CBD is going mainstream, but what does science say it’s actually good for?
In April of 2019, people Googled “CBD” more than 6.4 million times.
Several brands have their own versions of CBD products on the market, from well-known names to startups. Drugstore giant Walgreens is one of several stores now selling CBD products on their shelves, along with smaller shops in most cities.
It’s no secret buzz and chatter is surrounding CBD, especially in the world of consumer medicine.
But what exactly is CBD, and what does the research and science actually say it’s good for? Depending on who you ask, there’s either a ton of info, or not much at all.
“No idea,” replied a man walking through Goodale Park one afternoon, when we asked him how much he knew about CBD. “I know CBD helps with a lot of pain,” replied another to the same question. A third said it was being “flooded into the market” without enough information.
“There is research but most of it is happening overseas,” Dr. Harrison Weed, an internal medicine specialist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Chair of the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Executive Committee, said.
Dr. Weed said research is happening mostly overseas because cannabis is still in a legal haze, here in the United States. On top of that, a good number of those studies have been on animals. However, there are a few things we scientifically know about CBD.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, found in both marijuana and hemp.
“Interestingly, there are receptors for CBD throughout the body,” Dr. Weed said. “Those receptors seem to be concentrated on the immune system cells and on the nervous system cells.”
One 2017 study has shown CBD reduces joint swelling and pain from arthritis; and has some positive neurological effects in terms of Alzheimers, in rats. Doctors and researchers, including at the Harvard Medical School, have said research, for humans, has shown the most promise in terms of treating seizures and epilepsy.
In 2018, the FDA approved the use of Epidiolex, the first drug with an active ingredient derived from marijuana (CBD), specifically for the treatment of two rare forms of epilepsy mostly in children; Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. More-so, the FDA is requiring the manufacturer to keep studying the drug and make sure it’s safe for livers.
Aside from that, most other uses CBD is touted for seem to be anecdotal or without extensive clinical research and trials. We asked Dr. Weed how much of CBD’s track record of soothing aches and pains could be a placebo effect.
“One of the difficulties of studying pain is there can be a large placebo effect with almost any treatment,” he said. And that comes because we can generate our own pain medication; little neurotransmitters that basically act the same as morphine inside our bodies. so if we feel something that’s going to make us feel better, it probably will.”
However, some people stand by CBD as the next frontier in pain and anxiety management, and as a way to veer from traditional medication and the big pharma many have started to frown on.
“It helps,” Trent Willmore, a Columbus resident and CBD user, told us. “[It] eases my anxiety, makes it easier for me to deal with things.”
If you go shopping for CBD products, you’ll easily find bottles of oil, gummy candies, lotions, and more, with different doses and measurements. Experts here say to be aware. So far, the Arthritis Foundation is one of the only organizations addressing dosing; they suggest adults start with just a few milligrams twice a day, under the tongue, and only add small increments until it works.
The FTC and the FDA have also sent warning letters to some companies selling CBD products claiming to be cures for serious diseases, like cancers and multiple sclerosis. The letters warn companies “that it is illegal to advertise that a product can prevent, treat, or cure human disease without competent and reliable scientific evidence to support such claims.”
According to Business Insider, a California-based lab tested 20 popular CBD products and found only three of them matched the labels ingredients.
“I think the most important thing is to just keep an open mind and recognize that there’s a lot we still have to learn about CBD,” Dr. Weed said.
Experts say to avoid brands advertising magic cures when shopping for CBD products. Also, look for products made in the U.S., look for certificates of analysis certifying how much CBD is inside the product, and keep your expectations realistic.
“Do I think it’s a cure for everything? No, obviously not,” Willmore said. “We do still need big pharma, but there needs to be a bigger balance as opposed to this right here.”
by Jesse Pagan