Wonder drug or modern-day snake oil? Appearing in stores and online in the form of body lotions, capsules, tinctures, edible gummies, and bottled water, CBD has exploded in popularity as a way to reap the supposed health benefits of marijuana without the high that comes with it. All this is in spite of the paucity of evidence of its merits so far.
1. What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of more than 100 molecules called cannabinoids that are found in cannabis. Unlike the nearly identical THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the main active ingredient in pot, CBD doesn’t produce a buzz. According to a report by the World Health Organization, it hasn’t exhibited any potential for abuse or dependence, and there is no evidence of any public health-related problems associated with its use.
2. What does it do?
CBD has been touted as a potential treatment for any number of ailments, among them depression, insomnia, brain injury, opioid addiction, diabetes, arthritis, and graft versus host disease. Pre-clinical trials suggest CBD may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, but there have been few human trials to substantiate the claims. Several clinical trials are in the works, including one testing its use to combat nausea during chemotherapy, and another on how it affects mood. For now, its only approved medical use in the U.S. is as a treatment of two rare forms of childhood epilepsy.
3. How many people are using it?
Almost 7% of Americans polled in January by investment bank Cowen & Co. reported using CBD as a supplement. Big chains such as CVS, Walgreens, and Kroger are now selling CBD lotions and other products. Cowen estimated that U.S. retail sales were as high as $2 billion in 2018, and analysts at Piper Jaffray & Co. estimated that the U.S. CBD market could be worth as much as $15 billion in five years. The research firm Brightfield Group estimated that CBD was a $318 million market in Europe in 2018.
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