Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by deficits in social interaction, motor and cognitive skills, communication, and behaviour.
Autism is often accompanied by related health problems, such as anxiety, sleeping and digestive disorders, immune health issues, and neurodegeneration.
It’s estimated that 164,000 Australians had autism in 2015, a number that translates to about 1 in every 150 people.m
Read on to learn more about how CBD oil and other CBD products may benefit children and adults diagnosed with ASD.
The Benefits of CBD for Autism
Emerging research suggests that CBD-rich cannabis preparations can have multiple positive effects on autism.
In one recent 2019 study, 18 ASD patients between 6 and 17 years old used a CBD-enriched cannabis extract (with a 75:1 ratio of CBD to THC) regularly for 6–9 months.
All but one patient showed improvements in eight categories of symptoms: attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavioural disorders, motor deficits, autonomy deficits, communication and socialization deficits, cognitive deficits, sleep disorders, and seizures.
The strongest improvements were noted for symptoms relating to seizures, ADHD, sleep, and communication/social deficits.
The researchers concluded that “CBD-enriched CE may ameliorate multiple ASD symptoms even in non-epileptic patients, with substantial increase in life quality for both ASD patients and caretakers.”
A similar study in 60 children with ASD found that CBD significantly reduced behavioural outbreaks in 61% of the patients.
A larger Isralian study examined the benefits of cannabis in 188 children with ASD, most of whom used an oil containing 30% CBD and 1.5% THC.
Following 6 months of use, 30% reported significant improvement and 54% moderate improvement, particularly for symptoms of seizures, tics, depression, restlessness, and rage attacks.
Aside from this, research has shown that CBD has many other beneficial properties that may help autism sufferers:
- Anxiolytic, which can help with various anxiety disorders commonly seen in autism
- Neuroprotective, which may help with neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration that may play a role in autism
- Anticonvulsant, which can reduce the seizures that often occur in autism
How CBD Works
CBD’s interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) may explain its benefits in ASD.
This important system helps us maintain a healthy state of internal balance by regulating essential processes, including sleep, mood, brain function, immunity, metabolism, stress, pain, and others.
The ECS is made up of endocannabinoids made by our bodies, the enzymes that build and break them down, and the cannabinoid receptors they activate.
There’s some evidence that a dysfunctional ECS may be involved in autism.
For example, one study compared the blood concentrations of anandamide, one of the two main endocannabinoids, in 112 children with or without autism. Children with ASD had significantly lower levels of anandamide than their healthy counterparts.
This not only highlights that the ECS can contribute to autism, but provides further evidence for the benefits of CBD. That’s because CBD is known to increase anandamide levels by suppressing the enzyme that breaks it down.
Even if the ECS is not implicated in autism, we know that it can positively affect many of the cognitive processes involved in this complex disorder, such as anxiety and mood.
How to Best Use CBD for Autism
We’ve provided some clear scientific evidence for CBD’s autism benefits, but what’s the best way to use it? The most important tip is to choose full-spectrum CBD products that provide all of the beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes found in hemp.
Research indicates that full-spectrum CBD products are more effective than those containing pure CBD isolate. In fact, all three successful studies we discussed above used full-spectrum cannabis preparations rather than pure CBD.
In particular, it’s best to use a full-spectrum CBD oil because it’s better absorbed by the body than CBD capsules, softgels, and similar products.
To make sure you’re getting a safe and effective product, we recommend using CBD oil tinctures backed by third-party testing, like the ones available here. Another factor to keep in mind is that you’ll need to use CBD oil regularly because autism is a chronic condition.
Ideally, it should be taken two to three times a day to provide ongoing symptom relief. Another advantage of taking CBD consistently is that its effects can build up over time.