It’s National CBD Day! If you didn’t know that existed, don’t be alarmed — neither did we. The day was observed for the first time in 2018, a few months before CBD, and cannabis in general, became legal in Canada. The day’s goal is to bring awareness about what cannabidiol, aka CBD, can do for people.
So, in honour of the day, we’re breaking down what CBD is, and what it actually can and can’t do.
CBD is a chemical that comes from the cannabis plant, and unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, it doesn’t have psychoactive effects that will make people consuming it feel a high. It’s actually been proven to reduce the psychoactive effects of THC when both chemicals are consumed together. These days, CBD can be found in many products, like creams, ointments, and beauty products. Many consume it in oil form, through a vape pen, or in an edible form like a gummy.
Most CBD products have a trace amount of THC in them — less than 0.2 per cent of the product — which isn’t enough to produce any psychoactive effects. However, it’s important to buy CBD products from reputable retailers to make sure they are labelled correctly, and only contain CBD, if that’s all you’re looking for, Harper’s Bazaar reported.
CBD has taken on a nearly mythic status for its alleged ability to improve a variety of conditions from anxiety to cancer. But is there any merit to the hype?
The scientific and clinical research on CBD is still pretty new, so a lot of the claims’ proponents make aren’t backed by any scientific findings. But there are a few conditions where there’s been sufficient evidence in favour of CBD as a treatment.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the CBD-based medication Epidiolex last year to help treat two specific types of childhood epilepsy that didn’t respond well to anti-seizure medication.
And Health Canada has approved Nabiximols, a drug that combines CBD and THC, to treat spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). The agency also gave it conditional approval for giving MS patients relief from their neuropathic pain, and also helping cancer patients with pain.
While it’s still early for research about CBD’s impact on other conditions, there have been some promising studies in other areas as well.
A Columbia University study from earlier this year looked at CBD combined with the conventional treatment for a type of adult brain cancer. It found that the chemical killed cancer cells but didn’t impact normal, healthy cells. A study from Italy also suggested the use of CBD could slow the growth of harmful cells in people with colon cancer.
More research needed
Still, there isn’t a whole lot of evidence to back up the idea that CBD is a cure for everything from depression to sleeplessness, inflammation to psychosis, and diabetes to high blood pressure. Since CBD has been illegal for a long time, it has made it hard to do clinical studies on people to figure out if many of these miraculous anecdotes have any merit.
“The jury is still out. This doesn’t mean CBD doesn’t work for anxiety, it just means that we don’t have enough information to make a strong argument for CBD in the treatment of anxiety,” Pritham Raj, an internist-psychiatrist in Oregon, said in an interview with HuffPost last year.
The few studies that have been done on these ailments either haven’t been tested on humans, or didn’t have a control group to ensure any result wasn’t just a placebo effect, Marcel Bonn-Miller, a psychiatry professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told HealthDay.
Still, many doctors in Canada have been prescribing CBD, and CBD-THC combinations, to chronically ill patients, long before cannabis was legalized for the general population. These prescriptions were from everything from chemotherapy nausea to pain in conditions like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, so it’ll be interesting to see if future studies can back up these uses and prove any benefits are more than just a strong placebo effect.
CBD is in a lot of “wellness” products as merely a buzz word, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have legitimate benefits for some people, though side effects can include fatigue, diarrhea and weight loss, according to Reader’s Digest.
Still, as with any new medical intervention, it’s important to consult your doctor to see if CBD can help you and to make sure it won’t interact negatively with any medications you may already be taking. CBD isn’t recommended for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
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