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You may have noticed that cannabidiol (CBD) seems to be available almost everywhere, and marketed as a variety of products including drugs, food, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and animal health products. Other than one prescription drug product to treat seizures associated with Lennox Gastaut syndrome (LGS), Dravet syndrome (DS), or tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) in people one year of age and older, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any other CBD products, and there is very limited available information about CBD, including about its effects on the body.

The FDA is evaluating the regulatory frameworks that apply to certain cannabis-derived products that are intended for non-drug uses, including whether and/or how the FDA might consider updating its regulations, as well as whether potential legislation might be appropriate. The information we have underscores the need for further study and high quality, scientific information about the safety and potential uses of CBD.

Potential harm, side effects and unknowns

The FDA is committed to setting sound, science-based policy. The FDA is raising these safety, marketing, and labeling concerns because we want you to know what we know. We encourage consumers to think carefully before exposing themselves, their family, or their pets, to any product, especially products like CBD, which may have potential risks, be of unknown quality, and have unproven benefits.

In addition to safety risks and unproven claims, the quality of many CBD products may also be in question. The FDA is also concerned that a lack of appropriate processing controls and practices can put consumers at additional risks. For example, the agency has tested the chemical content of cannabinoid compounds in some of the products, and many were found to not contain the levels of CBD they claimed. We are also investigating reports of CBD potentially containing unsafe levels of contaminants (e.g., pesticides, heavy metals, THC).

CBD products are also being marketed for pets and other animals. The FDA has not approved CBD for any use in animals and the concerns regarding CBD products with unproven medical claims and of unknown quality equally apply to CBD products marketed for animals. The FDA recommends pet owners talk with their veterinarians about appropriate treatment options for their pets.

Even a critical review by the World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported that CBD is a promising treatment for a number of medical conditions, is well tolerated, has a good safety profile, and doesn’t appear to be a risk for abuse, dependence, or other public-health related problems. In other words, even the WHO thinks CBD is A-OK.

You’re immune compromised. (Most evidence disproves this concern) CBD is known as an immunomodulator because it can calm down a hyperactive immune system , but some worry this could harm people whose immune systems are already impaired, like HIV sufferers. Although we don’t have evidence specifically testing CBD against this fear, many studies have been done using the whole cannabis plant. Research shows that cannabis helps relieve pain and other HIV-related symptoms without causing severe side effects . And when marijuana is tested against specific HIV symptoms like liver fibrosis, cannabinoids do not appear to worsen it . Although current evidence suggests that CBD could be more helpful than harmful for immune-compromised individuals, the jury is still out.

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You’re pregnant or breastfeeding. (Could be important) When pregnant or breastfeeding, a mother shares everything with her growing child. Active molecules in a mother’s bloodstream can pass into her child’s body through both the placenta and breast milk. Broad screening reveals that cannabinoids can be detected in the umbilical cords and stools of newborn children. And low levels of cannabinoids can be detected in breast milk from regular cannabis users . It’s currently uncertain if/how CBD affects a developing baby, but it’s safest to minimize exposure to cannabinoids (and a wide variety of other foods, products, and medications) while pregnant or breastfeeding. If you are currently pregnant or breastfeeding and use CBD to manage anxiety or another health issue, discuss the tradeoffs with a medical professional.

Sometimes CBD products don’t contain any CBD at all — in which case you won’t experience any effects, positive or negative.

If you’re suspicious about the safety of your current CBD products, do yourself a favor and throw them away. CBD oil is a concentrated plant-based extract that goes into your body — expect its quality to be at least as high as the foods you eat.

CBD has been touted for a wide variety of health issues, but the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications. In numerous studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and, in some cases, it was able to stop them altogether. Videos of the effects of CBD on these children and their seizures are readily available on the Internet for viewing, and they are quite striking. Recently the FDA approved the first ever cannabis-derived medicine for these conditions, Epidiolex, which contains CBD.

CBD may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain. A study from the European Journal of Pain showed, using an animal model, CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Another study demonstrated the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. More study in humans is needed in this area to substantiate the claims of CBD proponents about pain control.

The evidence for cannabidiol health benefits

Cannabidiol (CBD) has been recently covered in the media, and you may have even seen it as an add-in booster to your post-workout smoothie or morning coffee. What exactly is CBD? Why is it suddenly so popular?

CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of cannabis (marijuana). While CBD is an essential component of medical marijuana, it is derived directly from the hemp plant, which is a cousin of the marijuana plant. While CBD is a component of marijuana (one of hundreds), by itself it does not cause a "high." According to a report from the World Health Organization, "In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD."

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