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CBD - What we Know and What We Don't

The marijuana plant has been a popular and controversial topic over the years, but now that a certain compound of the plant, CBD oil, is being declared legal in many states, people are wondering, does it actually work? CBD oil doesn’t have the same effects as THC compounds-the chemicals that produce a “high” effect, but it has been known to provide many benefits for pain management, epilepsy, anxiety, and more. Since it is just recently being taken seriously by the medical community as a viable natural alternative, there is still a lot of research that needs to be done. Here’s a breakdown of what we know about CBD oil and what we have yet to figure out.

The CBD Oil Facts

There is a lot of speculation and hearsay about CBD oil, but if it’s a topic of interest to you, it’s important that you know the facts about CBD products. According to Harvard Men’s Health Watch, CBD became extremely popular around 2008 when Congress legalized hemp in all 50 states and took CBD off of the controlled substances list. The main goal of this bill was to make products like paper, concrete, and textiles a bigger market.

"CBD simply just got added to this list of products you could make from hemp and sell," says Dr. Tishler.

CBD can be smoked, vaped, placed under the tongue, taken in pills, gummies, or applied from topical creams and patches. Sold both over the counter and on the internet, it’s gotten amazing reviews from people claiming that CBD oil was the answer to their chronic pain, ADHD, and more. But are the claims real or is it just a placebo effect at play? The truth is, placebo effect or not, most claims can’t be backed up by the science.

The Truth About CBD Oil

Dr. Tishler continued, "The main problem is that not enough medical studies have been done to offer any kind of clear guidance," he says. Studies, though few, have been done on CBD oil and most are inconclusive or need to be tested on humans. Other studies need more time to see how CBD oil affects people long-term.

“The few studies available on CBD have focused on how it helps with anxiety and sleep. One study found that a single dose of 600 milligrams (mg) of CBD decreased anxiety in people about to give a public speech. In addition, people who took 25 mg daily of CBD for a month reduced their anxiety and had better quality of sleep, and the effect lasted for several months, according to a study published online Jan. 7, 2019, by The Permanente Journal. ‘But these were not controlled trials, so they must be viewed skeptically,’ says Harvard instructor Dr. Jordan Tishler, president of the Association of Cannabis Specialists.”

One thing we know for sure is that what we don’t know about CBD products could hurt you. When taken in high doses, CBD oil can have side effects, just like other drugs. If a dose is strong enough to have obvious benefits, it’s also strong enough to cause side effects. Some of the main side effects of CBD oil are:

  • Diarrhea

  • Weight gain

  • Weight loss

  • Fatigue

  • Potential liver toxicity

What We Don’t Know About CBD Oil

As you can tell, we know that CBD oil has definitely helped people, but we aren’t sure about the science behind how it helps. Another issue with CBD products is that the FDA hasn’t created any CBD regulations. Because of this, it’s not possible to know whether a distributed CBD product is completely diluted or extremely potent. Who’s to say what the right dosage is and if what you’re getting is safe from contamination. Since CBD supplements aren’t allowed to be advertised with certain medical or therapeutic claims, most marketing uses vague descriptions like “calm”, “relax”, or “joint health” on the labels.

"Until the FDA finalizes how it will regulate CBD, it's not cracking down on many false claims or overseeing how products are made," says Dr. Tishler. "This means companies can put out all kinds of CBD products with zero accountability."

The World Health Organization claims that CBD is safe and well tolerated, and many people choose to trust that and move forward. Not caring if CBD oil is working or if it is a placebo effect, most people just want relief from their chronic illness or pain. The risk there is that they might be taking the wrong dose at the wrong frequency and for the wrong problem. We just don’t have enough information to be sure. The concern here is that high doses of CBD may negatively affect people when combined with other medications.

What Should You Do?

Without enough accurate information, it’s hard to know how to move forward. The best thing you can do is talk to your doctor. Only you and your doctor know your unique medical history and current condition and whether or not CBD oil will be a safe and effective option for you. Whatever your doctor suggests is probably the best thing for you. Because CBD oil is such a hot topic at the moment, more and more research will become available as time passes and we’ll soon know more. Until then, take care of your body the best you can and err of the safe side as much as possible.

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