In the past few years, the popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) products has exploded. Seemingly overnight, grocery stores, health and wellness stores, and other places you might not expect to see such items began carrying a vast selection on their shelves.
CBD is a cannabinoid — one of more than 120 that are present in hemp (and cannabis). Believe it or not, hemp was illegal up until recently. The reason for this was the passage of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The act made cannabis (marijuana) illegal. Since hemp and cannabis are the same species of plant, it was technically guilty by association. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill effectively allowed hemp production again by removing the plant from the controlled substances list. The bill also states that hemp cannot contain any more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
While you can obtain CBD products in all 50 states with no trouble, their exact legal status is a bit unclear. So, where does the FDA stand on CBD and CBD products? Let’s take a closer look.
The Wide World of CBD Products
People use CBD for a variety of different reasons. What’s more, there are numerous kinds of products on the market, allowing individuals to find the form that works best for them.
Unfortunately, we have limited scientific evidence as to what CBD can do. As of right now, there’s only one FDA-approved prescription CBD medication available: Epidolex. Doctors may prescribe it to treat two rare forms of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
While there aren’t a ton of concrete scientific findings out there, we do have anecdotal evidence. People who use CBD products do so because they say it helps with various ailments like chronic pain, inflammation, stress, anxiety, insomnia, and more. While some studies show evidence of what CBD users claim, we still need more research to understand specifically what the cannabinoid can do. Until then, it’s unlikely more CBD products will be FDA-approved.
So, what types of CBD products are out there? Here are a few of the most common options:
A CBD tincture is one of the most well-known forms of CBD. It’s a liquid preparation often called CBD oil. The traditional method of making a tincture involves soaking the plant material in alcohol, but many CBD tinctures contain MCT or another type of oil.
An edible, as the name suggests, is an ingestible product. While most edibles are foods, the market also has CBD-infused drinks. One of the most popular edibles is the CBD gummy. They’re discreet, make for easy dosing, and taste great. You can also find CBD-infused hard candies, baked goods, chocolate, coffee, water, and many more.
Capsules are soft, CBD liquid-filled gel caps that you take by mouth. They’re similar to edibles, with the exception that you don’t have to eat anything to get the amount of CBD you want. Instead, you swallow the capsule as you would any other oral medication.
A topical CBD product is one that you apply directly to your body. It’s typically a CBD-infused lotion, cream, or balm. You can also find CBD patches, which deliver the cannabinoid deeper into your skin. Generally, people use CBD topicals to help provide localized symptom relief, as they contain other ingredients meant to help alleviate pain or other ailments. You can also find CBD beauty care topicals.
Where the FDA Stands on CBD
The FDA may have approved Epidolex for treating rare forms of epilepsy, but it has yet to approve any other CBD products. When it comes to CBD, the FDA recognizes the substantial interest consumers have in its use. However, the current lack of research and unanswered questions has them hesitant to approve the cannabinoid for other uses. Some of these questions include:
- How does CBD interact with other herbs?
- How do different methods of use affect a person’s intake?
- What happens with prolonged use of CBD?
- How much CBD triggers side effects?
- How does CBD affect a developing brain vs. a fully-developed one?
According to the agency, they have seen limited data regarding the safety of CBD. The simple fact is that there isn’t a lot of research available right now. Until we have more evidence that demonstrates what CBD can do and how safe it is (along with what side effects it may have), the FDA can’t confidently approve its use for treating anything.
What the FDA does know now, however, is that that there are some potential side effects, including:
- It may interact with other medications you’re taking.
- It could make you feel drowsy or alter your mood.
- It may cause issues with your digestive system.
- It could harm your liver.
Just as there’s not much medical evidence backing CBD’s benefits, there’s unfortunately not much evidence on the amounts that may cause potential side effects.
There’s one more factor that may come into play. While the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the list of controlled substances, it didn’t technically legalize CBD. Any products that contain CBD must still meet the requirements as other FDA-regulated products. As of right now, the limited research means they can’t make a concrete decision as to how safe it is, nor can they confidently approve its use.
The Future of CBD
You won’t find an FDA-approved CBD tincture (or other CBD product) on the market now. That doesn’t mean you won’t see them in the future, though. As research continues, states are creating regulatory frameworks. In just a few years, CBD has gone from being illegal in states to being regulated as a food, dietary supplement, and cosmetic ingredient. States have created labeling requirements and testing standards that manufacturers must follow to sell their products legally.
We’re beginning to notice a few trends in CBD regulation as research continues and interest in the cannabinoid grows:
- More and more states are beginning to require CBD retailers to obtain a license to sell CBD products.
- States are requiring substantial product safety and testing requirements for CBD products.
- States are going beyond the FDA’s labeling requirements and adding their own (such as the labels can’t appeal to children and they can’t make unsubstantiated health claims).
- Some states are restricting or prohibiting certain types of CBD products (namely smokables and vape pens).
- More and more states are prohibiting synthetic cannabinoids and cannabinoids created through isomerization (such as Delta 8).
Right now, the true potential of CBD is still unknown. New studies are emerging that suggest additional benefits of the cannabinoid. However, the FDA doesn’t have enough information to approve it yet. That doesn’t mean we won’t get there, however. If you’re interested in using a CBD tincture or other CBD product, you may want to first consult with your doctor. You should also always make sure that you purchase your products from a reputable source that provides testing results. The more information you have, the more informed decisions you can make.