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CBD oil as health treatment: We answer 5 questions about cannabidiol products

Many tout CBD as a cure-all, but experts say some claims lack research

Products containing cannabidiol — better known as CBD oil — might seem pretty widespread these days.

Evidence and research about some CBD products' health claims, however, might be a little harder to find.

CBC News looked into what experts are saying about CBD to answer five big questions.

What is CBD?

CBD is one of more than a dozen major cannabinoid chemicals produced by the cannabis plant. It is dramatically different from THC, however, as it causes no intoxication or high.

Some tout it as an over-the-counter solution to aches and pains and insomnia. In the U.S., where CBD is less regulated, some companies even promote it as a cure for deadly diseases.

But many scientists and health professionals think some of those claims are exaggerated and have little evidence to back them up.

CBC Explains: What is CBD?

Why are people embracing it?

Despite researchers' skepticism, some Canadians are already singing CBD's praises.

"Sometimes, maybe it's a placebo but honestly, when I'm feeling really stressed and on edge I can sorta feel my shoulders relax a bit," said Camille Dibbs, a customer of Evergreen Cannabis, a Vancouver dispensary.

"It makes a difference, especially when you're having a frustrating day."

You might see CBD advertised as a medication for everything from acne to seizures.

But experts in B.C. say the strongest evidence for CBD's benefits is for treating pain and anxiety.

What does the research say about CBD?

Despite the growing popularity of CBD products, the body of research about their benefits is small.

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University of British Columbia researchers are studying cannabis's potential for treating people with opioid addiction but researcher M-J Milloy says the benefits of CBD have not been fully explored.

"Scientists believe it has anti-anxiety effects, anti-psychotic effects and anti-inflammatory effects," he explained.

"We do have . good literature from studies among animals. That's the best source of evidence at the moment."

As for some of the claims that CBD can fight cancer or Alzheimer's disease, Milloy says the evidence is "nothing credible."

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry agrees, saying that while pain management with CBD appears promising, more research is needed "to better understand what doses and types of products are effective for different conditions.

"Right now there is still a gap in research evidence, so we encourage people to be cautious," Henry said.

Can CBD help my pet?

Believe it or not, it's not just two-legged wellness seekers getting in on the action.

Mike Babins, owner of Evergreen Cannabis, says many people are asking for CBD products to help with pet pain relief.

"They ask for the treats," said Babins. "Those aren't legal 'cause they're technically an edible."

That hasn't stopped concerned pet owners from seeking CBD oil and CBD spray products for their furry friends.

Veterinarian Adrian Walton with Dewdney Animal Hospital in Maple Ridge says he can't recommend CBD products, however.

"We have to use products approved by Health Canada and there currently are no products approved by that agency," Walton explained.

"We currently can't write a prescription for any of these products."

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Is there any risk of addiction?

Experts agree: CBD poses little risk of addiction or dependence.

However, it can interact with other medications, meaning you should consult your prescriber if you want to try it.

Henry says medical professionals urge people to "start low and go slow" when embarking on a treatment regimen with CBD: meaning to start with a low dose and watch for any negative reactions.


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