CBD Oil as a Treatment for Autism
Lisa Jo Rudy, MDiv, is a writer, advocate, author, and consultant specializing in the field of autism.
Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Stephanie Hartselle, MD, is a board-certified pediatric and adult psychiatrist and Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
Cannabidiol , sometimes called CBD, is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry does not support the use of any cannabinoids in children or teens for the diagnosis of autism.
In fact, CBD oil has been studied as a potential treatment for autism, but the results do not support its use in treating children or adults who have this disorder. And, according to Harvard Health Publishing, “because CBD currently is typically available as an unregulated supplement, it’s hard to know exactly what you are getting.”
Currently, there are some treatments that may alleviate some symptoms of autism, but there is no cure.
CBD can be derived from hemp or cannabis (the marijuana plant) and is now legal in many states in the United States and in many countries around the world. It can be purchased without a prescription as an oil, tincture, pill, or chewable pill online and is also an ingredient in edibles ranging from coffee to pastries. It comes in many dosages and at many price points.
Claims for CBD range from the realistic to the absurd. Some websites and companies claim, for example, that CBD can cure cancer (it can’t). On the other hand, CBD does seem to alleviate some symptoms of disorders such as epilepsy, nausea, and muscle spasticity—all issues that can affect some people with autism. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness is in treating epilepsy disorders of Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to anti-seizure medications.”
The FDA has approved a cannabis-derived medicine for the treatment of certain types of epilepsy, Epidiolex, which contains CBD.
It’s important for parents to know that CBD is not helpful for everyone who uses it, and it can cause side effects, such as sleepiness or nausea.
CBD and Autism
Neither CBD nor any other drug can remove or cure core symptoms of autism, which include social communication challenges, sensory dysfunction, and restricted, repetitive behaviors.
CBD can, however, help to alleviate epilepsy in some children and adults with autism. Fewer seizures can lessen stress and make it easier to interact socially.
A few full-scale studies have explored the impact of CBD on children with autism—none, however, have explored its impact on adults on the spectrum. One of the largest such studies took place in Israel. The report includes the following finding:
“In 2014, The Ministry of Health began providing licenses for the treatment of children with epilepsy. After seeing the results of cannabis treatment on symptoms like anxiety, aggression, panic, tantrums and self-injurious behavior, in children with epilepsy, parents of severely autistic children turned to medical cannabis for relief.”
Studies are ongoing in clinics and research centers around the world.
Before Trying CBD
Before considering CBD oil, it’s important to follow these steps:
- Check with your child’s (or your) doctor to be sure that no allergies or sensitivities exist that could cause a reaction to CBD.
- Check with your child’s doctor to see if the medical benefits of CBD oil are relevant to your child’s symptoms.
- Check to be sure that CBD is legal in your state, province, or country.
- Research sources of CBD to be sure the brand you’re using is well-regarded and properly licensed.
- Take careful notes about your child’s (or your own) behaviors and symptoms so that you can make a useful comparison before and after using CBD.
CBD comes in many forms and at many dosage levels, including candy forms. It’s important to keep candy-like drugs and supplements out of the reach of children.
Lower doses are more easily tolerated than higher doses.
When you start using any new supplement, drug, or treatment, it’s important to be sure your child’s doctor is aware of the new treatment and has no concerns about it relative to your child’s health. Let everyone working with your child know that you’ve started something new and ask them to look for and report any changes in behaviors or skills.
Take careful notes of any changes you see so you can easily review your records to determine how helpful the new treatment really is. Keep an eye open for any troubling side effects. Be sure to communicate any side effects to a doctor or healthcare professional immediately.
A Word From Verywell
Children with autism grow and learn every day, simply because they are maturing. As a result, there is no simple way to determine whether a change in behavior or an increase in skills is due to a particular treatment or to ordinary maturation. This reality makes it very easy to see a change in behaviors and inaccurately attribute them to the newest treatment you’ve tried. By far, the best way to know whether a particular treatment is truly effective is to be rigorous about evaluating your child before and after its use.
CBD Oil for Autism: Can Hemp Oil Be Used for Autism & Where to Buy?
CBD is partly responsible for the shift in opinions regarding cannabis use. It all started with the late Charlotte Figi, a young girl with severe childhood-onset epilepsy (Dravet Syndrome) who managed to effectively control her seizures and gain a normal life thanks to CBD oil.
Since then, CBD has become the subject of global debate. As scientists conduct more research on the health benefits of this natural compound, it appears that natural resources can succeed where conventional treatment options fail.
Autism is one of such conditions.
Some people with autism, as well as the parents of autistic children, use CBD oil to manage the symptoms and improve their daily life.
But what’s the exact mechanism behind CBD’s effects on autism disorders? How do you choose the right product for your needs, and how to tell the difference between a high-quality and low-quality product?
This article will explain everything from roots to branches.
CBD Oil and Autism: Can It Help?
Some people decide to choose natural products over pharmaceuticals because of their growing availability and higher safety profile. CBD is known for helping with the following symptoms:
- Mood disorders
Research on the potential use of CBD for autism is in its infancy as of this writing, but what we have learned so far is very optimistic. For example, an anecdotal study published in the Neurology Journal has found that applying CBD sublingually to autistic patients resulted in the improvement of behavioral problems in 61% of the participants. Communication problems, as well as anxiety levels, dropped by 39% and 47% respectively. The study included 120 participants.
The exact causes of the major symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, such as aggressive and repetitive behavior, social communication difficulties, and sensory dysfunction, are still unknown to scientists. However, CBD has been shown to relieve other symptoms linked to autism, including ADHD, anxiety, and sleep problems.
While CBD may not be the cure for autism — autism doesn’t require “curing” directly, by the way — but it may help patients manage the troubling symptoms that negatively affect the way they function on a daily basis.
Benefits of Using CBD Oil for Autism
Here we shed light on the most promising benefits of CBD oil for autism.
More Stable Sleep
In a study published in 2019 in the Permanente Journal, researchers discovered that people with sleep disorders can benefit from taking CBD. The study reported that 48 out of 72 patients (66.7%) experienced better sleep quality within the first month of their treatment. The results varied throughout the tests, but only three people responded negatively to cannabidiol.
Another study from the Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences found that autistic children suffering from insomnia were able to fall asleep faster and spend more time in the deep sleep stage by taking CBD oil.
The said study from The Permanente Journal reported a significant drop in anxiety levels in 79.2% of the examined subjects. More importantly, the results remained consistent throughout the entire study — without serious side effects. Only a few people reported fatigue and sedation. The study also found that patients were more willing to continue the CBD treatment compared to conventional psychiatric methods.
Anxiety is a prevalent issue among autistic adults and particularly difficult to manage in children and adolescents. Changes in their routine, as well as unexpected events and regular social situations, can deteriorate the anxiousness of those with autism, especially those diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Using CBD oil to calm anxiety can lead to improvements in other areas of autism, such as selective mutism or nervous tics.
Better Focus and Attention
Autism can negatively impact one’s focus and attention. Autistic children often find it difficult to cope with distractions, such as background noise or even their own thoughts. For others, it can work the opposite way — they may become laser-focused on one task while forgetting about everything else.
People diagnosed with autism also express symptoms of ADHD. This can lead to disruptions in a person’s ability to focus and ignore distraction triggers. Since CBD promotes the efficient use of serotonin, users may find it eases their anxiety. Lower anxiety leads to better focus.
CBD Oil for Autism: Best Brands and Products
For new customers, it can be difficult to find a trustworthy source of CBD among so many different brands. CBD is a booming market, so it’s no wonder that everybody wants to get their fair share of the hemp cake.
However, the market is also largely unregulated and liberal about the manufacturing and labeling CBD products. Buying CBD oil online requires you to do your homework before you trust someone with your hard-earned money. Your research should include information about the source of the company’s hemp, their extraction method, and third-party testing practices.
Going through all of the above is challenging and time-consuming. That’s why we’ve put together a ranking of the best 5 brands offering CBD oil in 2022. We have selected these companies according to the quality criteria such as hemp sourcing, extraction method, third-party testing, and price-to-quality ratio.
1. Royal CBD (Best CBD Oil for Autism)
Get 15% off all Royal CBD products. Use code “CFAH” at checkout.
|Potency||250 mg – 2500 mg|
|Available Flavors||Natural, Berry, Mint, Vanilla|
|CBD per serving||8.3 mg – 83.3 mg|
Why Royal CBD is the Best CBD Oil for Autism:
Based in Nevada, Royal CBD is a premium brand that started out in 2017 as a small craft company. Today, Royal CBD makes big headlines in the media as one of the industry’s top CBD sellers.
Royal CBD makes full-spectrum CBD oil that comes from organic hemp and is extracted using CO2 in its supercritical state. The brand’s products meet the highest quality and purity standards, confirmed by Certificates of Analysis from an independent laboratory.
The Royal CBD oil comes in 4 concentrations, including 250 mg, 500 mg, 1000 mg, and 2500 mg. The strongest bottle contains a massive dose of 83.3 mg per milliliter, which is a great potency for anxiety and restlessness in people with autism. The collection of Royal CBD products also include full-spectrum softgels, THC-free gummies, and organic topicals.
- Made from locally grown organic hemp
- Extracted with supercritical CO2
- Infused with full-spectrum CBD
- Available in 4 strengths and flavors
- Up to 2500 mg of CBD per bottle
- 3rd-party tested for potency and purity
- Great natural flavor
- Not available in local CBD stores (this may soon change)
- The brand doesn’t offer CBD vapes
2. Gold Bee (Best Organic)
|Potency||300 – 1200 mg|
|Available Flavors||Natural, Honey|
|CBD per serving||8.3 mg – 33.3 mg|
About Gold Bee
The runner up in our ranking of the best CBD oils for autism, Gold Bee is another brand with roots in Nevada. This company offers premium extracts from organic hemp infused with its signature honey flavor, which is both tasty and natural. Staying true to their mission statement, the guys at Gold Bee does a great job at destigmatizing hemp by combining high-quality products with providing education to their customers.
Gold Bee has partnered with local growers from Colorado to create its own blend of CBD-rich strains, which their extract with supercritical CO2 to achieve pure and potent extracts that retain the phytochemical profile of the original hemp plant.
I only wish Gold Bee had at least one high-potency option for its CBD oils. I admire the quality and the natural honey flavor, but the strongest bottle packs slightly over 30 mg/mL, which may be cost-prohibitive for users who need higher doses in their routine.
Gold Bee also sells 25 mg CBD gummies and softgel capsules that carry 40 mg CBD per count.
- Sourced from US-grown organic hemp
- Contains full-spectrum CBD
- Up to 33 mg CBD/mL
- Great potency range for beginners
- Third-party tested for potency and purity
- Great honey flavor
- No high-strength CBD oils
3. CBDPure (Top Transparency)
|Potency||100 – 1000 mg|
|CBD per serving||3.3 – 33 mg/mL|
The third place on the list belongs to one of the most renowned brands in the industry. CBDPure specializes in selling low-potency oils from organic hemp, although the company has recently added a 1000 mg option to their lineup.
Just like the two above brands, CBDPure uses US-grown hemp and produces its CBD oil with CO2 in a supercritical state, ensuring high purity. This CBD oil contains the full-spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes — including 0.3% THC — so you’re getting the entourage effect from other hemp compounds. The entourage effect refers to the synergy achieved by these compounds, which allows lower doses of CBD oil to remain effective, especially when it comes to problems like anxiety or inflammation.
On top of that, CBDPure has a 90-day return policy, so if you’re not satisfied with the results, you can return your product for a full refund.
- Sourced from organic Colorado-grown hemp
- Extracted with supercritical CO2
- Lab-tested for potency and purity
- 90-day return policy
- Only two forms of CBD available
- Low potency
- Premium pricing
4. Hemp Bombs (Best CBD Isolate)
|Potency||125 – 4000 mg|
|Available Flavors||Natural, Acai Berry, Orange Creamsicle, Peppermint, Watermelon|
|CBD per serving||4 – 133 mg/mL|
About Hemp Bombs
Hemp Bombs is your best bet when it comes to THC-free CBD oil. This company manufactures broad-spectrum and isolate-based extracts in a variety of different forms, from traditional CBD oil to capsules, gummies, vapes, and products like beard oil or tattoo aftercare.
Hemp Bombs is a good choice for people who use very high doses of CBD to manage the symptoms of autism. The strongest version of Hemp Bombs CBD oil contains 4000 mg of total CBD, which translates to 133 mg of CBD per milliliter. Even if you don’t need such large amounts of CBD in your regime, you can get a few months’ worths of supply with this potency.
However, due to the lack of THC in its broad-spectrum extracts and with no terpenes or trace cannabinoids in the isolate, you won’t be getting the synergy from the entourage effect. This means that you may eventually need to take more CBD.
- Sourced from organic hemp
- Extracted with CO2
- 0% THC
- Available as broad-spectrum or isolate
- Third-party tested for CBD and contaminants
- Up to 4000 mg of CBD per bottle
- 5 strengths to choose from
- Infused with synthetic flavorings
- No “entourage effect” from other cannabinoids and terpenes
- Most people don’t need such high doses of CBD oil in their routine
5. CBDistillery (Most Affordable)
|Potency||250 – 5000 mg|
|Potency||8.3 – 166 mg/mL|
We’re going to close our list of the best CBD oils for autism with another pioneering company. CBDistillery has been selling CBD extracts as one of the first U.S. companies and is now one of the largest brands in North America. Only a few companies can match their selections of CBD products.
CBDistillery offers its CBD oil in two types: full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD; the broad-spectrum option is labeled as “pure oil” and has been purged of THC. Broad-spectrum CBD still contains minor non-psychoactive cannabinoids as well as terpenes, so you’re getting some entourage effect without taking any THC in your product.
Whether you’re a new customer or experienced user, you certainly won’t run out of options with CBDistillery, as the brand covers the entire concentration range for CBD oils. They start at 250 mg and contain up to 5000 mg of CBD per bottle.
However, CBDistillery doesn’t use organic hemp, so if the source of hemp is your top priority, you may want to consider other companies from our list.
What is CBD?
According to WebMD, CBD is “a chemical in the cannabis Sativa plant, also known as marijuana or hemp.” It’s one of the two most abundant compounds in cannabis plants, next to THC, which is the cannabinoid that makes marijuana users feel high.
CBD doesn’t have intoxicating properties. It can actually counter the mind-altering effects of CBD by inhibiting the surface area on cells to which THC tries to bind. The World Health Organization issued a report on CBD in 2017, classifying cannabidiol as a safe substance with no risk of abuse or dependence.
The majority of CBD oils are sourced from hemp plants, which contain less than 0.3% THC and are federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill.
CBD comes in many different forms; CBD oil is the most common product. You can take it by:
- Placing a few drops under your tongue for up to 60 seconds before swallowing.
- Applying it topically to the skin to relieve trouble spots on the body.
- Infusing it into food and drinks
Edibles are another common category of CBD products. These are usually available in the form of gummies.
There are also CBD capsules, concentrates, and E-liquids. Each of these products offers a different route of administration and unique benefits.
Is CBD Legal?
The laws surrounding cannabis and its compounds are complicated in the USA. Whether CBD oil is legal in your state depends on how it is sourced.
As mentioned earlier, CBD can be obtained from hemp and marijuana. The compound itself remains the same no matter the source, but the chemical makeup of hemp-derived and marijuana-derived extracts is different
CBD oil from marijuana will typically contain a significant amount of THC and can get the user high. Marijuana and its derivatives are legal in states that have legalized recreational marijuana or, at least, have a medical marijuana program for patients.
Currently, 11 states allow marijuana for recreational use, while 33 states run a medical program.
Hemp-derived CBD oil is legal in all 50 states. In 2018, the Federal government legalized hemp by removing it from the list of controlled substances. It’s now legal to grow hemp for any use, including clothes, food, paper, fuel, and health supplements such as CBD oil. As long as the product contains less than 0.3% THC, it is legal under federal law.
You can find hemp-derived CBD products over the counter in health outlets, pharmacies, vape stores, dispensaries, and online stores.
High-quality CBD oil can greatly improve one’s daily life. Recently, researchers have been investigating the potential use of CBD for autism.
The next section explains the possible benefits of CBD for autistic patients.
Is CBD Oil Safe for Autism? A Look at the Potential Side Effects of CBD
CBD has been acknowledged as a safe compound not only by the WHO but also by the Harvard Medical School, which only talks about a few side effects.
Possible adverse effects of taking CBD oil include:
- Dry mouth
- Changes in appetite
- A temporary drop in blood pressure
On top of that, CBD interacts with a great number of prescription and non-prescription pharmaceuticals. It can also increase levels of Coumadin or Warfarin, two popular blood thinners, so if you’re on these medications and are worried about possible interactions, make sure to consult your doctor. Doing so will help you exclude potential contraindications and safely incorporate CBD into your routine.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil and Autism
Although we still need more research on CBD and autism to draw conclusions, current findings support the theory that CBD may benefit autistic patients, especially in terms of the management of side symptoms like restlessness, attention deficits, and anxiety disorders.
If you want to use CBD to ease the symptoms of autism, ask your doctor about including CBD oil in your regime. Your best bet is to visit a holistic physician who will have knowledge and experience in this subject because many doctors are still conservative about cannabis and other natural substances due to various biases.
Above all, make sure that you always purchase CBD from a reputable supplier that sells organic and lab-tested products. You can do your own digging or use our recommendations to get yourself started with no worries about the quality of your CBD oil.
Do you know someone who’s using CBD oil for autism symptoms? Does CBD help control them?
Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.
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CBD Oil and Autism: What Parents Need to Know
CBD oil is becoming an increasingly popular treatment option for a variety of health conditions – including autism. But is CBD oil a safe autism treatment for kids?
Nicole Harris joined the team in 2018 as a staff writer and was promoted to SEO editor in 2021. She now covers everything from children’s health to parenting trends. Her writing has appeared in Martha Stewart Weddings, Good Housekeeping, The Knot, BobVila.com, and other publications. A graduate of Syracuse University, Nicole currently lives in Queens, New York with her husband.
Autism is a neurological disorder impacting social skills and development. It affects one in 40 American children today, according to a December 2018 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Many children with autism have difficulty interacting with others, and some display unusual patterns of behavior like ritualistic motions. Individual cases of autism fall on a spectrum ranging from mild to severe.
Doctors don’t know the cause of autism, but environmental and genetic factors may play a role. There’s also no cure for autism; however, a variety of interventions (like occupational and speech therapies) can lessen the severity of symptoms. One of the newest and most controversial treatment options is cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a natural substance extracted from cannabis.
CBD oil is made without large amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the chemical that’s responsible for the psychedelic effects of marijuana – so it can’t technically get you “high.” It has become widely available in health food stores and medical marijuana dispensaries across the country – usually in liquid, cream, or gel capsule form.
In preliminary studies, CBD oil has been shown to improve a variety of physical and mental health conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, ADHD, gastrointestinal illness, insomnia, cancer, and more. And in an April 2018 study of 60 children published in Neurology, a group of Israeli researchers found that CBD oil reduced autism-induced behavioral, communication, and anxiety problems.
Parents across the country have hopped on these findings and starting giving CBD oil to their children. Many claim CDB oil helps regulate emotions, promote better sleep, and control autism symptoms.
As with every new medical breakthrough, though, CBD oil isn’t without drawbacks. According to Mandi Silverman, PsyD, MBA, senior director of the Autism Center at the Child Mind Institute, there’s a lack of information about using CBD for behavioral disorders, especially in young children. That’s why Silverman and many other health professionals suggest parents learn the facts before stocking up on CBD oil.
“As parents, we give ourselves the daunting task of fixing everything. When your child is diagnosed with a developmental disorder like autism, the desire to fix things is even more exaggerated,” she says. “Treatment for autism takes time. Parents see CBD oil as this option that can address some of the needs in a way nothing else can.”
But despite how tempting CBD oil may be as an autism treatment, Silverman says it’s “not an intervention with an evidence base.” It’s also not an FDA-approved method for treating autism.
Here are a few more issues surrounding the treatment of autism with CBD oil:
Some parents may also wonder about the legal issues regarding CBD oil. Some states allow CBD oil as long as it’s derived from hemp, but not from marijuana. Other states outlaw CBD altogether, and some permit it for certain uses. Research your own state’s legislation for more details.
So what’s the bottom line? If you’re considering treating your child’s autism with CBD oil, thoroughly research the positives and negatives. Talk to your child’s doctor – or someone who is well-educated in using CBD oil for medical purposes. And when it comes to choosing products, try finding out how much THC it contains. It’s always best to be an informed consumer when making decisions regarding your child’s health.