By Max Sargent

There are stories of CBD working wonders for otherwise treatment-resistant conditions in children. But does it really help? There is a huge amount of research out there surrounding CBD, but little of it focuses specifically on children.

Here we look into the relationship between CBD and some of the more common conditions parents may want to help their children with.

What Is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second-most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis, and the primary cannabinoid in hemp. Unlike THC, the most famous of cannabis’ cannabinoids, CBD does not cause a high—but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t do anything.

  • How Does CBD Interact With the Body?

CBD interfaces with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a network of channels and receptors that runs chiefly throughout the nervous and immune systems. Primarily, it is made up of CB1 and CB2 receptors, but also TRP channels, such as TRPV1. These receptors and the relevant neurotransmitters (endocannabinoids)—2-AG and anandamide—are used for signalling throughout the body, influencing processes such as mood, memory, appetite, inflammation, and more.

However, whereas THC mimics anandamide, binding directly to the CB1 receptors and thus causing a high, CBD works in a more indirect way. Its mechanisms are not fully understood, but it is thought that CBD inhibits FAAH, an enzyme responsible for metabolising anandamide. By inhibiting FAAH, CBD effectively increases the concentrations of anandamide available in the ECS, allowing it to have stronger, longer-lasting effects.

Anandamide is also an agonist of CB2 receptors, which are found all over the peripheral nervous system, and in abundance on the surface of immune cells.

How Does CBD Interact With the Body?

CBD and Children: Observing the Current Body of Research

CBD is often touted as some kind of cure-all, including the use of CBD for children. When assessing whether any drug is safe to use, especially by children, it’s important to cut through the rhetoric and take an honest look at the research.

The variety of ailments that CBD is being researched in relation to is astonishing, and it's impossible to address them all here. However, we can look at some studies to get an idea of what potential uses CBD may have in relation to conditions affecting children.

  • Anxiety and ADHD

Skelley, Deas, Curren, and Ennis conducted a review of studies[1] looking at the relationship between CBD and anxiety. They acknowledged that the studies varied greatly in terms of CBD dosage and the types of anxiety being researched. Nevertheless, they found a common thread across the board. CBD was well tolerated, with the most adverse side effect being fatigue. It’s important to recognise, though, that this research took place in a clinical setting, sometimes with CBD as an adjunct to other treatments. Alone, it is not enough to draw definitive conclusions from.

Many wonder about CBD for ADHD. Research into this is sparse, and what we have is highly inconclusive. Cooper et al. conducted research with 30 volunteers to assess the efficacy of CBD for ADHD[2]. For their primary outcome, they discovered no significant difference between those treated with CBD and those in the placebo group. However, they concluded that more research into CBD and ADHD is worth pursuing.

  • Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy: The Case of Charlotte Figi

Especially in relation to CBD for kids, the case study of Charlotte Figi comes up a lot, and with good reason. Charlotte Figi suffered from Dravet syndrome, a form of severe epilepsy, and experienced around 300 seizures a week. After trying countless medicines to little effect, it was discovered that a CBD-rich extract—dubbed Charlotte’s Web—brought her seizures down to 0–1 a week, and allowed for all other medications to be stopped. But this is just one case.

In 2018, Lattanzi et al. conducted a review and meta-analysis[3] into CBD’s efficacy in relation to Dravet syndrome and Lennox–Gastaut syndrome. In total, it looked into the cases of 550 individual participants. They noted the particular potential CBD may have in cases that prove otherwise treatment-resistant.

In 2019, Silvestro et al. conducted similar research[4], but specifically on infants, children, and teenagers with treatment-resistant epilepsy. Results noted statistically significant differences between the group given CBD and those in the control. Likewise, it noted few adverse effects.

Is CBD Safe for Children?

Is CBD safe for kids? This question is difficult to properly answer, because we just don’t know enough about CBD yet.

On the surface, it appears that CBD has a great safety profile, with the World Health Organization[5] even stating it poses minimal risk. However, a more recent piece of research draws a link between CBD and a higher enzyme count in the liver[6]. That being said, this research is preliminary, and was conducted on mice rather than human participants. It is, however, still worth exercising caution with relatively unknown substances.

  • Can You Give CBD to Children?

In relation to children, it’s always best to exercise caution. For instance, the FDA advises against the use of CBD by pregnant or breastfeeding women because its effects on infants are simply unknown. Likewise, giving it directly to infants and children has potential unknown effects.

On the flip side, Epidiolex, a CBD-based pharmaceutical, is now authorised in numerous countries for use in children with severe, drug-resistant epilepsy. Therefore, it may be that there are some instances wherein CBD might be suitable for children.

Rather than diving in blind, consulting a trusted doctor is your best bet. If you feel CBD may be helpful for your child, take your research with you and have a frank and honest conversation.

What Type of CBD Products Are Available?

Thanks to CBD’s popularity, there are many different CBD products available. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and choosing one comes down to desired use and preference. The above-mentioned Epidiolex is currently delivered as an oral solution.

  • CBD Oil

This is probably the most well-known CBD product. Easy to take and dose, it’s a good all-rounder. Plus, it’s versatile. You can either drop it beneath the tongue or add it to food and drink. With many types available, you can choose a strength that works for you, and choose between CBD isolate, broad-spectrum, and full-spectrum formulas.

What Type of CBD Products Are Available?
  • CBD Gummies

These edibles look and taste like sweets, but come with a dose of CBD. Totally discreet and long lasting, they're a perfect option for those who want to take CBD regularly.

What Type of CBD Products Are Available?
  • CBD Flower

A great option for CBD users who enjoy the ritual of smoking or vaping—definitely not viable for kids. CBD flowers taken from hemp look, taste, and smell like cannabis, but without the high. Smoking CBD produces a swift effect that wears off relatively quickly.

What Type of CBD Products Are Available?

Across most of Europe and North America, CBD tends to be totally legal. Unlike its sibling cannabinoid THC, CBD is largely unregulated, which is why choosing a good brand is so important.

Just because CBD is legal in one place doesn’t mean all CBD products are legal everywhere. Many CBD products contain trace amounts of THC, which are highly controlled in most countries. However, countries tend to have a threshold below which a product is considered legal. On a UK and EU level, this is 0.2% THC, and on a federal US level, it's 0.3%.

This can vary between individual nations and states, so check local laws before trying to transport CBD products across borders.

CBD for Kids: Is It Worth It?

It’s an incredibly difficult conversation. We are not able to recommend that anyone give CBD to children, as the evidence surrounding it is inconclusive, and its safety profile is not yet determined.

That being said, ultimately the decision is up to the parent or guardian, and assessing the situation objectively is critical. If a child has a severe, treatment-resistant condition, it may be worth talking to their doctor about CBD.

External Resources:
  1. Use of cannabidiol in anxiety and anxiety-related disorders
  2. Cannabinoids in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A randomised-controlled trial
  3. Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol in Epilepsy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
  4. Use of Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Efficacy and Security in Clinical Trials
  5. Cannabidiol (CBD)
  6. Hepatotoxicity of a Cannabidiol-Rich Cannabis Extract in the Mouse Model
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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