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In the wake of reports of serious gastrointestinal effects from Real Scientific Hemp Oil (RSHO), parents arguing the benefits of the controversial product are claiming that nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are “normal” effects of “adjustment sickness.”
While it is clear that a number of patients – both children and adults – have been hospitalized due to GI problems after consuming RSHO, the question remains: what is actually making these patients sick, and it is in fact “normal” to have this reaction to a CBD-rich oil?
To answer these questions, we interviewed CBD experts, established cannabis oil-makers, and patients who use CBD-rich cannabis oil. All unequivocally report that “adjustment sickness” is a myth and that no such ailment exists with other cannabis oil products outside of RSHO.
“I’ve never heard of an instance where CBD oil in and of itself would cause nausea or vomiting or gastrointestinal distress. In fact, it’s quite the contrary – it should ameliorate those symptoms,” says Martin Lee. Lee is the co-founder of Project CBD, a non-profit educational service that has been “dedicated to promoting and publicizing research into the medical utility of cannabidiol (CBD) and other components of the cannabis plant” since 2010; in this role, Lee has interacted personally with many patients using CBD-rich cannabis oil. None of them have reported “adjustment sickness” symptoms.
Oil-maker Brandon Krenzler agrees. “I’ve never run across any of my cannabis oil patients – and I’ve helped hundreds of patients – who experienced GI distress or “adjustment sickness” from anything except RSHO,” says Krenzler. “Cannabis-derived CBD oil does not give patients anything but benefits to their GI systems. It relieves constipation, it relaxes the bowels, and it reduces inflammation to the point where people get relief from it. That’s why so many people use cannabis oil for Crohn’s Disease and other GI illnesses.”
So where did the myth of “adjustment sickness” come from, and are there actually any reports of GI problems with any kind of cannabis oil?
The answer to this question is a little more complicated, and it generally applies to THC-rich oils.
“There are reported instances of THC-induced hyperemesis, meaning an exact opposite reaction of the typical reaction to THC,” says Martin Lee. “Generally, THC or THC-dominant cannabis strains stopping nausea is the typical reaction, but for certain patients, it has a biphasic effect, where it can cause nausea and vomiting. You’ll see reference to it occasionally in the scientific literature, and prohibitionists will point to this as yet another ‘danger’ of cannabis use. But this type of reaction is the extreme exception to the rule. And in the rare cases this happens, it only happens with large doses of THC-dominant cannabis, not CBD-rich oil.”
Cannabis oil makers who have served hundreds of patients also report that there are a few reasons that THC-rich oils can cause vomiting.
Brandon Krenzler believes that patients who are sensitive to THC’s psychoactive effects can experience dizziness which can cause nausea or vomiting, especially when THC oil is taken in large doses.
“With a high-THC oil, a patient can get ‘the spins’ and vomit,” says Krenzler, “but that has nothing to do with problems in the GI system.” Krenzler says that CBD-rich oil with trace amounts of THC, however, should never cause these issues, as CBD has little to no psychoactive effect.
Oil-maker John Erickson agrees: “Only once people take on epic doses (of THC) does it become an adjustment to the psychoactivity – but not a ‘sickness.’ But definitely not from normal amounts, and never from CBD alone.”
Oil-makers also point to the fact that poorly prepared cannabis oil can certainly cause gastrointestinal upset, for example, an oil in which the solvents used for extraction have not been properly eliminated.
Before Brandon Krenzler was a caregiver, he says, the first time he tried making cannabis oil for himself as a medical cannabis patient, he did not evaporate all the alcohol in the process. The “bad batch” made him vomit; it was promptly discarded. But, says Krenzler, properly prepared oil should never have residual solvents that would cause stomach upset.
Additionally, says Krenzler, additives to cannabis oils could cause GI symptoms. For example, Krenzler once gave a patient a cannabis concoction that was suspended in Ceylon Cinnamon and Cassia oil (“Holy Annointing Oil”) and the patient had a vomiting reaction due to her sensitivity to cinnamon. However, says Krenzler, the same patient had no such reaction when given the same concentration of cannabis oil without cinnamon.
So why are people using RSHO experiencing “adjustment sickness”?
“The notion that CBD-rich oil – so-called ‘hemp oil’ or cannabis oil – should ever be associated with gastrointestinal distress is a ploy, really,” says Martin Lee. “It’s unscientific and sounds to me rather self-serving for those who would like to justify those kinds of reactions from people.”
Other oil-makers agree that properly prepared CBD-rich oil should never cause an “adjustment sickness,” and that any such reactions are likely due to contaminants or residual solvents, and that justifying these reactions as a common-side effect of CBD-rich oil is entirely inaccurate.
Many of the people perpetuating the “adjustment sickness” myth are parents whose children are using RSHO oil with reported success. And in fact, no one is arguing that some patients may have positive results in seizure control from RSHO – indeed, it would not be surprising to see seizure reduction from oil with RHSO’s advertised CBD:THC ratios, or those reported by independent laboratories.
For some parents whose children are responding well to the RSHO, any negative information about the products is met with hostility and fear, and understandably so – these parents are concerned that the only thing that has worked for their children may be taken off the market, and they often direct their anger toward activists, medical cannabis providers, and even other parents who have spoken out against these products.
Martin Lee expresses sympathy and concern for parents who believe that RSHO is helping their children.
“Parents of children with these terrible seizure disorders are in a really difficult position,” says Lee. “They are forced to rely on RSHO if they don’t have other alternatives, if they’re not in a medical marijuana state. Or even if they are – good versions of these products can be hard to find.”
But Lee believes that alternatives will be widely available soon. “I think within a matter of months, good quality CBD-rich products will be available to those who need them, anywhere in the country, so they won’t be forced to rely on products like RSHO.”