The Highs and Lows of Cannabidiol (CBD)
Is it pot or not?CBD is one of the more than 100 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids that come from marijuana or its close relative hemp (both are varieties of the plant Cannabis sativa). But unlike another well-known compound from the marijuana plant, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn’t get users high. THC produces intoxicating effects when smoked or consumed, such as in brownies or other “edibles.” CBD doesn’t have the same effect as THC on the brain. Hemp also contains a very small amount of THC and is grown for a number of uses, such as making paper and cloth. Hemp is also used as an ingredient in an increasing number of foods and beverages. Hemp is a rich source of CBD. By U.S. law, CBD products (sometimes labeled “CBD oil” or “hemp oil”) derived from hemp plants can contain no more than 0.3 percent THC by weight.
Fuzzy legal statusFederal and state laws are at odds with one another over CBD’s legal status. The federal 2018 Farm Bill gave U.S. farmers the OK to grow and sell hemp. Yet the FDA has approved the use of only one form of CBD, a prescription-only oral solution called Epidiolex, for prevention of epileptic seizures. Because the FDA deems CBD to be an investigational drug, the agency forbids its sale in dietary supplements and foods. (The FDA doesn’t regulate ingredients in beauty products, and so far using CBD in cosmetics isn’t restricted.) To confuse matters further, states often override federal laws, and most allow the sale of products containing CBD oil derived from hemp, though in some states you may need to obtain a note from your doctor and purchase products at a special dispensary. Also, the types of CBD products you can buy depends on where you live. For example, Massachusetts forbids the sale of foods containing CBD, while neighboring New York permits CBD edibles. Three states—Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota—prohibit the sale of cannabis products, although CBD sometimes falls into a gray area of the law. It’s safe to say that state and federal regulators are still sorting out CBD’s legal status, so laws throughout the country will likely evolve.
What might CBD do for you?In 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex for reducing seizures in people with two rare but severe forms of epilepsy. All other alleged health benefits linked to CBD are unproven, despite claims on package labels. Animal studies indicate that CBD appears to have some medicinal properties, such as tamping down inflammation (at least in mice!). As yet, there’s no robust scientific evidence to support most health claims. Here’s what we know about some of the more common reasons people use CBD:
Safety Tips for Buying CBD
Safety Tips for Buying CBD
The fast-growing market for CBD products is largely unregulated, and not all products may be safe. These steps can help you protect yourself.Expand to continue reading
Not to be taken lightlyReviews of multiple small-scale, short-term human studies have found that pharmaceutical-grade CBD is generally safe, but the high-quality products used in most studies may differ from those in over-the-counter CBD products. The World Health Organization (WHO) stated in a 2018 report that “in humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.… To date, there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.” However, the FDA says that evidence is insufficient to deem CBD safe when used as an ingredient in human and animal food. Despite the WHO’s assessment, CBD is not risk-free. If you decide to try CBD, always talk with your doctor first and bear in mind the following potential concerns:
Bottom lineThere isn’t enough evidence yet to recommend CBD for any medical use aside from the epileptic conditions it’s approved for. More research is needed to establish CBD’s safety, including safe and appropriate dosages, interaction with drugs and foods, and other potential side effects. Until then, it pays to approach CBD products with healthy skepticism.This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.Also seeEdible Cannabis Riskier Than Inhaled.