Can CBD Help With Asperger’s Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder)?

  • Asperger’s syndrome (AS) was categorized as a discrete form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) until 2013. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) has removed AS as a diagnostic label and integrated the category into ASD (1).
  • A dysfunctional endocannabinoid system (ECS) may be linked to ASD (2). CBD, which modulates the endocannabinoid system (ECS) (3), may help with ASD.  
  • A 2019 study shared in Frontiers of Pharmacology noted that CBD use in children led to significant improvements in ASD symptoms (4), such as anxiety and sleep problems. 
  • CBD may be beneficial for mental health by reducing anxiety and sleep disruptions (5). CBD’s therapeutic potential may also help improve sleep, motivating autistic children to socialize more (6)
  • However, human studies on CBD’s potential effects on ASD have several limitations due to lack of precise measuring tools for symptoms’ improvements (7).

Can CBD Really Help With Asperger’s Syndrome?

Since Asperger’s syndrome is no longer a clinical term, this article shall discuss how CBD may help with autism spectrum disorder.  

Autism spectrum disorder is classified as a developmental disorder wherein children have difficulties making eye contact, nonverbal communication, social anxiety, and repetitive behaviors and patterns (8). Diagnosis is complex and often requires a specialist to administer and interpret testing.

There is a lack of comprehensive study on how cannabidiol (CBD) might affect individuals with AS. However, some researchers demonstrated CBD’s promising results from studies on children with autism and young adults.

A recent study published in Frontiers of Pharmacology mentioned that the majority of 53 children and young adults from a clinical trial showed significant improvements in ASD symptoms (9)

The authors specified that among the 53 individuals (ages 4-22), 74.5% showed improvements in overall autism symptoms, such as hyperactivity, tantrums, self-injury, attacks, sleep problems, and anxiety.

The authors also explained that the CBD treatment displayed a slightly higher improvement rate than the conventional treatment. However, the rate of improvement in anxiety symptoms remains the same.

Moreover, the authors added that the test subjects displayed mild improvements in social skills. The study suggested that better sleep quality among children with ASD might motivate social interaction with family members or caregivers. 

Based on the parent’s reports, CBD might improve ASD symptoms. However, this is considered anecdotal evidence. More research is essential in evaluating the effects of long-term CBD use (10)

Researchers have studied CBD for its anxiolytic, antiemetic, and antipsychotic properties (11).

A 2019 study from the Permanente Journal has shown that CBD might be beneficial in improving mental health. The study demonstrated improvements in anxiety and sleep disruptions among healthy adults following a month of daily CBD intake (12)

CBD has also been shown to improve numerous health conditions, such as neurodegenerative diseases, obesity, chronic pain, and addiction (13).  

The previous studies mentioned might be an indication that CBD might improve symptoms of ASD. However, the authors also expounded that there are several limitations in the study because improvements were reported by the test subjects’ parents. 

How CBD Oil Works to Help With Autism Spectrum Disorder

The human endocannabinoid system (ECS)  is a neuromodulatory system composed of G-protein-coupled receptors, cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2). 

Cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the human body. Most are present in the central nervous system (CNS), immune system, and peripheral organs (14).

Many researchers have studied how modulating the ECS might result in several therapeutic promises in a wide range of conditions and diseases (15)

A study posted in the British Journal of Pharmacology explained how cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), may have an affinity to CB1 and CB2 receptors (16).  

The authors mentioned that CBD, even with its low affinity to CB1 and CB2 receptors, might play a role in modulating the ECS.

This affinity has been shared by a study published in the Journal of Neurological Sciences. The study demonstrated that a dysfunctional ECS might be implicated in autism spectrum disorder (17)

The ECS is involved in the regulation of behavioral, social, and emotional response. The ECS may also be responsible for modulating subsets of ASD patients, such as anxiety, seizures, intellectual disabilities, and sleep disturbances (18)

A 2016 animal study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research suggested that increased anandamide (stimulation) of the CB1 receptors might improve ASD-related social impairment. The authors added that this activity might also be a therapeutic target for ASD (19).

Moreover, a cross-study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders mentioned that endocannabinoids might modulate ASD symptoms by interacting with the immune system cells (20)

The authors added the ECS might influence immunological dysfunctions associated with ASD (21)

Another study shared in Neuron supported the previous studies’ findings. The authors concurred that the ECS is involved in modulating cellular functions and molecular pathways (22).

Although researchers agree that the ECS is modulatory by nature, its mechanism behind the influence of ASD behaviors has only been conducted in animal studies. 

There is little information on ECS’ possible mechanism that could affect ASD symptoms in humans. 

The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Asperger’s Syndrome

The Pros

  • Asperger’s syndrome is a mild form of ASD. A clinical test of CBD on 53 children showed significant improvements in ASD symptoms (23)
  • CBD might be beneficial for mental health by improving anxiety and sleep disruptions (24)
  • Studies suggested that CBD’s therapeutic potential in improving sleep problems might help motivate autistic children to socialize more (25).
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged CBD as safe and well-tolerated for daily use (26).  

The Cons

  • In a clinical study, parents of children reported adverse effects, such as drowsiness and change in appetite (27).
  • The clinical study on children with ASD has several limitations. All the information collected was based on parents’ reports. No objective assessment tool was used to measure changes in symptoms (28)
  • The mechanisms by which CBD might stimulate cannabinoid receptors and modulate ASD symptoms were done on animal studies. No definitive pathological studies on human subjects have been conducted at this time (29).
  • CBD may cause adverse effects, such as dry mouth, diarrhea, and loss of appetite (30).
  • According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), CBD may cause liver injury if consumed in extremely high doses (31).

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Asperger’s Syndrome

There are no established medications that specifically target AS. Occasionally, antipsychotics can be prescribed and are FDA-approved only for irritability in ASD. 

Treatment is largely focused on behavioral, speech, occupational, and physical therapies, and special education depending on the needs of the child. Several other alternative methods have been informally used in treating ASD.

These treatments may include special diets, omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, and herbal medicines (borneol and borax). 

The omega-3 fatty acid is one of the most popular dietary supplements for individuals with ASD

Although omega-3 fatty acid is commonly known for its benefits on brain development and function, the hypothesis behind its use on ASD is still not supported by scientific studies (32)

Like omega-3 fatty acids, CBD oil has been shown to have some neurological benefits (33)

Researchers acknowledged that CBD might possess neurogenesis and neuroprotective properties. Moreover, CBD has also been demonstrated to act as an analgesic during animal and human studies (34)

Like CBD, flavonoid compounds and herbs (borneol, and borax) are used for their supposed anti-inflammation properties (35). However, the claims made for using these alternative remedies are not supported by scientific evidence. 

How to Choose the Best CBD Oil for Asperger’s Syndrome

A 2019 study published in Scientific Reports mentioned that a clinical test using cannabis oil on ASD patients showed moderate improvements in symptoms after six months (36)

In the study, most of the patients were treated with 30% CBD and 1.5% THC

In the United States, CBD products are prohibited from containing more than 0.3% THC. Meanwhile, tinctures with more than 30% CBD concentration are available in the market. 

Parents or individuals looking into the benefits of cannabis oil for ASD may find almost the same compounds in full-spectrum CBD oil (37)

Cannabinoids in full-spectrum CBD oil are cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

The broad-spectrum CBD oil contains all the cannabinoids except for THC. Broad-spectrum oil is recommended for individuals who do not want or cannot tolerate THC in their system.

Lastly, CBD isolate (pure CBD) is available for individuals who cannot tolerate other cannabinoids.

CBD Dosage for Asperger’s Syndrome

There is no universal dosage for CBD. However, caution is advised due to the lack of studies on how CBD might affect the individual with ASD

A recent study from Frontiers of Pharmacology recommended a daily dose of 16mg/kg (milligram per kilogram) (38)

Another study posted in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology recommended a dosage of less than 1 milligram to 50 milligrams per kilogram per day (39).

A high CBD dosage is not recommended due to a lack of information on how CBD may affect symptoms of AS. Moreover, the FDA issued a warning that a high CBD dosage can lead to liver injury (40). Other mild side effects may also occur.

How to Take CBD Oil for Asperger’s Syndrome

The main factor to consider when administering CBD oil to young individuals with AS is cooperation. CBD oil tinctures, due to its distinct earthy and grassy taste, may be challenging to administer to children with autism spectrum disorder.

When taking CBD oil for AS, the fastest delivery method is through CBD tinctures. If parents can get the cooperation of the child, sublingual delivery may be used. 

The sublingual delivery method can be done by putting a few drops of CBD oil under the tongue. CBD oil can also be mixed into food or beverages.

CBD gummies are also recommended. An individual with ASD can simply eat the CBD gummy as they would a regular candy. 

Vaporization is another fast delivery method. However, this method may not be for everyone and is certainly not recommended for children. Vaping can potentially cause harm, such as chemical irritation, shortness of breath, allergic reactions, and chest pains (41).

Individuals should discuss their treatment options with a medical professional before using CBD to treat ASD or for any reason.

FAQ

Can Environmental Factors Influence Risks of Autism?

Harmful environmental factors can influence the development of critical genes during critical periods of embryo formation. This influence increases the risk of the incidence of autism (42).

  • The mother’s physical and mental health – Certain infections like rubella and a family history of ASD may increase risk, indicating a likely genetic component. 
  • Lack of prenatal vitamins – Taking insufficient prenatal vitamins, that include folate, could possibly be linked to autism risk
  • Socioeconomic status – There is an increased risk of autism when the mother is exposed to stress and anxiety.
  • Postnatal risk – Low birth weight, postnatal infection, and jaundice may increase the risk of autism. 
  • Age – Studies have found that mothers who are 34 years or older might have a higher risk of having an autistic child compared to mothers who are 25-29 years old (43).

Are There Treatments Available for Autism?

There are no known definitive treatments that can cure an individual of autism. 

However, early behavioral interventions have been proven to improve communication skills and maximize an individual’s ability to function in society (44)

Not much is known about how older children with ASD might respond to behavioral interventions.

Are CBD Oil and Medical Marijuana the Same?

CBD oil is a cannabinoid that can be found in cannabis plants, mostly from Cannabis sativa or hemp. 

Manufacturers derive the compound from hemp plants to make a more concentrated version without the psychoactive effects that one may get in medical marijuana or medical cannabis

In the US, it is illegal for CBD oil to contain more than 0.3% THC, which causes psychoactive effects. 

Depending on the cannabis strains used, some medical marijuana might contain as much as 17-28% THC (45). Some states in the US allow recreational and medicinal use for cannabis (46).

Cannabis treatments are not recommended for ASD due to a lack of knowledge of how it might affect the individual.

Individuals can monitor how much THC is in their CBD oil by checking the certificate of analysis (COA). The COA is a third-party lab result that indicates how much cannabinoids are in the product.

Can CBD Oil Interact With ASD Medication?

Before using CBD oil for autism, parents must first consult with the child’s physician. CBD oil might interact with risperidone, an antipsychotic drug to treat irritability in children with ASD

Risperidone, together with CBD, might increase the risk of side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion (47)

Conclusion

Asperger’s syndrome is one of several forms of autism spectrum disorder. There is a lack of specific studies on how CBD might affect individuals with AS.

Researchers have shown that CBD might have therapeutic potential in treating symptoms of ASD (48)

However, even with parents’ testimonials, a more precise measuring system is needed to verify improvement in symptoms scientifically.

Also, definitive clinical studies without limitations are needed to verify CBD‘s efficacy and tolerability of individuals with ASD

Parents or individuals must consult with a developmental pediatrician before using CBD oil for autism.


  1. The National Institute of Health. Asperger Syndrome. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557548/
  2. G. Kuester, K. Vergara, A. Ahumad, A.M. Gazmuri., (2017)., Journal of Neurological Sciences., Oral cannabis extracts as a promising treatment for the core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder: Preliminary experience in Chilean patients. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jns.2017.08.2623
  3. Wei, D., Dinh, D., Lee, D., Li, D., Anguren, A., Moreno-Sanz, G., Gall, C. M., & Piomelli, D. (2016). Enhancement of Anandamide-Mediated Endocannabinoid Signaling Corrects Autism-Related Social Impairment. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 1(1), 81–89. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2015.0008
  4. Barchel, D., Stolar, O., De-Haan, T., Ziv-Baran, T., Saban, N., Fuchs, D. O., Koren, G., & Berkovitch, M. (2019). Oral Cannabidiol Use in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder to Treat Related Symptoms and Co-morbidities. Frontiers in pharmacology, 9, 1521. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2018.01521
  5. Shannon, S., (2019)., Op cit.
  6. Barchel, D.,(2019)., Op cit.
  7. The Mayo Clinic. Autism Spectrum Disorder Overview. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352928#:~:text=Some%20people%20still%20use%20the,and%20at%20work%2C%20for%20example.
  8. Barchel, D., (2019)., Op cit.
  9. Ibid
  10. Ibid
  11. Detyniecki, K., & Hirsch, L. (2015). Marijuana Use in Epilepsy: The Myth and the Reality. Current neurology and neuroscience reports, 15(10), 65. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11910-015-0586-5
  12. Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente journal, 23, 18–041. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/18-041
  13. Kogan, N. M., & Mechoulam, R. (2007). Cannabinoids in health and disease. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 9(4), 413–430. PMCID: PMC3202504
  14. Pacher, P., Bátkai, S., & Kunos, G. (2006). The endocannabinoid system as an emerging target of pharmacotherapy. Pharmacological reviews, 58(3), 389–462. https://doi.org/10.1124/pr.58.3.2
  15. Ibid
  16. Pertwee R. G. (2008). The diverse CB1 and CB2 receptor pharmacology of three plant cannabinoids: delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol and delta9-tetrahydrocannabivarin. British journal of pharmacology, 153(2), 199–215. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bjp.0707442
  17. G. Kuester, K. (2017)., Op cit.
  18. Zamberletti, E., Gabaglio, M., & Parolaro, D. (2017). The Endocannabinoid System and Autism Spectrum Disorders: Insights from Animal Models. International journal of molecular sciences, 18(9), 1916. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms18091916
  19. Wei, D., (2016). Op cit.
  20. Siniscalco, D., Sapone, A., Giordano, C., Cirillo, A., de Magistris, L., Rossi, F., Fasano, A., Bradstreet, J. J., Maione, S., & Antonucci, N. (2013). Cannabinoid receptor type 2, but not type 1, is up-regulated in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of children affected by autistic disorders. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 43(11), 2686–2695. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-013-1824-9
  21. Ibid
  22. Castillo, P. E., Younts, T. J., Chávez, A. E., & Hashimotodani, Y. (2012). Endocannabinoid signaling and synaptic function. Neuron, 76(1), 70–81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2012.09.020
  23. Barchel, D., (2019)., Op cit.
  24. Shannon, S., (2019)., Op cit.
  25. Barchel, D., (2019)., Op cit.
  26. WHO. Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. (2017, Nov 6-10). Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/5.2_CBD.pdf.
  27. Barchel, D., (2019)., Op cit.
  28. Ibid
  29. G. Kuester, K. (2017)., Op cit.
  30. Bauer, B. (2018, Dec 20). What are the benefits of CBD — and is it safe to use? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/is-cbd-safe-and-effective/faq-20446700
  31. FDA. What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis
  32. Posar, A., & Visconti, P. (2016). Omega-3 supplementation in autism spectrum disorders: A still open question?. Journal of pediatric neurosciences, 11(3), 225–227. https://doi.org/10.4103/1817-1745.193363
  33. Prenderville, J. A., Kelly, Á. M., & Downer, E. J. (2015). The role of cannabinoids in adult neurogenesis. British journal of pharmacology, 172(16), 3950–3963. https://doi.org/10.1111/bph.13186
  34. Maroon, J., & Bost, J. (2018). Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids. Surgical neurology international, 9, 91. https://doi.org/10.4103/sni.sni_45_18
  35. Brondino, N., Fusar-Poli, L., Rocchetti, M., Provenzani, U., Barale, F., & Politi, P. (2015). Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2015, 258589. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/258589
  36. Bar-Lev Schleider, L., Mechoulam, R., Saban, N., Meiri, G., & Novack, V. (2019). Real life Experience of Medical Cannabis Treatment in Autism: Analysis of Safety and Efficacy. Scientific reports, 9(1), 200. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-37570-y
  37. De Petrocellis, L., Ligresti, A., Moriello, A. S., Allarà, M., Bisogno, T., Petrosino, S., Stott, C. G., & Di Marzo, V. (2011). Effects of cannabinoids and cannabinoid-enriched Cannabis extracts on TRP channels and endocannabinoid metabolic enzymes. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1479–1494. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.01166.x
  38. Barchel, D., (2019)., Op cit.
  39. Millar SA, Stone NL, Bellman ZD, Yates AS, England TJ, O’Sullivan SE. A systematic review of cannabidiol dosing in clinical populations. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2019;85(9):1888-1900. doi:10.1111/bcp.14038
  40. FDA. What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out)., Op cit.
  41. Shmerling, R.H., Can Vaping Damage Your Lungs? (2019)., Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-vaping-damage-your-lungs-what-we-do-and-dont-know-2019090417734
  42. Karimi, P., Kamali, E., Mousavi, S. M., & Karahmadi, M. (2017). Environmental factors influencing the risk of autism. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 22, 27. https://doi.org/10.4103/1735-1995.200272
  43. Ibid
  44. Dawson, G., Jones, E. J., Merkle, K., Venema, K., Lowy, R., Faja, S., Kamara, D., Murias, M., Greenson, J., Winter, J., Smith, M., Rogers, S. J., & Webb, S. J. (2012). Early behavioral intervention is associated with normalized brain activity in young children with autism. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(11), 1150–1159. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2012.08.018
  45. Stuyt E. (2018). The Problem with the Current High Potency THC Marijuana from the Perspective of an Addiction Psychiatrist. Missouri medicine, 115(6), 482–486.
  46. DEA., Drug Fact Sheet., Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Marijuana-Cannabis-2020_0.pdf
  47. Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034
  48. Barchel, D., (2019)., Op cit.
CBD Clinicals is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Featured Posts


Spruce CBD Review

Spruce is a family-owned business based out of Raleigh, North Carolina. The company was founded in 2018 in the belief that modern medicine is broken and that there is a need for alternatives to dangerous pharmaceuticals. Spruce’s lab-grade CBD oil is 100% natural and tested by a third-party lab in...

Read more

Best CBD Oil for High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Why People Are Taking CBD for High Blood Pressure? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high blood pressure can harden the arteries, which decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart, leading to heart disease(5). In a 2015 study conducted by researchers from the...

Read more

CBDistillery Review 2020

CBDistillery is a U.S. Hemp Authority-, GMP-, GRAS-, and ISO-certified CBD brand in Colorado. It was created with the belief that everyone should have access to quality products and information on CBD.

Read more

Top 4 Best CBD Oil for Dogs With Cancer

Why Some People are Using CBD for Dogs with Cancer? An article posted by the American Kennel Club (AKC) says that there is no conclusive scientific data on using cannabidiol (CBD) to treat dogs specifically. However, there is anecdotal evidence from dog owners suggesting that CBD can help with neuropathic...

Read more

NuLeaf Naturals Review

NuLeaf Naturals claims to specially breed the therapeutic hemp grown on licensed Colorado farms for its wellness products. 

Read more

CBD Oil for Kids with Anxiety

Why People are Turning to CBD for Children with Anxiety? CBD has become a popular OTC treatment that parents give their children, says Doris Trauner, M.D., professor of neurosciences and pediatrics at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and a physician at San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital....

Read more

SabaiDee CBD Reviews

SabaiDee CBD products are tested both in-house and by independent laboratories to verify the quality of every batch. Their products all come with SabaiDee’s Happiness Guarantee. 

Read more

Best CBD for Neuropathy (Nerve Pain)

As medical cannabis products have become more popular, people are turning to them to treat everything from anxiety to depression to chronic pain. Individuals who are suffering from neuropathy may show interest in trying CBD oil. What Is CBD? CBD comes from a plant that is part of the Cannabaceae...

Read more

CBD for Acid Reflux

CBD may show a promising position to help address acid reflux. Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD modulates the movement and volatility of intestinal propulsions. CBD interacts with the surrounding soft muscles of the gastrointestinal system that results in the relaxation and contraction of the muscles.

Read more