Cannabidiol (CBD) has been recently covered in the media, and you may have even seen it as an add-in booster to your post-workout smoothie or morning coffee. What exactly is CBD? Why is it suddenly so popular?
CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of cannabis (marijuana). While CBD is an essential component of medical marijuana, it is derived directly from the hemp plant, which is a cousin of the marijuana plant. While CBD is a component of marijuana (one of hundreds), by itself it does not cause a "high." According to a report from the World Health Organization, "In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD."
How is cannabidiol different from marijuana?
Some CBD manufacturers have come under government scrutiny for wild, indefensible claims, such that CBD is a cure-all for cancer, which it is not. We need more research but CBD may be prove to be an option for managing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. Without sufficient high-quality evidence in human studies we can’t pinpoint effective doses, and because CBD is currently is mostly available as an unregulated supplement, it’s difficult to know exactly what you are getting. If you decide to try CBD, talk with your doctor — if for no other reason than to make sure it won’t affect other medications you are taking.
Image: yavdat/Getty Images
CBD is commonly used to address anxiety, and for patients who suffer through the misery of insomnia, studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.
Each member of our research team is required to have no conflicts of interest, including with supplement manufacturers, food companies, and industry funders. The team includes nutrition researchers, registered dietitians, physicians, and pharmacists. We have a strict editorial process.
Before protesting, “Hey, why doesn’t your Scientific Research section cover XYZ mouse study showing CBD benefits?”, take note that mice are not human. In fact, the same exact dose of CBD in a mouse versus a human will be more bioavailable in the mouse, leading to larger effects.  That’s besides the bevy of other reasons that animal studies often don’t translate to humans, such as different metabolic pathways in animals, lab conditions differing from free-living human conditions, etc. 
Summary of Cannabidiol (CBD)
Let’s just say . it’s complicated. CBD products that are derived from hemp, with a low-to-zero percentage of THC (below 0.3%), are currently in a legal gray area in the US.
Yet CBD is not without potential detriment. The long-term use of isolated CBD isn’t well researched in humans, so potential harms may be possible. For example, CBD and cannabis in general has been touted as a potential cancer treatment,  yet certain cancer types could theoretically worsen from CBD-induced receptor activation (in this study, colon cancer).  CBD studies are typically very short term, and side effects are captured as part of studies exploring potential benefits. It would take months- or years-long studies to assess long-term risk of chronic ingestion on specific body systems.
In small amounts, probably not for most people. In large amounts over time . well, read on to get a gist of the risks.