Researchers still have a lot of questions to answer
If you believe the hype, one little bottle of CBD contains miracles. It treats diabetes; reduces stress; alleviates chronic pain and anxiety; even cures acne. Trouble sleeping? Panicky pet? CBD to the rescue.
All that, and so much more — at a bargain price as low as $40 for some formulas. This potent potable also comes mixed into body lotions, bath salts, coffee, smoothies, gummy bears, chocolate, cheese pizza and dog biscuits.
The fad for cannabidiol, or CBD, has clearly gone mainstream. From virtually nothing a few years ago, sales of the cannabis-related compound have exploded into a billion-dollar market. CBD’s true believers tout one miraculous health claim after the next.
In light of the wide dissemination of these beliefs, CBD claims deserve careful scrutiny from the Food and Drug Administration — and some attention from state regulators, too. Despite its ubiquity, CBD is still largely an unresearched substance in the U.S. Exaggerated or unproven claims need to be challenged, and the industry shouldn’t be permitted to introduce CBD into food products until the compound is better understood.
CBD is the nonintoxicating, natural molecule extracted from the cannabis plant. CBD is found in marijuana, of course, but it’s also present in hemp, the related plant whose cultivation in the U.S. was legalized by Congress in December.
Its proven medical uses are confined to a drug the FDA approved last summer to treat two rare forms of pediatric epilepsy. It’s the first — and only — medicine derived from cannabis that has been greenlighted by the federal agency.
Because CBD is already sold as a drug, federal law technically bans its use in food and drink that crosses state lines. “Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of the law, but also can put patients at risk, as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective,” Scott Gottlieb, then the FDA commissioner, wrote in a statement when hemp production was legalized.
The hazy legal status of hemp-derived CBD until December, coupled with lack of funding, deterred studies in the past. Now researchers need to determine how different doses affect consumers; how CBD affects children; how it interacts with medical conditions and medications; how it affects pregnant women; whether long-term use carries risks; and if the purported benefits are scientifically verifiable.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE BOSTON GLOBE