It seems the subject of CBD oil is everywhere you look – from annoying pop-ups on social media to retail stores selling CBD products right in your own neighborhood. Many are making seemingly miraculous claims that this oil will solve a vast number of our health issues. Recently, even Walgreen’s jumped into the fray, announcing on March 29 that they will begin selling CBD oil in select states. (However, at this point it will be sold as a topical option only.)
Furthermore, there are actually universities offering cannabis study programs and recruiting companies looking for prospective candidates with a background in cultivating cannabis. If you don’t know of at least 1 person who has tried it, or is currently touting the benefits of it, you will. But the question remains…since everyone seems to be on the CBD oil bandwagon, is this something you should consider for yourself? Is it safe? Does it do what it proposes to do for your health?
This article will take a look at these issues and hopefully create a clearer picture so that you can make your own informed decision.
Making Sense Of It All
CBD, THC, cannabis, hemp, medical marijuana – what is this alphabet soup all about? Let’s begin by taking a look at some of the terminology used.
Cannabis has a long history of being misunderstood. Varieties of the cannabis plant include both hemp and marijuana and each contains CBD (Cannabidiol). While they share some things in common, they have definite differences. Hemp is a taller plant with thinner leaves while marijuana is shorter and denser with the recognizable pointy leaves. More important to understand is how they’re used, and which is legal. Check out the following article for more information – Hemp vs. Marijuana: The Difference Explained
Marijuana for medicinal or recreational use is not legal at the federal level but more and more states are legalizing it at the state level for one or both uses. It contains high levels of THC (15% to as much as 40%), the psychoactive component in cannabis that makes you “high”.
Medical marijuana is grown under strict laboratory conditions; the psychoactive component has shown to alleviate symptoms of some diseases. It can only be obtained with a doctor’s prescription.
Hemp is one of the oldest domesticated crops on earth. It is alleged to have approximately 25,000 uses including in skin products, clothing and dietary supplements.
Hemp has a negligible amount of THC (.03%) so there’s no chance of the side effect of getting high – sorry! But it has a high amount of (non-psychoactive) CBD content. The CBD basically counteracts the amount of THC and renders it harmless or incapable of producing a high.
Hemp and marijuana were both classified as drugs during the “War on Drugs” in the ‘70s when the Drug Enforcement Agency was created. In 2018, the government passed the so-called “Farm Bill” which legalized the cultivation of hemp.
How Does CBD Work?
Our bodies have an endocannabinoid system (who knew?). Its receptors interact with cannabinoids (like CBD) to produce a state of homeostasis (balance). This, in turn, reduces pain and inflammation.
Sounds good – right?
Given its parentage, history and formerly almost exclusive use by young people, it’s surprising (but also, not) that anything even remotely associated with marijuana would be attractive to the over 50 population. Interestingly, there are written accounts of the use of cannabis to relieve a variety of ailments dating back 2,000 years in China.
It may also surprise you to learn that the use of CBD products by boomers is rising at a rapid rate. The increase in use by boomers has a lot to do with the physical challenges this group faces. Where traditional medical options have proved too expensive, have marginally addressed health issues, or whose side effects are too debilitating, boomers, in particular, have explored less main-stream alternatives. The ground-swell of support encompasses a wide variety of conditions with generally enthusiastic endorsements of the benefits of CBD. Supporters claim great improvement in symptoms for a variety of medical issues.
If you have trouble sleeping, suffer from joint or muscle pain, experience anxiety or just want to have some mellow in your life, CBD oil might be worth trying.
Is it legal? Is there clinical proof to substantiate the alleged benefits? Are there any side effects to CBD use? In addition to the pros, there are definite cons that you must understand in order to make the right decision.
Is CBD Legal?
Mostly. Sort of. CBD is sold online, in gas stations and in specialty stores to mention a few types of outlets. As we’ve seen, cannabis is illegal at the federal level but legal in some states. Due to the increasing popularity and support for legalization across the board, and the opioid crisis, the Drug Enforcement Agency has not made enforcing applicable laws a priority. Hemp-derived CBD is more likely to pass muster in most locations than marijuana-based CBD. However, your state’s lawmakers may act to ban them or prohibit the sale or use. It’s a moving target but check out this article to get the most updated information – Is CBD Legal? The Legal Status of CBD in 2019
Exercise caution where you obtain your information about legality as well as the benefits of CBD. A few companies have been investigated for unsubstantiated claims about the benefits of CBD and it’s doubtful that will be the end of it.
What Can CBD Be Used For?
That depends on who you ask. Some consumers and cannabis-focused organizations are staunch believers and defenders of CBD for a wide variety of problems. The over-50 group especially favors it for inflammation/joint pain, relaxation, relief from anxiety, and sleep issues, among others.
Some users swear by it for highly excitable dogs. However, the American Veterinary Medical Association doesn’t endorse it for use in pets and warns that it is illegal to do so.
We’re all familiar with medical marijuana being prescribed (in states where it’s legal to do so) to help cancer patients with the side effects of chemo and related therapies but even that is in dispute with medical professionals. There are some claims that CBD may alleviate the side effects as well. And there may be individuals who are experiencing those benefits. But it’s unknown how that works as well because it is the THC in marijuana (lacking in CBD) that seems to provide symptom relief.
When all is said and done, more research and validated, controlled studies are needed to substantiate these claims, so, buyer, beware.
Despite the significant exposure and popularity, so far there is only one use that has growing acceptance by medical professionals – seizures that occur as a result of a form of epilepsy.
How Do You Use CBD?
There are numerous ways to use CBD – oil, smoked, salve, drops, pills, teas, cream, even, get this – gummies. How it’s used depends in large part on what you’re using it for. Joint pain? – a salve or cream used topically or ingested. Difficulty sleeping? – smoked, oil, drops, tea.
Sounds perfect, right? Well – that depends on where you get your information. You won’t find it difficult to find all kinds of declarations about the benefits of CBD. But we all know the old adage, “if it sounds too good to be true…..”. Organizations and companies devoted to the promotion of cannabis generally believe it to be superior to other types of drugs that have significant side effects and are potentially addictive. However, the medical mainstream urges caution for a variety of reasons.
There is basically anecdotal evidence that CBD is effective for a lot of things. (But) there is not too much in terms of peer-reviewed published research.
– Bethany Gomez, director of research for the Brightfield Group, a market research firm focused on the cannabis industry.
Things To Consider
Side effects – Experts caution that there can be side effects despite CBD being non-psychoactive. One study identified sleepiness (presumably at inopportune times as opposed to at bedtime!), fatigue, reduced appetite, weight gain and diarrhea.
Benefits – while there seems to be anecdotal information that CBD can help to alleviate chronic pain or nausea associated with chemo treatments, clinical research is still in its infancy and experts caution that benefits are modest to moderate.
Uncertainty as to how or why it works medically – Researchers at the National Institutes of Health cautiously state that it seems to have some anti-inflammatory benefits, but no one seems to know why or how it works for other medical issues.
Lack of uniformity or regulation – Very concerning is that, due to the lack of oversight or regulation, presumably almost anyone can open up shop to promote and sell CBD. That means there’s little uniformity from one product to another and little information about ingredients, additives or the conditions under which it is produced.
No standard dosage – Lack of uniformity also means there is no approved dosage, so users are largely left to determine the appropriate dosage for use, trial, and error to identify what is best for them. Of course, that alone can cause unforeseen problems.
Costs for CBD – vary dramatically and can be quite expensive as everyone looks to cash in on this boom. Assume that health insurance is unlikely (at this time) to cover the cost of CBD and you’re looking at a low of approximately $50 for a tiny bottle of oil to as much as hundreds or thousands of dollars per month for regular use.
Is CBD Worth It?
- Anyone interested in trying CBD should review the applicable laws in their state and ask their medical professional for guidance and information.
- Educate yourself using reputable sources – AARP, WebMD, Aging.com are examples of organizations and websites that will provide a well-rounded view of the issue rather than a company trying to market to you that you know nothing about.
- Obtain CBD from a trusted source – it will be interesting to see Walgreen’s endorsed product for topical use.
- By all means, ask for recommendations from friends and family but understand that, since this is a new area, those endorsements are not based on scientific fact. Personal experience is subjective, and misinformation is rampant.
Lastly – stay tuned. There is definitely more to come.
I’m a “reformed” corporate HR/business professional/adjunct professor, now happily transitioned into a freelance writing lifestyle as a second act. My joys include family and active grandparenthood, love of the outdoors, and travel adventures. I write/edit a wide variety of business and lifestyle articles, case studies and thought leadership guides. I’m only partway through the new chapters of my life so I’m working on blogging and writing several ebooks for my next projects. I try to live life by my motto – “I’ll get older but never old!”