Google pretty much any combination of words that include “CBD” and you’ll get thousands of sites, many of them cannabis and hemp marketers extolling the virtues of CBD: its ability to treat chronic pain, anxiety, sleep disorders, depression, cancer, and epilepsy, to name just a few. Some of these are careful to let you know that while there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting the efficacy of CBD, there isn’t much hard research yet to back up those claims. We know, because we’ve written a number of these blogs, such as  “Can CBD Really Do All That?”“Looking for CBD or THC Alone? Think Again” and “Discussing CBD with Your Patients”.

This wouldn’t be a problem if everyone considering CBD were a careful consumer, but unfortunately, the generally positive news about CBD may make some who are eager for an alternative to big Pharma feel that CBD is a scientifically proven solution for a host of ailments. It’s not—we’re still quite a ways away from knowing where, and to what degree, it’s effective. And now, because CBD has not been regulated by the FDA, there’s a reaction forming on the part of some medical professionals and regulators to stop the CBD train in its tracks—to ban sales until there’s formal research to prove or disprove these claims.  On July 23rd, The Boston Globe reported such an action: 

“Federal regulators Tuesday warned Curaleaf, one of the nation’s largest cannabis companies, to stop marketing CBD products online with unfounded claims that they treat cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, opioid withdrawal, pain, and pet anxiety.

The US Food and Drug Administration said Curaleaf, based in Wakefield, was “illegally selling” more than a dozen products containing CBD — cannabidiol, a nonpsychoactive compound in cannabis — using unsupported claims such as “CBD was effective in killing human breast cancer cells.”

The FDA said the claims on social media and the company’s website could endanger patients who might choose to delay seeking medical care. The FDA has sent similar warning letters to about two dozen CBD companies since 2015, but the Tuesday letter shook the industry because of Curaleaf’s size.”

We think both the boosters and banners are on the wrong course.  There’s enough evidence to suggest CBD can work, that its side effects are infrequent and minor, and so should be kept on the market, with proper warnings.  The Globe went on to report that “A high-level working group at the FDA is evaluating possibilities for lawful marketing of CBD, and plans to issue a progress update in early fall, said Dr. Amy Abernethy, the FDA’s principal deputy commissioner.” 

Because CBD is so promising, we need to do extensive research to find out precisely where it’s effective and not, how it should be used as part of a larger treatment plan, and correct levels of dosing.  We also need CBD products to be tested and their content to be clearly labeled. 

At Home Grow Community, we’ll continue to write about a sensible approach to CBD and medical cannabis, reporting on new information as it comes available—both pro and con—and will urge our customers to make educated decisions about usage.  

With the fate of CBD sales in limbo, you might want to grow CBD rich strains of cannabis yourself. As Massachusetts’ leading home grow service provider, we can help you pick the right strains for your needs, set up a grow system, and help you cultivate, harvest and process your own abundant supply.

What’s Needed: Extensive Clinical Trials 

CBD is being touted as a solution to a host of ailments, from epilepsy to erectile dysfunction. While much of the evidence is anecdotal, there’ve been numerous studies that suggest—through animal testing or testing with small human groups—that CBD has positive effect for many of these. Unfortunately, few of these studies were true clinical trials, so there isn’t definitive evidence of efficacy vs. proven alternatives, measurement of optimal dosing levels, or an understanding of CBD’s interaction with other medications.

In an article in Science News, a CBD researcher explains how little research actually exists: “Ziva Cooper directs UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative and fields a lot of questions about CBD. Her answers invariably disappoint. ‘When I tell [people] we don’t have very much evidence in people, they’re actually surprised,’ she says. When it comes to CBD’s benefits, ‘there’s actually very little out there to hang our hats on.’”

According to WebMD: “CBD’s usefulness as an anti-inflammatory medication is the next most promising, but those results come mostly from animal studies, experts said. The rest of the potential uses — as an antipsychotic, antidepressant or sleep aid “have all been studied in animals, with only one or two examples of studies in humans,” Bonn-Miller said. And Welty said the studies that have featured humans for these other CBD uses have either been case reports or studies that did not compare results against a control group that did not use the oil.”

An article in the New York Times raises the issue of dosing: “Indeed, CBD research is at such an early stage that just figuring out the correct therapeutic dose to test is a challenge, scientists say.” 

We believe it’s time to conduct these trials, focusing on the most promising treatments and those that can be tested and read the fastest, such as CBD’s use as an anti-inflammatory and an analgesic.  Given that inflammation and pain are common side-effects of a host of diseases and conditions, clinical trials with a variety of need groups would quickly ascertain its effectiveness in many different circumstances, across a broad spectrum of the population.  Repeated trials would help establish desired dosing levels and would identify side-effects and issues (if any) with other medications.  

What’s Needed: Product Testing and Labeling

CBD products should be tested by an independent body, and there active content clearly labeled.  This will assure users they’re getting what they need, and assure correct dosing. 

According to Very Well Health, this is not the case now “Because CBD oil products are mostly unregulated, there’s no guarantee that any given product contains a safe or effective level of CBD. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017 found that nearly 70 percent of all CBD products sold online are incorrectly labeled.”

What’s Needed: Cannabis Industry Caution

CBD boosters are not doing themselves a favor—making broad and unsubstantiated claims is generating a reaction against CBD by regulators and conservative medical professionals that could lead to a temporary ban on sales. Instead of selling CBD as a panacea, they should honestly explain the current level of understanding—that there are strong indications that CBD can work for some ailments, and may work for many more, but that true clinical trials have not been completed, and that it should be used with caution as a supplement, and not as a replacement for other treatments 

What’s Needed: Medical Professional Encouragement 

Just as CBD marketers need to be more cautious, the medical profession needs to be more honest about CBD: there is quite a body of research that indicates positive effects, many have recommended it to their patients, and have seen, first-hand, its impact.  Knowing this, more medical professionals should come forward to encourage research, product testing and labelling.

Sources

Boston Globe: “FDA Warnes Curaleaf to stop marketing CBD with unfounded claims” 

Very Well Health: “CBD Oil: Benefits, Uses, Side Effects and Safety”

NPR: “Anxiety Relief without the High: New Studies on CBD, a Cannabis Extract” 

Science News: “The CBD Boom Is Way Ahead of the Science” 

WebMD: “CBD Oil: All the Rage, but Is it Safe & Effective?” 

NY Times: “CBD IS Everywhere, but Scientists Still Don’t Know Much About It”