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CBD: Safe or Risky?
By Puja Sehgal, MD
CBD storefronts are popping up seemingly on every corner, selling everything from tinctures and edibles to balms and skincare, and even products for pets. People are using CBD products for easing anxiety, relieving pain, and helping other health issues. But is using CBD actually effective, and, more importantly, is it safe?
What Is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is a chemical compound derived from the cannabis sativa plant. It does not contain any THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the ingredient in marijuana that makes a person feel “high.” While THC is legal in some U.S. states, hemp-derived CBD with less than 0.3% THC is legal in most states.
All CBD products contain some variety of CBD oil, which is extracted from the cannabis plant and diluted with a carrier oil (like hemp seed oil). The products have gained popularity because of claims that CBD can have some of the same medicinal benefits as marijuana without the mind-altering effects.
Is CBD Effective?
Whether CBD products actually help certain medical conditions is still not proven, but there is promising evidence.
Some studies not affiliated with the FDA have shown that CBD may help to reduce inflammation and reduce chronic pain, such as that associated with fibromyalgia. CBD oil has also shown promise as a treatment for mental health conditions, such as anxiety, and in reducing some of the side effects of cancer treatment, such as nausea.
Is CBD Safe?
The general consensus among healthcare experts is that pure CBD is safe overall, but there’s still much to learn about the substance and its side effects. One problem is that CBD products aren’t federally regulated, so when you purchase the products from a local or online store, you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting. The products could contain harmful ingredients or may not even actually contain CBD. However, the FDA is cracking down on sellers who claim CBD can be used to treat medical conditions.
Currently, the only FDA-approved CBD medication is Epidiolex, which is used to treat rare seizure disorders when taken in conjunction with other medications. This approval only came after three extensive clinical trials.
Some studies have shown that side effects are possible with CBD use, such as diarrhea, changes in appetite or weight, dry mouth, dizziness or lightheadedness, nausea, and fatigue.
The bottom line on CBD? There’s simply not enough evidence yet to deem CBD as an effective treatment for any medical condition. No one should use CBD products without consulting with their physician, and CBD should not be used as a substitute for medical care or prescription medication.
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