.you may have seen it at a neighborhood health store, local spa, or corner cafe. CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is mixed into cocktails, lotions and beverages.
But what exactly is CBD? Are there any real health benefits? Is it safe at all?
To better understand the compound, TIME spoke with two scientists who are the latest CBD researchers: Dr. Esther Blessing, an associate professor of psychiatry at New York University, and Margaret Haney, a professor of neurobiology at Columbia University Medical Center. director of the marijuana research laboratory at the university.
Blessing and Haney agree that current evidence suggests that CBD shows promise in helping to treat certain diseases. In June 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first cannabis-derived drug, Epidiolex, which contains purified CBD, to treat some rare childhood seizures. However, much of the research on CBD is only at a very early stage, and scientists still don’t know much about it – including whether it has negative long-term effects.
On top of that, CBD, which is available in stores and online, is not regulated by the government – which means it may contain other ingredients or even no CBD at all, Blessing said. Haney warns that much of the CBD on the market could be snake oil.
Here’s what you need to know about CBD.
How is CBD different from marijuana?
The drug marijuana, also known as weed or potted plant, is the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant.
Cannabidiol is a naturally occurring compound found in cannabis plants. CBD can be derived from the same plant as marijuana or from hemp, another cannabis plant that is now legal in the United States.
Hemp has very low levels of another cannabis compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. Evidence suggests that THC, not CBD, causes symptoms that people associate with marijuana addiction, Blessing said. Unlike marijuana, which the CDC claims is addictive, CBD does not appear to be, according to the World Health Organization.
What is CBD oil?
In theory, CBD oil should consist of two main ingredients: the compound cannabidiol dissolved in an oil made from hemp seeds or coconut.
However, all CBD products on the market (except Epidiolex) are almost completely unregulated. The products may not contain the advertised amount of CBD and may even contain unwanted ingredients such as THC, Haney said.
Patients who take CBD without knowing what they are getting are “just throwing away their money,” says Haney.
“It’s unfortunate that there aren’t many options for consumers to ensure that the CBD they buy is safe – or even has CBD in it,” says Blessing.
Does CBD oil have health benefits?
Companies that sell CBD oil make a wide variety of claims about it. However, scientists and doctors emphasize that CBD research is limited and delayed in the United States by federal restrictions.
Researchers say there is growing evidence that CBD can treat diseases other than seizure syndromes, but they point out that research is at a very early stage.
CBD is in early clinical trials for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia, says Blessing, who is currently investigating whether CBD can be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in people with alcohol use.
Blessing says CBD shows a lot of promise and is disappointed that the federal government is making it difficult for scientists to get different strains of CBD. “My opinion is that the government needs to be strengthened so that we can do clinical trials and reveal this to the people,” Blessing said.
Blessing says she first became interested in CBD because she saw it used in early research to treat people with psychosis. She explains that unlike FDA-approved antipsychotic drugs, which can cause weight gain and other side effects, CBD does not appear to have major side effects.
Other evidence suggests that CBD can also be used to treat anxiety, but has only been tested in animals and in very early human clinical trials.
Haney says she believes CBD promises to help treat cognitive symptoms associated with HIV and Alzheimer’s, and to treat neuropathic pain (pain from damage to the nervous system that can be caused by diabetes, chemotherapy or HIV). Research continues in all these areas.
However, Haney emphasizes that much is still unknown about CBD – including the effects of long-term use, how it affects the brain or its effect on brain development.
Why do people use CBD products?
Scientists are looking for a wide range of CBD applications. However, Haney and Blessing say that with the exception of the drug Epidiolex, there are only a limited number of studies that suggest that CBD can be used to treat other diseases.
Although most researchers agree that much more research is needed before CBD can be prescribed to patients, for some people who sell CBD, personal and word-of-mouth experience is enough to convince them that it is effective. .
Lisa Richards of Denver, Colorado is a longtime yoga teacher and co-founder of L’eela CBD Body Care, which sells CBD capsules and serums. Richards says her own experience with CBD has convinced her that it is effective.
“I am a believer, obviously. I can say absolutely for myself, it works, “says Richards. “I have arthritis in my knee. If I don’t take CBD, I’ll feel like it’s coming back in a day or two. “
Richards says he prefers to use products in which he can actually identify the ingredients.
“I think simpler is better. If I can’t say it, if I can’t say what it is, I stay away from it, “Richards said.
However, Haney warns that consumers should be careful with personal testimonials and anecdotes that companies offer. “It’s important to be aware of the huge placebo effect,” Haney said. Traders’ claims are “not based on science.”
Is CBD legal?
CBD is in the legal gray area. CBD, which is derived from hemp (which must have an extremely low level of THC), became legal nationally only after the adoption of the Law on Agricultural Improvement – better known as the Law on Agricultural Holdings – in December 2018..
CBD, which is extracted from other cannabis plants, is still illegal at the federal level, but may be legal under state law.
However, businesses can get into trouble when they make false claims about the health benefits of CBD or when they add CBD to food.
In recent months, both cities and states have moved to control how CBD is sold. Maine and New York have moved into the fight against edible products containing CBD. The New York Health Department confirmed to New York times that it began ordering restaurants to stop selling CBD-containing foods because they were not “considered safe as a dietary supplement.”
Companies also cannot legally make unproven health claims about CBD.
Blessing says she is concerned that some people who buy unregulated CBD have “real medical needs” and will not seek proven treatments.
“It can be spent by people who sell unregulated forms of CBD and don’t get the treatment they need,” Blessing said.
What are the risks of using CBD oil?
Current evidence suggests that the active ingredient in CBD oil is safe, Blessing said, although there may be serious interactions if taken with other drugs.
Haney says more research is needed to determine if it has long-term effects or affects brain development.
“There is nothing humiliating; we really just don’t know, “says Haney.
However, Blessing and Haney emphasize that products sold as CBD are almost completely unregulated. Some products may even contain THC, which can interfere with medications and cause unwitting users to swell.
Should you try CBD?
While Blessing and Haney say CBD shows a lot of promise, they agree that CBD products on the market (except for the seizure drug Epidiolex) are suspicious.
Blessing says anyone considering trying unregulated CBD should definitely discuss this with a doctor and be as informed as possible.
“Take the time to get the best information you can. This is a complex topic. The details really matter, “Blessing said.
Blessing emphasizes that there are many factors that can affect the effects of CBD. Too little CBD may have no effect. In addition, the way it is applied – as a cream, oil, pill or tablet under the tongue – may weaken its effect.
Available oral CBD products (other than Epidiolex) usually have poor “bioavailability,” says Blessing, “so only a small portion of the CBD you ingest gets into your bloodstream.”
Haney warns that people should be skeptical of companies that sell CBD.
“Because it’s not regulated, no one actually checks what it contains,” Haney said. “There is no source of CBD that I can recommend.
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