*Please consult your doctor before making any decisions about trying new products for your child's health.
Could CBD (cannabidiol) oil be the new go-to for calming kids down? With states green-lighting the green stuff one after another, there's a new wave of marijuana-using millennials and open-minded parents in general who are more curious than ever before about giving marijuana- and hemp-derived oils to their kids and babies.
In one of the private mom groups I belong to on Facebook, there have been more than 100 threads since October of 2017 around incorporating CBD into families, and there was an honest conversation unfolding between parents about an article that featured a CBD-infused hot chocolate recipe. Moms wanted to know if it was safe or not to serve it to their kids before bedtime, and shared their opinions that it's okay to use in smaller doses or for children with autism and anxiety who medically need it. There was a lot of curiosity around the topic — was it safe for all children or not?
The attitude around pot and CBD oil is constantly evolving, too. Federal advisers to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unanimously voted on April 19, 2018 to approve of the drug Epidiolex, and on June 25, 2018 the medicine was officially approved. This is the first prescription cannabidiol medicine to be recommended by the FDA committee for its effective treatment of certain forms of epilepsy.
While previous generations may have just accepted the first line of treatment recommended by a family physician, there is truly a new wave of parents who recognize there might be life-changing benefits from using CBD to treat a child. More than ever before, parents are initiating these conversations. And don't forget that parents (yes, even those who don’t personally use marijuana!) legally advocate for and use CBD oil as medicine for their children who truly need it.
To find out the real deal on CBD oil for kids, we chatted with cannabis expert Frank Lucido, M.D., of Berkeley, California, who has been consulting individuals and families regarding alternative cannabis therapies since 1996. We also turned to canna-parent Melissa Hilt of Albany, New York, whose daughter Hailey suffers with multiple seizures daily and Lelah Jerger of Huntingburg, Indiana, who is facing issues with Child Protective Services after treating her daughter Jaelah with CBD for her daughter's epilepsy.
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1. THC and CBD are different.
They're the two main compounds in the marijuana plant, but THC is psychoactive, and CBD is not. In other words, THC can get you high (and maybe even make you feel paranoid), but CBD can not. The oil used to medically treat a child will often be legally sold through a dispensary and contain a CBD-to-THC ratio, such as 19-to-1. Since the oil sold over the internet doesn't contain THC, you should keep in mind that plenty of medical professionals argue that CBD loses its efficacy when it's not used in conjunction with THC.
2. CBD oil can change lives.
There are incredible testimonials from families who have found relief after incorporating CBD oil into their daily lifestyle. Melissa Hilt's 11-year-old daughter, Haley, was having more than 100 seizures a day. Surgery, alternative diets, more than 15 medications — nothing could effectively limit the amount of her seizures.
A prescription dose of 19-to-1 (CBD-to-THC) oil is given to her at breakfast and dinnertime, and Melissa told us she finally feels like she's "met" her real daughter as her daughter began to experience seizures only twice a month at the start of treatment. Her kiddo is no longer in a constant "haze" from all of the different medications she was trying. Now, Haley smiles and plays with her sister. Melissa told us, "It's been the greatest gift to our family to be able to finally 'meet' her." Now, that's powerful ...
3. It's not cheap to use CBD oil on a regular basis.
For parents like Hilt who've found CBD oil to be the only remedy for their children, they'll pay up to $500 a month out of pocket (since CBD oil is not covered by insurance). The price will vary depending on what you're getting, where it's from, and what the state tax is.
4. Families move across state borders to legally access it.
Of course not all states have legalized the use of CBD oils. And for parents whose children have a medical diagnosis (like a form of epilepsy or autism) for which CBD oil is one of the only things that seems to help, it's worth it for them to move their lives to a state where they can access it legally. Hilt told us she would "absolutely" move if she no longer had access to the oil in Albany, New York.
5. Families are dealing with CPS issues where it's not legal.
When Lelah Jerger's 3-year-old daughter, Jaelah, was diagnosed with epilepsy in Huntingburg, Indiana, they had no idea that a nightmare was about to unfold. Jerger was offered CBD oil during an appointment with a chiropractic neurologist to treat her daughter. She purchased the oil from him, though she was simultaneously getting other opinions from doctors and surgeons at traditional treatment centers. But the CBD oil was the only thing to bring her daughter's visible seizing down from 30 times each day to twice each day.
She purchased more CBD oil from a company online to continue treating her child. When one of the hospitals she was seeking treatment from alerted Child Protective Services about the alternative treatment, an invasive investigation was conducted, including blood tests.
Jerger said: "We were terrified to have any allegation of abuse or neglect. I've got four other kids (the oldest is 15), and we've never been questioned. The fear is indescribable — it's an agency that has the power to take your children away." The family is currently suing CPS and awaiting their court date.
6. There's still research that needs to happen.
Back to the Hilts: Haley's seizures did start to pick up again after slowing down tremendously for the first month of treatment, but she's still making wonderful progress developmentally and seizing less intensely overall. Normally, seizures can prevent Haley from reaching new, important milestones, but Hilt says it seems like there's almost something protective about the CBD oil (which she said her daughter's doctors in New York and Boston agree with).
"[CBD] oil shouldn't be used unless it's to treat a medical disorder in a state where it's legal."
Even so, Hilt still thinks the science is still out for CBD's efficacy in kids without any medical issues. She thinks there needs to be more long-term research to safely use CBD oil on young children regularly, and she suggests that parents use it with caution. Dr. Lucido says that the oil shouldn't be used unless it's to treat a medical disorder in a state where it's legal.
7. You shouldn't buy the stuff online to treat your kid
For parents, it's tempting to read about the effects of non-psychoactive CBD oil and mix some into their kid's hot chocolate at night before bed. But it's better to stay away from the online options, especially when the intentions are for a small child to ingest it regularly. CBD oils sold online contain even more obscure ingredients than vitamins (which aren't regulated by the FDA), since companies often won't disclose ingredient lists, according to Dr. Lucido.
Without accurate dosing and ingredient information, it's just not the safest thing to use, he warns. He also reminds us that, up until recently, certain companies were receiving warning letters from the FDA regarding their CBD products.
8. CBD oil can be used to treat a variety of children's ailments.
Dr. Lucido cautions against giving children CBD oil without the recommendation from a doctor. But, he says, if it's legally purchased from a dispensary with a doctor's recommendation, CBD oil can be highly effective in treating seizures, autism, ADHD, depression, and anxiety in children. The CBD-to-THC ratio may differ based on the child and what's being treated.
9. You can serve it mixed into food.
Dr. Lucido says the best way to give the oil to your child is in a tincture placed right under the tongue or on the side of the cheek. If the child is fussy, he recommends mixing it into food. Because it's fat-soluble, Dr. Lucido warns that dropping a dose into a glass of water will be less effective, as the oil can stick to the side of the glass. The oil mixes better with milk, for example.
10. Shaming is preventing sick children from getting help.
There are so many children with medical diagnoses who suffer daily, rotating different treatment plans, medications, and even surgeries, like Hilt's daughter. Hilt insists that parents need to not be afraid to talk. She says: "Parents are afraid. There are benefits out there for epilepsy, autism, ADHD, and cancer pains. Parents are simply afraid to ask their doctor, and the best thing I ever could have done was ask my daughter's neurologist about it."
"The best thing I ever could have done was ask my daughter's neurologist about it."
11. Parents are trying to figure this out on their own.
Check your judgement at the door. There are parents who are desperately looking for healthy answers for their children, and other parents who are just curious. The internet has been a source of experience-sharing for parents. From Facebook groups to Reddit threads, parents are trying to figure this out together. Here's a Reddit thread on the topic of finding relief for children with autism using CBD oil.
12. Conservative medical doctors acknowledge the benefits and need for studies.
Alexander Kolevzon, M.D., clinical director of The Seaver Autism Center at Mount Sinai Hospital, told us that he has a conservative stance and doesn't think CBD oil should be clinically recommended for kids with autism until studied in the context of rigorous clinical trials.
But he goes on to say: "There are several groups interested in studying CBD-related compounds in ASD (autism spectrum disorder). The pharma company, Zynerba, recently released positive top-line results in Fragile X syndrome. The CBD pathway can regulate nerve-cell excitability, which can theoretically be a good thing, but it's the very early days and we need to be cautious about getting enthusiastic about the 'next thing' and not fall into the trap of many, many other medications that failed in ASD once studied systematically."
13. Hemp-derived CBD products are now legal, but may contain contaminants ... or no CBD at all.
Since CBD derived from hemp is of much lower quality than CBD derived from the flower of a marijuana plant, the risk of toxins released into the product skyrockets during production. The presence of contaminants in CBD products is a real concern. Plus, recent testing shows that plenty of brands advertise a CBD ingredient percentage on the label that is inaccurate, almost always portraying that there is more CBD in a product than there actually is. In fact, certain hemp-derived CBD products were found to contain zero CBD. If you have no idea what dose is included in a product, it likely isn't the best idea to start giving it to a child regularly. Plus, the fact that the ingredient lists are still obscure is unsettling when it comes to dosing a tot or child.
Kids with different diagnoses can genuinely benefit from CBD oil to relieve their negative symptoms. The problem is, there aren't enough solid long-term studies to know what kind of effect daily use will have later on in life in someone whose use started at a young age. The other problem? Kids who get serious relief from the CBD oil, like Hilt's daughter Haley, need to live in a state where it's legal. Plus, parents need to be able to afford it.
There's still so much more to be found out about the long-term effects of the oil.
Meanwhile, buzz is floating around the internet that might lead other parents to start giving their kids daily doses of CBD oil before bed when there's still so much more to be found out about the long-term effects of the oil. It's also apparent that some of the CBD oil online contains obscure ingredient lists and doesn't always inform the consumer of accurate dosing measurements. If you're still tempted to bring home some CBD products for your tot or child, go with organic products from Wash With Water. The brand promises a transparent ingredient list and they were the first to release a legal skincare CBD line for little ones.
So, let's support the research and the parents whose lives have changed for the better once they had safe, legal access to CBD oil for their kids. If you're a parent who’s not sold on using CBD oil for your little ones but still need natural relaxation alternatives, use some lavender essential oil, a white-noise machine, and consult your pediatrician if that's not cutting it.
Here are some alternatives to CBD to help safely calm your kiddo down before bedtime:
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Senior Editor at BestProducts.com
Dana is the former Parenting Editor at BestProducts.com, where she’s been using her degree in nutrition and food science and experience in parenting editorials to cover trending topics in the family and fitness industries since 2012; Her work has been featured on Fit Pregnancy, Refinery 29, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Prevention, Men’s Health, Parents, and more. Dana also reported for the health vertical at NBC Universal’s iVillage.com for two years and in 2018 she edited the book, The Cool Girl’s Guide to the FODMAP Diet. In a previous life, Dana coached nutrition at WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) centers and fitness facilities in New York City, New Jersey, and beyond. She’s also certified in corporate wellness management and food and alcohol management.
Latifah is the former parenting editor at BestProducts.com, where she spent her time researching and testing the latest, greatest, and coolest products created to make parenting a breeze; her work has been featured on Cosmopolitan, Romper, and Elite Daily.