Given the number of states now legalizing marijuana, many people are less hesitant to try cannabis and other cannabis-related products like CBD (cannabidiol) oil. In many places, you can walk into your local health food store and buy CBD oil drops and lozenges — even shampoos and hand lotions. Before you start using CBD oil, take a few moments to review information about it.
1. What Is CBD Oil?
CBD oil is created when cannabidiol, one of 104 chemical compounds found in the cannabis sativa plant, is combined with a carrier such as hemp oil or coconut oil. Both hemp and marijuana are derived from the same plant. CBD oil does not, however, have intoxicating properties. Getting high from the cannabis plant requires the presence of another chemical compound, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Eric Poehner, general manager of Mana Supply Inc., a medical marijuana dispensary in Annapolis, Maryland, confirms that CBD oil is not psychoactive.
2. Is CBD Oil Legal?
As more and more states legalize medicinal and even recreational marijuana, the market for CBD oil and CBD oil products in those states has exploded. Although there are rules and regulations in many states, for the most part CBD oil is considered legal. There is not, however, any federal law legalizing CBD oil, so be aware that each state has differing laws. In California, for example, by law CBD oil is not to be added to food products. However, that law is largely being ignored, and products containing CBD are widely available in the state. If you live in a state where you can walk into your neighborhood health food store and purchase CBD oil, it is either legal or laws are not being enforced, while if you live in one of the 14 states with CBD restrictions, you may not be able to do so.
3. Why Are People Taking CBD Oil?
The human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) in addition to its other systems. The ECS was discovered in the past 25 years and is believed to help regulate sleep, appetite, pain and the immune system.
People who take CBD oil often do so to address sleep issues. Madeline Ulivieri decided to try CBD oil instead of sleep medications. “I’m not really a pill person,” she says. “So I tried CBD oil after some friends told me it worked for them.” Ulivieri says each night she takes a drop of the oil about 30 minutes before her bedtime, and if she isn’t asleep in an hour, she takes an additional half a drop. “It’s been amazing for me,” she says.
Mary Hallgren vapes CBD oil several times a day in order to manage her fibromyalgia pain. “It has helped me so much more than the gabapentin [Neurontin] prescription,” she says. Hallgren learned of the oil’s use on a fibromyalgia support site and says it relieves her muscle pain.
4. What Does the FDA Say About CBD Oil?
The FDA does not consider CBD oil as a supplement, even though it is often sold that way. In fact, CBD oil products are very lightly regulated. When companies make claims about the effectiveness of CBD oil as a medical treatment, the agency can intervene. In June, however, the FDA approved Epidiolex, making it the first FDA-approved drug derived from marijuana.
Epidiolex, which contains CBD, is an anti-seizure medication that is currently approved only to treat two rare forms of epilepsy. The FDA has said that Epidiolex’s approval will lead to more drug trials and the development of more therapies involving CBD and other cannabinoids. The FDA warns, however, that they “…. are prepared to take action when we see the illegal marketing of CBD-containing products with serious, unproven medical claims.”
5. Are There Any Precautions?
According to the prescription insert for Epidiolex, side effects may include insomnia, diarrhea, sleepiness, rash and decreased appetite. Ulivieri says that CBD oil makes her sleepy, which in her case is the desired effect versus an adverse one. But she does report that when using CBD oil, she always makes sure to take it with food, since she has a sensitive stomach. On the occasions where she has neglected to eat a little something along with her CBD oil, Ulivieri reports waking up with a sour stomach. Pasqua Osso was prescribed a CBD oil vapor pen, but she has requested a different form of the medication because it burned her throat and left a bitter aftertaste in her mouth.
There are concerns that CBD may negatively interact with some medications, potentially causing side effects. There are also indications that CBD may harm the liver, as it has been shown to increase liver enzymes in patients in some studies.
A 2017 research letter published in JAMA found that 70% of CBD products purchased were mislabeled, as they either had a higher or lower concentration of CBD than listed on the label. Some of the products also contained THC, even though they weren’t supposed to.
Whether you are seeking better sleep, relief from anxiety or pain management, discuss CBD oil with your physician.
Jenn Morson is a freelance writer living and working outside of Washington, DC. Her words have been featured in The Washington Post, USA Today, Reader’s Digest, Cosmopolitan, and many other publications.