STONE: CBD: What is it? Is it safe?

Cannabidiol (or CBD for short) is one of over 100 chemical compounds found in the marijuana plant.

Touted as a treatment for a variety of ailments and conditions ranging from aches and pains to anxiety and sleep deprivation, its rising popularity has created an influx of companies who manufacture and sell CBD products in various forms.

From oils, sublingual drops, gummy candies, and beverages, these products are popping up in health food shops, gas stations, and grocery stores readily available to the masses. One question I receive frequently is are these products safe and are there any side effects posing any potential harm?

The first part to that question is understanding what CBD is and what it isn’t. CBD is found within the genus of plants known as cannabis. Without getting too technical, cannabis can be in the form of either hemp or marijuana, which essentially depends on the total concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) between the two.

Hemp contains 0.3% or less of THC versus marijuana, which often contains more than 0.3%. THC is the psychoactive chemical compound in cannabis that give users the “high” or “mind-altering” effects most often associated with marijuana.

It’s the presence, and amount, of THC components that determine the legality of products sold to consumers from state to state. On the other hand, CBD is the second most prevalent among the active ingredients found in cannabis. Unlike THC, CBD does not have psychoactive properties and will not get you “high.”

Over the past several years, CBD has become a popular supplement, used by many, to treat a variety of conditions. Among them include managing and preventing seizures, pain associated with inflammation, arthritis, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.

As new and continued studies evolve on CBD usage, it appears to also show promise and favorable results for autoimmune diseases due to its anti-inflammatory properties. An example of how CBD has gained ground is when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval for Epidiolex (a formulation of CBD) to treat patients ages two years and older specific to two rare forms of epilepsy.

However, even with all 50 states having laws legalizing CBD with varying degrees of restriction, it can yield consumer confusion as to what is legal versus what may potentially be illegal.

This often stems from where the CBD was obtained within the product being sold. For most, if not all states, CBD obtained from hemp sources are legal for sale, possession, and use.

On the other hand, especially in states with strict marijuana laws, CBD products sourced from the actual marijuana plant are often restricted or illegal entirely. So, when in doubt, look for product label information specific to the source of CBD and what the total concentration of THC that may be within the product. Generally speaking, CBD products with THC concentrations less than 0.3% will not get someone high and pass the regulation for what is considered a “legal” CBD product in all states.

Whether you’ve considered CBD products or may already be using them, as with any drug, herb, or supplement, it’s important to understand any known dangers or contraindications associated with whatever you put on or into your body.

Overall, CBD products are generally safe to use but not entirely void of risks. For instance, CBD can raise blood levels of certain medications such as the blood thinner Coumadin and any drugs in which levels increase in combination of taking grapefruit juice.

Additionally, CBD products are primarily marketed and sold as supplements which means the FDA does not regulate the safety or purity of these items, so exercise caution and do your due diligence before buying and using. Be leery of boisterous claims and “too good to be true” statements.

Lastly, while CBD is showing promise in the treatment of many conditions, it is not a cure, nor should be considered one. With that, weigh the known benefits to the understood risks, and most certainly speak to your medical provider before starting any CBD supplement.