Cannabidiol (CBD) has taken the world by storm. It's a chemical compound commonly found in cannabis, and a few preliminary studies have suggested that CBD might help in dealing with anxiety, pain, and some specific conditions.
However, the qualities of CBD (both positive and negative) have been greatly exaggerated. Here's why.
CBD is not cannabis
Understandably, many people are hesitant to try out active ingredients from cannabis. But while CBD is the second most prevalent of the active ingredients in marijuana, it is most commonly derived from the common hemp plant -- a cousin of the marijuana plant.
In addition, CBD is not one of the components that have a psychoactive effect. Simply put it doesn't cause a "high". According to a very clear report by the World Health Organization:
“In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
As a result, CBD is perfectly legal and obtainable in most parts of the world. In the European Union, it's classed as a "novel food", whereas in most parts of the US, it is legalized with various degrees of restriction.
Not a wonder drug
In the past few years, CBD has become immensely popular, and many people swear by its effects. But as it so often happens, the scientists are saying "not so fast".
While some studies have highlighted the potential of CBD, and it is already being recommended for a few very specific conditions, the demonstrated benefits of cannabis don't match the hype -- at least not yet.
There has been surprisingly little high-quality research carried out on CBD -- and the results have not been consistently replicated yet to justify practical uses. Preliminary research has shown that, in conjunction with conventional medicine, CBD can help people suffering from epilepsy, reducing seizure incidence and improving the overall quality of life. However, most of the research has focused on specific forms of epilepsy, and on children. In the United States, the cannabidiol drug Epidiolex was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2018, for treatment of epilepsy associated with Lennox–Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome.
Meanwhile, on other uses for cannabidiol, the research is even thinner. Preliminary studies have shown promise for reducing symptoms associated with several neurological disorders, but thorough, controlled studies are still mostly lacking.
CBD is also commonly used to address anxiety and insomnia. However, the evidence is also inconclusive here. There is research showing that CBD can be both helpful and detrimental for patients suffering from these conditions.
There are side effects
Also, while CBD is generally safe to use, there are also some notable side effects. The common side effects include nausea, fatigue, and irritability. CBD can also cause diarrhea and poor quality sleep (though as mentioned above, sometimes it seems to help with sleep).
It's also important to mention that it's hard to limit these side effects, because we don't really know what is the ideal therapeutic dose for a particular medical condition.
CBD has received a lot of undeserved flack, but on the other hand, many of the claims associated with it are unwarranted.
Some CBD advocates make wild, indefensible claims, recommending CBD for everything from the common flu to cancer. CBD may or may not help with a number of conditions, but right now, it's hard to draw any definite conclusions. What is true about CBD is that it seems to hold promise reducing the intensity of some conditions, but much more research (and particularly in human studies) is necessary to draw any clear conclusions.
If you think CBD is a good option for you, there's little to lose -- but you should consult with a doctor beforehand.