We’ve known about the benefits of medical cannabis for hundreds of years. However, it’s only recently that one of its key medicinal compounds, CBD, has been isolated and studied. We can trace back a surge of interest in the health benefits of that substance to a couple of cases in which CBD was able to help children with treatment-resistant forms of epilepsy. Today, however, most research on CBD is conducted on adults. So can CBD be used for children as well as adults? And is this cannabis derivative actually safe for them? Here’s what you need to know about using CBD for kids, including appropriate products, doses, and safety precautions.
What is CBD?
CBD is a cannabinoid-rich substance extracted from the cannabis plant. Cannabis contains over 100 different compounds called cannabinoids. These are chemicals that can have a lot of benefits on physical and mental health.
Most people already know about one of these cannabinoid compounds: THC. THC is the psychoactive compound of cannabis and marijuana. In other words, it’s the chemical that’s responsible for making you “high.”
Although CBD shares a very similar molecular structure with THC, its effects are vastly different. For starters, CBD is not psychoactive, and you likely won’t feel very different after you take it. But this compound actually has a long list of health benefits. Among other things, it can:
- Treat epilepsy
- Relieve inflammatory and neuropathic pain
- Fight depression and anxiety
- Help people with insomnia
- Treat digestive conditions like Crohn’s disease and IBS
- Lower blood pressure
- Protect the brain from degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Many parents are wary about the effects of CBD on kids because they associate that product with cannabis. But CBD actually has very little to do with marijuana, containing none of its psychoactive properties.
This makes it generally safe for children, although we are still lacking some evidence on the topic.
CBD is legal on a federal level in the United States, as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC. However, it is still prohibited by certain state laws and doesn’t have FDA approval. We encourage you to consult a physician before you start taking CBD.
What are the benefits of CBD for kids?
CBD is effective in treating a number of physical and mental health conditions because of its effect on the endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids like CBD bind onto special receptors in our body, which can boost the effects of our endocannabinoid system. This system is responsible in large part for regulating pain and inflammation, as well as things like mood and appetite.
Interestingly enough, the endocannabinoid system is the same in children and adults, and even in other mammals like cats, dogs or mice. This means that where CBD can help adults, it can also help children.
Here are some of the most common conditions for which CBD can be used.
CBD became a popular topic in the media after an important discovery, when some parents found that it could stop seizures in their children with epilepsy.
Since then, research on the topic has led to the formulation of an FDA-approved antiepileptic drug called Epidiolex, which is made of purified CBD.
Today, we have a few different studies all pointing at the effectiveness of CBD for epileptic disorders. A research review released in 2017 showed that we now had enough experiments and clinical trials to consider CBD as a prevention method for epileptic disorders.
In particular, CBD can be very effective for treating epilepsies called Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastault syndrome. This was a major discovery, as these epileptic disorders are often resistant to most antiepileptic drugs.
If your child suffers from epilepsy, a doctor will be able to advise whether a CBD-based drug like Epidiolex will be able to help.
One of the most popular uses for CBD remains its effects on anxiety. It’s not uncommon for children to be suffering from an anxiety disorder, especially if they have experienced a traumatic event, like a divorce or the death of a loved one. Nevertheless, doctors and psychiatrists can be hesitant to prescribe anti-anxiety drugs, especially for young kids.
CBD, which is extracted from a plant and has a solid safety profile, could be a natural way to treat anxiety in children.
So far, there are quite a few studies that suggest that CBD is an effective treatment for anxiety. For example, this 2019 study showed that people who had taken CBD were a lot less anxious during a public speaking test, compared to their counterparts in the placebo control group.
So far, no such studies have been conducted on CBD for kids. But because we know that the mechanisms of action of CBD on the brain are the same in adults and children, it’s likely that CBD could work on children with anxiety too.
Because of its effects on anxiety, CBD could also help those who struggle to fall asleep, have nightmares, or experience sleep paralysis. Indeed, most sleeping disorders are associated with higher levels of anxiety.
This 2019 study looked at the effects of CBD on people with sleeping disorders. It found that those who were taking regular doses of CBD slept better and longer than the placebo control group.
CBD could be a great way to manage sleeping disorders, especially since most sleeping pills are not suitable for children.
So far, there have been a few studies suggesting that CBD could help children with autism manage their symptoms.
For example, a 2018 study conducted on 53 autistic children found that those who took CBD daily got relief from some of the most painful symptoms of autism. These patients were given daily doses of CBD for an average duration of 66 days. Over that time, researchers found that the frequency of self-injury and rage attacks lessened. These children also suffered from fewer symptoms of hyperactivity, anxiety and sleep disorders.
Between 2015 and 2017, a group of scientists conducted a similar study, but on a much greater scale. Over the course of two years, 188 autistic children were given daily drops, containing 30% CBD and 1.5% THC. The vast majority of patients reported improvement in their symptoms after just six months. Following the experiment, the researchers concluded that CBD was safe and well-tolerated by autistic children and could help manage symptoms.
Products and doses
Using CBD for kids can be a bit trickier than using it for adults. For starters, we have much less research available on the use of CBD on children. This makes it difficult to establish guidelines for the sort of dose that is appropriate for daily use.
If you have a child who is suffering from a condition that could be treated or improved with CBD, like epilepsy, anxiety, sleep disorders or autism, it’s best to consult a health professional before deciding to administer it.
When it comes to the kind of products you use, some forms of CBD may be better than others for children.
In general, the best form would be sublingual, which means placing CBD oil drops under the tongue. This method makes CBD oil more bioavailable, meaning that more of it is absorbed into the system. It also gives faster results. However, not all children like the taste of CBD oil, and some aren’t able to keep the liquid under their tongue without swallowing it. For that reason, some other types of products may be better suited.
Today, we’re seeing a lot of “fun” CBD edibles make their way onto the shelves of health shops and supermarkets. These include things like CBD gummy bears, CBD chewing gum and CBD cookies. In general, ingesting CBD makes it less bioavailable, meaning that a smaller percentage of it is absorbed by the body. That being said, these products are a sure way to make sure your child will want to take CBD!
Warnings and safety precautions
Many parents are worried about giving CBD for kids because it derives from cannabis. But unlike other forms of cannabis, CBD doesn’t contain THC. This means you don’t have to worry about the product making your kid “high” or causing potential side effects on their mental health.
What you do have to worry about is the quality of the CBD that you’re buying. Because of a current lack of regulation, a lot of CBD companies sell products that aren’t up to standard. These products may not contain as much CBD as they claim to, may have traces of harmful chemicals, pesticides or heavy metals, and may even contain some THC.
When choosing CBD for kids, it’s particularly important to pay attention to its purity. To do that, the best way is to check the Certificate of Analysis provided by the manufacturer. Reputable CBD companies have their products third-party tested in a laboratory. The official document issued by the lab contains information about the actual percentage of CBD, THC and undesirable substances in the product. If a manufacturer doesn’t provide that document, or if the data on it doesn’t match up with the claims of the product, this is not a good CBD product for kids.
In general, CBD is a very safe product. It does have a few side effects on some people, but these are relatively mild. They include:
- Changes in appetite
So far, we don’t have any reason to believe that the side effects of CBD are any worse in children than they are in adults. So if you’ve decided that CBD might be a good fit for your child, the only thing you should really be worried about is the quality of the product you’re buying.
Is CBD safe to use on kids? Yes, it appears that CBD can be safely taken by kids as well as adults. CBD may even be able to provide a natural treatment option for some common conditions like anxiety and sleep disorders. This is very good news, as kids generally aren’t advised to take the sort of psychiatric medication that adults might try for these issues. A few studies have also showed that CBD could be of great help for autistic children, lowering their more harmful symptoms. Overall, CBD is a great option for children with certain physical and mental disorders. However, parents are advised to be very careful about the quality of the products they purchase, and to conduct a health professional.
CBD for epilepsy
2017 review of research on cannabinoids and epilepsy
2017 study on the use of CBD for seizures caused by Dravet syndrome
2018 study on the effects of CBD for seizures caused by Lennox-Gastaut syndrome
CBD for anxiety
2019 study on the effects of CBD for stress reduction
CBD for sleeping disorders
2019 study on CBD for anxiety and sleep
CBD for children with autism
2018 study of the effects of CBD on autistic children
2019 study (2 years long) on the effects of CBD for autistic children
Safety of CBD
2017 study on the safety and side effects of CBD