Cannabidiol (CBD) is a widely recognized natural remedy extracted from the cannabis plant (marijuana). But unlike other chemical compounds found in cannabis — such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — CBD doesn’t produce a psychoactive effect, or “high.”
CBD is claimed to have therapeutic properties that may help decrease pain and provide a sense of relaxation. It’s readily available and offered over the counter in many forms, including:
- Edibles, such as mints or gummies
- Topicals, such as creams or gels
So, should you try it?
According to surveys, the number of people trying CBD is rising and not expected to slow down any time soon. But conclusive evidence supporting most health claims (and CBD’s safety) is still limited, so you should talk to your health care provider first.
This is what we know about CBD and what you should consider before trying it:
Possible health benefits of CBD
Researchers are still learning about how CBD affects different types of ailments. They’re studying CBD on its own and testing its effects in combination with THC.
Early clinical studies show promise that CBD may be able to help with:
- Chronic pain: When applied topically, CBD helps with symptomatic peripheral neuropathy (pain in the hands and feet) and reduces localized pain. Research finds CBD is also effective for managing neuropathic pain common to diseases such as multiple sclerosis and HIV/AIDS, and pain associated with malignant diseases, such as cancer. In some cases, CBD reduces pain by as much as 30% after two weeks — but only when combined with THC.
- Mental health disorders: There is evidence that CBD may contain properties that help reduce anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. A small study also shows that it helps with sleep issues and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), possibly because of its effect on anxiety. CBD may also improve symptoms of schizophrenia when used in conjunction with prescribed medication.
- Seizures: In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CBD under the brand name Epidiolex to treat two rare forms of epilepsy.
Researchers are also studying CBD’s effect on:
What to consider before using cannabidiol oil
The possible health benefits of CBD are enticing. But there are important facts you should consider before using it, including:
Not all CBD products are created equal
Except for Epidiolex, CBD products are not FDA-approved. That means there are no regulatory standards or checks for what is in the products or their strength. CBD products may contain THC, and it’s not always clear on the label, putting you at risk for unexpected drug interactions and inaccurate medical test results.
The amount of CBD in various products can also vary. Gummies may contain a different amount or potency than oil or topical substances. Be sure to read labels carefully and get CBD from a trusted source.
CBD you purchase is not necessarily the same as CBD used in studies
You may be inclined to try CBD after reading the results of clinical studies. But remember that the CBD you purchase over the counter may not be as potent or effective as what’s used in the studies. Manufacturers may also combine it with THC.
CBD may help with your condition or issue. But it may not be adequate treatment on its own and should not be a substitute for medical care.
There’s limited evidence to support the safety of CBD
While there’s been some clinical evidence of CBD benefits, there has not been enough research or time to establish that it’s safe. Children, people who are pregnant and those living with chronic health issues should be wary of using CBD or any products the FDA has not approved. Your health care provider can help determine if CBD is safe for you.
CBD may have side effects
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), CBD may cause:
- Drowsiness or sedation, especially when combined with alcohol or other drugs that affect brain activity, such as medication for anxiety, stress or sleep disorders.
- Drug interactions that may interfere with prescription medication taken for chronic conditions
- Gastrointestinal distress, specifically decreased appetite and diarrhea
- Issues with male fertility by affecting sperm function
- Liver injury, as noted during clinical trials for Epidiolex
- Mood changes, such as irritability