To CBD or Not to CBD: That Is the $16-Billion-Dollar Question
Writer // Janelle Morrison
You’ve seen the national and local headlines and have likely seen and/or have heard a commercial for cannabidiol (CBD) products sold right here in Indiana, but what does it all mean? Is it all a masterfully disguised placebo effect crafted by the hemp industry or do these products really have beneficial properties? What do the recently passed laws mean for producers and consumers alike, and what should consumers be aware of when purchasing and using CBD products?
According to Fortune.com, “Nearly 7 percent of Americans are already using cannabidiol (CBD), placing the potential market opportunity for the much-hyped cannabis compound at $16 billion by 2025, according to a new analysis by Cowen & Co.”
I have been researching these questions for the last 90 days and am eager to share some of the basics of what I’ve learned about the industry, the products based on my personal usage and the laws that have been put in place to regulate the reemerging hemp industry and to protect consumers. I spoke with a Carmel-based family medicine physician to gain a better understanding of how CBD is viewed by some in the medical field.
What Does CBD Stand For and What Is Its Purpose?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a phytocannabinoid that was discovered in 1940 by Dr. Roger Adams and his team at the University of Illinois. It is one of 113 identified cannabinoids in cannabis plants. One of the most important qualities—from a legal perspective—is that CBD is nonpsychoactive. In layman’s terms, you won’t get “stoned” after using it.
Unlike marijuana, hemp’s cousin plant, hemp is regulated to only contain a maximum tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level of 0.3%, in contrast to marijuana’s average 5–20% THC content and, in some cases, up to 30% in premium strains.
CBD has been found to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antianxiety properties without any psychoactive effects, and its popularity as a medical supplement is why Fortune.com and other analysts believe CBD to have such a lucrative future as one of the leading applications of hemp in the nation.
My Personal Testimonial
The former investigative journalist in me decided to look beyond the hype and research CBD products by using them in my own household in a quasi-controlled beta test. Reading about CBD’s anti-inflammatory qualities interested me because I have the aches and pains of a 40-plus-year-old who was uber athletic in her youth. I have also been a long-term insomniac, to the point that it has affected my overall physical health. The saying “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is no longer an amusing quip, and I wanted a natural solution without succumbing to prescription sleep aids. Those who are in my inner circle have known about my husband’s physical challenges over the last two years. He has been a lifelong sufferer of migraine headaches and has been on nearly every over-the-counter as well as prescription medicine over the last 40-plus years. Three years ago, he suffered a grand mal seizure and stopped breathing. I was scheduled to be at an event but decided at the last minute to stay home that night and was able to resuscitate him.
Later, the doctors diagnosed the seizure as being migraine-induced. Fast forward, after two trials with antiseizure medicines and several petite seizures in between, my husband has found relief from the seizures with a prescription medicine and relief from the migraines that are thought to cause his specific type of seizure with 500 mg full-spectrum CBD oil. We communicate with his neurologist about everything he is taking to avoid any drug interactions. This is very important for people who are on prescription medicines to understand. You must have an open and honest discussion with your primary care and/or specialist physicians. This advice is applicable to anyone considering or currently using CBD products—tell your doctor, and even if he/she doesn’t subscribe to its benefits, let him/her know so as to avoid any future negative interactions.
Our Daily CBD Routine
One size does not fit all when it comes to gauging the “right” dosage. It depends on the concentration of CBD, the weight of the person, the person’s body chemistry and the severity of the condition being treated. What works for us may not be the solution for others, but here are the results of our “tests”:
CBD Test One:
Concentration: 3,000 mg CBD tincture, 60 ml, full-spectrum, mint-chocolate flavored. It’s a tolerable flavor.
My dosage: ½ of the dropper (this brand’s serving size suggested use is 1 ml (50 mg) as needed, but that was too strong for me).
Time: 1–1 ½ hours before bedtime.
Results: This brand reduced pain and helped with falling asleep. Since it was the first of three products, I was impressed with the results but had no baseline to compare it to.
My husband was taking the 10 mg CBD per softgel capsule—one capsule right before bed. He did not have as impressive or as consistent results with that first brand.
Duration of test: 30 days.
CBD Test Two:
In between the first and second tests, we went off all CBD products, cold turkey, for 30 days before starting with brand number two—1,500+ mg CBD tincture, 30 ml, full-spectrum and 15+ mg CBD oil per capsule. All our symptoms promptly returned, and it made for a long month without relief from any CBD product.
This one was “natural” flavored and tasted like I had eaten a hemp leaf, but I developed a tolerance for it.
My dosage: ½ of the dropper (this brand’s serving size is 15 drops, approximately 0.5 ml per serving).
Time: 1–1 ½ hours before bedtime.
Results: Compared to the first product, brand number two was noticeably effective. I fell asleep faster, and my pain symptoms were alleviated faster and longer through the night.
Duration of test: 30 days.
CBD Test Three
Concentration: 2,500 mg, CBD tincture, 30 ml, full-spectrum. Strawberry flavored. My favorite flavor so far.
My Dosage: ¼ of the dropper (this brand’s serving size is 1 full dropper, 1 ml per serving).
Time: 1–1 ½ hours before bedtime.
Results: I’ve never slept better. The alleviation of pain and inflammation is comparable to the second brand, but the taste and the immediate effects of this brand outperform the earlier two products that we tested. My husband had a wicked migraine with last week’s storms. He took ½ of the dropper, and within 10 minutes, he was perfectly fine.
Duration of test: 13 days out of 30.
While I am not claiming that CBD oil and CBD capelets have “cured” our ailments, I can testify that we have found substantial relief of our symptoms in two out of the three products we have tested. I am not a paid endorser of these brands and will not name them out of integrity for the purpose of this article, but what I can share is that of the products we have used, all three were made in and bottled/packaged in the U.S.—in Colorado, to be specific. I purchased two of the three online, and one of the products came from Carmel, Indiana. Again, before buying and/or using any CBD products, please consult your physician and do your research!
The Use of CBD from a Medical Professional’s Perspective
Dr. Ashlie Olp at Olp Family Medicine in Carmel graciously spent some time sharing with me her observations about her patients use of CBD and her research on why CBD may hypothetically work with the nervous and immune symptoms, though no concrete evidence has been published either for or against the use of CBD for medicinal purposes.
“I opened my practice in Carmel in November of 2017, and literally in the first month of my new practice, I had received dozens of questions from patients asking for my opinion of CBD,” Dr. Olp said. “I decided that I had better research it because if there were that many patients asking about it, then who knows how many were going to or were already using it. What I have found is that there isn’t a lot of super hard science out there about CBD.”
She attended a meeting on CBD put on by a CBD manufacturer, but went into it with the mindset that she wasn’t going to believe a word anyone said about CBD.
“I will be honest; I went with a huge chip on my shoulder,” Dr. Olp admitted. “One of the speakers was an old friend of mine from residency who was speaking about how he uses CBD in his practice. I called him after the meeting and challenged him. I told him that I wanted something from the NIH [National Institutes of Health], something that was coming from somebody who isn’t making a single dime off CBD. So, he sent me 800 pages of information from NIH, over email. I read it all. Most of the research was on the endocannabinoid system. We have an endocannabinoid system where we have natural cannabinoid receptors throughout our bodies in the central nervous and immune systems. It [endocannabinoid system] helps to regulate homeostasis. Our bodies use a lot of energy to keep everything in its internal environment the same, such as blood pressure, temperature, hydration status, etc. When something in our body is out of whack, it will use a lot of energy to get it back into homeostasis, and your endocannabinoid system is really involved in that job.”
Based on this knowledge, the prevailing theory is that CBD assists the endocannabinoid system in bringing the body back to a state of homeostasis.
Dr. Olp explained that while she has exercised due diligence and continues to research CBD with what is currently available, most of the research is anecdotal and is based off small group studies, unlike the 5,000-patient randomized, controlled trials that pharmaceutical drugs undergo ad nauseum before they are approved by the FDA.
“I read a lot of hypothesis on why CBD might work for things that take place in the nervous or immune systems because of the way the endocannabinoid system works,” Dr. Olp stated. “So, you can hypothesize on how CBD might work with anxiety, PTSD, depression, arthritis, chronic pain syndromes like migraines and IBS. There are some studies that suggest CBD can help with movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and MS.”
Dr. Olp emphasized that it is important to discuss with your doctors if you are considering or are using any CBD product, and that even if the doctor isn’t subscribing to the theories of the known and/or unknown benefits of CBD, you still need to have the conversation.
“Safety is my main concern because a lot of people want or are taking it,” Dr. Olp said. “When I started my research, the three main things were how does it work, why does it work and is it safe for my patients to take? I had to prove to myself, first, that it was safe. A lot of doctors will say that there is not enough information to say whether CBD works or not. We are an evidence-based medical society, and CBD is all pretty new in the world of medicine and science, and there’s a lot of things we just don’t know.”
To recap, do your research on the products, and then discuss your findings and interest with your doctors before taking any CBD products, but most importantly, don’t take what you read from any CBD advertisement or article (including mine) as evidence-based facts. Nobody has earned a medical degree or won a Nobel Prize from what they’ve read on the internet.