Name a natural medicine that can reduce pain, and acne, and blood pressure, and anxiety, and depression, and epilepsy, and even symptoms related to cancer. Cannabidiol or CBD, is a natural remedy used for curing various common ailments. Not only this, but CBD is also used in cosmetics and dietary supplements, often bought in the form of CBD oil, capsules, bath bombs, face masks, lotions, coffee and chocolates.

The popularity of CBD is owed to three factors; the huge herbal supplement industry, the growing anxiety economy and the rise of a legal cannabis marketplace. The global market for CBD is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 32 percent over 2019-2024. What’s scary is that there’s still a lot we don’t know about CBD and people tend to misunderstand its effects. Here’s what we do know.

Cannabidiol or CBD is one of over 110 chemical constituents, called cannabinoids, present in Cannabis sativa having two primary species, marijuana and hemp (hemp has a higher percentage of CBD in it). CBD is the second most active ingredient of marijuana after tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which is the main psychoactive cannabinoid responsible for the sensation of getting “high” associated with marijuana. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive, implying that one won’t experience ‘euphoria’ or feel sedated upon its consumption. This is what makes CBD appealing to people, it relieves pain without leading to mind-altering effects.
Although CBD has been advertised to cure a variety of health issues, the only CBD-medication that is approved by Food and Drug Administration is Epidiolex, used to treat two severe forms of epilepsy. Cannabidiol prevents the breakdown of the endocannabinoid system of the body responsible for regulating various functions like sleep, pain and immune system response. Thus, its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties make it effective in curing movement disorders, anxiety, and chronic pain related to arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Other than this, there isn’t enough scientific research for CBD to be prescribed as medicine for all of those other claims such as acne, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s etc.

Despite lack of information, there are hundreds of unapproved CBD products available, including cosmetics, food products, dietary supplements and even products making therapeutic claims. On top of this, CBD products often don’t contain what they say they do. A 2017 study by American Medical Association of 84 CBD products found that almost 70 percent were mislabelled, i.e. they either under or over-estimated the amount of CBD in the product, or they contained illegal amounts of THC, the psychoactive ingredient that makes you “high”. And even if they disclosed the correct amount, the doses tend to be very low. One needs approximately 300 milligrams of CBD to have the stress-relieving results, whereas an average CBD food product contains only about 5-10 milligrams.

In December 2017, the World Health Organisation concluded that cannabidiol is not harmful. In January 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances. Still, the FDA has not cleared the use of CBD. The FDA is responsible for ensuring that substances within the food and beverage industry remain safe. And though CBD is generally considered safe, still, like all medications, it is not without side effects. Some observed side effects are decreased appetite, fatigue, nausea, irritability and diarrhoea. It also affects the effect of other drugs one might be taking, causing serious side effects.
There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the CBD. For example – what happens if CBD is taken daily for a sustained period of time? Or what level of dosage triggers the risks associated with CBD? CBD can be consumed via different methods (oral, topical, vaping etc.); so, do these have different effects? The effects of CBD on adolescents, pregnant women has also not been studied yet. And many more such questions.

It is important to understand that CBD is not a ‘cure-all’ and is a relatively new medication. And till the time research is being conducted, it is imperative to seek professional advice to determine the best dosage that suits you. As regulations increase, more specific prescriptions will start to emerge. In fact, on February 26, 2020, the FDA head announced that “they have no intention of clamping down any further on CBD than it already has”. The FDA has even asked public to submit information and comments about CBD to help address uncertainties and data gaps related to its safety. This could provide FDA the information it needs to identify a path for lawful CBD sales, of at least dietary supplements. However, CBD companies need to ensure that they properly advertise their products and don’t make any false claims.

CBD generated over $350 million in sales in 2017 and this is expected to shoot up to $22 billion by 2022! Charlotte’s Web is one company that is geared-up to take advantage of the $22-billion market. By 2019, it was the undisputed market leader in the hemp-derived CBD market. Canopy Growth Corporation, one of the leading medical marijuana companies, has started selling CBD oil through its subsidiary Bedrocan which is considered as one of the world’s most experienced producers of legal medicinal cannabis. CV Sciences is another contender in the CBD business that has more than 50 products under its PlusCBD brand. CBD oil is all the rage now and companies are flooding the market with their products.

Cannabidiol has a lot of potential. Identifying future growth opportunities, companies have started focusing on product innovation to increase consumer base. Its efficacy and safety are still under scrutiny, but recent studies suggest that CBD may prove to be a powerful, safe, natural treatment for many health issues. Though FDA’s final decision regarding CBD is still pending, its newly appointed commissioner conceded that banning its circulation would be a “fool’s game”.

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