Food and wellness trends come and go, but we’re really wondering what took so long for CBD to start nearing mainstream popularity. Recently, it seems like cannabidiol, a cannabis extract commonly known as CBD, is popping up more often than usual in our skin care products and snacks. That’s all fun and good, but a new study found a more serious reason you might want to try CBD for your health: to treat anxiety or addiction, which researchers had previously been on the fence about.
Just in case you’re not up on your horticulture, cannabis is a plant that has over 400 different compounds, which scientists call cannabinoids. One of these compounds, THC, is usually the main psychoactive component in marijuana—it gets you high. CBD is another one and has stoked intrigue in people interested in medical marijuana, since it’s not psychoactive (no, you don’t get stoned) and you can get all of the other healing benefits of cannabis. Not only do some people simply prefer using CBD, but it’s an easier sell to get funding for research on cannabis extracts that don’t get you high, especially since on a federal level and in many states, growing and using cannabis, or marijuana, is still very illegal.
All of which is why most CBD is grown from hemp or includes very low doses of THC, mixed with other things, to get around its Schedule I classification from the Drug Enforcement Association. High Times explains:
Being (mostly) legal and not getting you stoned is already a selling point for many people, but a new study from Dr. Esther Blessing and her team at New York University plans on exploring its other benefits, namely for anxiety and addiction. Studies already show that CBD is effective treatment for pain, for epilepsy, and has some anti-cancer properties. We just need to know more about it. Blessing told NPR, “I think there’s good evidence to suggest that CBD could be an effective treatment of anxiety and addiction and other disorders. But we need clinical trials to find out.”
There have already been studies about using CBD to treat anxiety, and they mostly conclude that CBD is, in fact, an effective treatment for anxiety. However, those studies have been animal based or done on very small groups of humans. However, preliminary trials have been promising and with new money from the National Institutes of Health, Blessing and others are going to test out the effects of CBD on PTSD and moderate or severe alcohol disorders. Participants will be given 400 mg of CBD a day, which is pharmaceutical grade and more potent than most CBD products and supplements you can buy at any health store, especially in states where marijuana is still illegal. Another clinical trial, led by Yasmin Hurd, the director of the Addiction Institute at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, will study the side effects of CBD, and how it may help people from relapsing.
The thing about CBD is that it’s hard to know what’s in it exactly if you’re just perusing the internet or aisles, which is why more clinical trials, with reliable pharmaceutical grade CBD (which can be consumed via a tincture, edible, or oil) are needed. The legal issues surrounding marijuana and cannabis products also make it difficult for people to explore its efficacy and safety for various medical conditions, especially anxiety and addiction. How do you get a federal agency like the Food and Drug Administration to approve a substance that’s classified as an illegal drug to treat people with addiction disorders? There are a lot of obstacles.
Blessing added in her interview with NPR, “Drugs can be non-psychoactive and still have an effect on the brain. CBD does have an effect on the brain, but it seems to affect the brain in possibly medicinal ways.” In the meantime, the CBD industry just keeps growing—some estimate that it will be a $3 billion industry in time for the next presidential election. And while the science might need to catch up, word on the street is that CBD works.
Phil Asquith, a farmer and producer of extra-virgin olive oil in California, who founded one of the first companies in the CBD space, told US News last month, “The known is it’s good for you, it helps a lot of people and a lot of things, and you can’t hurt yourself. The unknown is all the details.”
It will take a few more years for Blessing’s research and other clinical trials to come up with some of those details. But the fact that these studies are getting funding and people are open to accepting CBD as medicine is a very good sign. Until then, you can stock up on CBD skin care products and talk to your doctor about what they think of using a cannabis extract to cure whatever ails you. They’ll probably be happy you asked.