CBD: who knew three letters could be so confusing and so controversial. Some people will say it can cure almost anything, be it pain, anxiety, psychosis, muscle spasms, nervous system degeneration, elevated blood sugar, and even cancer. Others say it’s a scam and they feel nothing when they consume it. Regardless of your opinion, you’ve probably seen your share of local CBD shops, and will likely soon see CBD products at a nearby Walgreens, CVS, or Kroger, all of which are rolling out hemp-derived topical products.
What is CBD?
CBD, short for cannabidoil, is one of the well-known cannabinoids in cannabis. Unlike THC, another popular cannabinoid, CBD has no psychoactive effect on users. There are lots of other cannabinoids out there, you can find a list of the main ones in cannabis here. Critics of CBD argue that some of the miraculous benefits we credit to CBD may be caused by other cannabinoids in the plant, or the interaction of all those cannabinoids.
What’s the difference between hemp and marijuana?
The terms “Hemp” and “Marijuana” refer to different varieties of the cannabis plant. “Hemp” is a term used to classify varieties that contain 0.3% or less THC content. The term generally refers to non-intoxicating Cannabis that is harvested for industrial use, and is turned into products such as rope, clothing, paper, and more.
“Marijuana” s a term used to classify varieties of cannabis that contain more than 0.3% THC and can give users the infamous “high” feeling. Many in the industry perceive this term as inaccurate and instead use the term cannabis.
Does CBD work?
The strongest case for CBD by far is its use as a treatment for childhood epilepsy syndromes, namely Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. The evidence was so overwhelming that the FDA approved the first ever cannabis-derived medicine for these syndromes, Epidiolex, which lists CBD as the sole active ingredient. The case for CBD weakens as proponents expand into other areas of health, depicting it as a one stop shop for any type of ailment you could imagine.
This past week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) backed up this viewpoint by accusing Curaleaf of selling CBD products as “misbranded drugs.” The FDA went on to state that the company was "illegally selling unapproved products containing cannabidiol (CBD) online with unsubstantiated claims that the products treat cancer, Alzheimer's disease, opioid withdrawal, pain and pet anxiety, among other conditions or diseases."
To make any substantive claims, more research into CBD needs to be conducted. Currently, there are close to 200 studies about cannabidoil listed on the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Additionally, there is no uniform testing process in place that guarantees patients know exactly what they are buying. For example, back in 2015, scientists tested 75 different medible products in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. They found that only 17 percent of those products were accurately labeled when it came to cannabinoid concentration.
In the coming years, hopefully more concrete evidence will emerge to reveal the health benefits, or lack thereof, of solely CBD. For now, it appears the marketing far outpaces the science when it comes to these three letters.
Learn more here about getting your medical marijuana card!