The only CBD medication that is currently FDA-approved is Epidiolex, which the agency approved last year for the treatment of certain types of epilepsy. But many people swear CBD has helped with a slew of other health conditions, including back pain, osteoarthritis, even cancer.
These policies vary widely. Marijuana and CBD are currently fully legal for both medicinal and recreational purposes in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C. In 23 states, it's legal in some form, such as for medicinal purposes. Another 14 states permit just CBD oil. But both are illegal in Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota. For more information, the organization Americans for Safe Access has a helpful guide to the specific laws in each state.
Still, is CBD worth trying for pain management?
As with any supplement, you want to know everything you're ingesting in addition to the main event. For example, "sometimes I notice that [CBD manufacturers] will add melatonin," says Dr. Chin.
The takeaway? "I think CBD is a safe thing to try," says Dr. Danesh. But he urges patients to push for more research by putting pressure on representatives to get national bills passed that allow scientists to look closer at CBD and the conditions that respond to it.
Some people don't want to ingest anything and therefore prefer a topical CBD cream or ointment. "You can apply it to muscles, joints, and ligaments and still get a nice, localized release," Dr. Chin says.
While research suggests that cannabidiol is generally well tolerated, you may experience some side effects while taking CBD products. Some of these side effects can include:
Cannabidiol can be derived from either the hemp plant or the cannabis plant. It contains THC when derived from marijuana plants, while hemp-derived cannabidiol contains only trace amounts of the psychoactive compound.
This gives it a potentially high potential to be used in the development of various forms of medical marijuana. A study comparing THC with CBD showed that some of the unpleasant aspects of the marijuana high, such as anxiety and paranoia, appear to be caused by THC, and alleviated by CBD.
Tips When Taking Cannabidiol
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Some research suggests that taking full-spectrum cannabidiol products may be beneficial thanks to something known as the entourage effect. Essentially, taking CBD and THC together maximizes the therapeutic benefits.
Products that may contain cannabidiol include oils, sprays, capsules, lotions, candies, and beverages. It can be administered in oral, topical, edible, or inhaled forms.
Although the subject is complex, studies have shown some neuroprotective effects of CBD. Research comparing the brains of chronic marijuana smokers and the amount of THC and CBD on hair samples indicated that, while THC appears to have a neurotoxic effect—diminishing grey matter in areas of the brain—CBD appears to have a protective effect on the same areas of the brain.
By Dawn MacKeen
But without clinical trials in humans, psychologists say CBD’s effect on depression is still a hypothesis, and not an evidence-based treatment.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the lesser-known child of the cannabis sativa plant; its more famous sibling, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the active ingredient in pot that catapults users’ “high.” With roots in Central Asia, the plant is believed to have been first used medicinally — or for rituals — around 750 B.C., though there are other estimates too.
Recently, the F.D.A. sent a warning letter to Curaleaf Inc. about its “unsubstantiated claims” that the plant extract treats a variety of conditions from pet anxiety and depression to cancer and opioid withdrawal. (In a statement, the company said that some of the products in question had been discontinued and that it was working with the F.D.A.)
However, a double-blind study found healthy volunteers administered CBD had little to no change in their emotional reaction to unpleasant images or words, compared to the placebo group. “If it’s a calming drug, it should change their responses to the stimuli,” said Harriet de Wit, co-author of the study and a professor in the University of Chicago’s department of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience. “But it didn’t.”