Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, has grown in popularity over the past few years. But what really is CBD, is it actually beneficial for you, and is it marijuana? While, yes, CBD is a component of marijuana, it can be derived from either the hemp plant or the marijuana plant1. Also, unlike marijuana, CBD by itself will not give you a “high” or any feeling of intoxication1. CBD can be administered in many ways, including ingestion, sublingual, topical, and inhalation2. It can be ingested in the form of a capsule or infused beverage or edible. It can also be taken via oil droplets under the tongue, or topically via lotions and salves. Finally, it can be inhaled by vaporizing the oil2. Method of consumption is completely up to the user and what he or she is comfortable with and feels is most effective.
Some may have concerns about the legality of CBD. While CBD is readily obtainable in most states in the US, the exact legal status is a little fuzzy. All 50 states have laws legalizing CBD but with varying degrees of restrictions1. If you want to be extra cautious, check the laws in your state before purchasing and using any CBD products.
Okay, so now that’s out of the way, is CBD really all it’s cracked up to be? Can it actually help with depression, anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy, pain, gastrointestinal upset, and the wealth of other claims that have circulated the internet at one point or another?
Well, the strongest evidence for CBD is for its effectiveness in treating and controlling seizures caused by childhood epilepsy syndromes1. Studies also suggest that CBD can help with anxiety, falling asleep and staying asleep, and reducing pain and inflammation caused by arthritis and neuropathy1. Unfortunately, CBD’s popularity has outpaced science, and there is much more research to be done regarding its effectiveness for treating these conditions and others2. Although there are clinical trials currently underway, it will take some time for science to catch up with all of the claims swirling the internet.
Perhaps the most important question about CBD is, is it safe? Experts say that if you take pure CBD, it’s pretty safe3. As with any supplement, though, CBD can have side effects, including: nausea, fatigue, and irritability1. CBD can also increase your levels of coumadin, a blood thinner, and can “raise certain levels of other medications in your blood by the exact same mechanism that grapefruit juice does”3. Generally speaking, though, CBD is considered safe, even at high doses4.
In response to consumer demand, the CBD industry is flourishing, but this has also led to an influx of unregulated products on the market. Because CBD is marketed as a supplement as opposed to a medication, the FDA does not regulate its purity or safety. This means that consumers cannot be certain that the product purchased has active ingredients at the dosage listed, or contains any other additional elements1. With that being said, there is an enormous number of products out there to choose from.
What to look for
It’s the Wild Wild West in terms of what’s being sold out there for CBD products, and so it’s important to understand how they are manufactured and tested. Look for low-temperature and/or CO2 extracted products, cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices), and certificates of analyses. The following products have been tested by an independent lab to verify the level of CBD compared to what is indicated on the label. These products have also been tested for contamination with lead, cadmium and arsenic.
In short, while we need more research on CBD and its effectiveness and dosage, it can certainly be a viable option for managing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. As always, if you’re interested in trying CBD, talk to your doctor first, and never use CBD as a substitute for appropriate mental health care.
1. Peter Grinspoon, MD. “Cannabidiol (CBD) – What We Know and What We Don’t.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, 22 Apr. 2020, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476.
2. “How to Take CBD Oil: Ingestion, Sublingual, Topical and Inhalation Options.” ECHO Connection, 13 Dec. 2017, echoconnection.org/how-take-cbd-oil-options/.
3. Mackeen, D. (2019, October 16). What Are the Benefits of CBD? Retrieved July 24, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/16/style/self-care/cbd-oil-benefits.html
4. Velasquez-Manoff, M. (2019, May 15). Can CBD Really Do All That? Retrieved July 24, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/05/14/magazine/cbd-cannabis-cure.html