CBD is cannabidiol oil, an extract of hemp that does not include THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, according to Henry Bynum, a family medicine physician with Keystone Family Medicine and Prisma Health.
Bynum says people are most commonly using CBD oil for chronic pain, anxiety, depression or insomnia.
“What’s helped it explode in popularity is the farm bill passed a year ago,” Bynum says.
If the CBD comes from a hemp that has less than a specified threshold of THC, then the hemp can be grown legally (with certain requirements), as opposed to marijuana with much higher THC.
There are some potentially problematic issues with CBD oil, including knowing whether or not the product you are buying is what it claims to be. Bynum says using a site such as consumerlab.com can help buyers know if the product contains what it reports.
“Do some homework to at least get what you are paying for,” he says.
Beyond that, there is still much to learn.
“What exactly CBD does and its long-term implications, we just don’t know,” Bynum says.
A lot of the stories about what CBD oil does are anecdotal and still lacking in human studies.
“The research is very much in its infancy,” Bynum says. “In the scientific community, we’re saying, let’s pump the brakes and get more data.”
Because of how the substance is processed by the liver, CBD oil can potentially interact with certain drugs, including blood thinners, anti-anxiety and antidepressants drugs, HIV medications and even common medications like ibuprofen. Patients should definitely discuss these potentially dangerous combinations with their healthcare provider. Though it may indeed be effective for some problems and even safer than other substances, Bynum says some people should definitely avoid CBD oil, including those who are or could become pregnant.
“We don’t know what this does to the adult brain, let alone the developing brain,” he says.
Bynum says data, such as the indication that CBD oil may have anti-inflammatory properties, is being extrapolated to include other things, such as those who say the substance must therefore be anti-cancer or anti-aging. For now, more research is needed.
For his patients who want to try it, Bynum says they have to balance what is known with what is yet to be discovered, as well as practical aspects like cost.
“It’s very hard to argue there’s not some placebo effect, but what is actually happening on the cellular level?” Bynum says.
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