by: Kelly Hack
It is undeniable that the market for Cannabidiol (CBD) is booming, profits are generating at $2 billion in sales and projected to reach $16 billion by 2025.1
Seven percent of Americans are using CBD. That percentage is estimated to increase 10% by 2025, according to investment research firm Cowen & Co.1 Additional research published in the JAMA Network Open also documented that in April 2019, 6.4 million CBD Google searches were conducted.1
The ABCs of CBD
CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the primary natural compounds found within the cannabis plant, also known as phytocannabinoids.2 CBD is one of more than 80 active phytocannabinoids identified in marijuana and hemp.3
CBD’s chemical structure is very similar to THC (21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms). However, the slight yet significant difference in the atom arrangement between these two compounds produce differing physiological effects.4
Both CBD and THC work with receptors that release neurotransmitters in the brain. These compounds interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are located within the endocannabinoid system –an essential component to the human nervous system. CB1 receptors are located in the cerebellum of the brain that influences functions including memory processing, pain regulation, and motor control.5 The CB1 receptors are what also activate the euphoric effects from THC, whereas CBD has a very low effectiveness when it binds to CB1 receptors, producing insignificant to non-existent euphoric effects.6 CB2 receptors found on white blood cells, in the tonsils, and in the spleen also produce no euphoric effects. However, CB2 receptors have become increasingly popular due to their potential anti-inflammatory properties.5
Fact from Fiction
Both THC and CBD derive from the cannabis plant. Marijuana is defined as any cannabis sativa plant that has greater than 0.3 percent THC, which classifies the substance as a federally illegal, Schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).7 Hemp plants are defined as any cannabis plant that has 0.3 percent or less THC and legal CBD originates from the hemp plant.7 The 2014 Farm Bill, national legislation permitting hemp research, began the process of hemp legalization. Within four years, the 2018 Farm Bill was enacted, fully legalizing the production and sale of hemp and its extracts.8 Agriculture of the hemp plant is primarily utilized for its CBD content, seeds, and fibers. Whereas, marijuana is usually grown for its psychoactive THC content.2 A single hemp plant can produce an estimated half kilogram of plant material for CBD extraction and farmers can legally grow up to 4,000 hemp plants in an acre. A single acre of hemp can generate about 1.4 million bottles of CBD lotion.8
Medicinal Benefits and Side Effects
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), preclinical and clinical studies in animal models have shown potential therapeutic properties in CBD for the following: anti-seizure, antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-tumor, anti–psychotic, anti-anxiety, and substance use disorders.3 Despite several studies eluding to CBD health benefits, currently, the only Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medicine containing CBD is Epidiolex. Within a series of scientific studies, CBD intake among those affected by childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) resulted in significant effectiveness compared to other unresponsive anti-seizure medication.9 Although CBD has revealed medical benefits, research has also documented possible side effects of CBD including nausea, diarrhea, upset stomach, tiredness, lightheadedness, crankiness, low blood pressure, and drowsiness.5
Aside from side effects, a significant concern regarding CBD is it’s primarily marketed and sold as a supplement, not a medication. The FDA does not regulate the safety or purity of dietary supplements; therefore unidentified elements may be found in products labeled as “pure” CBD.8 The FDA strictly prohibits the sale of CBD in any unapproved health products, dietary supplements or food.8 The FDA has issued warning letters to companies marketing products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds as a treatment of any disease or condition. Firms making unsubstantiated claims regarding CBD are breaking the law. It is a direct violation to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and may put the health and safety of consumers at risk.10
Hemp, which is the only current legal plant for extracting CBD can accidentally cause breeding of marijuana by pollination of female and male plants. Due to this biological process, the University of Connecticut is adamant in maintaining all-female greenhouses.8 However, hemp grown outside of a controlled environment is much more susceptible to marijuana conversion. Pharmaceutical-grade extraction is imperative. The method for extracting CBD or THC is very similar, therefore if a supplier incorrectly extracts from the hemp plant, a CBD product may contain an illegal dose of THC.8 In efforts to prevent CBD products from being unknowingly contaminated with higher levels of THC, a process known as fractional distillation can be implemented, which isolates cannabinoids through temperature variation. With added heat, the evaporation of carbon dioxide and ethanol occurs, resulting in either pure CBD or THC.8
“What many consumers don’t realize is that the FDA, who’s charged with protecting our safety with respect to food and medicine in the U.S., is not on top of policing those CBD products that you see in the gas station or at the grocery store,” says Rino Ferrarese, COO of the medical marijuana extractor CT pharma.8
Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
According to a recent warning issued by the FDA, using products with CBD or THC is prohibited by women who are breastfeeding or pregnant. There is no comprehensive research studying the effects of CBD on the developing fetus, expectant mother, or breastfed baby.11 Studies have been conducted on pregnant animals and have shown complications with the reproductive system of developing male fetuses.12 Despite warnings, researchers who surveyed anesthesiologists, certified nurse-midwives, and doulas found the following:
- 7% of physician anesthesiologists would consider using CBD to reduce anxiety in women during pregnancy and labor.
- 12% would consider it to reduce nausea during pregnancy and 8% during labor.
- 13% would consider it to reduce pain during pregnancy and 12% during labor.
- 42% of certified nurse-midwives would consider using CBD to reduce anxiety in women during pregnancy, and 33% would consider it during labor.
- 54% of doulas would consider using CBD to reduce anxiety in women during pregnancy, and 44% would consider it during labor.13
Mark Zakowski M.D., FASA, senior author of the study and chief obstetrical anesthesiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles says, “That’s concerning because CBD may interact with commonly used anesthetics that might be needed during labor and delivery. And ongoing CBD use has shown the potential to act like a common class of antidepressants, SSRI inhibitors, which can adversely interact with other drugs.”13
Due to the abundance of unsubstantiated claims regarding CBD and the inconclusive research pertaining to the safety of its use, health experts and federal authorities are urging consumers to approach their use with extreme caution. Much of the CBD studies that have been conducted are preliminary research. Therefore, until further concrete evidence regarding the safety and complexity of CBD is concluded, it’s highly advised that all CBD or cannabis products be examined by an FDA review process.14
- Usatoday.com. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2019/10/23/cbd-google-searches-cannabidiol-skyrocket-do-products-works/4062879002/ [Accessed 14 Nov. 2019].
- Usatoday.com. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/sponsor-story/medterra/2019/10/01/what-cbd-oil-separate-facts-fiction-learn-truth-cbd/3786588002/ [Accessed 14 Nov. 2019].
- Drugabuse.gov. (2019). The Biology and Potential Therapeutic Effects of Cannabidiol. [online] Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2015/biology-potential-therapeutic-effects-cannabidiol [Accessed 14 Nov. 2019].
- WebMD. (2019). CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference?. [online] Available at: https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/cbd-thc-difference#1 [Accessed 14 Nov. 2019].
- Dr. Ananya Mandal, M. (2019). Cannabinoid Receptors. [online] News-Medical.net. Available at: https://www.news-medical.net/health/Cannabinoid-Receptors.aspx [Accessed 22 Nov. 2019].
- Analytical Cannabis. (2019). CBD vs THC – What are the Main Differences?. [online] Available at: https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/cbd-vs-thc-what-are-the-main-differences-297486 [Accessed 14 Nov. 2019].
- Analytical Cannabis. (2019). Hemp vs Marijuana: Is There a Difference?. [online] Available at: https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/hemp-vs-marijuana-is-there-a-difference-311880 [Accessed 22 Nov. 2019].
- PBS NewsHour. (2019). Is CBD legal? Here’s what you need to know, according to science. [online] Available at: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/is-cbd-legal-heres-what-you-need-to-know-according-to-science [Accessed 14 Nov. 2019].
- Peter Grinspoon, M. (2019). Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t – Harvard Health Blog. [online] Harvard Health Blog. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476 [Accessed 15 Nov. 2019].
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2019). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products: Q&A. [online] Available at: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd#statesallowing [Accessed 22 Nov. 2019].
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2019). What You Should Know About Using CBD When Pregnant or Breastfeeding. [online] Available at: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-should-know-about-using-cannabis-including-cbd-when-pregnant-or-breastfeeding [Accessed 16 Nov. 2019].
- DG, D. (2019). Maternal cannabinoid exposure. Effects on spermatogenesis in male offspring. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3026968 [Accessed 16 Nov. 2019].
- Medicalxpress.com. (2019). Many women and health care providers assume CBD safe during pregnancy despite lack of research. [online] Available at: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-10-women-health-assume-cbd-safe.html [Accessed 16 Nov. 2019].
- NIH MedlinePlus Magazine. (2019). The ABCs of CBD: Separating fact from fiction | NIH MedlinePlus Magazine. [online] Available at: https://magazine.medlineplus.gov/article/the-abcs-of-cbd-separating-fact-from-fiction [Accessed 16 Nov. 2019].
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