoted to cannabis education, tells Elite Daily that it’s best to start slow with CBD oil and work your way up from half of a dropper, to a full dropper, to one dropper and a half, etc. Topically, though, Winter says you have the green light to apply as liberally as you’d like because, again, it’s not making it into your bloodstream that way.

Up until this point, everything I’ve told you about CBD oil sounds pretty sweet — and it is, but there are some potential downsides to the supplement you really have to look out for. For one thing, CBD isn’t legal everywhere: As of April 2018, Forbes reported that laws on CBD oil range widely from state to state, and are pretty much open to interpretation, depending on where you’re located. Colorado, for example, is down with CBD, and even recreational marijuana use for adults, while somewhere like Massachusetts allows its citizens to grow marijuana, but it’s still considered illegal to grow hemp there without a license. So that's one tricky detail you might want to look into.

Another thing to be wary about is the fact that, while a research review published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research says the safety profile of CBD oil generally checks out, the study also notes that researchers have yet to come a conclusion over whether or not CBD oil can affect your hormones. This is definitely an issue, especially when you consider that CBD oil isn’t regulated right now, which means the quality, strength, and consistency of these products vary, Glatter says, so you really have to be careful and do extensive research on both the product you’re looking to use, and its distributor.

Bottom line: CBD oil is relatively safe. But, like you would any other product being applied to or absorbed by your body, you need to a) talk to your doctor to determine whether or not CBD oil is right for you, and b) do your research, because potential side effects like dry mouth, sleepiness, low blood pressure, moodiness, or lightheadedness are all possible, Glatter warns, and I don't know about you, but I don't think enduring any of those things are worth the risk.