Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is seemingly everywhere these days. It’s being touted as a treatment for chronic pain, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and a wide array of other health conditions. CBD-infused products are exploding in popularity, with CBD vapes, gummies, tinctures, topicals and more lining the shelves of health stores and supermarkets. But is CBD the new wonder drug or just another health fad destined to fade away?
CBD is one of over 100 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Unlike the most well-known cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not produce any psychoactive effects or “high.” CBD oil can be derived from both marijuana or hemp plants. Hemp-derived CBD contains less than 0.3% THC and does not lead to impairment, making it legal at the federal level. Marijuana-derived CBD products contain higher levels of THC and can only be purchased in states where medical or recreational marijuana is legal.
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The Case for CBD’s Health Benefits
Advocates tout CBD as a natural treatment for a wide range of physical and mental health conditions. One of the most extensively researched uses of CBD is for chronic pain relief. A 2020 review of studies found evidence that CBD can effectively reduce pain and improve sleep in conditions like arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries. CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties are believed to be responsible for its pain-relieving effects.
Clinical trials and preclinical research indicates CBD may also help with anxiety and depression disorders. A 2019 randomized controlled trial showed CBD significantly reduced both anxiety and sleep problems in pediatric patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) . CBD’s impact on serotonin receptors in the brain may explain these psychiatric benefits .
Other preliminary studies suggest CBD could aid sleep disorders, alleviate chemotherapy side effects, treat acne and eczema, and even benefit drug addiction recovery and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s . However, more research is still needed to confirm CBD’s efficacy for many touted uses.
“The early research into CBD’s medical applications looks promising so far,” said Dr. Melanie Thompson, Director of the CBD Research Institute. “However, we need larger scale, FDA-approved human trials on CBD’s major uses to move from anecdotal evidence to solid clinical proofs.”
Legality Complicates Access
Although hemp-derived CBD products are legal nationwide, the situation is more complicated for marijuana-derived CBD. As of 2023, 37 U.S. states plus D.C have legalized medical marijuana and therefore CBD products containing THC. Meanwhile, 19 states plus D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana. But cannabis remains illegal at the federal level in the U.S., classified as a Schedule I controlled substance with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” .
This discrepancy between state and federal law creates confusion for both consumers and CBD/cannabis companies operating in these states. Paired with lax industry regulations, insufficient labeling standards often make it difficult for consumers to know what is truly in CBD products.
“I always recommend patients purchase CBD from companies that independently lab test their products and make the Certificates of Analysis readily available” said Michelle Ward, Holistic Health Practitioner. “With CBD still being unregulated, testing is the only way to ensure what you’re taking matches the label.”
Booming Market, Buyer Beware
The CBD craze has certainly caught on—the global CBD market size already hit $9.86 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow at a lucrative CAGR of 21.2% through 2028 . With dollar signs in their eyes, numerous health retailers are rushing CBD-infused products to market to cash in while interest is high.
“Anytime something blows up this fast, you have to be wary of brands just trying to make a quick buck off the hype,” said Alicia Jones, CBD consumer advocate. “Do your homework to find a reputable company whose priority is crafting pure, high-quality products not just profiting from a trend.”
The lack of FDA oversight also opens the door for fake CBD scams, inaccurate labels, harmful contaminants. A 2017 study found nearly 70% of CBD products were mislabeled, containing substantially more or less CBD than advertised . Some CBD products have also tested positive for heavy metals, pesticides, bacteria and solvents.
When shopping for CBD, look for items made from U.S.-grown hemp and brands that provide Certificates of Analysis from independent labs. Only purchase from companies that can back up the quality and potency of their CBD with hard data.
What’s the Best Way to Take CBD?
CBD is available in various forms—oils and tinctures, edibles, capsules, vape liquids, topicals. So what method is best? It depends on your preferences and reasons for using CBD.
CBD oils or tinctures taken sublingually tend to have the fastest effect, while edibles like gummies release CBD more slowly. This makes oils and vapes better for quick symptom relief, while edibles provide longer-lasting effects. For localized pain, CBD topicals like gels and creams may work best.
The downside of vaping is potential lung damage from the cartridges if cheaply made. Edibles also come with challenges determining optimal dosing. Many first time users don’t feel benefits from edibles and overconsume, leading to drowsiness. Start low at 5-10mg and wait at least 2 hours before taking more. Oils and tinctures allow easy fine-tuning of your dose if needed.
No matter the product, follow label directions and consult a doctor to find the ideal form, potency and dosage schedule tailored for you.
Weighing the Risks
Is taking CBD risk-free? Not quite. Reported side effects include diarrhea, fatigue, appetite/weight changes, and interactions with other supplements or medications . Studies find CBD inhibits certain cytochrome P450 enzymes which metabolize drugs; altering medication levels in your system.
CBD may also increase liver toxicity in some cases. A study in mice showed high doses of CBD exacerbated liver damage from other chemicals. Checking for abnormal liver enzymes is advised if taking CBD long-term . For pregnant women, the impact on fetuses is still uncertain, so CBD is not recommended.
While CBD appears safer and milder in side effects than medical marijuana and THC-based products, it’s not without risks. Talk to your doctor especially if taking any medications before starting a CBD regimen.
The Future of CBD
Is all the hype around CBD justified and will it last? Early signs point to CBD products remaining popular as public interest in natural remedies grows. “CBD taps into larger health and wellness trends focused on treating the body gently and holistically,” said retail analyst David Berry. “I expect the CBD craze to continue as more clinical research comes out verifying its uses.”
Full legalization would also give CBD products an extra boost by opening new markets across the country. Some project the U.S. CBD market alone could hit $20 billion by 2024 if marijuana is federally legalized . For now, CBD occupies a gray area that limits access and growth.
As CBD becomes more mainstream, expect tighter regulations to control quality. “I think we’ll see the FDA clamp down on unverified health claims and enact manufacturing standards for purity and labeling accuracy” said regulatory lawyer Priya Patel. Improved oversight should help CBD shed its “fad” image and become a trusted healthcare staple like Omega-3 or melatonin.
While some questions around dosing, drug interactions and long-term effects remain, CBD has cleared the first major hurdle – demonstrating significant medical potential. Now robust clinical studies and responsible legislation can help unlock CBD’s full therapeutic promise.
The explosion in popularity of CBD oil reflects growing public awareness of its many purported health benefits and new legal status of hemp-derived products. But does CBD really work as a panacea for so many conditions? Current research suggests it holds promise, especially for pain, anxiety and sleep disorders. However, until larger clinical trials in humans validate early findings, CBD cannot be considered a proven remedy.
As a relatively new market, issues around proper labeling, purity standards and lack of FDA regulations remain for CBD products. Consumers should educate themselves and exercise caution when selecting brands. That said, the future looks bright for high-quality, reliable CBD oil meeting verified standards as legal obstacles are overcome and scientific understanding advances. While more work needs to be done, CBD oil appears positioned to earn its place as more than just a trendy wellness fad.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is CBD considered a dietary supplement?
A: No, CBD products do not meet the legal definition of a dietary supplement because CBD is an active ingredient in FDA-approved prescription drugs. However, the FDA has not regulated CBD similarly to pharmaceutical drugs. This gray area has enabled the boom in over-the-counter CBD products sold widely as health supplements.
Q: Can CBD make you high?
A: No, CBD derived from hemp plants contains very low levels of THC (less than 0.3%) and does not induce psychoactive effects or a high feeling. However, marijuana-derived CBD products do contain higher levels of THC that can produce a high, similar to recreational marijuana.
Q: Is CBD legal in all 50 states?
A: Yes and no. Hemp-derived CBD is now federally legal nationwide following the 2018 Farm Bill. However, marijuana-derived CBD is still illegal at the federal level and prohibited in states without medical or recreational marijuana laws. The confusing legal status limits access for some consumers.
Q: How much CBD should I take?
A: There are no standard dosing guidelines for CBD yet. It depends on your age, condition being treated, concentration/type of product, and more. Most experts recommend starting with a low dose around 5-10mg and increasing gradually weekly until you feel benefits. Consult your doctor.
Q: How long does it take for CBD to work?
A: Onset time depends on the method. Ingested CBD like edibles and capsules take 1-2 hours for effects since absorption happens through the digestive system. Sublingual tinctures, vapes, and topicals are faster acting, with effects in 15-30 minutes.
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