A 2017 clinical trial published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that CBD was highly effective in reducing seizures in people with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. The FDA subsequently approved an oral CBD solution, called Epidiolex, for treating the rare disease.
According to nonscientific anecdotal evidence, CBD is good for treating discomfort and illness of all kinds. Sufferers of everything from anxiety and aches to epilepsy and cancer are evangelizing for the CBD molecule. But the largely prohibited status of cannabis has prevented many long-term, academically rigorous studies on most cannabinoids in isolation, leaving these anecdotal claims mostly uninvestigated until recently.
Within the CMCR, there is also “much interest in the possible anti-inflammatory effects of CBD, for use in arthritis of various types, including knees and hands,” Atkinson said. Recent in vitro research with human cell lines afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis has suggested that CBD treatment may help reduce inflammation.
Research on CBD
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a trending ingredient the natural products industry and is the focus of a new area of cannabis research. CBD is one of many cannabinoids, or molecules produced uniquely by the cannabis family. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the primary psychoactive element in marijuana), CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t have a strong effect on cognitive brain activity and doesn’t cause the “high” associated with marijuana.
“There is a great deal of interest in the possible therapeutic effects of CBD, but there is very little evidence of efficacy,” said Dr. J Hampton Atkinson, co-director of the Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) at the University of California, San Diego. CBD may have health benefits, but the lack of research in this area means there just aren’t enough data points to support most of the anecdotal claims. Along that same line, the lack of research also means the potential health risks of consuming CBD are unclear.
In the last few years, there have been many advances in cannabis processing and consumption methods. Concentrated products such as oil and rosin (a sap-like product extracted via heat and pressure) have allowed for cleaner ingestion methods, such as vaporization, to become more widespread. These new technologies have brought more consistent, identifiable dosages to patients and enthusiasts alike, while potentially enabling safer methods of consumption. Finally, more accurate and detailed studies of cannabis effects and usage are underway, as prohibition continues to be challenged.
Some research suggests that CBD may reduce anxiety and self-deprecating thoughts, and there’s evidence that CBD has antipsychotic effects in people with schizophrenia. But other studies show no significant benefit of CBD over a placebo.
People taking high doses of CBD may show abnormalities in liver related blood tests. Many non-prescription drugs, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), have this same effect. So, you should let your doctor know if you are regularly using 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, stop them altogether. Epidiolex, which contains CBD, is the first cannabis-derived medicine approved by the FDA for these conditions.
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 be 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.
Is CBD safe?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second most prevalent active ingredient in cannabis (marijuana). While CBD is an essential component of medical marijuana, it is derived directly from the hemp plant, a cousin of marijuana, or manufactured in a laboratory. One of hundreds of components in marijuana, CBD does not cause a “high” by itself. 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.”
The Farm Bill removed all hemp-derived products, including CBD, from the Controlled Substances Act, which criminalizes the possession of drugs. In essence, this means that CBD is legal if it comes from hemp, but not if it comes from cannabis (marijuana) – even though it is the exact same molecule. Currently, many people obtain CBD online without a medical marijuana license, which is legal in most states.
Is cannabidiol legal?
CBD is readily obtainable in most parts of the United States, though its exact legal status has been in flux. All 50 states have laws legalizing CBD with varying degrees of restriction. In December 2015, the FDA eased the regulatory requirements to allow researchers to conduct CBD trials. In 2018, the Farm Bill made hemp legal in the United States, making it virtually impossible to keep CBD illegal – that would be like making oranges legal, but keeping orange juice illegal.
Side effects of CBD include nausea, fatigue and irritability. CBD can increase the level of blood thinning and other medicines in your blood by competing for the liver enzymes that break down these drugs. Grapefruit has a similar effect with certain medicines.