Cannabidiol (CBD) was discovered in 1940. Twenty years later, in 1963, its chemical structure was established. Almost 70 years after its original discovery, CBD was federally legalized in the United States through the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, as long as it’s CBD derived from hemp.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has even removed CBD from their list of prohibited substances. On May 31, 2019, the FDA is expected to host a public hearing on the matter of CBD in foods and drinks.
So here we are, almost halfway through 2019, and CBD is one of the most discussed, used, and marketed supplements in the US. The public hype around this substance is almost unprecedented.
But how far did we got with the studies? How much we really know about CBD?
CBD – Mostly legal, barely known
Although the Farm Bill of 2018 legalized industrial hemp as a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant with a maximum tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of 0.3%, marijuana remains illegal.
Both plants contain CBD, along with a vast array of other phytocannabinoids, each with its own profile of potential health effects. Different combinations of cannabinoids often have significantly varying effects on the human body, but this will be a problematic matter to study in detail as long as cannabis remains illegal on a federal level. Researching any kind of illegal substance requires complex regulatory procedures, a lot of paperwork, and strict guidelines to be followed.
Animal and laboratory cannabis studies are much easier to plan, regulate, and conduct than human studies, but it’s essential to understand that the findings reaped from such trials can’t be extrapolated with 100% accuracy to human physiology, biochemistry, and health in general. They can provide hints for future directions of research, or suggest general trends, but the details have to be approached with caution.
Limited Data on Long-Term Side Effects
Another problem is that there is no data on the matters of long-term effectiveness and safety profile of CBD. Studies to reveal such things usually take several decades of careful observation, so it would be naive to expect anything substantial before 2028. Or 2023, at the very least.
That said, the little information we manage to gather day after day and month after month is encouraging enough to look into the future with optimism.
No matter how mind-blowing the promises sound or how groundbreaking the available studies look, it’s important to understand that the phenomenon of CBD is still way ahead of the scientific researches. A single study reporting a particular finding isn’t enough to speak of a confirmed effect or a verified action. Years—and dozens of other trials—might be needed to turn a single result into a universally agreed upon effect.
Although we don’t have any solid evidence that CBD could be harmful, there’s still a lot of questions to be answered about its long-term safety, interaction with other medications, and mechanism of action in general.
Hopefully, the upcoming studies will help to solve at least part of the uncertainties surrounding CBD.