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CBD Supplements: What You Need to Know

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Woman adding CBD oil to her hot drink

Cannabidiol (CBD) products are becoming widely available at many retail outlets, including grocery stores, health food stores and specialty shops. Although they are gaining popularity, many people don’t really understand what CBD is, what it does and why (or if) they should try it.

Jacob Wolf ND, LAc, Dipl. OM, naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist with University Hospitals Connor Whole Health shares answers to some common CBD questions.

What Is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is an oil extracted from the cannabis plant. It does not contain significant levels of the psychoactive compound THC found in other parts of the plant and, therefore, does not alter the mind or cause a “high.” Typically sold as a gel cap, gummy or liquid, CBD is available in a wide range of doses and may, by law, have up to 0.3 percent THC based on the extraction and purification methods.

Is CBD Legal?
Yes. CBD derived from hemp was legalized for commercial use in 2018. However, the FDA does not regulate over-the-counter CBD products, so quality levels vary from brand to brand. Some products you buy may have more or less CBD than what’s listed on the label.

Do I Need a Prescription?
No. CBD products are available over-the-counter. The one exception is Epidiolex - the only FDA-approved CBD prescription available right now. Epidiolex is pharmaceutical-grade CBD oil, manufactured to ensure it is completely free of THC. It may be prescribed to treat seizure disorders such as epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

Who Might Benefit from CBD Supplements?
Over-the-counter CBD products can be therapeutic for people with anxiety, chronic pain, sleep disorders or PTSD. Although research on its effectiveness in managing these disorders is currently limited, we do have anecdotal evidence that it works for many patients, most of the time.

How Much CBD Should I Take?
There is no standard recommended dose. The ideal dosage for you will vary depending on the condition you are treating, your body weight, other medications you are taking and the type of CBD you choose (e.g. gel cap, gummy or liquid). CBD is also available in vaping cartridges but the potential risks of vaping may outweigh the benefits.

Everyone responds differently to CBD and the daily amount necessary to achieve desired results can range from as low as 5-10 mg to 100 mg or more, depending on the individual. The best approach is to start low (5 mg) and increase usage by 5 mg every two days until you start feeling results. Then, stop increasing and continue using the same dose. For many people, the amount that provides modest benefits in the first couple days will, after consistent use, provide more and more benefit over time.

Are There Any Side Effects?
Negative side effects of CBD are not common. However, some people may experience stomach upset, diarrhea and/or excessive drowsiness. For some, reducing the dose will be enough to resolve these symptoms. For others, it may be recommended that they discontinue use.

A more common issue is for people to feel no effects at all. CBD interacts with receptors in your body and some people’s receptors do not respond well (or at all) to CBD alone.

Can You Become Addicted to CBD?
CBD has a very low risk of physical addiction. Most people, even after taking CBD for a long period of time, experience little to no side effects or symptoms of withdrawal when they stop taking it.

Is There a Particular Recommended Brand?
No. I do recommend, however, that consumers do their research before purchasing a particular brand of CBD. As mentioned before, supplements are not strongly regulated so it’s helpful to have some knowledge of the brand. Look for detailed labeling related to the amount of CBD contained in the product and, ideally, some kind of purity/quality statement from the manufacturer. Labels should go beyond ingredients and list the total amount of oil and give you a precise milligram dose per serving of CBD.

Who Should Not Use CBD Products?
Over-the-counter CBD products are safe for most people when used responsibly for conditions such as anxiety, chronic pain or insomnia.

However, because CBD may interact with certain medications, including sedatives, blood thinners and immunosuppressant drugs, it is important to always talk to your doctor before beginning use. In general, people taking prescription CBD (Epidiolex) or other medications for seizure disorders should not take additional over-the-counter CBD products.

Even though CBD is legal, some professional athletic organizations and other employers may include cannabis in their mandatory drug testing. If the CBD product contains the allowed amount of up to 0.3% THC, it may cause a positive test. It is important to know your company’s drug policies before beginning use.

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University Hospitals Connor Whole Health offers a wide variety of integrated health services, including acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, meditation and more. Our board-certified and licensed practitioners have unique skills and areas of expertise, which enable us to give our clients specialized care to meet their individual needs.

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