You’ve probably heard of THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol), the cannabis compound that is responsible for the “high” with cannabis use. But, THC is just one of 80 different “cannabinoids,” or natural chemical compounds in the cannabis plant that interact with the body’s central nervous system. Perhaps the second most well-known cannabinoid is CBD (cannabidiol).
But, what is CBD? We’ve weeded through the evidence to tell you some of what’s known so far.
Unlike THC, CBD does not cause a high or intoxication. Some data suggest that it may actually offset some of the intensity and unwanted psychoactive effects of THC, such as anxiety, paranoia, memory loss, and euphoria.
Research on the medicinal uses of CBD is ongoing, but little is currently known. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the first cannabis-derived CBD drug (Epidiolex) for treatment of seizures in patients age 2 years and older. Beyond that, pre-clinical (cell and animal) studies suggest that CBD may be therapeutically useful by containing antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-psychotic, and an anti-anxiety properties. However, these effects are only just beginning to be more broadly studied in humans.
Commercial CBD products aren’t well researched. Products containing CBD are sold by retail cannabis stores, supermarkets, and health stores as tinctures, edibles, sprays, capsules, lotions, and more. Since little is known about how to dose CBD for various potential medicinal effects, we don’t know if these commercial products contain the right amount of CBD to produce any medicinal effects. Currently, Epidiolex is the only CBD-based product approved by the FDA for medical use in the U.S., and it is only approved for treatment of seizures.
Commercial CBD products aren’t well regulated. There are a lot of different CBD products out there, and those that are found outside of a licensed cannabis retail shop are unregulated and may not be tested. This means product quality is uncertain; some commercial CBD products may contain contaminants, other dangerous chemicals, or synthetic CBD oil, and the concentrations of CBD in the products may not be reliable.
CBD can interact with other drugs. It can cause the body to metabolize some drugs differently, which may result in an adverse reaction. Drug interactions can occur, for example, with a number of commonly used medications including steroids, antihistamines, calcium channel blockers, immune modulators, benzodiazepines, antibiotics, anesthetics, antipsychotics, antidepressants, anti-epileptics, and beta blockers.
A CBD-infused gummy a day does not keep the doctor away. Here’s the bottom line: CBD may eventually prove to have medical benefits, but there is still a lot that we don’t know. While research catches up on its uses, correct dosage, and long-term effects, it’s important to consider potential risks. People who are interested in trying CBD should talk to their healthcare providers first, and should purchase products from a licensed retail cannabis store.
Sources and Resources:
- World Health Organization: Cannabidiol (CBD) Pre Review Report
- Harvard Health Blog: Cannabidiol (CBD) – what we know and what we don’t
- Partnership for Drug-Free Kids: What parents should know about kids using CBD
- NIDA: FDA Approves First Drug Derived from Marijuana
- NIDA: The Biology and Potential Therapeutic Effects of Cannabidiol