Cannabidiol—CBD for short—is taking the world by storm. But why? With how stigmatized marijuana is in the United States, it seems surprising that so many people are latching onto it.
CBD is only one of 120 compounds called “cannabinoids” found in cannabis. Like its famous cousin, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD offers numerous health benefits—but it does not induce a high. As such, people are turning to CBD products to alleviate symptoms from physical ailments like pain and inflammation as well as mental ones like anxiety and depression.
Due to its relationship with marijuana, though, CBD is still not entirely accepted. Hopefully, this will change in the near future, because CBD’s popularity is only growing.
How does CBD work?
The endocannabinoid system helps regulate a number of other essential functions apart from appetite, digestion, and temperature control. These functions include the immune system, inflammation, sleep, fertility, motor control, mood, memory, pain, and pleasurable sensations. In simple terms, when something is wrong, the ECS helps correct it with its network of endocannabinoids, enzymes that break them down, and receptors.
Therein lies the secret to how CBD products yield such incredible health benefits: ingesting external cannabinoids—namely, phytocannabinoids from the cannabis plant—gives the ECS a boost. It’s possible for the body to have an endocannabinoid deficiency, in which case phytocannabinoids are exceptionally advantageous. THC boasts a broad range of health benefits, but its intoxicant qualities create a “high” when it bonds with CB receptors. CBD, on the other hand, does have psychoactive properties, but it does not negatively alter a user’s state of mind while helping the body work toward homeostasis.
What do people use CBD for?
Because a great number of factors contribute to homeostasis, CBD is applicable to many ailments that disrupt the body’s balance. One of CBD’s more famous uses is for physical pain and inflammation, such as joint pain due to arthritis or multiple sclerosis. Similarly, people who use medical marijuana for cancer-related pain may opt for cannabidiol-heavy products instead of THC because it soothes their symptoms without getting them high.
It is common to hear that CBD is not psychoactive, which is misleading. CBD is not an intoxicant, but it does indeed have psychoactive properties—which is why countless people find it beneficial for temporarily alleviating anxiety and depression. Treating these illnesses usually entails pharmaceutical drugs, but untainted and well-made CBD products provide a more natural alternative (some medications can even be addictive, like benzodiazepines, but CBD is not well known to cause addiction). Some people also report taking CBD for other brain-related conditions, including PTSD and insomnia.
There are also many supposed benefits of CBD that people use it for, though such cases lack necessary research (especially in humans). Some studies, though, suggest that cannabidiol can be beneficial for heart health, reducing acne, preventing the spread of cancer, and preventing diabetes. It may also be useful as a substance abuse treatment.
It is important to note that most CBD research is conducted on animals, not humans, so evidence of CBD’s effectiveness often comes from personal anecdotes. The only FDA-approved CBD product in the United States is Epidiolex, which is useful for treating two forms of pediatric epilepsy. While new research is encouraging and personal stories are convincing, keep in mind that CBD’ effects in humans are still under-explored. CBD boasts many health benefits, but it is not an outright cure for any ailment and is only intended to relieve symptoms.
How did CBD become so popular?
It is difficult to pinpoint a moment in time when CBD boomed the way it has. People have been using marijuana to treat pain for a long time, but with marijuana stigmatized the way it is, non-users have been hesitant to try it. It is likely that people nervous to try THC for its health benefits were more ready to accept CBD because it has the advantage of not inducing a high and its marketability as a natural product.
Cannabis-oriented research firm Brightfield Group reports that CBD sales are expected to exceed $5 billion by the end of 2019, which is a 706 percent increase from 2018. Brightfield Group projects that the CBD industry’s total market value could reach as much as $23.7 billion by 2023.
CBD products are also slightly more legal than marijuana for smoking or ingesting. Marijuana is only one kind of cannabis—hemp is another, which has lower THC content. At the end of 2018, the United States passed the Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp. As such, CBD products derived from hemp, not marijuana, is supposedly legal at a federal level as long as they contain equal to or less than .3 percent THC. Individual states, however, are free to make their own laws regarding CBD.
While CBD is in a bit of a legal gray zone, cannabis companies have taken advantage of the fact that it is slightly more legal than marijuana. CBD products now come in all sorts of forms: oils, tinctures, sprays, lotions, edibles, bath bombs, gummies, vapes, and more. CBD is more accessible than it has ever been before, and a rapidly growing number of people are listening to their friends’ testaments and trying it for themselves.
There is also something to be said for CBD’s “newness.” Though people have used cannabis for medicinal purposes for centuries, the identification of cannabidiol as a particular molecule from an often stigmatized plant makes CBD sort of a novelty. In a society where people have understandably lost faith in mainstream healthcare, cannabidiol is separate from big pharma and offers a great deal of promise.
Is CBD just that, though? A novelty? Hopefully and likely not, according to Dr. Esther Blessing from the New York University School of Medicine (Dr. Blessing is coordinating a study regarding treating PTSD and alcohol use disorder with CBD). She tells the New York Times:
“CBD is the most promising drug that has come out for neuropsychiatric diseases in the last 50 years. The reason it is so promising is that it has a unique combination of safety and effectiveness across a very broad range of conditions.”
Despite CBD’s newness to the modern medical landscape—and the fact that cannabis’s legal status makes research difficult in humans—many people feel inclined to trust it. Bear in mind that known side effects, however, include vomiting, nausea, drowsiness, diarrhea, increased anxiety, and changes in mood and appetite. While CBD does appear to be more or less safe, interested individuals should consult with their doctors before adding CBD to their diets.
The legal landscape of CBD
As mentioned previously, CBD exists in an odd legal space. The Agriculture Improvement Act, also known as the Farm Bill, legalized industrial hemp at the end of 2018, removing it from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s purview. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), still maintains that all CBD products are illegal to sell—even if they contain less than .3 percent THC—with the exception of Epidiolex. According to Nsikan Akpan and Jamie Leventhal from PBS, the FDA has the authority to go after any business marketing or selling products that make health claims regarding CBD, especially if interstate trade is involved. As of July 2019, the FDA has only sent warning letters to violators.
CBD’s status is a different story on state levels with abundant nuances. In Colorado, for instance, CBD is legal for both medical and recreational use for individuals over the age of 21 (which is consistent with the state’s views on marijuana). CBD is also fully legal in Oregon—but there are restrictions regarding how it can be advertised. Some states, like Louisiana, legalized CBD from hemp as recently as June 2019.
Others, however, are much harsher toward cannabidiol (especially those where marijuana is still entirely illegal), and many lie in-between. CBDCentral’s interactive map notes that a majority of states give CBD conditional legality, such as when it is exclusively for medical use (sometimes requiring patients to carry a card), for specific medical conditions (such as epilepsy), or even when CBD is sourced from marijuana instead of hemp.
The future of CBD
Cannabis’s legal status in many states often hinders research. The legalization of CBD in certain states, however, will help researchers collect further data on its applicability to humans. Brightfield Group also mentions that the FDA met on May 31, 2019, intending to help the agency collect further information on CBD from the public to guide its policymaking. The industry will continue to grow, but it will be interesting to see how the federal and state governments interact with the substance.
As CBD slowly becomes more accepted and legal (Guide to CBD even created a map detailing what the future of CBD looks like in each state), hopefully, consumers will learn to shop more wisely and hold business accountable, while companies establish and meet high standards for themselves. CBD is not going anywhere anytime soon, and it’s possible that as research continues, other cannabinoids will reveal themselves to provide other health benefits as well.
by Joresa Blount
Post time: Sep-17-2019