CBD Oil For Autism: Benefits, Usage Guide and Side Effect 2021

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects about 1 in 59 children[1] in the United States. This neurodevelopmental disorder typically results in deficits in social communication skills and behavior, though some children with autism are quite gifted in areas of learning, thinking, and problem-solving. Each case is completely unique, so there is no standard treatment for autism. It’s all about finding the right way to manage the symptoms of autism on a case-by-case basis. 

In this article, we’ll explore the subject of autism in children and adults. You’ll learn the basics about the autism spectrum including symptoms and treatment options as well as research and clinical trials for the disorder. We’ll also take a closer look at the potential benefits of CBD products for autism and the scientific research that supports its use.

best options CBD Oil for autism on the market in (May. 2021)

What Is Autism?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[2] (CDC) define autism as a spectrum disorder rather than a singular condition. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that causes significant social, behavioral, and communication challenges. Though people with autism may look no different than anyone else, they may communicate, behave, learn, and interact in ways that are unique. 

People with autism exhibit an array of different symptoms. Experts believe people with ASD, especially children, have different ways of learning and reacting to things as well. 

Here are some of the behaviors individuals with autism may exhibit:

  • Avoiding eye contact with people
  • Having little interest in other people
  • Not pointing at objects to show interest
  • Preferring not to be held or cuddled
  • Appearing to be unaware when addressed
  • Having trouble expressing needs 
  • Not playing “pretend” games
  • Having difficulty adapting to changes in routine
  • Having unusual reactions to sensory things

Because there is no medical test, diagnosing adults or children with autism can be difficult. There is no cure for ASD but early intervention treatment services may improve development and can help adults manage daily life.

CBD Oil and Autism: Can It Help?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of cannabinoid compound[3] naturally produced by Cannabis plants. CBD belongs to the same category of chemicals as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), though it doesn’t produce the same psychoactive effects. Different Cannabis plants have different concentrations of these two cannabinoids – CBD is most highly concentrated in hemp (Cannabis sativa) while THC is more heavily concentrated in marijuana (Cannabis indica).

Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only declassified CBD as a controlled substance a few years ago, cannabis research is still somewhat limited. There is research, however, to confirm the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant[4], anxiolytic[5], analgesic[6], and anti-seizure benefits[7] of cannabidiol products. 

CBD has not been proven to cure any medical conditions, but it has shown remarkable efficacy for alleviating certain symptoms[8] such as pain, anxiety, and sleep disorders. These issues are common in people with autism, so using CBD products may help children and adults manage the challenges that come with their condition to improve their quality of life.

The Benefits of CBD for Autism and Epilepsy

Research associated with autism and CBD is very limited, but studies on the use of CBD for related symptoms have shown great potential. Here is some of the research surrounding autism symptoms and the use of CBD oil. 

More Stable Sleep

Researchers have found that over half of autistic children have trouble falling or staying asleep. Some evidence suggests CBD oil could be a beneficial therapy to help with sleep issues. A large case series published in 2019[9] reviewed the evidence supporting the use of CBD for neuropsychiatric disorders including epilepsy and anxiety. The research shows that CBD delivers a calming effect on the central nervous system. Sleep scores improved for over 66% of patients within the first month and anxiety scores decreased for over 79% of patients. 

Lower Anxiety

Research from The University of Amsterdam[10] revealed that about 40% of autistic children under 18 had at least one comorbid anxiety disorder. Many autistic children exhibit repetitive behaviors that overlap with symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Children with Asperger’s or high-functioning autism are more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder because they are better able to self-report symptoms than people with more intellectual impairment.

There is strong evidence to support the anxiolytic properties of CBD, but one study published in Frontiers in Psychology[11] found that 300mg of CBD significantly decreased anxiety in teenagers with social anxiety disorder. Another study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry[12] concluded that CBD could be used as a treatment for anxiety. 

Controls Seizures

Perhaps the most well-documented use for CBD oil is in the treatment of seizures, particularly rare forms of epilepsy like Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. In fact, the only FDA-approved treatment derived from the cannabis plant is for this purpose. Epidiolex, a 99% pure oral CBD extract[13]. Patients taking the treatment experienced fewer seizures and less severe seizure activity during the clinical trial. 

In a 2018 literature review[14], researchers concluded that cannabis treatment is safer and more effective in treating seizures than THC or medical cannabis. This review mentions that much of the research using CBD for epilepsy involves CBD oil combined with antiepileptic medications. These researchers suggest CBD may be more of a potentiator of antiepileptic medications, but evidence supporting the use of Epidiolex suggests CBD has anti-epileptic benefits of its own. Even so, more research is needed to test the effects of CBD oil for autism and epilepsy. 

Better Focus and Attention

The American Psychological Association notes that while attention problems are not part of the core diagnostic criteria for autism, they are common in many people with ASD. In a 2018 study[15], researchers tested the ability of children with autism to complete a task involving a tactile stimulus while ignoring a task-irrelevant visual stimulus. The ASD group exhibited significantly more errors than the neurotypical group. 

Scientific studies on the effects of CBD oil for ADHD and autism are limited, but one study from 2019[16] showed improvements in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in autistic patients. The study tested a variety of categories including attention deficits, behavioral disorders, cognitive deficits, and more. CBD resulted in some level of improvements in 8 of the tested categories.

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Editor’s Choice

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The Lineup At A Glance

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CBD Oil for Autism: 5 Best Brand Reviews 2020

Joy Organics

Joy Organics CBD Oil

Choose from organic full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD oil in a variety of tasty flavors from Joy Organics.

  • Choose from organic full- or broad-spectrum
  • Available in several concentrations and flavors
  • Free shipping and 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Can be fairly pricey, depending on the concentration

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If you’re looking for a CBD company you can trust, look no further than Joy Organics. This company offers a variety of CBD oils including full-spectrum and broad-spectrum options. If you want to enjoy the full array of hemp cannabinoids, choose the full-spectrum option. For a child, the broad-spectrum version is THC-free. You’ll enjoy flavors like Tranquil Mint, Orange Bliss, and Fresh Lime with free shipping and a 30-day money-back guarantee. 

Spruce CBD

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When nothing but the highest quality lab-grade CBD oil will due, choose Spruce CBD in one of two concentrations.

  • Made with 100% natural lab-grade CBD
  • Tested by independent third-party labs
  • High-quality full-spectrum hemp CBD
  • Only two options to choose from (plus seasonal)
  • Pretty pricey, especially for higher concentration 

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Though Spruce CBD may not offer as much variety as other companies, you can rest assured that their products are of the highest quality. Spruce CBD uses 100% natural, lab-grade, full-spectrum hemp oil and their products are both vegan and gluten-free. These oils have no added flavoring and they are pesticide-free. Choose from a 750mg of 2,400 mg or enjoy their limited-time seasonal Gingerbread flavor with 750 mg of CBD per 30ml bottle. 

CBD Pure

CBDPure CBD Oil_1

Why pay a small fortune for CBD oil when you don’t have to? CBDPure makes high-quality products from organically grown hemp available in three concentrations.

  • Made from organically grown hemp
  • Available in three concentrations (up to 1,000mg)
  • Full-spectrum CBD oil, CO2 extracted
  • Parents may prefer broad-spectrum CBD for a child
  • Higher concentrations are more expensive 

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When you want to enjoy everything CBD and other natural cannabinoids have to offer but you don’t want to pay a fortune for it, CBD Pure is the optimal choice. This company uses organically grown hemp to produce full-spectrum CBD using the CO2 extraction process. Choose from three concentrations (300mg, 600mg, or 1,000mg) and enjoy significant savings when you purchase multiple bottles. You also get a generous 90-day money-back guarantee.

Royal CBD

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Whether you’re just starting out with CBD or you’ve been using it for a while, it’s good to have a variety. Royal CBD offers four different concentrations up to 2,500mg.

  • Four concentrations of full-spectrum CBD
  • Made from organic, non-GMO hemp
  • Lab-tested by a third party for purity/potency
  • Fairly expensive compared to other options
  • Parents may prefer broad-spectrum for kids

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Quality matters when it comes to CBD and no one knows that better than Royal CBD. They use organically grown, non-GMO hemp to produce their full-spectrum CBD oil. Choose from four concentrations ranging from 250mg to 2,500mg per 30ml bottle, each available in three flavors as well as a natural option. Subscribe and save 15% or receive additional savings by purchasing multiple bottles in an order.

CBDfx

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Once you find the right dosage of CBD, you want to get the best bang for your buck by purchasing a product with the right concentration – go CBDfx. 

  • Choose from Calming or Wellness formulas
  • Available in concentrations up to 4,000mg
  • Made in the US with full-spectrum hemp CBD

  • Only two formulas to choose from
  • Higher concentrations can be expensive

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With two formulas to choose from, CBDfx offers concentrations ranging from 500mg to 4,000mg. They use full-spectrum CBD oil with an added proprietary terpene blend in their Calming formula or you can enjoy the wellness benefits of curcumin and co-enzyme Q10. Shop now and receive a 30-day money-back guarantee on US-made CBD oil with verified potency.

Research Findings

Studies testing the health benefits of cannabidiol are ongoing. Few studies have provided any conclusive evidence to support using CBD oil for autism, but there is plenty of research that shows great potential. When it comes to CBD for autism, these treatments could help manage symptoms ranging from anxiety and stress to attention deficits and compulsive behaviors. 

A 2018 clinical trial[17]  aimed to test the effects of CBD in adults with and without autism. Previous studies have shown that people with autism tend not to respond as well to pharmacological drugs as neurotypical people. The results of the study, confirmed by MRI, showed that adults with autism responded to CBD

In response to an increase in treatment with medical marijuana, researchers aimed to test the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis treatment for patients with autism. The results of this study[18], published in 2019, showed that 30% of patients experienced significant improvement and over 50% experienced moderate improvement in autism symptoms. 
In July 2020, researchers[19] at the University of San Diego School of Medicine began recruiting austistic children between 7 and 14 years of age for a phase III clinical trial. The trial is designed to determine whether CBD reduces severe behavioral problems in children on the spectrum.

Is CBD Legal?

Hemp oil and other hemp extract products are legal as of 2018 with the passing of the Agricultural Improvement Act[20] (2018 Farm Bill). CBD oils are legal as long as they contain less than 0.3% THC by dry weight. THC itself, including medical marijuana, is still a controlled substance and needs a prescription in many states. 

When it comes to CBD oil for kids with autism, the legal lines are a little blurry. It is still illegal to give kids THC, but there are no age restrictions when it comes to CBD as of yet. Some CBD products given to children may contain trace amounts of THC which is where those lines get blurry, so it’s really up to the parent to choose the best CBD product for their child.

Is CBD Safe to Administer to Children?

Cannabidiol is generally regarded as safe for adults, but there are fewer studies involving children. In 2015, the AAP published a policy statement[21] on medical marijuana in children, citing the lack of evidence in the use of marijuana as medicine for children as well as its potential long-term harm. The AAP did provide one exception, however. The organization recognizes that medical marijuana could be a viable option for children with life-threatening conditions for whom alternative treatments are not available. 

At the moment, there is not enough research to officially say whether using CBD oil is as safe for a child as it is for an adult, especially for a child diagnosed with autism. The bottom line is it’s up to the parents to decide whether it’s the best option for their child. When it comes to CBD and autism, parents should follow their pediatrician’s advice. 

Side Effects of CBD Oil for Autism

Before giving your son or daughter CBD oils (or any new treatment, natural or pharmaceutical), it is important to check with your doctor. Even natural treatments like CBD oil have the potential to cause adverse effects, especially if your child is already taking some form of medication.

Generally speaking, CBD is safe and has a low risk of side effects[22]. Side effects are typically mild and may include drowsiness, diarrhea, and changes in weight or appetite. To help reduce the risk for side effects, start with a low dose of CBD oil and give your body a few weeks to adjust to it. If you don’t experience negative side effects, you can increase the dosage slowly over time until you see the desired differences. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does CBD Oil Work for Autism?

CBD has been shown to benefit a variety of health conditions but the research regarding CBD oil for autism is still fairly limited. Based on other data, however, CBD may help mitigate some of the symptoms of autism including anxiety, seizures, and ADHD. 

How Much CBD Oil to Give My Child with ADHD and Autism?

There are no standard dosage recommendations for CBD oils but it is a good idea for parents to consult with their pediatrician on dosage. Start with CBD oil products that have a low mg of CBD per serving and give the body time to adjust before increasing the dose.

Can My Child with Autism Overdose on CBD Oil?

Taking too much CBD may result in drowsiness or digestive upset, but it is unlikely to be dangerous. Marijuana can be dangerous for children, so avoid marijuana products unless you have your pediatrician’s approval and be mindful of CBD oils that contain THC.

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Hyman, S.L., Levy, S.E. and Myers, S.M. (2019). Identification, Evaluation, and Management of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Pediatrics, [online] 145(1), p.e20193447. Available at: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/145/1/e20193447 [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  2. CDC (2020). What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?[online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  3. ‌ VanDolah, H.J., Bauer, B.A. and Mauck, K.F. (2019). Clinicians’ Guide to Cannabidiol and Hemp Oils. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, [online] 94(9), pp.1840–1851. Available at: https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(19)30007-2/fulltext [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  4. ‌ Atalay, S., Jarocka-Karpowicz, I. and Skrzydlewska, E. (2019). Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol. Antioxidants, [online] 9(1), p.21. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/9/1/21 [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  5. ‌ Blessing, E.M., Steenkamp, M.M., Manzanares, J. and Marmar, C.R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics, [online] 12(4), pp.825–836. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1 [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  6. ‌ VanDolah, H.J., Bauer, B.A. and Mauck, K.F. (2019). Clinicians’ Guide to Cannabidiol and Hemp Oils. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, [online] 94(9), pp.1840–1851. Available at: https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(19)30007-2/fulltext [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  7. ‌ Ali, S., Scheffer, I.E. and Sadleir, L.G. (2018). Efficacy of cannabinoids in paediatric epilepsy. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, [online] 61(1), pp.13–18. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/dmcn.14087 [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  8. ‌ Grinspoon, P. (2018). Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t – Harvard Health Blog. [online] Harvard Health Blog. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476 [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  9. ‌ Shannon, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente Journal. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/ [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  10. ‌ Merrill, A. (2011). Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorders: Articles: Indiana Resource Center for Autism: Indiana University Bloomington. [online] Indiana Resource Center for Autism. Available at: https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca/articles/anxiety-and-autism-spectrum-disorders.html [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  11. ‌ Masataka, N. (2019). Anxiolytic Effects of Repeated Cannabidiol Treatment in Teenagers With Social Anxiety Disorders. Frontiers in Psychology, [online] 10. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6856203/ [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  12. ‌ Rafael, Pinho, N., Adriana, S., Eduardo, J., Crippa, José Alexandre S, Nardi, A.E. and Zuardi, A.W. (2012). Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, [online] 34, pp.104–110. Available at: https://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1516-44462012000500008&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  13. ‌ Sekar, K. and Pack, A. (2019). Epidiolex as adjunct therapy for treatment of refractory epilepsy: a comprehensive review with a focus on adverse effects. F1000Research, [online] 8, p.234. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30854190/ [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  14. ‌ Zaheer, S., Kumar, D., Khan, M.T., Giyanwani, P.R. and Kiran, F. (2018). Epilepsy and Cannabis: A Literature Review. Cureus. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6235654/ [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  15. ‌ Apa.org. (2020). APA PsycNet. [online] Available at: https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fxge0000425 [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  16. ‌ Fleury-Teixeira, P., Caixeta, F.V., Ramires da Silva, L.C., Brasil-Neto, J.P. and Malcher-Lopes, R. (2019). Effects of CBD-Enriched Cannabis sativa Extract on Autism Spectrum Disorder Symptoms: An Observational Study of 18 Participants Undergoing Compassionate Use. Frontiers in Neurology, [online] 10. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6834767/ [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  17. ‌ Pretzsch, C.M., Voinescu, B., Mendez, M.A., Wichers, R., Ajram, L., Ivin, G., Heasman, M., Williams, S., Murphy, D.G., Daly, E. and McAlonan, G.M. (2019). The effect of cannabidiol (CBD) on low-frequency activity and functional connectivity in the brain of adults with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Journal of Psychopharmacology, [online] 33(9), pp.1141–1148. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6732821/ [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  18. ‌ Bar-Lev Schleider, L., Mechoulam, R., Saban, N., Meiri, G. and Novack, V. (2019). Real life Experience of Medical Cannabis Treatment in Autism: Analysis of Safety and Efficacy. Scientific Reports, [online] 9(1). Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30655581/ [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  19. ‌ LaFee, S. (2020). Current Clinical Trial Assessing Potential of CBD in Treatment of Autism. [online] UC Health – UC San Diego. Available at: https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2020-07-14-current-clinical-trial-assessing-potentional-of-cbd-in-treatment-of-autism.aspx [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  20. ‌ Office of the Commissioner (2020). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products: Q&A. [online] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd#legaltosell [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
  21. ‌ POLICY STATEMENT Organizational Principles to Guide and Define the Child Health Care System and/or Improve the Health of all Children. (n.d.). [online] Available at: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2015/01/20/peds.2014-4146.full.pdf.
  22. ‌ Iffland, K. and Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, [online] 2(1), pp.139–154. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/ [Accessed 25 Dec. 2020].
Kate Barrington, Health Expert
Written by:
Kate Barrington, Health Expert

Kate Barrington holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and is the published author of several self-help books and nutrition guides. Also an avid dog lover and adoring owner of three cats, Kate’s love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. Kate holds a certificate in fitness nutrition and enjoys writing about health and wellness trends — she also enjoys crafting original recipes. In addition to her work as a ghostwriter and author, Kate is also a blogger for a number of organic and natural food companies as well as a columnist for several pet magazines.