While headlines may lead you to believe that CBD — sold in oils, edibles, tinctures, creams, capsules, and more — is a cure-all, there are really just a handful of conditions that scientific studies suggest it can treat, according to a report published in 2018 by the World Health Organization. It's important to know that CBD is treated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the same way as dietary supplements — that is, like supplements, CBD products can go to market without scientific evidence that they actually work. It's a “buyer beware” situation.
The next challenge is finding products that are accurately labeled. According to research published in November 2017 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, many CBD products do not contain the amount of CBD their labels claim. The research, conducted at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, involved testing 84 CBD products to see if they contained the amount of CBD listed. The researchers found 70 percent of CBD products are mislabeled, and “26 percent contained less CBD than labeled, which could negate any potential clinical response.”
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If you’re suffering from any of the ailments or diseases on this list and are curious to see if CBD could help, you should also know about the side effects that some people experience when using CBD products. The most common are dizziness, dry mouth, mood changes, gastrointestinal issues — including nausea — and fatigue. And since research has shown that CBD can interact with a variety of medications, including warfarin (a blood thinner) and clobazam (used to treat epilepsy), it’s essential to discuss your use of CBD-containing products with your physician or other healthcare provider.
Here’s a look at what a handful of scientific studies have found in recent years concerning CBD's medical usefulness, including some diseases and ailments for which the FDA has approved CBD products.
But first, what is CBD? Cannabidiol is a nonpsychoactive compound found in both cannabis and hemp plants, which are different varieties of the same plant species. Cannabis plants are often grown in order to cultivate tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the component in marijuana that is responsible for the “high” feeling in people who smoke or ingest it. Many hemp plants, on the other hand, have had the THC largely bred out of them, according to a report published in November 2016 in Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences. These plants are grown for a variety of products, including textiles, insulation, food, paper, supplements, and skin-care items.
CBD has also been investigated for use in other forms of treatment-resistant epilepsy, usually in addition to conventional epilepsy medications. Results varied, but several trials showed CBD significantly reduced seizure frequency by almost 44% in most people. 3
A laboratory study found that CBD prevented human sebocytes from creating too much sebum in addition to having an anti-inflammatory effect, preventing inflammatory cytokines from activating. Because excessive sebum and inflammation are characteristic of acne, topical CBD could be an effective treatment for acne and may prevent or reduce future breakouts. 12,13
Instead, CBD has been credited with relieving numerous medical conditions, such as epilepsy, anxiety, inflammation, insomnia, and pain. Although “credited” does not mean proven. Because of the historical regulatory landscape, there are hardly any well-conducted trials backing up those claims, although research is expected to ramp up now that laws distinguish between hemp and marijuana.
Unfortunately, few human trials investigating the use of CBD as a single agent to relieve pain exist, with most trials using a combination of CBD and THC to relieve pain. Notably, Health Canada has approved a combination medication that contains both THC and CBD in a 1:1 ratio for the relief of central nerve-related pain in multiple sclerosis, and cancer pain that is unresponsive to optimized opioid therapy.
Anxiety scores decreased in a large case series of 72 patients, with 57 patients (79.2%) reporting decreased scores within the first month after CBD treatment. 9
To determine an exact dose of CBD, remember that each drop of oil equals 0.05 mL of fluid. This means that a 30-mL bottle of CBD oil will have roughly 600 drops. If the concentration of the tincture is 1,500 mg/mL, one drop would contain 2.5 mg of CBD (1,500 mg ÷ 600 drops = 2.5 mg).
CBD oil contains CBD mixed with an inert carrier oil, such as coconut oil or hemp seed oil. The bottled oil, called a tincture, is sold in various concentrations. There are also CBD capsules, CBD gummies, and under-the-tongue CBD sprays.
Here are a few tips to help you find the best CBD oil:
How to Calculate CBD Dose
The tricky part is calculating the exact amount of CBD per milliliter of oil. Some tinctures have concentrations of 1,500 mg per 30 mL, while others have 3,000 mg per mL (or more).
In an analysis of 14 published studies (nine involving animals and five involving humans), scientists with the University of Montreal concluded that CBD showed promise in treating people with opioid, cocaine, or psychostimulant addiction.
Clinical research has shown that CBD oil can trigger side effects. Severity and type can vary from one person to the next.
CBD oil comes as full-spectrum oils or in forms that contain CBD isolates. Unlike isolates, which contain CBD only, full-spectrum oils contain a variety of compounds found naturally in the cannabis plant, including proteins, flavonoids, terpenes, and chlorophyll. Alternative practitioners believe these compounds offer more substantial health benefits, although there is no clear evidence of this.