The truth is unforgiving. The studies around pure CBD—that is, CBD without THC—are limited due to the fact that some are small and inconsistently designed. Jason White, who chairs the World Health Organization Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, told me in an interview that he believes the number of randomized control trials (RCTS) specific to pure CBD is small, likely fewer than 10. Outside of one prescription drug created to treat two rare pediatric seizure disorders, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not evaluated or approved pure CBD for any therapeutic use. This is a thicket of often conflicting claims.
That’s certainly storybook enough. So, is CBD a miracle cure? Despite its promise, if you’re someone who hopes to read that science proves CBD is a wonder product, I’m afraid this isn’t the place to look.
Why so popular? Well, CBD is being marketed as a health supplement and a medicine, with the ability to reduce inflammation, lessen pain and reduce anxiety as well as to potentially help alleviate other conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, some of the side effects of chemotherapy, and even spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 reclassified hemp from a highly controlled Schedule 1 substance, like marijuana, to an agricultural product that could now be grown and distributed legally.
I visited three stores in the San Diego area. At the Golden State Greens shop, the supervisor, Jake C. told me his customers use CBD primarily for stress, anxiety, insomnia and pain, including several cancer patients who found that the product helped them sleep and perhaps regain some weight they’d lost while undergoing treatments. Shawn McManigal, owner of the Injoi CBD store in La Jolla, said a 92-year-old customer of his stopped taking his constipating pain medications after realizing that CBD gummies relieved the pain and allowed him to rest. “I’m not saying this is a miracle cure,” McManigal told me, “but there is science behind it and it really proves what it does.”
According to a WHO report, CBD is generally well-tolerated with a good safety profile, and in humans it exhibits no effects that would indicate potential for abuse or dependence. The side effects are generally mild and may include sleepiness, diarrhea, mood changes, etc., but concerns exist of potential liver injury, medication interactions, and male fertility issues. White said there is little known about the effects of sustained and/or cumulative use of CBD, or its use in special populations like adolescents, the elderly and pregnant women.
“If you take pure CBD, it’s pretty safe,” said Marcel Bonn-Miller, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. Side effects in the Epidiolex trial included diarrhea, sleepiness, fatigue, weakness, rash, decreased appetite and elevated liver enzymes. Also, the safe amount to consume in a day, or at all during pregnancy, is still not known.
While there is hope for treating other conditions with the plant extract, Epidiolex remains the only CBD-derived drug approved by the F.D.A. Most of the research on cannabidiol has been in animals, and its current popularity has outpaced science. “We don’t have the 101 course on CBD quite figured out yet,” said Ryan Vandrey, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the lesser-known child of the cannabis sativa plant; its more famous sibling, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the active ingredient in pot that catapults users’ “high.” With roots in Central Asia, the plant is believed to have been first used medicinally — or for rituals — around 750 B.C., though there are other estimates too.
Does CBD help sleep and depression?
This year, 1,090 people have contacted poison control centers about CBD, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Over a third are estimated to have received medical attention, and 46 were admitted into a critical care unit, possibly because of exposure to other products, or drug interactions. In addition, concern over 318 animals poured into the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Animal Poison Control Center.
Many soldiers return home haunted by war and PTSD and often avoid certain activities, places or people associated with their traumatic events. The Department of Veterans Affairs is funding its first study on CBD, pairing it with psychotherapy.
Just as hemp seedlings are sprouting up across the United States, so is the marketing. From oils and nasal sprays to lollipops and suppositories, it seems no place is too sacred for CBD. “It’s the monster that has taken over the room,” Dr. Brad Ingram, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said about all the wild uses for CBD now. He is leading a clinical trial into administering CBD to children and teenagers with drug-resistant epilepsy.
Facts about wellness.
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Cannabidiol (CBD) has been recently covered in the media, and you may have even seen it as an add-in booster to your post-workout smoothie or morning coffee. What exactly is CBD? Why is it suddenly so popular?
CBD may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain. A study from the European Journal of Pain showed, using an animal model, CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Another study demonstrated the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. More study in humans is needed in this area to substantiate the claims of CBD proponents about pain control.
The bottom line on cannabidiol
Side effects of CBD include nausea, fatigue and irritability. CBD can increase the level in your blood of the blood thinner coumadin, and it can raise levels of certain other medications in your blood by the exact same mechanism that grapefruit juice does. A significant safety concern with CBD is that it is primarily marketed and sold as a supplement, not a medication. Currently, the FDA does not regulate the safety and purity of dietary supplements. So, you cannot know for sure that the product you buy has active ingredients at the dose listed on the label. In addition, the product may contain other (unknown) elements. We also don’t know the most effective therapeutic dose of CBD for any particular medical condition.
Some CBD manufacturers have come under government scrutiny for wild, indefensible claims, such that CBD is a cure-all for cancer, which it is not. We need more research but CBD may be prove to be an option for managing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. Without sufficient high-quality evidence in human studies we can’t pinpoint effective doses, and because CBD is currently is mostly available as an unregulated supplement, it’s difficult to know exactly what you are getting. If you decide to try CBD, talk with your doctor — if for no other reason than to make sure it won’t affect other medications you are taking.
CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of cannabis (marijuana). While CBD is an essential component of medical marijuana, it is derived directly from the hemp plant, which is a cousin of the marijuana plant. While CBD is a component of marijuana (one of hundreds), by itself it does not cause a "high." According to a report from the World Health Organization, "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."
CBD has been touted for a wide variety of health issues, but the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications. In numerous studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and, in some cases, it was able to stop them altogether. Videos of the effects of CBD on these children and their seizures are readily available on the Internet for viewing, and they are quite striking. Recently the FDA approved the first ever cannabis-derived medicine for these conditions, Epidiolex, which contains CBD.