What are the side effects of using hemp oil and is it safe? Our in-depth guide here will take a look at the key risks in dosing it and what we all need to be aware of when using it. We’ll focus particularly on the interactions and potential issues involved when hemp oil is used with other medications and when it should be avoided due to being in one of the at-risk groups such as pregnant individuals or if you’re already taking particular prescription medications.
- Why hemp oil is seeing so much popularity
- Why you might not have come across it yet
- Can you get addicted to hemp oil?
- Is using hemp oil safe?
- What are the side effects of hemp extract oil use?
- Who should not be using hemp oil? When to avoid use
- What are the key dangers to look out for when purchasing and using
We’ve delved into the science and countless research papers to bring you the information you need to be aware of if you’re looking to buy it or just use it for wellbeing and health. One of the main conclusions we came to was the massive potential health benefits and inflammatory reducing properties of hemp oil far outweigh any of its minor side effects – traditional pharmaceuticals offering similar outcomes are much more taxing on the body with much bigger risk of side effects.
Why has Full Specturm Hemp Oil grown so much in its use?
Seemingly overnight, cannabidiol products like full spectrum hemp oil and tinctures have become widespread both in the retail market as well as online, particularly in the US, Canada and Australia. We can attribute this both to the huge interest and buzz around its versatile and powerful therapeutic properties, from anxiety reduction to inflammation management. But even more so, it’s easy to use, transport and most importantly – really works to help people manage their health and wellbeing.
In Australia the product is seeing take up from all sectors of society, from young university students who need the product to support stress relief, to baby boomers and pensioners who want to relax and reduce the issues associated with arthritis or gut inflammation. Similar to some other health products like curcumin, the role of hemp oils and products seems to not have reduced at all over time as people age, grow older and thus have more potential health issues to manage.
Why haven’t I come across it yet?
Well depending on where you live – it may not be available due to laws in your country. It can even differ at the state level depending on legality – for example the US has hemp oil regulated as legal at the federal level (providing it contains less than 3% THC) however some states won’t allow it’s sale without a specific medical doctor’s prescription. This is why you may not have actually found hemp oil even though it is widely used and purchased across many nations.
The critical part as to why the product has retained its legality and use in many countries through Europe and the Americas is it doesn’t have any psychoactive properties. THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is psychotropic and can trigger or cause many mental issues. Because of this it has some inherent danger compared to inert compounds like CBD (cannabidiol).
Scientists and chemists have understood this since the mid 20th century, when hemp and marijuana were studied more intensively for their therapeutic as well as commercial properties that are inherent in many plants. They came to realise that hemp based products won’t get you high as there is no THC or psychoactive compounds within the hemp strain (not the case for marijuana).
Is Using Hemp Oil Safe?
The answer is ‘yes’… for the vast majority of people. hemp oil or hemp extract is very safe to use when dose and frequency are appropriate. BUT there are a couple of caveats for certain individuals (we detail more on this below).
Several key organisations and scientific bodies like the World Health Organisation have already cleared Cannabidiol use as safe when dosed correctly and with the right frequency. They noted a number of important characteristics of the compound that made its safety level high. These included the fact it was not addictive, had no psychoactive risks, no toxicity and didn’t generate health issues even in high dosages.
If you pour through the research and science which has been developed on hemp extract’s chemistry, body interactions, effects and dangers (as we have), the literature all indicates Hemp oil is very low risk across the population. We looked through thousands of studies and clinical trial research papers. They showed that age, gender and other physical factors don’t appear to have much impact on tolerance or risk level.
Can you get addicted to Hemp Oil?
A big plus for users is that you won’t get addicted – the potential for physical or psychological addiction is extremely low compared to substances like marijuana which have low physical addiction capacity but have seen a lot of risk around psychological reliance. In other words the product doesn’t foster dependence and over use, even when used at high dose and frequency, twice a day for example. This is also great for people who need the relief and benefits of hemp extract oil but have had previous psychological issues or issues with substances.
When you compare the side effect and addiction potential of hemp oil against prescriptions or painkillers like Percocet or Hydrocodone, the results are stark. Many of the anti inflammatory or therapeutic drugs consumers purchase to help in managing their pain or chronic issues are extremely addictive. This has largely been the cause of the opioid addiction crisis in the USA as well as countless tragic addiction stories globally which can result from or be triggered by the use of pharmaceutical drugs.
It’s important to note that hemp extract doesn’t work in the same way as most other drugs, particularly painkillers when it comes to its interaction with the body and brain. Hemp oil works with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and throughout the body to deliver its healthy payload of benefits. When doing this it doesn’t trigger dopamine which is the main chemical your brain produces which influences motivation. Dopamine makes us feel good – it’s the pang you get that pushes you to do something, but many substances like Oxycontin can produce too much of it and hijack the brain’s motivation to continue seeking it, thereby causing addiction.
What’s worse is when you remove the substance from the equation and don’t use it, the body is so adapted already to the constant dopamine release and the associated good feeling that it results in withdrawals. This can actually have both a physical and mental component, resulting in physical illness, pain and other issues with some types of substances (the obvious one being opioids).
What are the side effects of Hemp Oil?
Cannabidiol can be taken in a variety of ways such as orally through oils, tinctures, edibles, pills or topically through creams and ointments applied to pain or problem areas. But no matter how you take it, the substance will eventually make its way through the stomach or skin and into the bloodstream where the bioactive cannabidiol compound will be transported through the body.
All mammals have what’s called an endocannabinoid system – you might not have heard of this but it’s inside your body! It actually functions across multiple organs and systems, through different receptors which can trigger the production of certain important enzymes and anti inflammatory compounds. You’re reading that right – this system is part of you and all other mammals, with the body producing the compounds itself. The trigger or ‘key’ that unlocks the release of the compounds is the cannaflavin binding to the CB1 and CBD2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system.
The process is complex and involves many metabolic pathways and steps, but has some similarities to the processes inherent in anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen (without the side effects and strain on the liver). The two types of receptors used in the endocannabinoid system are present throughout the body, from the brain and central nervous system to the liver, spleen and gut (amongst other organs). This is how hemp extracts enable benefits for both the mind as well as body – the receptors are able to trigger and generate endocannabinoid enzymes which help with a range of issues like arthritis inflammation.
It’s important that the body can receive and use the endocannabinoid enzymes and compounds throughout the body. Whether you’re seeking relief from anxiety and stress or just help with muscle aches and rejuvenating the body after heavy training and workloads, the receptors are able to trigger and transport the healthy chemicals to the cells in need.
What’s more is that the endocannabinoid system helps in supporting and assisting a broad range of the body’s key functions such as sleep or circadian rhythm, nervous system capacity and pain management, immuno-function via interactions with lymph nodes and other key cognitive functions like mood regulation.
When it comes to phytonutrients like CBN, they’re well known in science as ‘neuromodulators’ i.e. compounds which influence the functioning of cognitive areas. Hemp extract compounds chemically attach to the receptors in the endocannabinoid system throughout the body (but particularly in the brain and central nervous system). Unlike THC this interaction produces no psychoactive effects at all.
Now that we know how the substance works and what its metabolic pathway is, let’s take a look at what some of the symptoms we need to look out for which can potentially arise in certain individuals.
Side effects to be aware of when using Hemp Extract Oil
Although there is already a large body of research surrounding hemp oils and the very minimal side effects they have (particularly when compared to high strength western pharmaceuticals), it’s not to say that there are no side effects at all. The World Health Organisation and many other clinical health bodies have cleared hemp oil in terms of its risk on human health and non addictive characteristics. This is great news.
Much more research is still be done however (mostly on animals currently) to derive deeper understanding and evidence of the long term effects and potential interactions of the oil from high dose and high frequency use in long periods.
The key dangers and risk areas for using hemp extract is the potential issues that can arise when taken with other medicines or chemicals and for certain at-risk or vulnerable groups like pregnant women.
So what are the key risks and side effects you need to know of before trying or using any hemp oil product?
- Potentially negative effects from using Hemp Oil with other prescriptions or medicine
The number one problem with hemp oil and its use is potential interactions or unintended effects against other medications being used.
Particularly this is exacerbated for many due to the fact that the oil is often used therapeutically for its pain reducing, anti inflammatory or anxiety reducing effects. Often individuals attracted to or in need of issues in overlap in needing or wanting other pharmaceutical solutions to their ailments.
Many pharmaceutical drugs – even anti inflammatories like Ibuprofen are processed in the liver and its metabolic process. The liver has enzymes that it uses to process and eliminate toxins while taking out useful compounds and vitamins to be used in the rest of the body from substances we intake.
When taking the oil one of its impacts on the liver is reducing its capacity to deal with multiple chemical compounds being taken in at the same time. What can happen when this occurs is too much build up of a particular one – which becomes dangerous for many pharmaceuticals or prescription drugs.
In mild cases this can lead to discomfort. In worst case scenarios this could lead to very negative consequences such as poisoning, overdoses or worse.
- Stomach aches and diarrhoea
Because hemp extract is typically blended with other oils like Coconut, Olive or MCT (and if purchased from sub standard suppliers may have impurities). It can result in allergic reactions or upset stomachs for many users.
Full Spectrum Hemp oils in themselves are very nutritious and contain a high level of Omega and Gamma linoleic acids. It doesn’t have much of an allergenic profile compared to other irritants that can cause stomach aches like MCT.
Different individuals react in varying ways to these oils so it’s best to trial and learn what works best for your body and gut lining. Some people also prefer to take their oil with food or other drinks in order to calm the stomach and allow it to process better.
- Sleepy or drowsiness
Most recommended dosage ranges for hemp products will keep you calm, alert and ready for productive periods of mental or physical capacity. Taking very high doses of hemp oil at high frequency can still be done however without toxicity but it may end up leaving you tired or drowsy.
It’s strongly recommended to not drive or operate heavy vehicles or machinery if this is you – take care when using high potency or dosage hemp extract oil as you may endanger yourself.
Particular care should be taken if you’re not used to the effects of cannabidiol or have low tolerance or body mass where the drowsiness effect can be more heightened and sensitive.
- Dryness in the throat and mouth
One of the most commonly reported side effects are the dry, almost clammy feeling people report in their throat or mouth as a result of lower saliva presence.
It’s a common theme amongst uses of all the various cannabinoid products both psychoactive (like marijuana) or not (hemp, the different phytonutrient compounds). The cannabis plant has compounds in it which work to stop your saliva glands producing the enzymes that generate the moisture and saliva in your mouth and throat which can lead to this feeling.
Thankfully it’s also one of the most simple issues to deal with. All you need to do is boost up your liquid intake or use things like lozenges, gum or lollies to help your mouth stimulate digestion and begin producing more saliva to counteract the dryness.
When should you not use hemp oil? Who is at risk?
There are three key ‘at risk’ groups who should avoid all hemp and hempseed oils altogether due to contamination or side effect risk. These groups have either immune vulnerabilities which open up exposure to worsening of side effects or other issues, or may have extra sensitivity.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
Firstly, pregnant women. One of the troubles with taking any supplement is contaminants. These contaminants might be a result of the bottle or container used to store the hemp extract (ie there may be dust, pollution or by products of other manufacturing within the container vehicle), or may be directly from either the hemp or carrier oil its mixed with itself.
A number of contaminants can find their way into the product you use if purchased from a less than reputable supplier. These might be herbicides, pesticides that were applied to the plants used for your extract, heavy metals – for example if the vat or processing unit is unclean or previously used for other manufacturing, problem-causing contaminants like bacteria or mould.
It’s important to completely remove any risk of causing problems with your baby from contaminants like these by not using it when pregnant. Even for adults you may become ill or poisoned (in worse case scenarios) if nasties get into your product so the last thing you would ever want is for a baby to also be exposed.
When you have a newborn all the nutrients and substances you in take get passed onto them in one form or another. Unfortunately this also applies for contaminants meaning your supplements or hemp oils can be passed onto the child through the umbilical cord (or breast milk if breastfeeding) which may endanger them.
Research also hasn’t yet confirmed what the effects of the oil are on new babies. It’s not known for certain whether any amount of hemp oil is safe to expose a newborn to. As always with anything health related the wisest route to take is checking with your physician before any kind of supplementation.
2. Immunocompromised or liver diseased individuals
It’s important to be very careful with using any kind of new medication or supplement when you have liver problems or immune system issues. Certain enzymes in your liver can be increased such as ALT when taking any new supplement which can increase the risk of liver damage – particularly when combined with other activities that may further increase risk such as alcohol or intake of substances which tax the liver’s detoxification processes.
The other major risk factor which we’ve outlined above is prescription medications or liver processed pharmaceutical intake which can also weaken the liver and expose you to damage. Hemp oil used at low doses reduces this risk factor but at high doses can heighten certain harmful toxins in your liver that impair the toxin removal process (this is called the p450 enzyme in the liver – responsible for nullifying harmful chemicals that come into your bloodstream and system). How this happens is the CBG compound is also processed by the same enzyme – this means when another (more powerful or harmful) compound comes in, there is less ‘availability’ for the enzyme to attack and remove it, meaning it can build up.
Particularly avoid using hemp extract oils if you are already taking any kind of opioids or anti-inflammatories which tax the liver, are drinking or using strong medication such as those for chemotherapy or other chronic diseases. Again – the individuals using these types of medications are also usually immuno-compromised – if your immune system has been reduced or become vulnerable in any way it’s also suggested to avoid.
Why did Hemp get banned originally across the world?
America set the tone for cannabis and hemp laws globally since the mid-20th century. Marijuana was long demonised in conservative political movements for a very long time and outright banned under law as a scheduled drug due to its psychoactive effects. This was formalised within the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, effectively initiating the US’ long and bloody war on drugs which has lasted decades through both the Regan and Nixon eras. The seeds of fear were sown amongst the population of the US through propaganda and misinformation which lead to widespread mistrust and lack of understanding on the plant’s uses, effects, and the actual science underlying cannabis species.
An unfortunate side effect of this action was that the non-psychoactive and non-dangerous hemp plant also became illegal due to being closely biologically related to cannabis (the two types of cannabis were grouped together). A similar stance was adopted in many other western nations such as Australia and within EU states like Britain which stifled the use and farming of hemp for almost half a century. Resultingly hemp was banned even though it had no high or psychoactive effects.
Leaps forward have been made in most of these countries since then however to open and legalise hemp with stringent regulations on THC content. Organisations like the European Industrial Hemp Association have assisted this process by providing regulatory governance and oversight over hemp’s use and cultivation for commercial purposes including food and items. Particularly the key check and audit need is around THC content to ensure crops and subspecies being harvested don’t contain psychoactive THC levels that would categorise it as Marijuana. Despite this many territories globally continue to ban any kind of CBD containing hemp products as well as cultivation.
Conclusions on the side effects and dangers of Hemp Oil
A key thing to note about any supplement or medicine is every individual has genetic variations and body nuances (eg with their gut flora) that can result in certain acceptance or reactions against different compounds. It’s important to test and see what works with you and whether your body agrees with the oil. Be aware of your body and note the potential side effects that may personally apply to your circumstance.
The other critical thing to note is checking the product quality and purity before use. Taking in pesticides, herbicides, solvents or other manufacturing by-products as a result of poor manufacturing quality assurance and processes is far from ideal. Be careful whenever you buy or use these products.
It’s clear from the clinical trials and research into cannabidiol that its safety and risk profile is very robust and safe for use. The product overall has minimal side effects which only display in very few individuals. Prioritise your health and help your inflammation with a hemp extract oil today.