Times are changing, and so are attitudes regarding cannabis. These days most people have friends or family members who have benefitted from medical marijuana or hemp-derived compounds like cannabidiol (CBD). With so many success stories floating around, you’re probably curious about trying legal hemp flower or other CBD products for yourself.
But if you live or work in a more conservative environment, you could be concerned about being labeled a “druggie” and losing valuable opportunities. In popular culture, “stoners” are often depicted as slackers with red eyes, and it’s no wonder that one of the most frequently asked questions we get is, “Does CBD make your eyes red?”
Fortunately, the short answer is a resounding “No.” CBD will not cause your eyes to turn red.But don’t just take our word for it. Let’s examine the science to find out why hemp flower and CBD oil won’t give you the tell-tale red eyes associated with traditional cannabis use.
Why Does Cannabis Cause Red Eyes?
Unlike CBD-rich hemp flower, traditional cannabis can cause red eyes, especially when consumed in higher quantities. The primary active ingredient in regular “marijuana” is a compound called delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC has a potent ability to bond to CB1 endocannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system, which explains the compound’s sometimes intense psychoactivity.Another result of this strong bond is a widening of the blood vessels and a lowering of overall blood pressure. THC’s ability to act as a vasodilator comes in handy in reducing the elevated intraocular pressure associated with conditions like glaucoma. Unfortunately, the expansion of the blood vessels also produces the appearance of red-tinted eyes.
How Cannabinoids Work: Meet the Endocannabinoid System
Before we discuss why CBD won’t make your eyes red, let’s take a look at how CBD works. Both CBD and THC create their effects by interacting with a network of receptors in our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS evolved nearly 600 million years ago and serves as a master regulator to help keep our vital systems balanced. The endocannabinoid system plays a part in regulating essential bodily functions such as moods, fertility, immunity, appetite, inflammation, and body temperature.
The ECS works by responding to internal compounds called endocannabinoids which transmit information by stimulating the receptors in different ways. The more than 120 cannabinoids found in hemp and cannabis plants can also interact with these receptors to help support our endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system includes two primary types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. As we’ve mentioned earlier, CB1 receptors exist mainly in the brain and central nervous system. CB2 endocannabinoid receptors mostly populate the peripheral nervous system and our immune cells.
Why CBD Won’t Make Your Eyes Look Red
While THC creates a strong bond with CB1 receptors, CBD has a more indirect way of interacting with them. You can think of a receptor and cannabinoid as a lock and a key. THC’s molecular structure allows the compound to fit easily into the CB1 receptor and unlock specific effects.
In contrast, CBD has a surprisingly weak ability to bond with CB1 or CB2 receptors. Instead, CBD modulates their function by inhibiting the binding action of specific receptors in the body and slowing the reuptake of natural endocannabinoids like anandamide and 2-AG. This means that CBD not only won’t produce intense effects like paranoia or red eyes but can also reduce the effects of THC.
Furthermore, when it comes to red eyes, CBD may have the opposite effect. While CBD may reduce overall resting blood pressure, the compound could actually increase intraocular pressure. Unfortunately, this fact could be bad news if you have glaucoma. But with respect to red eyes, you’ll have nothing to worry about when taking CBD oil or enjoying smokeable hemp flower.
However, if you do notice any reddening of your eyes while you’re taking CBD, you may want to consider environmental and lifestyle factors like air pollution, alcohol consumption, excessive screen time, or lack of adequate rest. Additionally, if you’re experiencing frequent bouts of red eyes, you may want to inform your doctor to help rule out conditions like allergies, infections, injuries, or glaucoma.
Does CBD Have Any Side Effects?
Now that you know that CBD won’t make your eyes red, you’re probably wondering if CBD can cause any other side effects. According to a report published by the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD is “generally well-tolerated with a good safety profile.”
Any side effects have been mild and can usually be avoided by reducing your dosage.
Some consumers of high CBD dosages experience symptoms like nausea, dry mouth, drowsiness, and reduced appetite. You can avoid these effects by starting with a lower than recommended dosage of CBD and gauging the effects before gradually increasing the dosage. The ECS is a complex system, and every person responds differently to cannabinoids.
Also, please rest assured that no one has ever died of an overdose of CBD or any cannabinoid. The parts of the brain involved in drug overdoses don’t contain endocannabinoid receptors. That said, CBD may interact with certain prescription medications, making them weaker or stronger.
According to the WHO, CBD’s “reported adverse effects may be as a result of drug-drug interactions between CBD and patients’ existing medications.” This statement seems especially true for medications that carry a grapefruit warning, including:
- Blood pressure medications
- Seizure medications
- Thyroid drugs
This is not an exhaustive list, and we recommend that you seek the advice of a qualified medical professional, especially if you have preexisting conditions or regularly take prescription or over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.
This article is not intended to substitute for medical advice. Instead, we’ve published this information for educational purposes so that you can start a conversation with your doctor, who will help you determine if CBD is right for you.
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