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There’s been a lot of talk lately about cannabidiol (CBD), one of the naturally occurring cannabinoids found in cannabis (hemp and marijuana) plants.
CBD derived from the hemp plant is gaining attention for its therapeutic properties without the mind-altering effects. This is because unlike other cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD by itself does not cause a “high” or psychoactive effect.
A World Health Organization (WHO) report found that naturally-occurring CBD is safe and well tolerated in humans, and there is no evidence of any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD: “In its pure state, cannabidiol does not appear to have abuse potential or cause harm.”
What is CBD used to treat?
The WHO determined that CBD has been demonstrated as an effective treatment for epilepsy, including some rare childhood epilepsy syndromes that don’t respond to anti-seizure medications. The FDA recently approved Epidiolex, a purified form of CBD for some types of epilepsy.
While more research and human studies are needed to better understand how CBD works, there is preliminary evidence that CBD may be a useful in managing other conditions, such as:
How does CBD work?
CBD is thought to interact with receptors in the central nervous system, and some evidence points toward a calming effect brought on by CBD. It may also serve as an anti-inflammatory and may produce pain-relieving effects that help with pain management.
People are turning to CBD as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs to relieve their symptoms. For people with depression or anxiety, they may be looking to avoid SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) which can have a number of side effects. For people seeking pain relief, CBD offers the potential to avoid highly-addictive opioids.
Is it legal?
It depends in part on whether the CBD comes from the hemp or marijuana plant, which are differentiated by their levels of THC.
In 2018, the Farm Bill passed, making industrial hemp-derived CBD legal nationwide. Hemp-derived CBD is sourced from industrial hemp plants. Under U.S. law, a hemp plant must contain no more than 0.3 percent THC.
Marijuana-derived CBD is extracted from marijuana plants, and tend to contain THC levels that are higher than 0.3 percent. Marijuana-based CBD products are illegal at the federal level but are legal under some state laws. In Illinois, marijuana-based CBD is legal for medical use.
How do you take CBD?
Hemp-derived CBD is readily obtainable in most parts of the country, as an oil, supplement or gummy, or infused into skin care products like lotions. These products are often available online.
CBD oil is a popular form of CBD. Most CBD oil comes from industrial hemp and is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant. CBD oil may be taken orally (placed under the tongue with a stopper), or it can be added to moisturizers and applied topically.
Hemp-derived CBD oil isn’t the same as hemp oil. Hemp oil comes from the seeds of the cannabis plant and does not contain any cannabinoids.
Is it safe?
Not all CBD products are made the same, so it can be difficult to know exactly what you are getting.
CBD is mostly available as a supplement and the FDA does not currently regulate the safety and purity of dietary supplements.
While CBD itself is generally safe and well tolerated, possible side effects may include fatigue, changes in appetite and digestive issues. Many of the reported adverse effects may be the result of interactions between CBD and existing supplements and medications (including blood thinners and those that come with a grapefruit warning). CBD may also increase the risk of liver damage or lung problems.
Could CBD help you?
If you are interested in using CBD, talk with your doctor first about whether it’s a good idea and how to safely obtain it. CBD oil comes in many different strengths and it may interact with your existing medications and supplements, so it’s important to keep your doctor informed at all times.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression or another behavioral health issue, help is available. Get support from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.
There are effective medical and behavioral health treatments for chronic pain. Learn more about our Pain Clinic.
It’s not addictive and it won’t get you high. Experts are still trying to understand exactly how it works. So, what is cannabidiol? Check out Episode 11 of the Health 360 with Dr. G podcast: Is it safe? ABCs of CBD for medical treatment.
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