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 Kids: Is It Safe for Children with ADHD & Anxiety?
If you’re a parent, you’ll go above and beyond to keep your child healthy.
You may have heard your friends saying they’re using CBD oil with their kids. If you don’t know what CBD is, don’t worry — I’ll explain everything in this article, including why you may want to consider using the supplement with your children too.
Long story short, CBD stands for cannabidiol, a natural compound in cannabis plants with an array of positive effects on the body and brain but is non-psychoactive, unlike THC.
CBD is becoming increasingly popular for various negative symptoms, from anxiety to pain and inflammation (read more here).
It comes in many different forms, including CBD oil, capsules, edibles, beverages, vaping liquids, and topical products.
But which CBD oil will be the best for your little one?
In this guide, you’ll learn about 3 brands that, I believe, deserve your attention as a parent.
I’ve also mapped out several areas where CBD oil appears to be particularly effective, as well as what to look for when searching for the best CBD oil products for kids.
How to Find the CBD Oil for Your Kids
Several steps are involved in the production of CBD oil; each of them is a make-or-break factor.
Quality is paramount when buying CBD oil for kids, so if you want to rest assured your money goes in the right hands, I suggest researching the following information:
1. Hemp Source
It all starts in the soil.
Hemp is an effective bioaccumulator. What does this mean?
It means it absorbs everything from the environment it’s cultivated in.
In essence, when grown in clean and fertile soil, hemp will pull all the good nutrients to grow strong, healthy, and produce plenty of CBD.
But when the growing conditions are inferior and the soil polluted, the plant will draw every contaminant, resulting in very poor sourcing material.
With that said, I strongly recommend buying CBD from domestic farmers who grow organic hemp plants, even if they aren’t certified organic.
This ensures you’ll only get pure CBD oil that is safe for your kid.
2. Extraction Method
The method by which CBD oil is processed can tell much about its quality.
Some manufacturers use toxic solvents like propane and butane for extraction to avoid higher production costs and sell cheap CBD oil. The toxic residue in such products is what you want to steer clear of. I, for example, couldn’t imagine myself purposefully exposing my children to hazardous substances.
Two extraction methods yield clean and potent extracts without leaving any harmful chemicals behind — Ethanol and CO2 extraction.
Ethanol is used in making CBD tinctures. The high-CBD bud is soaked in high-proof alcohol like Ethanol, so the cannabinoids and other hemp compounds can be extracted.
CO2 extraction calls for using pressurized CO2 at varying temperatures to obtain an oily extract suspended in a carrier oil (most often MCT oil). This method is the golden standard in the industry.
3. Is It Full-Spectrum CBD Oil or Isolate?
Full-spectrum CBD oil contains all phytonutrients from hemp, including cannabinoids (with trace amounts of THC), terpenes, flavonoids, and essential oils, whereas CBD isolate carries only pure, isolated cannabidiol.
While isolates offer the highest dose of CBD per serving and are more versatile than full-spectrum CBD (it has no odor and no flavor), it lacks the synergy achieved by other hemp compounds in the full-spectrum extract.
CBD oil obtained from the whole plant is believed to have a greater therapeutic value than isolate-based products, and the user needs less CBD to achieve the desired effect. More scientific evidence supports the theory about the synergy between cannabinoids, especially when it comes to pain and inflammation.
I, too, believe that full-spectrum CBD oil is a better choice, but if your child is allergic to certain constituents of the hemp plant — or you don’t want even a negligible amount of THC in their system — isolates might be your only option.
4. Third-party Testing & Lab Results
Once a CBD oil is manufactured, companies can submit their products for third-party testing conducted by non-company staff to ensure the product is safe for consumption and consistent with the bottle’s label.
CBD oils should always feature information about third-party tests; if they don’t, it should raise some red flags.
It’s all the better if the actual lab results accompany that information. As a rule of thumb, companies that include lab results are generally better than those that aren’t open about them.
When buying CBD oil for your kid, it’s essential to choose the one that will suit their dosage needs. I would always go for the lower potency with children unless there’s a specific reason you want to give them CBD.
CBD Oil Effects on Kids
CBD has coined its fame thanks to its anticonvulsant properties in children with rare forms of epilepsy. Still, this cannabinoid can also alleviate less severe conditions, too — not to mention it’s a great supplement to keep your little pumpkin in good health in a natural way.
Below I go over the most common uses of CBD oil in kids and how it may improve selected health problems. Keep in mind that both the amount of CBD intake and the time of the day can affect how your kid responds to CBD oil.
CBD Oil for Kids With ADHD
If your child has an attention disorder — they quickly get overstimulated and have problems maintaining focus — CBD can help with symptom management.
Research on CBD as a potential treatment for ADHD is sparse. We know most of what we know about the link between these two stems from studies on cannabis as a whole, not the specific CBD compound.
However, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence from parents giving CBD to their kids that CBD oil helps manage their hyperactivity symptoms.
Moreover, a 2014 study published in Current Neuropharmacology suggests that CBD can be a wake-promoting agent at low doses, making users more alert throughout the day (1).
Interestingly, our sleep-wake cycle largely depends on our level of alertness during the day, so CBD oil may also help when your kiddo has problems falling asleep at night.
CBD Oil for Kids With Anxiety
CBD exerts several actions in the brain that regulate our brain’s response to feelings of fear and anxiety. The research in this subject is mostly preclinical or based on animal studies, but there are thousands of testimonies from parents whose children found relief from anxiety in CBD oil.
But how exactly does CBD work for anxiety disorders?
Research suggests that cannabidiol inhibits serotonin reuptake in the brain. In other words, it makes serotonin more available for the body (2). With better control of your serotonin resources, CBD could help stabilize mood and reduce anxiety.
The second benefit is associated with CBD’s ability to prompt the endocannabinoid system to produce more natural cannabinoids (3). This includes anandamide — the endocannabinoid regulating emotions such as fear, bliss, and euphoria.
Insufficient anandamide production has been linked to low mood or overreaction to anxiety triggers.
As with serotonin, CBD stimulates the release of anandamide and helps it stay in the body for a longer duration — assisting the user in maintaining sanity.
Last but not least, CBD may stimulate the hippocampus (a critical brain area playing a vital role in an array of brain functions) to regenerate neurons (4). These findings are particularly interesting because brain scans of patients suffering from anxiety and depression often show a smaller hippocampus.
CBD Oil for Kids With Autism
A study led by the director of pediatric neurology at Jerusalem’s Shareek Zedek Hospital, Dr. Adi Aran, treated 60 autistic children with CBD oil for at least seven months.
After the treatment period, parents were asked to fill out assessment questionnaires about changes in their child’s condition. The researchers asked questions about behavioral changes, anxiety levels, and communication skills.
According to the collected data, 80% of parents noted a decline in problematic behaviors, with 62% reporting great improvements. Half of the examined children showed improved communication, and 40% of parents reported significant decreases in their children’s anxiety (5).
While these are some really promising results, we need more longitudinal studies on larger groups of patients for the research to be conclusive.
Top 4 CBD Oil Brands
I’ve tested plenty of CBD brands in my life, and I have a list of my personal favorites. It turns out that three of them are a perfect match for my children’s needs.
I always base my product recommendations on extensive testing and thousands of verified customer reviews to give you a full picture of any given product I tackle. I would never suggest any product that fails to meet my quality and safety criteria.
Below you’ll find the top 4 brands selling CBD oil.
1. Royal CBD (Best Overall)
Get 15% off all Royal CBD products. Use code “CFAH” at checkout.
- Full-spectrum of phytocannabinoids
- Made from 100% natural ingredients
- Extracted with supercritical CO2
- Contained in premium-quality MCT oil
- Lab-tested for potency and purity
- The 500mg bottle is easy to dose
- They also sell CBD infused gummies
What I Like About Royal CBD:
I remember receiving a press release from Royal CBD shortly before their launch, so I couldn’t help but try their products — as I do with any new brand that grabs my attention.
I’m a visualizer, so I was instantly bought with the minimalistic design of their products. Of course, I did some solid research to not rely solely on my gut, and it turned out this company has an unparalleled level of transparency.
They explain everything about how they source their hemp and what extraction they use for their CBD oil. Not only that, but they were also able to prove it with the lab results. I ordered two bottles — the 1000mg (for me) and 500mg (for my two boys).
What I love about Royal CBD is that their full-spectrum oil does what it’s advertised to do — it brings relief. My children sleep better, they don’t get irritated so easily, and I can finally get them focused on their homework for longer than 3 minutes, which is a blessing for me.
Oh, and it doesn’t leave that botanical aftertaste on the tongue. I’m a fan of everything related to hemp, but my boys don’t share my enthusiasm to that extent. Thankfully, the MCT oil does a stellar job at masking the natural hemp flavor.
2. Gold Bee (Best Organic CBD Oil)
- Made from US-grown, organic hemp
- Contains full-spectrum CBD
- 1200 mg of CBD per bottle (40 mg/mL)
- Extracted with supercritical CO2
- Delicious Kiwi flavor
- Sweetened with organic honey
- Third-party tested for cannabinoid content and purity
- Only one concentration available
- Limited flavor options
What I Like About Gold Bee CBD Oil for Kids
Gold Bee offers craft-quality CBD oils that are well suited for kids, both in their potency and ingredients. The company sources its CBD from organic hemp grown in Colorado, which is then gently extracted using pressurized CO2. Gold Bee’s farming and processing practices yield pure CBD extracts that maintain consistent potency throughout all batches.
The CBD oil contains full-spectrum CBD, meaning there are other cannabinoids and terpenes to support the health benefits of CBD. These compounds contribute to the much-desired entourage effect. As a result, your kid needs less oil than they would if you gave them isolated CBD, making this product very affordable compared to competitor brands.
Even though Gold Bee only carries 2 potencies, 1200mg, and 2400mg, but their oils have proven to be much more effective than other brands. So if you are giving your child GB’s 1200mg CBD Oil, you should start with a quarter dropper, around 10mg of CBD.
I especially like Gold Bee because its product contains only organic ingredients, including the honey in the CBD oil and the cane sugar in the gummies. The brand is a safe pick for health-conscious parents.
3. Hemp Bombs
- Sourced from 100% certified organic hemp from Europe
- Extracted with CO2
- Lab-tested for purity and potency
- Highly versatile — you can use it as is or add it to food and drinks
- Available in 5 potencies
- Less expensive than full-spectrum CBD oil
- Lacks the entourage effect from other cannabinoids
- Your children usually won’t need anything stronger than the 300mg bottle
What I Like About HempBombs CBD:
HempBombs specializes in making 99% pure CBD products. These isolates are available as tinctures, capsules, vape oils, or gummies.
I know that some parents — especially those new to cannabis — tend to freak out about any THC in hemp products they give to their kids, so if you’re one of those parents, isolates might be a good starting point. Your child may be allergic to some plant compounds; CBD isolate might be the only option here.
Isolates are highly versatile. Given this, if your pumpkin hates the taste of natural CBD oil, the isolate should do the trick as it’s odorless and flavorless. Because of that, you can also mix CBD with foods and drinks to smuggle some CBD into your kid’s favorite muffins or a fruit salad dressing.
Remember that CBD isolate is purged from any cannabinoids other than CBD, so there’s no entourage effect. But as I said, with parents using isolate-based products, the potency of CBD is likely more important than the whole-plant synergy.
- Sourced from non-GMO, pesticide-free hemp
- Extracted with CO2
- Available as full-spectrum CBD or pure CBD oil (broad-spectrum, zero THC)
- Lab-tested for purity levels and consistency in potency
- Available in 5 different potency options
- Very affordable
- Only available in the natural flavor
- Not certified organic
What I Like About CBDistillery:
A veteran to the scene, CBDistillery never fails to deliver the highest quality and safety standards — both for adults and children.
Their oil is sold in five different potencies, from 250mg to 5000mg of full-spectrum or broad-spectrum (THC-free) extract. The 250mg CBD oil (my recommended potency for most kids) costs as little as $20, so it’s a perfect product for parents shopping for CBD on the budget.
I love the fact that you can also get a THC-free version of this oil but still enjoy the benefits of the other cannabinoids that have been preserved during extraction. I must admit it’s not as effective as Royal CBD, but it’s still a decent product. And for many young moms, this can be a golden mean between full-spectrum CBD oil and CBD isolate.
Using CBD With Children 101
I receive lots of questions from parents who would like to try CBD oil for their kids, but there’s so much confusion on the Internet that they get even more confused in the end.
So, my fellow moms, I’ve selected the 4 most frequently asked questions about CBD oil for kids, and I’m going to explain everything in the simplest way possible.
Is CBD Oil for Kids the Same as CBD Oil for Adults?
Yes, it’s precisely the same product. Companies don’t distinguish between CBD oil for kids or adults.
However, because children weigh less than adults, I suggest that you operate on lower potencies. Kids usually need lower amounts of CBD to feel the difference.
Besides, with a low-potency CBD oil (e.g., 250mg CBD per bottle), it’s easier to gauge the dosage in the dropper because you can use a few drops instead of having to measure out, say, one-tenth of the syringe for accurate dosing.
What Are the Benefits of CBD Oil for Children?
CBD is a highly versatile supplement that has a special relationship with our endocannabinoid system.
If you’re giving CBD oil to your kid for general supplementation purposes, you can expect the following benefits:
- Improved focus
- Higher alertness throughout the day
- Better quality of sleep
On a practical note, CBD is easy to use, has a long shelf-life, and you can administer it to your child in many different ways.
What’s the Best Way to Use CBD With Children?
It goes without saying that your kids won’t be vaping CBD oil or dabbing CBD concentrates because first, they’re too potent, and second — the very consumption method is out of the question for children.
Most parents choose the sublingual method, which involves placing a few CBD oil drops beneath the kid’s tongue. Once there, they need to hold it for about 30–60 seconds until the oil gets absorbed into the bloodstream, then swallow.
It may happen that your tot isn’t a fan of CBD oil’s distinct taste and will turn its head away each time you try to administer it sublingually.
If that’s your story, I recommend CBD gummies. Each gummy comes with a fixed dose of CBD — you can skip that nasty dropper part — and they are sold in many delicious flavors.
I don’t need to tell you how much children love gummies, so this form of cannabidiol is a great way to give your little one the best of both worlds.
CBD Oil Dosage Guidelines for Kids
The optimal dosage for any given CBD user — including children — depends on their weight, metabolism, unique body chemistry, and desired effects.
For the pediatric population of CBD users, experts suggest starting with 0.5mg of CBD per pound and taking this dose three times a day.
Starting low and slow allows you to adjust the dosage to how your child reacts to CBD without causing any side effects (e.g., dry mouth or lightheadedness).
Quick Reference Chart for Children’s Dosages:
|Weight (lbs)||Low Strength||Medium Strength|
|30 lbs (13 kg)||2.6 mg||7.8 mg|
|40 lbs (18 kg)||3.6 mg||10.8 mg|
|50 lbs (23 kg)||4.6 mg||13.8 mg|
|75 lbs (34 kg)||6.4 mg||19.0 mg|
|100 lbs (45 kg)||7.5 mg||22.5 mg|
Final Thoughts on CBD Oils for Kids
CBD oil is an excellent tool for enhancing the quality of one’s life, not only for adults but also for children. Because of the non-psychoactive nature of CBD, this compound is doesn’t impact their mental development and comes with only a few mild side effects, such as dry mouth or dizziness when consumed in larger amounts.
I hope my guide has helped you understand what CBD oil is and how it can help your kid live a better life. Now you can make a well-informed decision and buy a high-quality product that will benefit the whole family.
- Murillo-Rodríguez, E., Sarro-Ramírez, A., Sánchez, D., Mijangos-Moreno, S., Tejeda-Padrón, A., Poot-Aké, A., … Arias-Carrión, O. (2014). Potential effects of cannabidiol as a wake-promoting agent. Current Neuropharmacology, 12(3), 269–272.
- Russo, E.B., Burnet, A., Hall, B., Parker, K.K. (2005). Agonistic properties of cannabidiol at 5-HT1a receptors
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- Bar-Lev Schleider, L., Mechoulam, R., Saban, N., Meiri, G., & Novack, V. (2019). Real life Experience of Medical Cannabis Treatment in Autism: Analysis of Safety and Efficacy. Scientific reports, 9(1), 200.
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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