Is CBD Oil Safe and Worth Your Money?
A medical cannabis expert weeds the hype from the truth about the herbal cure for pain, depression, anxiety and insomnia.
You can’t turn on a daytime TV program or flip open a lifestyle magazine without hearing or reading about CBD, short for cannabidiol. It’s the biggest buzzword in holistic health news, and statistically speaking, it is expected to reach around 1.8 billion dollars in U.S. consumer sales by 2022, a whopping increase from around half a billion dollars in 2018.
What exactly is CBD?
CBD is the non-intoxicating component of the cannabis sativa plant. Cannabis plants can either be classified as hemp or marijuana depending on the quantity or percentage of THC in either plant. This distinction was established by the FDA: Cannabis plants with 0.3 percent or less of THC are considered hemp and those with more that 0.3 percent are consider marijuana.
So in a nutshell, CBD that is derived from hemp will not make you high. You should also ask your primary physician about using CBD while taking medications.
Kisha Vanterpool, medical director of Medicinally Jointed, a medical cannabis spa and alternate health practice located in South Philadelphia, says the biggest misconception her patients have is understanding the difference between CBD and THC.
“Some associate CBD solely with cannabis (marijuana) which carries its own stigma of being used to attain a high,” the board-certified internist explains. “But really, cannabis is an herbal medicine that has many benefits. Through educating my patients around the plant as medicine and how it interacts within our bodies, patients then become more open to its use.”
What is CBD used for?
Studies show consumers are using CBD — sold in oils, lotions, balms, bath salts, coffee, oral sprays and gummies — as a specific therapy for pain, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders. Depending on the product, prices range from $20 to $100.
Nira Hyman turned to CBD three years ago to help manage chronic back pain and joint inflammation she’s endured for about 15 years. The 46-year-old was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, a type of rheumatoid arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, which affects the spine.
“Chronic pain is quite isolating, so I’m open to trying almost anything. My research led me to THC, then to CBD. It helps mute the pain. It’s still there, but the volume of the pain is dialed down. CBD doesn’t manage my pain on its own, but using that along with other stuff on my regimen can make a difference,” she says.
“Most of what I use is handmade. It’s expensive but worth it. Friends ship balms or soaks to me. And yes, the sellers are Black. I believe strongly that Black women belong in the cannabis industry, so the louder our voices the better.”
The Brooklyn, New York, native also uses CBD to alleviate anxiety. “It may be a placebo effect, but I do feel it helps my anxiety. And I prefer using something that’s natural and naturally medicinal. I’d much rather take CBD — and I do use high doses — than opioids. My doctors agree, off the record,” says Hyman.
Vanterpool recommends CBD to her female patients to help them with anxiety, insomnia, hot flashes, menstrual cramps, endometriosis and other chronic pain. When shopping for CBD products, she suggests consumers research the product “to ensure that it truly contains CBD and has been tested for contaminants such as pesticides, bacteria and fungus/mold.”
Is CBD FDA-regulated?
Not currently. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently published a consumer update on its website (FDA.gov) that addresses the claims that cannabinoid (CBD) is a cure-all, risk-free miracle drug.
Although the FDA is presently gathering data from health professionals, cannabis industry representatives and patients to learn more about the efficacy of CBD, the agency wrote, "there are many unanswered questions about the science, safety and quality of products containing CBD.”
Where can I find CBD products in my area, and is it legal in all fifty states?
Remember the 69-year-old grandmother from North Carolina who was arrested at Disney World for packing CBD oil in her purse?
Federal law says CBD oil products are legal to possess if they contain no more than 0.3 percent THC, and CBD products are readily available online. Do your research to find products that are safe, effective and legal. Consumerreports.org has an informative guide. Be aware, however, that some states like Florida, Ohio and Texas generally don’t differentiate hemp from marijuana. So before you purchase or travel with CBD, check the state laws.