FLASH: A CBD craze is sweeping across America and the World New products are cramming store shelves as the market explodes for what many believe to be a miracle cure-all.
Everything from oils to gummies to pills, creams, and ointments are now for sale at supermarkets and specialty chains. You can even get massages infused with CBD, or cosmetics laced with the drug.
All of these products contain cannabidiol, but not THC, the ingredient in cannabis that provides a “high.”
The Big Q: What do scientists really know about the health benefits and risks of CBD?
The Big A: Some experts say “Very little” and consumers should take care that they are not wasting their money.
“You have a flood of CBD products that are coming from hemp that are going out onto the market, and you’ve got all sorts of claims being made about those from people are trying to sell them,” said the Chairman of the department of clinical sciences at Drake University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, in Des Moines, Iowa.
The flood of CBD products has become so overwhelming that the US Food and Drug Administration recently stepped in with warning letters to companies marketing CBD products, telling them to stop making unfounded health claims for the substance.
Companies have falsely claimed CBD can stop cancer cells, slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, ease nerve pain and fibromyalgia, and curb withdrawal symptoms for people undergoing substance abuse treatment, the FDA letters state.
The agency will hold a public hearing on 31 May regarding CBD products and their safety, and it has formed a working group to consider new laws and regulations to govern the unregulated market.
CBD products have entered the market not because of any new medical evidence, but because of a change in federal law.
Late last year, Congress passed a Farm Bill that lifted a decades-old ban on growing hemp. As long as the plant contains less than 0.3% THC, hemp can be grown legally anywhere in the United States by licensed farmers.
The bill specifically said the US Drug Enforcement Agency cannot regulate hemp products like CBD. So, it is now up to the FDA to regulate CBD.
The body contains a system of receptors that respond to the compounds in marijuana, including both THC and CBD, noted the director of cancer pain management and supportive care for the University of California, Davis Health Center.
Because of this, researchers have been highly interested in the potential benefits of CBD regarding a number of different health problems.
To date, there is only 1 use for CBD that has significant scientific evidence behind it, that is curbing the symptoms of rare forms of epilepsy.
The FDA last year approved the drug Epidiolex to treat 2 forms of childhood epilepsy. The medical evidence has shown the highly purified CBD in Epidiolex can ease seizures.
For the rest of CBD’s potential uses, there is simply too little evidence to make a firm conclusion.
The next potential medical use for CBD could be for the symptoms of anxiety disorder, said the Chairman of translational neuroscience and director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai.
Clinical trials suggest that CBD could help treat anxiety, but there needs to be more study.
There is published evidence that CBD does decrease anxiety, but doctors still do not know the dosing regimen that would be effective for anxiety. Those are studies that are ongoing.”
Other uses, as an anti-inflammatory, an aid for substance withdrawal, a sleep aid, a pain reliever have not been conclusively proven.
In some cases, the evidence runs counter to what people might suspect.
There is not much reason to believe CBD would be an effective means of pain relief, says the Vice Chairman for pain medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
“If you think of it as a medicine, it would be a weak analgesic,” he said. “It is really the THC component of medical marijuana which is the compound that gives you pain relief.”
CBD might actually make the eye disease glaucoma worse, according to a study published last December in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.
Researchers found CBD eye drops increased ocular pressure in mice, even as THC appeared to reduce pressure, which might explain why medical marijuana has had mixed results when it comes to studies on glaucoma treatment.
Scientists are surprised how much CBD has taken off and exploded with very little data. Most of the other herbal supplements, there are at least some studies on it before it becomes really popular. But for this, there is not much of anything.
The bottom line
Researchers say that people who want to try CBD should talk with their doctor 1st, doctors know that Epidiolex can be put to “off-label” use for other conditions if a doctor feels it might work.
Besides that, consumers might consider buying CBD products from a state-run program. Some states like Iowa have established such programs to make CBD available medicinally.
Those products are more reliable, because they have a system to monitor the purity of content.
The “artisanal products” containing CBD that are available in stores and dispensaries fail tests for content and purity.
A Y 2017 study concluded nearly 7 of 10 CBD products did not contain the amount of cannabidiol promised on the label, according to findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Nearly 43% of the products contained too little CBD, while about 26% contained too much. Worse, about 1 in 5 CBD products contained the intoxicating chemical THC.
The CBD products that come through that route, there is essentially no control, and a consumer have no way to know what they are getting.
Scientists believe that there are other legitimate uses for CBD, but requires a more extensive knowledge of the way the human body responds to marijuana’s different compounds.
People might do best to wait until there is more empirical data regarding the medical evidence, rather than being caught up in the CBD craze now.
“It’s like we do this every 30 years or so,” 1 doctor said. “We romanticize something, that this is going to be the cure-all for every disorder. We have never found that (yet).”
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