QUESTION

I’d like to try CBD to help me sleep, but don’t know if it will work or how much to take. Any advice?

ANSWER

Healthy-living enthusiasts are all talking about cannabidiol (CBD) oil these days. CBD is derived from hemp, a cousin to the marijuana plant, and contains the compounds in cannabis that induce relaxation. Because hemp contains only a tiny amount (no more than 0.3% by dry weight) of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is found in marijuana, it won’t get you high.

While CBD is now being touted as a natural treatment for everything from cancer to menstrual cramps, the evidence is strongest for its ability to ease childhood epileptic seizures, anxiety, chronic pain and sleep problems. That said, it’s important not to get fooled by unsubstantiated claims about CBD and to look for research supporting its use for any condition you want to treat.

As a sleep aid, CBD oil is safe to use and most effective if your insomnia is caused by anxiety or worrisome thoughts that can prevent you from drifting off to sleep at bedtime. When 72 adults with sleep or anxiety complaints used CBD daily, 67% reported sleeping better within a month, and 79% had less anxiety, according to research published in The Permanente Journal, a peer-reviewed medical journal. But if your sleep problems are due to sleep apnea or another physical cause, CBD oil will probably not be effective.

If you’re battling insomnia, the CBD dose is important. It’s best to “start low and go slow.” I recommend an initial dose of 5 mg of CBD oil taken shortly before bedtime. If your sleep doesn’t improve after taking this amount for two to three nights, increase it by another 5 mg every few days until you find the dose that works for you.

Using a liquid CBD is the easiest way to adjust the level. You can switch to a capsule, if it’s more convenient, once you’ve found your optimal dose. High-quality brands of CBD include Charlotte’s Web, Elixonol and Canbiola.

Side effects from CBD, such as fatigue and dry mouth, are usually minimal. When starting to use CBD oil, pay close attention to any adverse reactions and lower the dose, if necessary. Don’t begin any new supplements or change prescription medication while you are monitoring for possible CBD side effects.

CBD oil may interact with blood thinners or other prescription drugs. If you take medication, you should talk with your doctor about any supplements you take, including CBD oil. However, since many doctors are not very knowledgeable about CBD, you may want check it yourself on the drug-interaction database at MedlinePlus.gov and search “Cannabidiol” under “Herbs and Supplements.” You also can ask your pharmacist whether CBD interacts with any medications you may be taking.