“Can you personally distinguish full-spectrum hemp oil from broad-spectrum, isolate, or hemp seed oil?” That’s just one of many other questions health practitioners ask themselves about hemp-derived products.
And it is an important question to ask even if you want to use CBD products for your personal purposes at home.
But the two most important question you need to ask yourself are:
- Is it legal for companies to sell CBD products as a supplement in the US?
- If I do want to buy CBD-based products, what should I be looking into to make sure I am safe?
Let’s Start with What CBD Is:
Cannabidiol (CBD) and its precursor compound, CBDa, are dominant “cannabinoid” compounds found in hemp and cannabis (a hemp plant also known as marijuana).
Unlike tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), which is another cannabinoid compound, CBD is not believed to be a psychoactive compound affecting perception and behavior.
Just like with Any Supplement, Please Do Your Homework!
Like stated in my previous blogs, I've shared with you that extraction methods, amount per serving, and quality matters!
Remember 25 mg of one CBD product can feel differently than 25 mg of another. It is the exact same as when I wrote about inconsistencies with red beets and nitric oxide products.
This takes me to point #1.
#1 - If you are seeking CBD, make sure to look for products that list (at least) the amount of CBD per serving. You want to make sure you know how much CBD you actually get with each dose.
The FDA has published the amounts of CBD, THC, and other cannabis compounds it found in products it tested in 2015 and 2016.
Without going into too much detail, you should know that most of the products it tested contained very small concentrations of CBD. There were some very close in CBD concentrations to what is found in hemp oil (around 0.0025% CBD) while others, on the other hand, contained way larger concentrations, similar to those used in clinical trials (200mg or more per day). And as expected, a lot of the tested products did not contain the levels of CBD they claimed on the label. That takes me to point #2.
#2 - If your product lists only “cannabinoids”, I would say it may contain some CBD, but you truly won’t know how much. So, that’s definitely a suspicious labeling job right there.
There are products that may have significant amounts of CBD if they list “hemp extract” as an ingredient, but you definitely shouldn’t expect too much CBD if “hemp oil” is the only ingredient. Why? Because hemp oil is made from hemp seeds, which contain little CBD. While CBD itself, on the other hand, is mostly found in the flowers of the plant.
Again, going back to point #1, dosing matters. Most research around CBD effects has involved pretty high doses of CBD - for example, around several hundred milligrams daily.
But supplement companies cut their corners, as you may have noticed, and try to find a way to either dilute the CBD products with something less expensive (like water in the case of hemp oil) or to provide you with a lower (ineffective) dose per serving.
That being said, a high-dose of CBD can cause a range of side effects. More on that under major challenges.
Some Statistics and Extraction Methods:
80% of the US hemp-based supplement market uses two kinds of extraction methods:
- CO2 extraction is a process that uses pressurized carbon dioxide to pull the desired phytochemicals (such as hemp) from the plant. CO2 at certain temperatures and pressures acts like a solvent without the dangers of actually being one.
- Ethanol extraction is the process of extracting essential oils and cannabinoids from the marijuana plant by using ethyl or isopropyl as the solvent. Once the plant material is removed, the alcohol is evaporated leaving behind a sticky and highly potent substance.
Reference: Presentation on CBD in Vegas 2018 by Tim Gordon - CEO of Functional Remedies.
CBD products may all look and smell to you the same but don’t be fooled. This industry is expected to triple in worth to 1.3 billion by 2022 worldwide so do expect tons of products on the market, and be aware that there will be plenty of ineffective ones. If you want to try them, make sure you know what you are paying for.
Present Major Challenges?
The main difficulties we are facing with CBD, is with the information and education level we currently possess about the quality and types of CBD.
Lack of regulation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and any third-party quality testing group means that you truly may not know what’s inside of your bottle of CBD product simply because nobody verified it.
Toxicity tests do not exist, and there are many researchers and scientists who raise concerns about this.
Being in the supplement business, I know how many companies already do and will continue to jump to this opportunity, just to make quick money. There are very few of us who will wait for validity and safety to be in place before we even take into consideration producing and recommending any CBD products.
You should know that CBD cannot be legally sold in the US as a dietary supplement as of today.
Unfortunately many CBD products are already available on the market.
FDA has issued many warning letters to companies selling products with CBD or to those who promote such products as treatments to medical conditions.
Would you believe it if i told you that there are also “snake oil” companies who wholesale CBD oils without doing any type of batch testing or a quality assurance? That’s correct - it is happening!
These companies simply are putting their own label on the product and promoting all the benefits of CBD with a watered down version that may lack efficacy or quality. (Chiropractic Economics Issue: 7 May 2, 2019). Then those products are being distributed to stores or health-related clinics. Just because it has a doctor’s face on the label, it doesn’t mean it is a quality product. Be aware of marketing tricks!
Now, are there any laboratories that ensure purity with cutting-edge technology?
Yes, there are very few of them in the US, which do have high performance liquid chromatography (HPCL), gas chromatography (GC), mass spectrometry (MS), process chromatography, and distillation tools to ensure accurate CBD levels to the milligrams in every batch.
And these measures meet the standards set by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) for cannabinoid potency testing only.
Please note, I am not disqualifying the mountain of anecdotal evidence that’s out there.
There are many people who use CBD on a daily basis for different health issues.
Just to mention a few - anxiety, depression, severe chronic pain, insomnia, PTSD and some women use it for PMS pain as well.
But to have any impact on those conditions you really need high doses of CBD, which is one of the remaining concerns because they may cause side effects, like diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, abnormal results on liver function tests (Devinsky, New Eng J Med 2017; Thorpe, Lancet 2018).
But What Does Science Really Say?
There were some trials done with cannabidiol in the past and a lot of the research was focused on certain types of seizures.
I invite you to read more about research done with seizures in Dravet syndrome particularly by Devinsky and group in 2017.
Among patients with Dravet syndrome, cannabidiol resulted in a greater reduction in convulsive-seizure frequency when compared to the placebo, and was associated with higher rates of adverse effects. The dose used in the study was 20 mg/kg of body weight per day.
There are some animal studies as well as small studies in people suggesting CBD may help reduce anxiety (Crippa, Neuropsychopharmacology 2004).
CosnumerLab shared case reports from an outpatient mental health clinic in Colorado which suggested that even lower doses of CBD may be helpful with anxiety and related sleep disorders. However, it is important to note that case reports are not controlled studies so these benefits remain to be proven.
There seems to be insufficient evidence to recommend cannabinoid treatments for management of rheumatic diseases including fibromyalgia syndrome, back pain, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis (Fitzcharles, Schmitz 2016).
There are other studies that try to prove that CBD may help schizophrenia and psychosis, yet the results are mixed (McGuire, Am J Psy 2017).
THC in marijuana has been associated with the development and the relapse of psychosis (Bhattachartta, JAMA Psych 2018).
In another study run by Linares in 2018 with 27 healthy men and women who did not have any sleep or psychiatric disorders, CBD did not seem to affect sleep.
There were some scientists who approached studies with pain and topical CBD (creams, gels and lotions), since CBD appears to be better absorbed through the skin than THC (Huestis, Chem Biodivers 2007), yet nobody presented any statistical evidence even with delayed onset muscle soreness (Garcia, Int J Exc Sci 2019).
Like with any product, be cautious of how much, when, and how frequently you consume it. And do your diligence and check the label before you spend your money.
Just like you, I’m curious to see where this industry takes us. And hopefully big companies will spend money to support clinical evidence so you will feel more confident consuming CBD-derived products.