CBD oils present multiple health dangers, including a variety of potential side effects, and unknown consequences from unregulated and untested products. Specifically for non-winterized CBD oils, potential health hazards could include wax build-up in the lungs and throat irritation. Specifically for winterized CBD oils, potential health hazards could arise from solvent contamination, consuming too-potent substances, and not getting the health benefits from the substances removed during the processing.
Potential Harmful Effects of CBD Oils
Unknown Risks from Unregulated/Untested Products
- CBD oils and other products (for consumption, smoking, or vaping) are currently “under scrutiny on many levels” by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), WHO (World Health Organization), and multiple other global and US organizations, since so much of it is being released to the public without proper research and vetting, and there are a very limited number of studies having been conducted on it and its effects (both positive and negative). Notably, “the risks to be assessed about CBD products may not have much to do with the pure compound CBD itself, but more with the unknown composition and quality of the products offered.”
- Additionally, since the source hemp used in production could also be “contaminated with various harmful substances, sometimes leading to severe health issues or hospitalization,” there is inherent danger in consuming or smoking these products. Ensuring that consumers purchase products from only reputable companies with their own research base and proven high-quality methodologies is key to selecting the best oils for consumption.
- One of the biggest contaminants is pesticides used on the source hemp; its presence there means that it will be likely to end up in the end-product (CBD oil). Other contaminants that were added to the source hemp may include “heavy metals, molds and bacteria, [and] aflatoxins,” all of which could present health issues in those consuming or smoking the oils.
- Another issue is lack of clear or correct labeling on these products. One recent study in the Netherlands (where all hemp products are legal) showed that “the analyzed cannabinoid content strongly differed from the claimed content on the label,” so consumers may not be able to trust what’s actually in the CBD oil they are consuming.
- Although this doesn’t apply strictly to non-winterized CBD oils, it is still a danger in all consumable CBD oil products.
Possible Side Effects from CBD Oils
- General side effects that can come from consuming or smoking CBD oil are “nausea, fatigue, and irritability.” Gastrointestinal issues are also possible for consumers of CBD oils, as is dry mouth, loss of appetite, and light-headness.
- Additionally, consuming CBDs can increase the Coumadin levels in the bloodstream; since Coumadin is a blood thinner, this could present problems for those already on medications. It works via the same mechanism that grapefruits have, and thus, are a danger to those already taking blood thinner medications.
- Early research has indicated that those with Parkinson’s disease should not consume CBD oil as it could exacerbate the symptoms of the disease.
Potential Harmful Effects of Smoking/Consuming Non-Winterized CBD Oil
Possible Build-Up of Wax in the Lungs
- According to HotJuice, “While there are no formal studies to refer to in order to draw a conclusion, it can be assumed that the removal of the waxes in the CBD substance helps prevent the eventual buildup of residue inside the lungs.” Although they are specifically talking about vaping, which uses lower temperatures and can cause increased wax build-up, this could also apply to smoking the product, as well.
Possible Throat Irritation
- Winterizing (and other refinement processes, like de-waxing) remove the fats, waxes, and lipids from the end-product. Without removing these, the end-product goes through the process of nucleation, wherein “the waxes and fats actually alter the chemical make-up of the concentrate over time and exposure to elements.” This changes the appearance of the end-produce (making it cloudier), affects the smoothness and flavor of the product, and because “waxes and lipids are not too great to inhale as a vapor,” they “can cause harsh hits that irritate your throat.”
Potential Harmful Effects of Smoking/Consuming Winterized CBD Oil
Possible Contamination from Solvents
- Because winterizing uses chemicals, like ethanol, the process can leave behind solvent residue. If additional processes (like short-path distillation) are not used after winterization, then some of the solvents can be left in the product, which would be ultimately harmful to the consumer’s health. Notably, however, one expert notes that using a rotary evaporator for the winterization will “effectively purge ethanol from the concentrate.”
Possible Too-High Potency Levels
- Since winterizing (and other distillation and refinement processes) create the purest and highest quality CBD oils, those not adept (or trained) in proper dosing could take more than is necessary to address the health concerns for which they are taking the medicine. Some experts note, however, that even at its highest purity, CBD oil should be considered safe.
- The process of winterization “creates a far superior oil with much higher potency than non-winterized oil.” These products are often highly concentrated “thus having a greater effect on the user,” so ensuring overconsumption doesn’t happen is important.
Possible Removal of Beneficial Substances
- Some experts believe that winterizing (and other refinement processes) removes beneficial substances from the end-product. One of these is the terpenes (which causes the odor and taste).
- Terpenes are known to provide consumers with a variety of health benefits, including anxiety and pain relief. When inhaled, they “carry the potential to affect animal and human behavior”. Notably, terpenes are helpful for depression, epilepsy, cancer and heart disease, and fungal and bacterial infections.
Notably, there have been no studies done on smoking (or vaping) CBD oil to “determine what health risks may be associated” with the practices, so the information available on potential risks or harmful effects is mostly anecdotal. Other studies (mostly global) have been conducted on CBDs, but not very many, and none specific to this request. Because of this, there was very little information available that was directly relevant to this specific type of treatment in the CBD oil-creation process. To best answer this question, we identified any/all negative effects noted specific to the winterization process (and/or the avoidance of it during oil creation), and combined those with the identified negative effects of CBD consumption itself.
On this research journey, we also identified several potentially harmful effects of smoking/consuming winterized CBD oil, so we have provided those for you, as well.