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?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the new rage with oils, tonics, and tinctures popping for sale online, in coffee shops, and at other, sometimes strange, locations. Pitched as a miracle cure for everything from cancer to anxiety to chronic pain, 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.

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 does not contain enough Δ⁹—tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to cause psychotropic effects (e.g., get high). This means with pure CBD products people do not experience a “high” when consumed.

What are the sources of CBD?

CBD can be derived from either hemp or marijuana plants; however, the legal CBD products made in the United States are derived from sativa hemp plants using many different processes.

What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?

Hemp and marijuana plants are both part 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.

The vast majority of marijuana plants are consumed 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 every state. Other, hybrid CBD/THC products are available in states with medicinal and/or recreational marijuana laws.

Is there truth to the health claims? 

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

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

Are there any government approved CBD therapeutics on the market?

Yes, there are two new 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, in Canada, and Australia. 

Words 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), current over-the-counter CBD products are not regulated by the U.S. FDA and are not required to undergo purity testing.

Additionally, in these non-medical grade products, there are 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-dose CBD products in hopes of curing their ailments; most to no avail.


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