What is CBD?
CBD or Cannabidiol has become a popular natural chemical compound to use for a variety of problems. If you don’t know that much about CBD, here’s the quick back story. The marijuana plant also called cannabis, is made up of over 100 chemical substances called cannabinoids. The most abundant cannabinoid is THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. It has mind-altering properties.
The second most abundant cannabinoid is cannabidiol, also known as CBD for short. It does not have the mind-altering properties. So, when people refer to marijuana, the plant, they’re usually referring to something that has a combination of THC and CBD.
Marijuana is illegal in many states but more and more states are allowing for the recreational use of marijuana as well as medical use, called medical marijuana. With medical marijuana, the amount of THC you get can vary with some strains containing upwards of 20% THC. CBD on the other hand is legal because it does not have the mind-altering properties. So that’s the landscape of this situation.
Limited CBD studies
There’s only one FDA-approved CBD prescription medication, called Epidiolex. It’s approved for a specific kind of seizure disorder. But you can get CBD without a prescription and it’s being marketed for all kinds of problems. Pain, anxiety, PTSD, depression, and ADHD among other things. However, there really isn’t strong research evidence showing that CBD consistently and effectively treats these disorders.
For example, the Veterans Administration did a big analysis of looking at several studies for the use of cannabis and pain and PTSD. Now, just to be clear, they looked at studies using cannabis which included THC and CBD. Nevertheless, in the VA analysis, they found what they call, low strength evidence that cannabis may eliminate neuropathic pain.
And this was using cannabis with a THC/CBD content of 1-1 or 2-1. The 2-1 means that it had twice as much THC as CBD. What’s low strength evidence? Low strength evidence means that the testing was not very rigorous or there may have been inconsistent results like one study was positive while the other one was negative. To really have strong evidence, you need to see results that can be replicated so each time you get the same kind of results.
However, this drug contains a 1-1 ratio of THC to CBD just like the drugs in the Veterans Administration studies. So, does this mean we really do need THC to get the therapeutic effect of cannabis?
If so, that can mean taking CBD alone is a waste because it subjects you to side effects without giving you enough benefits. These are questions that still need to be answered.
What’s next for CBD?
So hopefully in the near future, the science will catch up and we’ll have a better understanding of what CBD oil can actually do and how much of it you need to do what you want it to do. In the meantime, it’s experimental to use it for pain and other psychiatric disorders. Just investigate the source of it, look into the company that produces it, and be aware of the side effects.
There have been other organizations that have analyzed data and conducted their own research. For example, The Arthritis Foundation recently released a survey asking over 2,000 long time arthritis patients their experience with CBD. Over 79% of respondents have used CBD in the past, and over 67% of patients report that CBD has been effective at improving their mental health. The Arthritis Foundation does support the use of CBD to manage arthritis and you can view a summary of their safe use practices here.
We cannot deny the abundance of positive anecdotal evidence regarding the use of CBD. Although clinical study evidence about CBD is still emerging, the limited research thus far looks promising on the ability of CBD to improve a variety of medical conditions.
So why is the FDA saying it’s being sold illegally? Because if you make statements about a product healing or treating a disease, the FDA considers your product a drug. And if you’re marketing a drug, you have to follow very strict regulations around showing effectiveness and establishing safety. The FDA also has rules about marketing products as a dietary supplement. So why is the FDA being so hardcore about this?
As with any supplement, just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it will work or won’t cause problems for you. It’s still unknown what the long term effects will be for people who use it regularly. Does this mean you shouldn’t use CBD?
Not necessarily, but it does mean you need to be aware of the safety concerns and the fact that it may not work for you. And it seems to be pretty hit or miss. I think we need some more control over how you get the product. When it comes to using CBD, I think that we’re still at the beginning stages of exploring and recognizing what disorders it can help.
The good news is, the research on the medical use of cannabis has not stopped so just because we don’t have good evidence now, doesn’t mean it won’t come. The drug Sativex is approved to treat neuropathic pain and other types of pain, but it’s not available in the United States. It’s still in the clinical trials phase here in the U.S.