What’s the difference?
Several people have asked me about CBD, or cannabidiol, a compound found in cannabis plants.
What is it good for? Does it work? Is it legal?
CBD oil has become a billion-dollar a year industry, and the marketing of these products is fierce.
As I started to do some research, first I had to figure out the difference between some commonly used terms: CBD oil, hemp extract, hemp seed oil, full-spectrum CBD, and broad-spectrum CBD.
- CBD oil is derived from the flowers of the hemp (cannabis) plant.
- Hemp extract, which contains CBD, is derived from all parts of the hemp plant—flowers, leaves, stems, and seed.
- Hemp seed oil is derived from the seeds only, which contain only trace (if any) amounts of CBD.
- Full-spectrum CBD is similar to hemp extract—all parts of the hemp plant are used to maximize CBD and other beneficial compounds. Small amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound that makes you high, may be found in full-spectrum hemp products.
- Broad-spectrum CBD is basically full-spectrum CBD with all traces of THC removed.
I always advise people to read labels so they know what they are getting. Unfortunately, CBD and hemp products are not regulated by the FDA, so manufacturers can get away with a lot of vague claims and misleading ingredient lists.
Is CBD oil legal?
Yes and no.
This is a tricky question.
Keep in mind that both hemp and marijuana are cannabis. Hemp, however, has a very low concentration of THC (less than 0.3%); marijuana plants have a much higher concentration (5-20%).
Until recently, it was illegal for farmers to grow hemp, let alone marijuana.
It’s still against federal law to grow marijuana (despite some state laws to the contrary!), but in 2018 Congress approved changes to the Farm Bill that made growing industrial hemp legal. However, some states still won’t allow it.
You see why it’s confusing??
To add to the confusion, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers CBD oil to be a drug, not a food supplement.
The agency is struggling (and mostly failing) to get ahead of the CBD-craze and develop safety guidelines for health professionals and consumers.
In the meantime, many manufacturers are just ignoring the FDA’s position and continuing to market their CBD and hemp products as supplements.
Be informed and shop carefully
The amount of information on CBD oil is pretty overwhelming. It’s being sold to treat all kinds of problems: pain, stress, insomnia, inflammation, anxiety, arthritis (especially in pets), epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and cancer.
Actual evidence that it works for any of these problems, however, is pretty thin. There are few quality studies being done—why waste money on research when the products sell so well anyway?
If you’re interested in learning more about CBD oil’s benefits, and how to choose a product that contains a reliable amount of CBD, I strongly recommend getting a subscription to the independent testing lab ConsumerLab.
The physicians and scientists at ConsumerLab test and review a wide range of nutrition supplements and herbal remedies for quality and cost. It’s kind of like Consumer Reports, but for supplements!
They also sort through all the scientific literature to answer questions about a product’s uses and effectiveness (and make it easy for us to read and understand).
An annual subscription is about $50. It’s well worth the cost, in my opinion.
ConsumerLab recently updated its reviews on CBD and hemp extract products. There’s too much information to share here (and it’s copyrighted, anyway), but here are a few cautions to keep in mind.
- If you want CBD, look for CBD or cannabidiol in the ingredients. Hemp oil does not contain CBD. Hemp extract will contain some CBD, but you may not know how much. “Cannabinoids” may include CBD, but you won’t know how much.
- The listed amount of CBD per serving can vary significantly from being way under (or none at all) to way over. You may end up paying for nothing or getting more than a safe dose.
- There can be enough THC in CBD oil to cause a positive drug test for marijuana. Or get you picked up by a drug-sniffing dog…
- The American Academy of Pediatrics does not endorse giving CBD to children.
- A dangerous synthetic cannabinoid called AB-FUBINACA has been found in some products.
- CBD interacts with many common medications and may cause unsafe levels of those drugs: epilepsy drugs, some blood thinners, hormones, some high blood pressure medications, statins, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), antihistamines, and more. Talk to your doctor first if you want to try CBD oil!
I also learned that Amazon doesn’t sell CBD, so if you look there for CBD oil you will be disappointed. I saw a lot of hemp oil, cream, and gummies, however. And I’m sure many uninformed consumers buy those products thinking they are getting something else.
For now, CBD marketing is the Wild West. Be careful out there, pardner.