Can CBD oil help your pain or anxiety? What you need to know about the latest health craze
Cannabidiol — CBD — is a compound in the marijuana plant with purported medical benefits but very little (0.3 percent or less) THC, the plant’s psychoactive ingredient.
In other words, it won’t make you feel high or stoned.
Dozens of online companies sell it as a supplement. And it can be found in everything from cosmetics to bottled water to coffee. You can pick it up it in health food stores and smoke shops — even in New Jersey, where pot hasn’t been legalized.
The most common reason for using CBD oil is to alleviate anxiety and depression, said Martin A. Lee, director of the non-profit cannabis research group Project CBD and author of “Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana.”
It’s also popular for pain and is being used to treat cancer, Crohn’s, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, PTSD, cardiovascular disease, antibiotic-resistant infections, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia.
Because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, there’s a dearth of clinical trials on the medical effects of CBD oil in the U.S., but Lee said there is “extensive pre-clinical research” here and more definitive studies abroad. It’s approved for chronic pain in more than two dozen countries, he said.
Recently, the drug Epidiolex, whose active ingredient is CBD oil, was approved by the FDA for use in controlling seizures in children.
But is it legal?
Despite its widespread use, the short answer is no, CBD oil is not legal.
That’s because the oil comes from the marijuana plant, which is classified by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration as a substance with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” requiring strict control, Lee said.
Of course, the legality of pot in the U.S is a tangled web. Even in states like California and Colorado, where marijuana is legal on the state level, dispensaries could technically be shut down at any time by the federal government.
Similarly, though CBD oil is technically illegal on the federal level, it is sold freely online and in stores even here in New Jersey. Erica McBride, executive director of the National Hemp Association in Washington, said there have been instances in states where pot hasn’t been legalized where CBD oil was confiscated at the post office or people possessing it were arrested, but it’s “very rare.”
Hemp is marijuana grown for non-recreational uses and contains 0.3 percent or less of THC.
“To my knowledge, everyone who fought these incidents won, once they proved the CBD oil had 0.3 percent or less of THC,” she said.
Growing and producing CBD oil made from hemp may soon become fully legal. Lawmakers are working to finalize a 2018 Farm Bill sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell that removes hemp from the controlled substances list, allowing it to be grown legally on a large scale. Negotiators are hoping for a completed report this month and a vote on the bill by year’s end.
Even then, it remains to be seen what the FDA will do to regulate CBD oil products.
“It’s very complicated and messy and uncertain,” McBride said.
Is it safe?
In its pure form, CBD oil is non-toxic, even at large doses, and has no abuse potential, experts say.
Unfortunately, the legal murkiness of CBD oil means that in states like New Jersey, no one is regulating its safety, efficacy or labeling. CBD oil cannot be shipped here from California or Colorado.
Buying CBD oil in New Jersey is “like the Wild West,” said Tristan Quintan of Montclair’s Inner Eye, a smoke shop on Bloomfield Avenue. Short of sending it to a lab yourself, there’s no way to be certain what’s in a product.
Compounding the danger is that people who are sick are vulnerable to the allure of CBD oil. “It is very disturbing that people who are ailing reach for these products and there are no safety controls,” Lee said.
Contamination by pesticides, herbicides and solvents used in the extraction process is a big concern. The term “organic” is meaningless, McBride said, since CBD oil is not eligible for FDA organic certification.
The lack of oversight means products may contain only synthetic CBD, or little or no CBD oil at all. A study last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association measured the amount of CBD oil in 84 products from 31 companies and concluded that 26 percent contained less CBD than advertised.
Mislabeling the amount of THC in a product, which the researchers also found, could cause problems, especially in children.
So what to do? McBride and Lee recommend shopping by brand — finding a reputable company by looking up online reviews or asking a retailer you trust.
Such companies will post test results from labs unaffiliated with the company; even if they are inscrutable, it’s one sign of transparency.
Or you can ask a company for lab reports. “If they are reluctant to share these results with you, it should be an automatic red flag,” McBride said.
CBD products from U.S. companies are safer than those from overseas, especially those produced in countries like China and Romania, where soil may be contaminated with pollutants such as lead and mercury.
“Most companies using domestic hemp advertise that fact on their websites,” McBride said.
Try to find out if the CBD oil is extracted using CO2 rather than toxic solvents like BHO, propane, hexane or other hydrocarbons.
Vaping requires extra vetting, since vape oil cartridges generally contain additives such as propylene glycol, which, when heated, produces the carcinogen formaldehyde. Never use flavored vape oil, especially cream and cinnamon, which are toxic when heated and inhaled.
What’s the best way to use CBD oil?
The only way to find the right dose of CBD oil is trial and error. Companies can’t give guidelines, since that would be making a medical claim, McBride said.
When starting out, take a few very small doses over the course of a day and stick with that for a few days, Lee said, observing and making small adjustments. “Don’t get impatient and overdo it,” he added. Large doses are sedating. And, although it’s counterintuitive, he said lower doses are often more effective than higher ones.
The method used to take the oil also makes a difference.
Vaping is the quickest-acting, but it also fades fastest (in about 20 minutes), making it the usual method for pain flare-ups or the onset of a panic attack. Placing the oil under the tongue takes about 20 minutes to kick in, but effects can last for several hours.
The ratio of THC to CBD in a product is also important. Lee said products made with CBD oil extracted from resin-rich marijuana plants rather than industrial hemp, which may have no THC at all, are more therapeutic because the two ingredients work synergistically. These oils are also purer, since fewer plants are used and less refining is necessary. However, these products are available only in states with legal weed.
As if there were not enough confusion, Quintan, of the Inner Eye, said different strains of the cannabis plant are used to make CBD oils with widely differing effects. A strain named the Pineapple Express will make you feel euphoric, he said, while Blueberry OG helps insomnia.
What you won’t feel is high. Whether that’s a plus or a downside is for you to decide.
Crafted specifically for those struggling with anxiety and nervousness – CBD Calm combines phytocannabinoid rich hemp oil, 500mg full spectrum CBD, and Ashwagandha extract to deliver an effective supportive compound. Ideal for people and animals, CBD Calm is the leader in adrenal support.
Contains: Ashwagandha Extract. 500mg CBD. Over 30 Terpene Rich isolates. Zero THC.
Adrenal and Cortisol Management
Designed to target specific needs, CBD Calm works to protect the body and address anxiety and nervousness issues. Utilizing our proprietary extraction process, WL Hemp CBD Calm contains CBD, CBC, CBG, CBG-A, CBC-A, CBN and terpenes, that works to site target areas.
CBD Calm contains Ashwagandha extract, a researched ingredient that has been shown to help support cortisol levels in the body. When cortisol levels in the body are high, anxiousness and worry can become overwhelming. Used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha has become popular for its calming benefits.
Lab tested and third party certified, WL Hemp is the leader in pure hemp extract products, providing overall supportive care.
Whole Leaf cannabinoid supplement CBD Calm is a full spectrum high potency CBD formulation that is terpene concentrated, containing over 30 different terpenes.*
Formulated containing Ashwagandha extract, CBD Calm works to support adrenal issues and stress fatigue.*
CBD Full Spectrum Extract – 16.67mg
Ashwagandha Root Extrat – 2mg
Other Ingredients: Hemp Seed Oil, Phyocannabinoid Rich Hemp Oil
Can CBD help anxiety? What the research shows so far
CBD research is promising for anxiety — but there’s a lot more to know.
Mercey Livingston is a health and wellness writer and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She’s written about fitness and wellness for Well+Good, Women’s Health, Business Insider, and Prevention.com among others. When not writing, she enjoys reading and trying out workout classes all over New York City.
CBD is extracted from hemp plants and the oil is found in a variety of products.
Anxiety is the leading mental health disorder in the United States, with at least 40 million Americans affected every year. Anxiety is a treatable condition and one recent popular supplement that is touted to potentially aid in stress reduction and relaxation is CBD (cannabidiol, extracted from hemp plants). Marketing agency Bigeye conducted a 2020 survey with approximately 750 people who use CBD products, and 38% reported using them specifically for anxiety.
CBD products are marketed and sold in a plethora of different types of product from gummies, chocolates and oils to creams and beyond. But given that the products are still a relatively new area, they don’t have that much solid science behind them (even though claims and anecdotal evidence are readily available).
CBD research is ever-growing and promising, but using it to treat a mental health disorder seems iffy at best, and at worst, dangerous. It’s important to understand that stress and anxiety are not the same thing — everyone experiences stress. But anxiety is a reaction to stress and a diagnosable mental health condition that should be addressed by appropriate mental health professionals.
A lot of claims surrounding CBD and anxiety are purely anecdotal (word of mouth, customer reviews or social media testimonials). So what should you do if you’re interested in trying CBD to help with anxiety? Does it really work? I consulted with psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Ditzell who specializes in medical marijuana treatment for mental health disorders.
Disclaimer: CBD is still considered an unproven supplement or treatment. If you are experiencing mental health issues you should always seek the help of a professional first before trying supplements like CBD.
How CBD might help with anxiety
“CBD is the over-the-counter, homeopathic equivalent to medical marijuana and has been touted by many to help with sleep, anxiety and depression,” says Ditzell, who compares using CBD to using melatonin instead of a prescription sleep aid like Ambien.
“I have had many patients relate that they use CBD products and that generally they have experienced help with sleep, anxiety and in aiding in overall recovery (such as from physical training),” says Ditzell, which are, again, only anecdotally based claims.
The most important health tech of CES 2021
With the sheer number of CBD products on the market and the lack of regulation in general, there’s no way to make a fair blanket statement about all CBD products since they vary so widely in dosage, potency and form. In general, some research like this case series shows the potential of CBD for helping with anxiety, but also points out the lack of clinical studies on CBD in psychiatric science literature, and the need for more clinical research on the topic.
Research has pointed to evidence that CBD can interact with receptors in the brain that regulate fear and anxiety, which may explain its potential anti-anxiety effects.
How CBD works for different types of anxiety disorders
There are several different types of diagnosable anxiety including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and anxiety related to PTSD. The current research shows that CBD has the potential to help with different types of anxiety disorders. For this reason, it’s best to consult with a qualified medical professional to determine whether CBD could be right for you.
Our Health & Wellness newsletter puts the best products, updates and advice in your inbox.
Warning for some types of mental health disorders
It’s important to note that CBD can make some disorders worse. “Marijuana derivatives [like CBD] can also exacerbate mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia. Again, the best bet is consultation with a trusted mental health professional,” says Ditzell.
The bottom line is that CBD research has a long way to go before we really know how it works and how safe it truly is. The CBD industry is still highly unregulated so you are essentially taking a gamble when you purchase products containing this substance. (CBD is not classified as a dietary supplement by the FDA, so it’s not screened for the same things as other dietary supplements.) Again, mental health disorders like anxiety should be treated by medical professionals and you should not replace proper treatment with a supplement like CBD.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.