In an increasing number of liquor stores these days, a new kind of gummy has become a bestseller. Each bottle contains 25 gummies, and they cost about $70 per bottle. That’s more expensive than some good Scotches and bourbons. But these liquor stores sell a lot of these gummies anyway.
This is because these aren’t ordinary gummies. Each gummy comes infused with a dose of CBD, which many customers credit for treating a wide range of ailments. You might want to take it as a way to sleep more easily, and CBD seems like a better alternative to drinking yourself to sleep. Others may use salves with CBD to relieve pain in specific areas or to rub it on their neck to alleviate stress. These are just some of the purported benefits of CBD.
What is CBD?
CBD refers to cannabidiol, which is a chemical compound called a cannabinoid that’s found in the cannabis sativa plant. The cannabis plant grouping includes marijuana, but it also includes hemp as well. Hemp by definition can contain no more than 0.3% THC, which is another cannabinoid in cannabis.
THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is actually the cannabinoid responsible for that “high” feeling recreational users of marijuana look for. Because of this desire, over the decades the illegal growers of marijuana have bred for high THC levels. Some cannabis variants have up to 30% THC. Meanwhile, the inherently low THC level in hemp is why hemp is regarded as legal to sell, buy, and use in all 50 states.
CBD products can come from hemp and you won’t risk getting high. Other manufacturers can also extract the CBD from marijuana. These can come in CBD isolate form, which means that none of the 85 or so other cannabinoids are contained in the product. More importantly, there’s no (or very little) THC.
However, other people who still buy medical marijuana insist that THC may be a vital component of the healing function of cannabis. They insist that THC has healing properties on its own. Some say that the CBD works better when in conjunction with THC and the other cannabinoids. That’s why CBD can be in a “full-spectrum” form instead of in isolated form.
In fact, there are those who believe that a “whole team effort” is required to get the full health benefits. Aside from the cannabinoids, other chemical compounds found in cannabis (such as the terpenes and flavonoids) may boost the healing properties of the product. The terpenes are the fragrant oils in plants that give the plant its particular smell. Flavonoids are the compounds that give the plant its colors. These other compounds may also have healing properties on their own.
A General Overview on the Scientific Studies on CBD
So, what’s the real truth about CBD? Scientifically, studies regarding CBD are only in their initial stages. The main bulk of the scientific evidence backing up the claims for CBD benefits comes from anecdotal reports and observational studies. That is, people use the CBD product and then attest that it helped them in some way, or the study noted improvements in the people who took the CBD.
The chief issue with this type of evidence is that there is no control group to measure the placebo effect. These studies can’t identify whether the CBD actually helps, or it’s because these patients believed it would help.
Other tests involve animals, mainly rats, and mice. There have been a handful of human tests so far, but the results have been inconsistent. Similar studies can end up with conflicting results.
Using CBD for Ailments: The Scientific Evidence Behind the Claims
The best thing about CBD so far is that the evidence clearly indicates that it’s safe. Scientists have accumulated plenty of data to firmly believe that it won’t hurt people to take CBD. What’s more at issue, though, is whether it will help.
Many people believe that it helps with pain relief. This supposed benefit is mainly sported by numerous customer reviews and anecdotal reports. It won’t get you high, and it’s certainly not addictive. In the midst of the opioid epidemic, this is reassuring.
In actual studies, the evidence to support this claim is regarded as weak. The patients who report positive results may have benefited from the placebo effect, or their pain would have diminished on its own over time.
It may also help with inflammation. Inflammation occurs when your immune system attacks healthy cells. This condition is associated with numerous ailments. It is either a symptom or a cause for gastrointestinal ailments, allergies, and heart disease. In fact, the majority of ailments are inflammatory, which supports the belief that CBD helps with a long list of medical conditions.
The problem is that in studies, the reports are contradictory. In some studies, CBD helps. In other studies, it doesn’t.
CBD oil is at least suspected to help in the following medical conditions:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Antibiotic-resistant infections
- Multiple sclerosis
- Non-Parkinson’s tremors
- Opioid withdrawal
- Side effects of cancer chemotherapy
- Some types of cancer (including untreatable types of brain cancer)
- Tissue rejection after transplants
The US Food and Drug Administration itself has licensed the use of CBD to treat two rare types of epilepsy. However, the FDA has not given its approval for treating other types of medical conditions. The watchdog group actually bans CBD manufacturers from claiming any other sort of medical benefit in its marketing.
The really good news is that in the cases where CBD helps, patients don’t suffer from the dangerous side effects that are commonly associated with prescription medicines.
Finding the Right Dosage
Another problem with CBD studies and usage is that the dosage in the studies doesn’t normally match the dosage in the supplements. In the FDA studies that confirmed CBD use for the rare epilepsies, the patients took a dose of about 500 mg a day. These patients were also children.
Yet in supplements, the dosages are much lower. The normal amount is about 5 to 10 mg per serving. It’s not safe to take 10 to 20 servings of these supplements each day without the supervision of your doctor. In addition, it isn’t practical either. To do so would most likely cost you thousands of dollars each month.
What’s the Delivery System?
How you consume CBD will affect the way it works as well. There are several possible ways of getting the CBD into your bloodstream, but each has its own set of pros and cons.
- Sublingual consumption. You can put in CBD tincture under your tongue for about a minute, then you just swallow what’s left. This is fairly effective, as you get about 20% of the CBD into your system. But quite a few users aren’t fond of the oily feeling and the grassy taste. The FDA also generally disapproves of any marketing references to sublingual delivery, because it presents the product as a medicine.
- Smoking. This works very well, with 50% of the CBD getting into the bloodstream in just a few seconds. But some people don’t like to smoke it at all since it irritates the lungs.
- Vaping. This can be as efficient as smoking, with 50% of the CBD taking just a few seconds to get to the bloodstream. You’re also taking in water vapor instead of smoke, plus CBD vaping oils can come in a variety of flavors. But it can also have health risks, and some places don’t allow for vaping.
- Swallowing. Whether you take the CBD in edibles or drinks, it’s not efficient at all. Only about 10% of the CBD enters the bloodstream, and it can take an hour or two before you feel any of the beneficial effects. You might also overdose if you keep on eating CBD edibles until you feel the effects.
- Chewing gum. The effects can be quick, and you can choose the flavor it comes in. But it’s a fairly new method, and CBD chewing gums aren’t widely available yet.
The Increasing Popularity of CBD
Despite the general uncertainty about CBD, there’s no doubt of its popularity right now. It’s surprising, considering that CBD was fairly unknown even just in 2016. Now the stats show otherwise:
- About 67% of Americans have heard about CBD
- It’s used as a supplement for sleep issues, anxiety, and pain (among other things) by about 14%
- Among CBD users, 40% of them use it daily
- Around 22% of the users substitute CBD for their prescription medication
The demand for CBD is quite high, and even legal issues are disappearing. This is largely due to the passage of the Farm Bill of 2018, which specifically stated that all products made from hemp (including hemp CBD oil), are legal in all 50 states. It also doesn’t hurt that the majority of the states allow for medical marijuana.
The number of small stores that carry CBD products is increasing. Today, even the big retailers are entering the CBD scene. Krogers, Walgreens, and CVS are poised to carry CBD products. Walmart is also reportedly joining in as well.
CBD can be infused not just in food and drinks, but also in cosmetics. The wide range of possibilities allows for the entry of numerous conglomerates into the CBD market, with the demand still on the rise. Right now, the annual sales of CBD in the US alone total $600 million. Projections put the total by 2023 at around $23 billion. That’s a growth rate of about 4,000%.
The scientific uncertainty regarding the real benefits of CBD is not the only problem. One problem is that the stated CBD levels in the labels can be wildly inaccurate. That takes proper dosing into mere guesswork, as you’re not entirely sure how much CBD is really in your product.
In CBD products marketed as “full-spectrum,” you also aren’t able to know how much CBD, THC, and any other cannabinoid is in your product. Most manufacturers don’t actually test their products to find out. And even if they do, they usually don’t release the results.
Quality control in the industry is so bad that some CBD products may contain overly high (illegal) levels of THC. They may also contain toxic ingredients, such as pesticides and heavy metals. The problem with hemp is that it pulls in and retains chemicals in the soil. Manufacturers rarely test their products for toxins, plus many of the hemp used in the industry are imported from abroad.
All these facts show that the entire CBD industry is full of uncertainty. It’s been likened to a mass clinical trial in which patients aren’t even sure of what they’re taking. They’re certainly not sure of the effects either, although they may hold firm beliefs not supported fully by science.
As of yet, there’s no firm conclusion regarding the use of CBD for any of these ailments (besides the rare forms of epilepsy already mentioned). Right now, scientists regard the situation as one of the biggest clinical trials in all of history. Millions of consumers are taking part, without any clear idea of the results.
The only good news about this CBD craze is that using CBD in small dosages is reasonably safe. Despite the lack of regulatory overview, CBD products remain generally harmless especially when following label instructions. There have been no credible reports of CBD doing any serious harm to patients. It may help or not, but it’s unlikely to hurt you.
If you are thinking about using CBD, just be careful. Buy only from reputable brands. Start with small dosages. Don’t use it if you’re taking any other types of medication. You can even talk to your doctor about it. Be careful, and stay safe. If you do believe it will work for you, it actually improves the chances that the CBD will work.