CBD’s: What works and what doesn’t
Do you have friends that are using CBD products? My sister just offered me her stash this weekend to help with my achy feet. She said it also helps her sleep. Placebo or real science?
An article in Harvard Women’s Health Watch explains what is known and where the evidence is lacking.
First of all, let’s explain what CBD is. Cannabidiol is an active compound derived from the marijuana plant. The other active compound is THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is the
compound that give the “high”. But is CBD psychoactive or not? CBD, although it does not make you “high”, does make you feel mellow, more comfortable, and can take away pain. Some CBD
products do contain small amounts of THC. CBD can be derived from marijuana, but it can also be extracted from hemp. The hemp plant is a fibrous plant, whose fibers are used for rope, fabrics, paper, and fiberboard. Hemp is legal in the US as of 2018, and so CBD derived from hemp is legal. CBD can now be found in drinks, lotions, gummies, and pet products. In some states these products are carried by drug stores.
CBD derived from marijuana is legal in some states. As you probably know, marijuana is legal for medical, and/or recreational use in some states, while in others it is illegal. Since CBD is
considered a supplement, the FDA does not regulate it but is trying to get a handle on how to provide safety recommendations.
So does CBD work? There is some evidence that it can help with sleep, fibromyalgia, joint pain, muscle spasticity and anxiety. The problem is that there are no good studies that CBD applied
topically has a clinical benefit. Also, there is the problem that any particular product may not contain what it says it does.
So where can you get CBD? If you go to a marijuana dispensary, the products they sell must be labeled with the amount of CBD and THC. Clerks at dispensaries are usually knowledgeable in
which products are best for particular problems. Products that contain higher amounts of THC will make you “high” and therefore may not be safe for driving or other cognitive functions. Because CBD products are not standardized, it is difficult to know how any one product will benefit a particular individual, necessitating a trial and error type of approach.
It is felt that the safest way to use CBD is orally, as a pill, tincture or chewable. Smoking it s not recommended by Dr. Donald Levy of Harvard Medical School. Synthetic CBD products called
“spice” or “bath salts” can induce psychosis and can be very dangerous.
CBD’s are felt to be safe in adults, but side effects include nausea, fatigue and irritability. Drug interactions can also affect prescription drug use. It is not known if CBD’s are safe in children, and should not be used under the age of 21.
Scientists are able to extract substances from marijuana, and there is research going on to understand the effects of the various compounds. At this point, not much is known, and some of
the information available is anecdotal. The variations is products and lack of regulation can leave you with a product that does nothing but provide a placebo effect. Stay tuned, as this is an area of intense research, interest, and investment in the business world. Again, if you have access to a dispensary, you will find many different products and people who can recommend a products for your particular ailment.
Marilyn Jerome, MD
Foxhall OB-Gyn Associates
Harvard Women's Health Watch, Volume 26, No. 12, August, 2019. CBC products are everywhere. But do they work?