The popularity of cannabidiol, or CBD, continues to explode, with estimates from BDS Analytics, a cannabis research firm, suggesting that the U.S. market could reach $20 billion by 2024.1 A trip to any convenience store, grocery store, or natural foods store today is likely to yield a plethora of CBD products in almost any form imaginable. CBD is a phytocannabinoid most often extracted from plants in the Cannabis genus, including hemp and marijuana. Unlike another phytocannabinoid from Cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD has a complete lack of psychoactivity.2
Phytocannabinoids generally exert their effects by binding to cannabinoid receptors that are a part of the human endocannabinoid system; however, CBD itself shows negligible affinity for binding to the CB1 and CB2 receptors3, indicating that it exerts its effects through other mechanisms. Preliminary research into CBD is promising, showing that the compound has anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-depressive, and neuroprotective properties. Recent studies demonstrating the beneficial effects of CBD in laboratory and animal models are detailed here. Initial clinical trials have also been conducted, showing therapeutic potential in several health conditions; however, it should be noted that the majority of these utilize pharmacological (drug) preparations of CBD, meaning it can’t be assumed their results translate to similar benefits in dietary supplement, food, beverage, or other non-drug delivery forms.
Even with the proliferation of products containing CBD, a lack of clarity regarding the regulatory status of CBD is a significant hurdle to more robust clinical research. As FDA develops guidance related to a legal path to market for this compound, it is likely that better-quality research will be performed to determine what levels are safe and efficacious.
Concerns about the safety of CBD have also been raised recently, and this remains an open question. An animal study conducted at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (Little Rock, AR) found liver toxicity concerns at certain dose levels4, highlighting the necessity of establishing safe intake levels for humans. Given that CBD-containing products with many compositions and dosages are already freely available in the marketplace, this issue will need resolution and clarity. So, while CBD offers a new paradigm of treatment for various health conditions, significant questions remain to be answered.
- Dorbian I. ”CBD Market Could Reach $20 Billion By 2024, Says New Study.” Forbes.com. Published May 20, 2019. Accessed at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/irisdorbian/2019/05/20/cbd-market-could-reach-20-billion-by-2024-says-new-study/#1792522c49d0
- Burstein S. “Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analogs: a review of their effects on inflammation.” Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 23, no. 7 (April 1, 2015): 1377-1385
- Zou S et al. “Cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system: signaling and function in the central nervous system.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Published online March 13, 2018.
- Ewing LE et al. “Hepatotoxicity of a cannabidiol-rich cannabis extract in the mouse model.” Molecules. Published online April 30, 2019.
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