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Cannabidiol (CBD) has been recently covered in the media, and you may have even seen it as an add-in booster to your post-workout smoothie or morning coffee. What exactly is CBD? Why is it suddenly so popular?

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How is cannabidiol different from marijuana?

CBD has been touted for a wide variety of health issues, but the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications. In numerous studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and, in some cases, it was able to stop them altogether. Videos of the effects of CBD on these children and their seizures are readily available on the Internet for viewing, and they are quite striking. Recently the FDA approved the first ever cannabis-derived medicine for these conditions, Epidiolex, which contains CBD.

CBD is commonly used to address anxiety, and for patients who suffer through the misery of insomnia, studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.

CBD is readily obtainable in most parts of the United States, though its exact legal status is in flux. All 50 states have laws legalizing CBD with varying degrees of restriction, and while the federal government still considers CBD in the same class as marijuana, it doesn’t habitually enforce against it. In December 2015, the FDA eased the regulatory requirements to allow researchers to conduct CBD trials. Currently, many people obtain CBD online without a medical cannabis license. The government’s position on CBD is confusing, and depends in part on whether the CBD comes from hemp or marijuana. The legality of CBD is expected to change, as there is currently bipartisan consensus in Congress to make the hemp crop legal which would, for all intents and purposes, make CBD difficult to prohibit.

Szaflarski JP, Bebin EM, Cutter G, DeWolfe J, et al. Cannabidiol improves frequency and severity of seizures and reduces adverse events in an open-label add-on prospective study. Epilepsy Behav. 2018 Oct;87:131-136. Epub 2018 Aug 9. View abstract.

Zuardi AW, Crippa JA, Hallak JE, et al. Cannabidiol for the treatment of psychosis in Parkinson’s disease. J Psychopharmacol 2009;23(8):979-83. View abstract.

Knaub K, Sartorius T, Dharsono T, Wacker R, Wilhelm M, Schön C. A Novel Self-Emulsifying Drug Delivery System (SEDDS) Based on VESIsorb Formulation Technology Improving the Oral Bioavailability of Cannabidiol in Healthy Subjects. Molecules. 2019;24(16). pii: E2967. View abstract.

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Yadav V, Bever C Jr, Bowen J, et al. Summary of evidence-based guideline: complementary and alternative medicine in multiple sclerosis: report of the guideline development subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology. 2014;82(12):1083-92. View abstract.

Morgan CJ, Das RK, Joye A, et al. Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: preliminary findings. Addict Behav 2013;38(9):2433-6. View abstract.

Couch DG, Cook H, Ortori C, Barrett D, Lund JN, O’Sullivan SE. Palmitoylethanolamide and Cannabidiol Prevent Inflammation-induced Hyperpermeability of the Human Gut In Vitro and In Vivo-A Randomized, Placebo-controlled, Double-blind Controlled Trial. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2019;25(6):1006-1018. View abstract.

Esposito G, Scuderi C, Savani C, et al. Cannabidiol in vivo blunts beta-amyloid induced neuroinflammation by suppressing IL-1beta and iNOS expression. Br J Pharmacol 2007;151(8):1272-9. View abstract.