The Facts About CBD

Thomas Rocco, MD
Facts about CBD

CBD, or cannabidiol, can be purchased almost anywhere and is showing up in products everywhere. From oils and topicals, to beauty products, dietary supplements, and drinks, it’s hard to ignore. So just what is it, and why has it become so popular?

CBD is one of the compounds naturally found in the cannabis plant. It is a non-psychoactive part of marijuana, unlike its THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) counterpart. That means while CBD doesn’t produce a ”high” like marijuana, many claim there are medicinal benefits for using it.

With the rise of medical marijuana and legalized recreational marijuana, there is an increased interest in CBD and its possible benefits.

The claims

As CBD grows in popularity, there are research studies currently underway to determine its potential therapeutic use. However, there is little scientific evidence to support the medicinal effects it may have. While the science on the benefits of CBD is still in its infancy, the claims surrounding its use are wide-ranging. Users report purchasing CBD products for help with:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • sleep
  • pain
  • muscle spasms
  • headaches/migraines
  • arthritis
  • fibromyalgia
  • PTSD
  • insomnia

It is believed to help boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. It can be purchased over-the-counter in many forms, without a prescription, and is sold in many places. Unfortunately, products are often sold without proper information for the correct usage.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports there is only limited data about CBD and its safety. They need more information to understand how CBD impacts the body as well as risks that may be associated with its use. Currently there is only one use for CBD that has been approved by the FDA. It is a prescription that is used to treat two rare and serious forms of epilepsy.

Other than the one approved for epilepsy, the FDA has not approved any of the products currently being sold. Within the last couple years, however, the FDA has allowed companies to make it and sell it without a medical marijuana license.

While there are no restrictions on the CBD products that are made and sold, there are FDA regulations on how those products can be labeled and marketed. Specifically, products containing CBD cannot be labeled with unproven medical claims, like being a “cure” for certain conditions.

Because these products are not regulated, there is no control over how much CBD they contain, which can lead to confusion in dosing. So, for patients who opt to try CBD products, it can be a whole new world.

For example, if you exercise often and are in good shape, being active will already boost your immune system.  While CBD might not be of additional benefit to your immune system, it could help relieve inflammation and help muscles recover after workouts.

Pain management

As medical director of the Vanderbilt Wound Care Program at Newport Hospital, I work alongside neurosurgeons in treating many chronic pain patients. For pain management, I would always recommend a non-narcotic medication if it was effective for the patient. I had one patient using several Percocet pills each day to manage pain. After trying CBD, however, she is now feeling great and no longer takes the Percocet. For pain management, if it works, it is definitely a better option than narcotics. But I have seen first-hand that while it does help some individuals, it does not work for everyone.

The side effects

One of the benefits of CBD is that the side effect profile is really minimal compared to conventional drugs. The most commonly-reported side effects from using CBD include sleepiness, dry mouth, and diarrhea from too much oil.

Another benefit is that unlike medical marijuana, you don’t have the psychoactive effect, so you maintain control of your functions and abilities.

Unlike narcotics and THC, there is no chance of “overdose” from CBD. CBD doesn’t bind to receptors in the brain, so the receptors continue to work normally. If you take too much, the body won’t use it. My analogy is like fertilizer for the grass: even if you use 10 times the fertilizer you should, your grass won’t be any greener, but it won’t have a negative impact either.

Things to remember

It is important to keep in mind that CBD is not an approved medication and it is not covered by insurance, so it can be expensive. Topicals are the cheapest, the tinctures are a little more expensive.

Most CBD products you buy off the shelf may have varying levels of CBD in them. You need the right dosing. These are the things to look for, so you know you’re getting the proper dose: CBD can be described as CBD oil milligrams, hemp oil extract and hemp seed oil.

  • CBD oil milligram is the amount of CBD in milligrams. It is what I consider the best way to accurately control dosing.
  • Hemp oil extract is the milligram amount of flower used to make CBD oil in that item of CBD.
  • Hemp seed oil has minimal to no CBD amount since it is oil derived from the pressing of the hemp seed.

There are some CBDs that have no THC and some that have a small amount, which the FDA allows. But if you are someone who is subject to drug testing, that small amount of THC could show up in a drug test. If drug testing is a concern, obtaining lab results of CBD is imperative.

Visit the Being section of our Lifespan Living blog for more tips on wellness.

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