Even though humans have been using cannabis for thousands of years, the products available today are not the cannabis that has traditionally been consumed. After cannabis was prohibited at the federal level in 1970 by the US Controlled Substances Act, illicit growers were incentivized to breed strains that had higher amounts of THC, so they could increase their profits without needing larger growing spaces. What they didn’t know was that by driving up THC content, they were dramatically reducing the CBD content. In 1995, after decades of surreptitious breeding, the ratio of THC to CBD was
Despite the fact that they’re both cannabinoids found only in the cannabis plant, THC and CBD are polar opposites in many ways. THC is intoxicating and responsible for the “high” of cannabis, but CBD has no such effect. THC is addictive; CBD is not addictive and even appears to have some anti-addictive effects against compounds like opioids. While THC stimulates the human appetite, CBD does not. There are areas where they overlap — in preliminary animal studies, THC and CBD exhibit some similar effects, including pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties and anti-oxidant and neuroprotective effects. In some early research, they’ve even shown the ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, but years of rigorous studies need to be conducted before we’ll know whether they have the same impact on humans.
Is CBD a cure-all — or snake oil? Jeffrey Chen, executive director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, explains the science behind the cannabis product.
Due to decades of research restrictions in the US and growers’ focus on THC, there are very few human studies that look at CBD and its effects. The strongest evidence we have is that CBD can reduce the frequency of seizures in certain rare pediatric disorders — so much that a CBD-based drug called Epidiolex was FDA-approved in 2018 for this purpose. There is also preliminary human data from small clinical trials with dozens of subjects that suggests CBD may have the potential to be used for conditions like anxiety, schizophrenia, opioid addiction, and Parkinson’s disease. But please note that the participants in these studies generally received several hundreds of milligrams of CBD a day, meaning the 5mg to 25mg of CBD per serving in popular CBD products may likely be inadequate. And even if you took dozens of servings to reach the dosage used in these clinical trials, there is still no guarantee of benefit because of how preliminary these findings are.
While CBD appears to be generally safe, it still has side effects. In children suffering from severe epilepsy, high doses of CBD have caused reactions such as sleepiness, vomiting and diarrhea. However, we don’t know if this necessarily applies to adults using CBD because these children were very sick and on many medications, and the equivalent dose for an average 154-pound adult would be a whopping 1400 mg/day. And while CBD use in the short term (from weeks to months) has been shown to be safe, we have no data on what side effects might be present with chronic use (from months to years).
80:1 as CBD content further plummeted.
M ike Abbott used to be a north London copper who arrested people for smoking marijuana, but at 3pm on a warm Tuesday afternoon he takes me to buy cannabis in Camden Town. “I know it’s legal, but it still feels a bit odd,” he says as he examines the cannabis oils in the LDN CBD store, before recommending I buy the 5% strength bottle. At £35 for just 10ml, it had better be good.
Abbott is not just there to help me. He is checking out the competition. He has had something of a career change after leaving the Metropolitan police, and is now in the marijuana business himself. He joined a Manhattan-based medical cannabis start-up called Columbia Care and has risen to be chairman.
Cannabis‑based products can treat everything from epilepsy to hangovers, users say. So why do some scientists dismiss CBD as the new snake oil?
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CBD is commonly used to address anxiety, and for patients who suffer through the misery of insomnia, studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.
CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of cannabis (marijuana). While CBD is an essential component of medical marijuana, it is derived directly from the hemp plant, which is a cousin of the marijuana plant. While CBD is a component of marijuana (one of hundreds), by itself it does not cause a "high." According to a report from the World Health Organization, "In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD."
The bottom line on cannabidiol
CBD has been touted for a wide variety of health issues, but the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications. In numerous studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and, in some cases, it was able to stop them altogether. Videos of the effects of CBD on these children and their seizures are readily available on the Internet for viewing, and they are quite striking. Recently the FDA approved the first ever cannabis-derived medicine for these conditions, Epidiolex, which contains CBD.
CBD is readily obtainable in most parts of the United States, though its exact legal status is in flux. All 50 states have laws legalizing CBD with varying degrees of restriction, and while the federal government still considers CBD in the same class as marijuana, it doesn’t habitually enforce against it. In December 2015, the FDA eased the regulatory requirements to allow researchers to conduct CBD trials. Currently, many people obtain CBD online without a medical cannabis license. The government’s position on CBD is confusing, and depends in part on whether the CBD comes from hemp or marijuana. The legality of CBD is expected to change, as there is currently bipartisan consensus in Congress to make the hemp crop legal which would, for all intents and purposes, make CBD difficult to prohibit.
CBD may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain. A study from the European Journal of Pain showed, using an animal model, CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Another study demonstrated the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. More study in humans is needed in this area to substantiate the claims of CBD proponents about pain control.
Side effects of CBD include nausea, fatigue and irritability. CBD can increase the level in your blood of the blood thinner coumadin, and it can raise levels of certain other medications in your blood by the exact same mechanism that grapefruit juice does. A significant safety concern with CBD is that it is primarily marketed and sold as a supplement, not a medication. Currently, the FDA does not regulate the safety and purity of dietary supplements. So, you cannot know for sure that the product you buy has active ingredients at the dose listed on the label. In addition, the product may contain other (unknown) elements. We also don’t know the most effective therapeutic dose of CBD for any particular medical condition.