In the first part of our Ultimate Guide to CBD, which can be found here, we explored the history of Hemp derived CBD and how we arrived at this point from a regulatory perspective. In part 2, we walk you through the benefits of CBD, what current scientific research exists (and what it says) and how the FDA currently views this amazing plant-based ingredient. If you continue to have any outstanding questions about CBD after reading our guide, feel free to check out our resources in our CBD 101 blog or as always reach out directly by email.
What We Know About the Benefits of Hemp-Derived CBD?
We have all heard claims. CBD has been touted as a treatment for any ailment under the sun. Retailers have said the cannabinoid could be used to help combat everything from hair loss to killing cancer. Because of these sweeping claims, the public has grown weary of trusting all the information about CBD online. Sifting through what’s real and what is bogus isn’t easy. Luckily for us, new research was published taking a comprehensive look at all the clinical studies investigating the benefits of CBD over the past two years.
While even a well-performed study using human test subjects does offer us hope, it is far from enough to get the nod from the FDA. So far, only one health condition has gone through the approval process by the United States government.
What Does the FDA Say About CBD?
As of early 2021, the FDA has only approved one drug that features CBD as the active ingredient, Epidiolex, for treating seizures in two rare forms of epilepsy. If you read the entire press release from the FDA, you can gain many insights into their view of cannabis-derived medicine and the future of medical applications. Below is a statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.
“Controlled clinical trials testing the safety and efficacy of a drug, along with careful review through the FDA’s drug approval process, is the most appropriate way to bring marijuana-derived treatments to patients. Because of the adequate and well-controlled clinical studies that supported this approval, prescribers can have confidence in the drug’s uniform strength and consistent delivery that support appropriate dosing needed for treating patients with these complex and serious epilepsy syndromes.”
Understanding the drug approval process gives consumers an idea of the challenges that cannabis researchers are presented with. Issues with consistency, dosing, and determining specific conditions are factors in getting a drug passed through a government regulatory body.
It is also worth noting that the FDA only approved CBD in one drug made by a single manufacturer. CBD companies are forbidden from advertising their products as a viable treatment for seizures. Furthermore, the studies that were used to gain approval used Epidiolex alongside other drugs.
Getting the first cannabis-derived product through the FDA’s drug approval process is a huge win for advocates. At the same time, becoming recognized as a drug does raise a few questions regarding everyday CBD use for people who aren’t suffering from epilepsy.
Drug, Food, or Supplement?
The FDA doesn’t allow CBD companies to advertise their products as dietary supplements. Their definition of a supplement excludes drugs. Once CBD was included as an active ingredient in an approved drug, they also released regulations baring businesses from selling their products as dietary supplements.
In the EU, CBD is allowed because it is considered a ‘Novel Food.’ CBD gets a pass from regulators because it fits into a clause that was meant to allow industrial hemp production.
Neither regulatory board has been as clear as possible when it comes to CBD. The good news is that CBD products are allowed, for guidance on what conditions CBD has a legitimate chance of helping, we have to fill in the gaps.
Evaluating the Benefits of CBD
CBD is in an interesting place when it comes to understanding the benefits. You have thousands of personal accounts suggesting CBD can treat a wide array of conditions. Approving a drug for widespread use comes with consequences and takes a complex process. The path from anecdotal accounts to a doctor prescribing it to patients is much more difficult than most people realize. Plus, regulators are faced with challenges because more and more evidence suggests that CBD doesn’t act alone in providing benefits.
Regulators are accustomed to testing an isolated compound, for one specific reason, at a certain dose. Taking cannabis for medicinal purposes includes consuming the entire array of plant compounds. Dosing is vague. And most people use cannabis to treat several conditions at once.
To better our understanding of CBD and medicinal cannabis, drug regulators are challenged with using processes they aren’t used to. It is important to understand the differences between testing a more traditional prescribed drug and a plant or plant extract.
Recent Overview of Scientific Studies
Piecing together data from separate studies to understand CBD's potential to treat a specific condition can be overwhelming. A new study published last September in the Innovare Journal of Medical Sciences by the Department of Sciences at Nutrition Formulators Inc. gives us an overview of 76 articles over the course of 2019 and 2020.
Having an overall view of the types of studies done gives us incredible insights. We can learn what types of conditions scientists are interested in, how they are dosing, and the challenges they face.
Of the 76 articles, only 22% were in vivo studies on humans. Meaning CBD was given to people followed by scientists observing the results. Over half were reviews and the rest of the articles looked at studies done on animal models.
If we look at the total in vivo studies, anxiety and stress made up 37%. Other conditions included:
- Phobia and panic attack
- Psychotic disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Scientists are overwhelmingly interested in CBD as a treatment for mental health issues. Seeing the conditions that scientists are studying gives insight into what benefits CBD could work for an individual.
The information found also exposes the challenges of studying CBD as a treatment.
There isn’t a consistent dose used across the different trails. Many of them use a wide range, for instance, a study looking at sleep and anxiety used a range of 25mg to 175mg on patients. This doesn’t fly with the FDA. They need a much more precise dosing recommendation to include a study in their approval process.
Even when looking at using CBD as a treatment for anxiety, things get complicated. There isn’t a consistent set of parameters that define a patient suffering from anxiety that spans across multiple studies. We see several different examples of anxiety such as public speaking and drug abstinence.
The bottom line is that researching and testing the potential benefits of CBD is very complicated.
The combined results of all the studies that were looked at in the report were promising. Of the 33 in vivo studies conducted, only 10 produced negative results. Of the 17 studies focusing on anxiety and stress, only 5 can up negative. The state of research is promising but far from complete. Every scientific study regarding CBD has one thing in common, the research will say ‘more data is needed' in one form or another.
CBD and THC
Understanding CBD gets even more complicated when you factor in THC’s role. Many experts believe that small amounts of the notorious cannabinoid are needed to provide the optimal experience for the user. Even at low levels, below what is needed to experience a high, THC has an impact on CBD. To what extent is yet to be understood.
Regardless, if we know the exact amount of THC that is needed to make CBD perform better, consumers need to know the different types of CBD products. Generally, there are three types of CBD, each is defined below:
- Full Spectrum CBD – Full plant extract featuring a complete profile of cannabinoids and terpenes from the original plant. Full-spectrum CBD products contain THC.
- Broad Spectrum – Another full-plant extract without THC. Broad-spectrum products contain other cannabinoids such as CBN, CBG, and CBDA as well as terpenes.
- CBD Isolate – Pure CBD. The CBD is completely removed from the original plant.
The industry is currently trending toward full and broad-spectrum distillates. CBD enthusiasts believe that taking a full-plant extract is more beneficial than an isolate. This belief is backed by numerous scientific studies but the cannabinoid potencies that are allowed to be sold in the US and those used in clinical studies differ.
If you are concerned with ingesting THC, it is wise to stay away from full-spectrum products. The amount of THC isn’t enough to get you high, but if it is used over time, the THC could show up in your system.
Choosing CBD Products
Picking a brand out of the masses online is no easy feat. We have written about it previously in our article about finding high quality CBD products here. We suggest checking these key metrics before placing an order.
- Lab tests – Done by a 3rd party that doesn’t have an invested interest in the company. Ours are here.
- Reviews – See what others are saying about the products.
- Ingredients – Many companies use additives; it is smart to make sure you know what’s going into your body.
- Source of hemp – make sure it is coming from an FDA-regulated farm.
- Extraction method – CO2 extraction is the industry standard, there are other forms. It is highly debated which is the best, just make sure that the products are being produced in a GMP Certified facility.
How to Take CBD
CBD takes some patience. You aren’t going to experience the benefits minutes after taking your first dose. CBD is meant to be taken daily over an extended period. Most of the studies discussed above observe the patients over multiple weeks. The common CBD user needs to give CBD some time as well. Take consistently for a couple of weeks before assessing the benefits. Check out the article we published about how to optimize your CBD dosage for further information on finding what will work best for you. Generally we suggest starting with a CBD oil as it provides the most flexibility for new users to adjust their dosage. If you have been recently searching online for a CBD hemp oil for sale, we are biased, but would suggest checking out The exhale CBD oil on our website.