CBD – The next ingredient frontier

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the new rage with oils, tonics, and tinctures popping for sale, but what do we know about this trending ingredient? In this post, we take a new look at CBD.

Updated: August 10, 2020

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the new rage with oils, tonics, and tinctures popping for sale online, in coffee shops, and at other, sometimes strange locations. It’s pitched as a miracle cure for everything from cancer to anxiety to chronic pain, and the CBD market continues to grow rapidly in the United States, in part, due to the passing of the 2018 United States farm bill, which legalized hemp plants in all forms.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s legal to consume in all states and in all forms. The laws are currently complicated and continuing to evolve. Still, with consumer trust and no signs that CBD sales will decline, we believe it’s prudent to explore the science behind CBD to separate the facts from myth.

What is cannabidiol? 

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of more than 113 structurally similar cannabinoids derived from cannabis plants. CBD in a purified form doesSubscribe for weekly updates_ go.msu.edu/cris-connect not contain enough Δ⁹—tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to cause psychotropic effects (e.g., get high). Without THC, people using pure CBD products do not experience a “high” when consumed.

What are the sources of CBD?

Manufacturers derive CBD from either hemp or marijuana plants. However, manufacturers making and selling legal CBD products in the United States derive their CBD from Sativa hemp plants using many different processes.

What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?

Hemp and marijuana plants are both members of the cannabis family; however, they are genetically distant variations possessing different properties.

Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC meaning it does not cause humans to feel high. Unless bred otherwise, marijuana plants contain THC at levels that cause users to feel high.

People consume the vast majority of marijuana plants because they produce THC and CBD at varying levels depending on the plant. While it is possible to derive psychotropic inert CBD from marijuana plants, this is illegal in many U.S. States.

In the United States, only CBD derived from hemp is federally legal and available for sale in some states. Other hybrid CBD/THC products are available in states with medicinal and/or recreational marijuana laws.

Is there truth to the health claims? 

CBD health claims is an area where research opportunities abound. Current research is limited, but it suggests that CBD and some CBD/THC hybrid compounds may alleviate inflammation, spasticity, pain, anxiety, depression, symptoms of epilepsy, as well as providing neuroprotection.

Research is still in its early stages concerning the ever-expanding list of beneficial, but for the most part, unsubstantiated health claims.

Are there any government approved CBD therapeutics on the market?

Yes, there are two drugs on the market that contain CBD or CBD/THC hybrid compounds. 

  • Epidiolex is a prescription medication used to treat two rare forms of childhood epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and Dravet syndrome. It contains purified CBD to alleviate symptoms.
  • Nabiximols (Sativex) is a prescription medication used for multiple sclerosis patients experiencing neuropathic pain, spasticity, overactive bladder, and other symptoms. It contains both THC and CBD to alleviate symptoms. It is awaiting FDA approval for use in the U.S.; however, it is available in many countries throughout Europe, Canada, and Australia. 

A word of caution. 

While there is scientific evidence supporting specific CBD health claims (e.g., Epidiolex for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome), the U.S. FDA does not currently regulate over-the-counter CBD products. Additionally, most CBD products have not undergone purity or potency testing.

Additionally, in these non-medical grade products, there are often no recommended dosage outlines to guide users taking these products for specific ailments.

While some companies independently test their products and develop usage guidelines, without purity testing, standardization, and additional research, consumers of CBD products marketed as remedies and supplements will continue to self-medicate with CBD products in hopes of curing their ailments; most to no avail.

The good news. 

At CRIS, we are currently preparing a white paper where we review and discuss the current state-of-the-science concerning the evidence for potential health benefits and safety of consumer CBD products.

We’ve also undertaken two research projects to address critical data gaps in the safety of this phytocannabinoid.

Project Goal: Assess the effect of CBD on human inflammation

Based on the reported immune-modulating properties of CBD, our first project investigates the effects of CBD on human immunity, specifically human peripheral blood monocyte inflammatory responses. The study employs a comprehensive panel of pathogen-associated molecular patterns that activate monocytes to become inflammatory, by mimicking their encounter with different types of live pathogens, upon which the effects of CBD are being assessed.  Learn More at http://go.msu.edu/cris-research.

Project Goal: Assess the effect of CBD on human liver function

Our second project evaluates the effects of CBD on liver cells at concentrations relevant to human exposure and is based on reported adverse effects associated with Epidiolex (therapeutic CBD). This study uses a type of human liver cell, termed HepaRG, which is recognized for its similarities to primary liver cells (obtained directly from a human liver). Learn More at http://go.msu.edu/cris-research.

Results and findings from both projects will be shared upon acceptance of the peer-reviewed literature.


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