Above: CBD Oil is being credited with all kinds of medical benefits, but it’s important to review the facts. Image by Julia Teichmann from Pixabay.

No doubt about it, CBD is a hot commodity.

The compound shows up more and more in products sold at pharmacies and health-food stores and in a variety of forms. CBD shops are popping up along streets, in malls and online. It’s touted as a way to cure, or at least help with, everything from pain or depression to high blood pressure and acne. 

Ira Katz

Pharmacist Ira Katz. Photo by TGA Communications LLC.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of companies that have come out of the woodwork—in the last six months, even the last year—with all kinds of CBD products,” said Little Five Points pharmacist Ira Katz.

“You can find everything from tinctures to gummies to topical balms and roll-ons. It’s all over the board,” he said, adding that he’s “worried about what we don’t know,” when it comes to CBD.

What is CBD?

Health journalists, researchers and pharmacists admit confusion about its efficacy and misunderstood name, making today’s CBD conversations livelier than ever. According to the National Library of Medicine, CBD’s ‘real’ (or generic) name is cannabidiol (or ka-nə-bə-ˈdī-ˌȯl). It is a member of the anticonvulsant drug class—one of many chemicals found in the Cannabis sativa plant.

CBD is an essential component of medical marijuana, but only when it’s above 0.3% in potency. Although industrial hemp and marijuana are both varieties of cannabis, they have been bred for different uses and can be distinguished by their chemical and genetic compositions.

The addictive part of marijuana is a different chemical compound called THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, according experts.

“What many people don’t realize,” say several University of Washington (UW) researchers in a recent opinion article, “is that a CBD concentration of higher than 0.3% is labeled as cannabis”—[and] “those that produce less than that are labeled as hemp.”

Benefits of CBD

There are a lot of claims about what CBD can do for people. The main benefit is pain relief. Marijuana has been used for to relieve pain for centuries, and CBD is the component responsible for its pain-relieving effects. It’s known to help reduce anxiety and depression and to alleviate high blood pressure and cancer-related symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting.

CBD has also been studied in the treatment of neurological orders, like epilepsy, and mental disorders, including schizophrenia, as well as substance abuse. There are some indications that it can prevent diabetes and the spread of cancerous tumors, and even reduce acne.

This all sounds great, but there’s no question that more research is needed to substantiate all these claims.

The advice “buyer beware,” can be heard from credible medical and pharmaceutical experts around Georgia. Magazines, newspapers and all types of media are promoting CBD products with little or no data revealing their ingredients.

At the same time, increased questions about CBD products abound. Concerns focus on three items: Is it safe? Is it addictive? Is it legal?

Is CBD safe?

Medical marijuana logo

Image by isuru prabath from Pixabay.

Does CBD mix well with other pills or ointments? This is especially important for older adults, who may be taking certain prescribed medications.

The best advice is to ask your primary care provider before adding anything to the mix of medications you may be taking. Check with your pharmacist, too. At the moment, it looks like the “Wild, Wild West” out there.

Keep in mind that while CBD is considered to be safe, and is generally well tolerated by most people, there are some side effects. Study subjects have experienced diarrhea, fatigue and changes in their weight and appetites.

It can also interact with other medications, so…again…be sure to talk with your physician before using CBD oil.

Is CBD addictive?

CBD is not “known” to be addictive, said Dr. Peter Ginspoon, a Harvard Health Blog contributing editor. “While CBD is a component of marijuana (one of hundreds), by itself it does not cause a ‘high’.”

According to a 2018 World Health Organization Critical Review Report, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.”

But, it’s likely not a cure-all either, according to many U.S. experts. “Public education on the topic has been absent to date (along with) the safety of the CBD products people are buying,” state the UW researchers in their ‘op’ article.

The main thing to remember is CBD and TCH are chemically NOT the same thing.

 Is CBD legal?

First of all, is hemp legal? Short answer is “yes,” in Georgia, “sort of” or maybe? But, don’t plan on growing it in your back yard. Only growers licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) are permitted to grow and process hemp in Georgia.

Period.

The GDA is working on how licensing will take place. As of this writing, no licenses have been issued. In a 2019 Public Broadcasting interview with “On Second Thought,” Allen Peake, former Georgia State Representative, who pioneered much of the legislation regarding hemp and CBD, was asked about this newer hemp legislation.

CBD stand in mall

CBD stand in an Atlanta metro mall, August 2019. Photo by TGA Communications LLC.

“The fact that now that hemp oil or CBD oil is now a potential food additive … scares me a little bit, because you don’t know exactly what you’re getting,” Peake said.

Peake cautioned older folks to “make sure you know what’s in that product [before purchasing it]. Be very careful.”

In testing CBD compounds, many products were found to not contain the levels of CBD they claimed to contain, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Over the past several years, FDA has issued several warning letters to firms that market unapproved new drugs that allegedly contain CBD … It is important to note that the FDA does not approve these products for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease.

Consumers should beware.

 Talk to your pharmacist

Katz explained that there are many companies on the internet—hundreds, maybe thousands—that are offering CBD, with not much (or any) regulations. “I’m leery of that,” he said. “These companies are manufacturing products without any regulation or control. I recognized the value of CBD early on, but it should be from a qualified company that does the assays, the testing and one that’s regulated.”

He emphasized that people should talk to their pharmacists. “There are some companies doing a great job,” Katz said. “Those are the companies to seek out.”

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