The Quad: Examining the effectiveness of CBD products, ways people use them
(Aileen Nguyen/Graphics editor)
March 5, 2020 8:29 p.m.
You can eat it, smear it and roll it. It’s stocked on CVS Pharmacy shelves and wellness pop-ups across the city. It’s CBD, and you’ve probably seen it in many of these forms.
Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is a specific and abundant cannabinoid that can be found in hemp or cannabis plants. You might be more familiar with its fellow cannabinoid THC – the psychoactive element that gives users a “high.” CBD lacks this psychoactive nature, but releases its own set of chemical reactions that may leave users feeling relief and balance.
Researchers describe CBD as helping to take your body from a sympathetic “fight or flight” state to a parasympathetic “rest and digest” state. Because of these properties, research supporting CBD use seems to favor its anxiety-relieving effects over its sleep-promoting or depression-relieving effects.
In this scenario, “helping” to regulate symptoms is starkly different from “treating” symptoms – CBD is defined as more of a supplement rather than a medication.
It’s also important to note that the kind and quality of this cannabinoid can vary based on where you live.
CBD can comes from different sources in different states, and this may lead to variations in product quality or purpose for consumers. Some CBD-based products are sourced from hemp; other products are sourced directly from marijuana. Those sourced from marijuana are only legal in states where marijuana is also legalized.
The hemp-derived CBD market is growing exponentially in comparison to the legal marijuana market. Cannabis experts from the Brightfield Group predict the industry will be worth $22 billion by 2022.
Part of the popularity associated with CBD comes from its broad appeal. Anyone can use it, from athletes to wellness gurus to anyone in between. If you’re over 21, you’re in the clear to buy it in most states, though South Dakota, Nebraska and Idaho still outlaw cannabis products completely. However, there is a legal gray area and some variation in many local or state governments surrounding the purchasing age for users under 21.
The market may be continuing to grow quickly for a few reasons: effective advertising and social media presence, a growing health-consciousness and, of course, the promised euphoric effects on the body.
However, being cognizant of the difference between wellness and medicine is important in understanding your purchases.
In general, wellness is an all-encompassing term for the actions people take to be free from illness and make choices toward a healthy, fulfilling life. CBD generally tends to fall under the umbrella of wellness products.
Aside from existing solely in wellness products, CBD has started to trickle down into the field of medicine.
For example, Epidiolex, a form of extracted CBD, was approved in 2018 to help treat and mitigate rare forms of epilepsy in children over 2. Using randomized blind trials and a placebo group, patients given CBD showed decreased seizures.
Despite CBD’s inclusion in medicine, there is no regulated, tried-and-true-list of benefits – or warnings – for CBD.
The void in research surrounding effective dosage and in what form has led consumers to believe any form of CBD can produce these effects.
In an interview with The New York Times, James MacKillop of McMaster University said CBD is promising in many different therapeutic ways because it’s relatively safe. However, when looking further, a lot of research suggests it may interact negatively with other drugs, cause liver injury.
Of course, the substance is not a panacea and can’t claim to fix a wide range of ailments without being Food and Drug Administration-approved.
In fact, in July 2019, the FDA had to publish a letter to CBD company Curaleaf, regarding the misbranding of CBD as a drug claiming to treat chronic pain, relieve ADHD symptoms, help chronic anxiety or treat Alzheimer’s disease.
To make informed decisions about alternative health treatment, it’s necessary to be aware that many CBD products – think gummies, bath salts or face serum – are not intended for the cure or treatment of disease. In fact, the actual amount of CBD in these products remains muddled.
CBD may not be as effective when added into wellness products but may be promising as a treatment for drug usage.
In the same The New York Times article, Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai, said CBD is ineffective when its put into mascara or tampons. However, it presents potential for helping people with heroin addiction.
Srikar Poruri, a second-year cognitive science student, said he and his friends once tried CBD once as an alternative to nicotine.
“I remember distinctly one time being like ‘Oh, it’s not a scam,'” Poruri said. “It made me feel relaxing. … I remember feeling lighter in general.”
While Poruri said he thinks CBD definitely has relaxant effects and is not as addictive as nicotine, he also said the effects may be placebo.
Despite CBD’s reputation of being a “bougie” wellness commodity seen in dog treats or gold face masks, CBD in many of its forms may become more accessible for a diverse range of people. There are places we can find CBD outside of LA’s wellness bubble. CBD company Phoenix Tears signed a contract in 2018 to sell its products to over 5,000 7-Eleven stores in an attempt to reach a new market.
A combination of transparent producers and educated consumers is important when choosing an alternative health option, and this remains true for CBD purchasing.
This handy little CBD cannabinoid has big potential, and if purchased smartly, may help individuals find their niche among the intersection of medicine and wellness.