CBD for Children: Is It Safe?
Yes, CBD can be safe for children—for certain conditions. The pharmaceutical company GW Pharmaceuticals recently earned FDA approval for Epidiolex, a CBD-based drug that targets the symptoms of Dravet Syndrome, a debilitating form of epilepsy typically associated with children. Epidiolex is based on CBD isolate and has been approved for treating seizure disorders in children age 1 and older. But safely giving hemp products to children for other conditions requires a lot more research and testing.
Recent research on autism spectrum disorders (plus a wide variety of other conditions, including pediatric anxiety and insomnia) indicates that hemp-based therapies offer promising treatments for children with numerous issues. Parents have been on the cutting edge of exploring the medical potential of hemp oil/CBD and helped normalize these products thanks to well-publicized successes. (Charlotte’s Web was an early pioneer.)
CBD is regulated as a “dietary supplement,” meaning companies are forbidden from making any medical claims that hemp extract cures or treats any diseases. We spoke with a number of experts in the field to identify how children can benefit from hemp oil and CBD. These are NOT medical recommendations. Though significant, these success stories are anecdotal. Consult with your child’s physician before administering CBD to a minor.
Janel Ralph founded Harmony CBD because her youngest daughter was born with a rare brain condition. “She suffered uncontrollable seizures, hundreds a day,” says Ralph. “Her life expectancy was 4 years, and she’s now, she’s made it to 11! I did my homework and found that the hemp plant had a greater portion of CBD. It led me to ask—why would this substance be illegal? I was able to obtain some CBD after we passed CBD-only legislation in North Carolina. After we gave it to Harmony, we noticed a definite change in her seizure activity. Her seizures stopped for 12 days. She hadn’t been seizure-free in two years. We knew we were on to something!” Ralph’s experience is supported by clinical data that led the FDA to approve a CBD-based epilepsy treatment in 2018.
Ben Joyce, the founder of Mission Farms CBD, says, “We hear that parents use our CBD products for at least 3 categories of issues. One of them is poor sleep. For kids that have very poor sleep, we’ve heard remarkable stories of improvement in sleep quality. For me, as a parent with three kids, I weigh the benefits and risks of every medication. CBD should always be on the table. For example, if I have a kid that’s anxious—many of the options are strong pharmaceuticals. My perspective is, why not consider a product that’s all-natural, with few known side effects?”
“We [also] hear a lot from parents that are interested in treating Autism Spectrum disorders with CBD,” says Joyce. “I recently became aware of a very interesting study in Israel on kids with autism, demonstrating significant improvement in symptoms.”
For issues that cause skin inflammation, Joyce says, “we’ve heard that CBD can exert an anti-inflammatory effect. Even on issues like eczema and psoriasis. We have a product with goat milk that we’ve heard works quite well.”
Chris Hudalla, President/Chief Scientific Officer of ProVerde Laboratories hits a note of caution: “I would advise that any parent interested in treating their kids with CBD should seek the advice of their doctor. Not only because of the possibility of drug/drug interactions, but, more significantly, we see many CBD products that are adulterated, and your physician is more likely to be able to recommend safe brands.”
Hudalla tests hundreds of samples of CBD a year and warns, “I have huge concerns about contamination of CBD, and the cannabis market in general. We see pesticides, heavy metals, microbial contaminants… Kids are actively building brain cells. I have seen instances where residual solvent was left in cannabis products and harmed children.”
The Center for Food Safety did a groundbreaking CBD company report card in 2019 and 2020. Harmony CBD’s Janel Ralph agrees and advises consumers to seek products with USDA organic certification: “These plants suck up pesticides, and when you concentrate them, they can concentrate pesticides as well. You want to make sure that there is a COA from a third-party lab, and look for FDA CGMP registration.” Reputable companies provide a COA for every product, plus copies of their FDA registration and organic certification.
CBD for Children: Start Low, Go Slow
Pediatric doctors across the board recommend that if you’re going to give any type of CBD product to a child—especially a full spectrum product—start low and go slow. Body weight is the data by which dosing is measured. For instance, 0.25 mg per pound of weight per day is a good starting point. In other words, if a child weighs 50 pounds, a 25mg would be a reasonable starting dose for full-spectrum hemp oil.
Janel Ralph adds that “I’ve heard from doctors that administer medical marijuana programs that CBD supplements based on isolates are different and not necessarily better. For a product that is based on isolate, the doses might be more than 100 mg. You might need to take a considerable amount more. If parents are motivated by the lower cost of these products, they might take into account the higher doses.”
And as always, be cautious of contraindications. CBD and pharmaceutical medications don’t always play nice. Make sure to separate any dose of CBD and the dose of any pharmaceutical or supplement by at least two hours. CBD, like most other chemicals, is metabolized by liver enzymes and can block or inhibit the action of certain drugs.