When J. Matthew Andry, MD first started hearing anecdotal evidence about CBD’s effectiveness, he thought to himself, “I’ve heard of this before, it’s called snake oil.” But the more he read, and the more he learned about CBD and its health benefits, the more his opinion started to change.
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He’s certainly not the only one who was convinced. The industry is booming.
A report from investment bank Cowen & Cowen, first published in Forbes, states that sales of CBD in 2018 are estimated between $600 million and $2 billion. The CBD market could reach $16 billion by 2025. CBD-related products are being sold everywhere from Bed, Bath & Beyond to your local head shop.
We wanted to know why CBD was receiving so much attention and whether it lives up to all the hype. So we spoke to the experts and created this CBD guide, including available CBD products, their benefits, risks, legality, legitimacy and more.
What Is CBD?
CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol and it is one of more than 80 different compounds (cannabinoids) found in the cannabis plants. These compounds can be extracted from two varieties of cannabis: hemp or marijuana.
The difference between hemp and marijuana is the level of THC, the compound that produces a high (we will get to more later about how the legalities of all this measure out). THC and CBD are the most prominent cannabinoids. A concentration of less than 0.3 percent THC means it’s hemp, according to Andry, an associate professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Anything above that, it’s marijuana, which can contain up to a 30 percent concentration of THC.
Benefits of CBD Use
CBD experts claim a wide range of health benefits associated with the drug.
Andry, who serves on the medical advisory board for a CBD company called Zilis, recommends CBD to those who have issues such as anxiety, sleeping problems, neuropathic pain, headache, seizures and more. CBD is also a “very potent anti-inflammatory,” Andry says, and can be a helpful recovery tool for those who exercise heavily. The FDA (more on them later), however, has thus far only approved one CBD-related drug product, Epidiolex, which helps treat seizures associated with two syndromes: Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet.
Andry has pulled patients off risky pharmaceuticals like opiates, sleep agents, and valium, and moved them to CBD. “No deaths or overdose from CBD in human history,” Andry says. “This is why so many medical personnel are beginning to use [CBD] in their practices.”
There are about 300 medical studies into the benefits of CBD use, according to Andry. You can view an extensive list of studies at PubMed, which is maintained by the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. Use additional terms like pain, anxiety or sleep to help narrow down your search.
How Does CBD Work?
CBD works as a form of hormone replacement, according to Andry.
Endocannabinoid hormones – particularly the Anandamide and 2-AG hormones – found in the human body work similarly to your thyroid and testosterone in that when there is a deficiency, there can be issues with proper body functions. CBD and these hormones interact and help even out your body’s nervous and immune systems when there is an imbalance, Andry says.
“They have the ability to positively impact physical, emotional and mental body complaints,” he says.
Who Shouldn’t Use CBD?
Andry says that in his practice he does not recommend CBD usage for pregnant women because there’s not enough research available and “we can’t show that it’s safe for them.” There is also the potential for negative drug interactions for someone who, for example, is on chemo medication.
If you are in a high-risk medical situation, consult a physician before using CBD.
Is CBD Legal?
CBD is legal… except when it’s not.
The 2018 Farm Bill, officially called the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, opened the door for the CBD craze by removing hemp from the federal controlled substances list.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a statement in April outlining the agency’s current steps and actions on CBD, including a hearing held on May 31. The Cliff’s Notes version of both: Everything is in progress, with some small specks of clarity.
The Farm Bill outlined federal regulations on CBD; however, states can present different interpretations based on statutes and court rulings. Andry says that about 40 states have guidelines for legal use of CBD. In some states, for example, CBD that comes from marijuana may not be legal, but if it comes from hemp it is legal. The website CBDOrigin.com offers this handy tool to determine the legality in your state.
CBD Product and Type: Does it Matter?
There are some key elements to look for when making a CBD purchase, according to Heather Atwell, founder and president of Salus Nutraceuticals, the operating company that produces PhytoLogicaproducts. You want your CBD product to be made organically and include third-party testing results, she says. Any non-organic CBD products could include GMOs and pesticides, not exactly healthy solutions.
You should also avoid any products that advertise miraculous health claims. Companies making these claims, she says, “may not be in this business for the right reasons as major medical claims are not to be used for legal reasons and also safety of the customer.”
CBD is sold in two forms: full spectrum (CBD plus other cannabinoids and compounds) and isolate (CBD all on its lonesome). Andry says full spectrum CBDs “have a synergy that CBD alone doesn’t have,” and thus a greater effect.
Andry also recommends finding a product with a quality absorption rate. Another consideration, especially for professionals, is to check the level of THC in each product you buy. You don’t want to put your job in jeopardy by failing an employee drug test.
“We are on a really deep learning curve,” Andry says, noting that CBD will soon be an ingredient in foods and beverages. “It can be positive but watch out for the risks.”
Here Are Just a Few of the CBD Retailers We Know About
- CBD Medic (which is also available at select CVS stores)
- BluebirdBotanicals.com (which sells oils, isolates, capsules, even pet products)
- TheCBDDistillery.com (which sells oils, isolates, capsules, topicals and gummies)
- ElevateHemp.com (which offers CBD products that provide solutions for pain, sleep and anxiety relief)
How Much CBD Should You Take?
Andry says that doses used in medical studies are “all over the board. There is not a standardization for products that come out. Companies can say how much CBD is in there, but it’s not regulated.”
One sign of quality Andry says to look for is you a bottle has a QR code that will lead you to testing results. “You can feel confident that it’s a good one to take. If you don’t see that, you are rolling the dice.” In Indiana, CBD products are required to have this barcode to be legally sold.
If you know you are purchasing a reputable product, you can be confident that the dosage recommendations on the label are correct, and you’re not being misled by the ingredients. Some products are above the legal limit of CBD, or don’t have CBD in them at all.
“There are a lot of companies who are making junk and putting it in a bottle,” Andry says. You can read more about labeling accuracy in CBD products in these reports:
- Quality Traits of “Cannabidiol Oils”: Cannabinoids Content, Terpene Fingerprint and Oxidation Stability of European Commercially Available Preparations
- Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online
Atwell says that dosage is also impacted by the potency of the CBD in the product. For example, imported CBD from places like China or Europe may come from “low quality, low CBD potency” hemp, and you may not get the “desired effect” that you would from higher quality CBD products.
Ready to Buy
CBD oils can be ingested, applied, and inhaled, and come in many different forms – from patches and creams to oral solutions and vapes. Andry said he recommends oral liquids and topical treatments because it’s easier to adjust the dosage on those products. Vaping acts quicker than the other methods, but, even though it’s considered less harmful than smoking, it may still present its own risks (check out some here).
If you’d like to sample some products, start with the list below that meet the standards provided by our experts and have been met with solid online reviews. This is just a small sample size of the many products available. If you venture outside of this list, make sure you do your research following the guidelines we’ve laid out for you. (Disclaimer: Some of these recommendations are from companies represented by the experts we spoke to for this guide.)
CBD oils can be applied via a tincture by placing drops under your tongue or by adding a few drops to your food.
Shanti Wellness Balance Premium Hemp CBD Tincture
$40 for 250MG at ShopShanti.com
PhytoLogica Full Spectrum Hemp Tincture
$49 for 350mg at PhytoLogica.com
Floyd’s of Leadville CBD Full Spectrum Tincture
$55 for 600mg at FloydsofLeadville.com
Receptra™ Elite – 0% THC
$89.95 for 30ml bottle at ReceptraNaturals.com
These are applied through your skin and can include creams, lotions, soaps, lip balms and shampoos. Absorption levels are an important component of topical treatments.
Floyd’s of Leadville CBD Warming Balm, Full Spectrum
$25 for 133mg at FloydsofLeadville.com
CryoFreeze CBD Pain Relief Roll-On
$34.95 at OmaxHealth.com
PhytoLogica Full Spectrum Hemp Balm
$39 for 250mg at PhytoLogica.com
EMERA Nourishing CBD Shampoo
$25 for 8-ounce bottle at EmeraHairCare.com
LEEF NOOKS + CRANNIES CBD Soap
$22 for 5-ounce bar at LeefOrganics.com
Receptra™ CBD Lip Balm
$5.95 for 0.15-ounce lip balm at ReceptraNaturals.com
These are taken orally (don’t get crazy) and come pre-measured.
PhytoLogica Full Spectrum Hemp Softgels
$89 for 30 softgels at Phytologica.com
Green Roads CBD Gummy Bears
$54.99 for 30 gummies at GreenRoadsWorld.com
Pure Kana CBD Capsules
$83 for 30 capsules at PureKana.com
CBD Living Gummies
$40 for 30 gummies at CBDLiving.com
You will need two pieces to vape CBD: a vape pen and the vaping liquid (check out our vaping guide here). There are two types of vape pens: cartridge-based (these can be reusable or disposable) or refillable (you just add the oil). There are a lot of options in this category, so do your homework if you are venturing outside our recommendations.
Wildflower Aches CBD + Vaporizer
$59.99 for 500 mg CBD Oil at BuyWildFlower.com
Mig Vapor Bug RX Oil Vape Pen
$39.95 at MIGVapor.com
$49.95 at KandyPens.com
Hemp Bombs Ultra Premium CBD E-Liquid
$14.99 for 16.5mL bottle at HempBombs.com
HempLucid Tincture Vape/Drip
From $29.95 to $169.95 depending on size at HempLucid.com
cbdMD Vape Oil
$59.99 for 750 mg at Cbdmd.com
CBD for Pets
Humans aren’t the only ones getting in on the CBD craze. The pet supplement market (yes, that’s a thing) is now bursting with CBD products, as well.
Andry tried a lot of approaches to get his dog, a Boxer, to chill out during storms. The only thing that’s worked: CBD. “The CBD completely relieves her anxiety,” he says.
Recall the endocannabinoid system we were talking about earlier. Mammals like cats, dogs, rabbits, and birds have the same system, and Atwell says, theirs is more sensitive than ours.
The same advertised benefits for humans also applies to pets: immune support, hip and joint issues, sleep, appetite, inflammation and anxiety, Atwell says.
One warning from Atwell and Andry: Never give your pet any products that contain THC, which could have adverse effects.
We need to talk to our doctors and do some research before making an informed purchase. Do the same for your pets with their veterinarians.
CBD Products for Pets
PhytoPaws PetCare Full Spectrum Hemp Treats for Dogs
$39 for 60 soft chews at Phytologica.com
Smart Hemp CBD Topical Pet Balm
$44.99 for 2-ounce bottle at MySmartHempCBD.com
Kat’s Naturals Pet Care
$45 for 15ml bottle at KatsNaturals.com
Bluebird Botancials Companion CBD Oil
$24.95 for 1-ounce bottle at BlueBirdBotanicals.com
MediPets CBD Dog Treats – Beef Wraps
$39.99 for about 30 treats at MediPetsCBD.com