Cannabidiol (CBD): What Is Currently Understood And What Remains Unknown

CBD is frequently featured in the media and is often promoted as an enhancement for your post-exercise smoothie or morning coffee. You can even purchase a sports bra infused with CBD. However, what is CBD exactly and why has it gained such widespread popularity?

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Cannabidiol (CBD): What is currently understood and what remains unknown

What sets cannabidiol apart from marijuana, cannabis, and hemp?

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is the second most abundant active compound found in cannabis, distinct from THC. It can be sourced from the hemp plant or synthesized in a lab. Unlike THC, CBD does not produce psychoactive effects. The World Health Organization states that CBD does not pose a risk of abuse or dependence and there is no evidence of public health issues related to its use. A study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that CBD is unlikely to impair daily functioning or work performance when taken alone.

Is CBD legal?

CBD is widely available in the majority of the United States, but its legal status has been changing. All states have laws permitting CBD use to some extent. In 2015, the FDA relaxed regulations to enable CBD research trials. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp nationwide, essentially making it very difficult to ban CBD – it would be akin to legalizing oranges but keeping orange juice illegal.

The Farm Bill has taken hemp-derived items, such as CBD, out of the Controlled Substances Act, which prohibits drug possession. This essentially implies that CBD is lawful when sourced from hemp, but not when derived from cannabis (marijuana) – despite being the identical compound. Presently, numerous individuals are purchasing CBD online without needing a medical marijuana permit, a practice that is permissible in the majority of states.

Is CBD safe?

Possible side effects of CBD may involve feelings of nausea, tiredness, and irritability. CBD has the potential to impact the levels of blood thinners and other medications in your system by vying for the liver enzymes responsible for metabolizing these drugs. This competition for enzymes is akin to the effect grapefruit can have on certain medications. This interaction is especially crucial for individuals on blood thinners, anti-epileptic drugs, or immunosuppressants, as these medications require consistent levels in the bloodstream.

Individuals who consume high amounts of CBD may exhibit irregularities in liver-related blood tests, similar to the effects seen with over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol). It is important to inform your doctor if you are using CBD regularly, as they may need to monitor your liver enzymes regularly.

One major issue with CBD is that it is mainly promoted and distributed as a supplement rather than a medication. The FDA does not currently oversee the safety and quality of dietary supplements, including CBD products, leaving the market unregulated. This lack of regulation means there is no guarantee that the CBD product you purchase contains the stated dosage of active ingredients.

Furthermore, the product might also include undisclosed components. When purchasing CBD, it is advisable to ensure that there is independent laboratory testing, as confirmed by a COA (certificate of analysis) that should be provided with each CBD product.

How can CBD be taken?

CBD is available in various forms such as oils, tinctures, capsules, patches, vapes, and topical products for skin application. If you’re looking to alleviate inflammation and muscle or joint pain, using a CBD-infused oil, lotion, cream, or bath bomb topically may be the most effective choice. Another option is using a CBD patch, tincture, or spray that can be placed under the tongue to allow direct entry into the bloodstream. It is advised by medical professionals not to smoke any substance, including CBD.

In countries other than the United States, Sativex, a prescription medication containing CBD, is authorized for treating muscle spasticity linked to multiple sclerosis and cancer pain. In the US, Epidiolex is approved for specific forms of epilepsy and tuberous sclerosis.

The evidence for cannabidiol health benefits

CBD has been praised for its potential benefits in addressing various health concerns, with the most compelling scientific support found in its ability to treat severe childhood epilepsy syndromes like Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). These conditions often do not respond effectively to traditional antiseizure medications. Through multiple research studies, CBD has demonstrated the ability to decrease the frequency of seizures and, in certain instances, even halt them completely. Epidiolex, a medication primarily containing CBD, stands as the initial cannabis-derived treatment sanctioned by the FDA for these specific conditions.

Studies in animals and self-reports or research in humans indicate that CBD may have potential benefits for anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, and addiction. Research suggests that CBD could help reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality by addressing chronic pain and anxiety. Additionally, studies are increasingly supporting the idea that CBD can help manage pain, with some research indicating its potential to reduce inflammation and pain related to conditions like arthritis. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that CBD may help reduce cravings for substances like tobacco, heroin, alcohol, cannabis, opiates, and stimulants based on both human and animal studies.

The bottom line on cannabidiol

Certain CBD producers have faced government investigation due to making exaggerated and baseless assertions, such as suggesting that CBD can cure cancer or COVID-19, which is not true. While more research is needed, CBD is showing promise as a safe and effective option for alleviating anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. The lack of substantial evidence from human trials makes it challenging to determine proper dosages, and since CBD is commonly sold as an unregulated supplement, it can be hard to ascertain the exact contents or conduct thorough research.

Before trying CBD, ensure that you obtain it from a trustworthy source. It is important to consult with your doctor about using CBD or any other supplements to ensure they do not interfere with any medications you are currently taking.

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