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Does CBD Make Your Eyes Red?

a man with bloodshot eyes

Source: ViDI Studio/Shutterstock.com

With the explosive popularity of CBD products these days, from CBD gummies to CBD pet products, many questions are arising around them and what side effects they may have on our bodies. And we’re excited that people like yourself are asking these questions because it means you’re curious and one step closer to discovering the benefits of CBD – if you haven’t already.

In this article, we’re going to tackle the issue of CBD and red eyes. We’ll explain where this myth comes from, why it’s untrue and chat briefly about what might actually be causing your red eyes.

Why do people think CBD causes red eyes?

The use of CBD products has exploded in the past few years since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. This legal revision allowed for the commercial production of hemp nationally and also made CBD products legal across the U.S. 

CBD, or cannabidiol as it’s known formally, is a compound found in hemp plants that researchers have been working to unlock the secrets of. For example, a recent clinical study found promise in using CBD when it comes to anxiety relief and sleep disorders. And favorable evidence has emerged about the efficacy of CBD as an adjunctive therapy in epileptic patients. 

But despite these great developments, there’s still a lot of stigma around something as simple as using CBD tinctures on a daily basis to improve quality of life and promote homeostasis. That’s because of the source and what else people associate with hemp.

CBD isn’t the only known compound, or cannabinoid to be specific, that comes from the hemp plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been known to researchers and the public for a long time, especially due to its psychoactive properties. And this is the cannabinoid that will cause people to have red eyes. 

CBD, on the other hand, has had a more recent rise to fame and has no psychoactive effects. In fact, some researchers have found that CBD can counteract the negative effects of THC.

Let’s delve a little deeper into the science of it all.

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So… Can you explain why CBD does NOT cause red eyes?

Yes, we absolutely can. But it’s going to take a bit of science, so bear with us. 

You see, as we said, CBD is a compound known as a cannabinoid that is naturally produced in hemp plants. Cannabinoids are special in that they have the ability to interact with our endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is a recently discovered system that runs through your entire body and interacts with your nervous system and peripheral organ systems. 

In the ECS, cannabinoids will bind to special receptors to produce different effects. It all sounds quite technical, but the important thing to keep in mind is that right now we know about two receptors in this system. They’re unflatteringly called CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD has been shown to primarily bind to CB2 receptors while other cannabinoids, such as THC, behave differently and can bind to one or both receptors, depending on their own properties. 

THC is the cannabinoid that causes red eyes, not CBD. When it comes to the eyes, CBD will not have the same effect as THC. And it all comes down to how these two cannabinoids differently affect something called intraocular pressure (IOP). Or, to put it simply, the pressure fluid that your eye makes. 

a close-up of an eyeball

Source: Garna Zarina/Shutterstock.com

According to a study published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science in 2018, THC has the ability to reduce IOP. It does this by expanding veins in your eyes and relieving pressure, which makes it a candidate for the treatment of glaucoma. But that’s also why THC has the side effect of giving a user red eyes. 

THC binds with CB1 receptors to do this, which CBD can’t do because CBD only binds to CB2 receptors. And, that same research into IOP found that CBD might actually counter the effects of THC on IOP and should probably not be used by individuals seeking relief from IOP. 

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But I definitely still have red eyes, so what’s causing them?

Now that we’ve ruled out CBD as the cause of your red eyes, you can explore some other potential triggers and seek relief.

Red eyes, or bloodshot eyes, are often caused by external irritants like dust, pollution and allergens like pollen or pet dander. You can mitigate these by keeping a clean and tidy home or office and by making use of air purifiers with HEPA filters to capture tiny particles. And should you notice the problem creeping up, there are various eye drops and eye washes available to help you out when things get bad.

red eyes before and after a wash

Source: sruilk/Shutterstock.com

Your red eyes may also be the sign of an infection or underlying issue. Various forms of inflammation of the eye, from the membrane that coats the eye to the follicles of your eye lashes, can cause red eyes – as can eyelid styes or even rheumatoid arthritis. These sorts of more serious issues likely require medical advice and guidance to treat, so check in with a healthcare professional.

Lastly, dehydration and a simple lack of sleep often results in red eyes, especially in the morning. So don’t blame your daily serving of CBD tincture. Instead, ensure you’re getting a good night’s sleep and hydrating properly. 


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