These five myths need busting now.

Fact Checked by Jennifer Chesak, April 11 2019

There’s no shortage of dismissive articles about cannabidiol (CBD), and they tend to follow the same formula.

Headlines of these types of pieces typically fall under some variation of “CBD: Myth or Medicine?”

The article will refer to CBD as a “hot wellness trend” and list the plethora of products it’s now appearing in (shampoos, mascaras, etc.). It’ll then list the most exaggerated claims made by CBD evangelists:

CBD cures cancer!

If you bathe in CBD every night, you’ll live forever! (I might’ve made that one up, but give it time.)

By the time the article gets around to asking whether there’s any actual science behind the claims, you might find yourself convinced that CBD is an overhyped, celebrity-endorsed load of nonsense that’s lapped up by millennials who don’t know any better.

While this dismissive mindset might not seem like it’s doing any harm, this isn’t necessarily the case. Real harm can be done when this misinformation permeates social workers, psychiatrists, school administrators, and other folks who have the power to influence people’s lives.

Take, for example, the family who had their 7-year-old daughter taken into protective custody for four days because they were — effectively — treating her seizures with CBD oil (I should disclose that I wrote this article). Or the athletes who have lost their scholarship opportunities for using CBD oil to treat their seizures because it violates the school’s drug policy. Or, similarly, the children who can’t enroll in school because the CBD oil they need to treat their seizures while on campus violates the school’s drug policy.

In short: Clarification is needed when it comes to false or misleading statements that continue to crop up in these types of articles. To help with this, let’s discuss five of the more common myths that surround CBD below.

CBD explainers often mention that the compound hasn’t been proven to help with any health conditions. They usually assert something vague like, “There’s some indication CBD might be useful in treating a few conditions, but there’s little concrete evidence.”

But the assertion that CBD hasn’t been proven to help any conditions is simply not accurate.

Last summer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a CBD-based medication for seizure disorders that are difficult to treat. It’s the first cannabis-based (in this case, CBD-based) medication to get the agency’s approval since cannabis became a Schedule 1 drug in 1970. (Incidentally, this is also when the government started classifying drugs into different schedules.)

It’s worth taking a moment to consider what a monumental development this is.

According to the federal government, cannabis’s Schedule 1 status means it has “no medical value.” Yet the results of the clinical trials of this CBD-based medication were so compelling that the FDA was forced to approve it.

In doing so, it threw the entirety of cannabis’s Schedule 1 status into question.

There are two parts to this fallacy. The first concerns research in the United States.

It’s true that cannabis’s Schedule 1 classification makes it difficult to do research on CBD, but some U.S. universities have been permitted to research the plant.

And that research is available for us to review.

Take, for example, this study done at Columbia University that looked at the use of CBD with conventional treatment for glioblastoma.

Glioblastoma is the most common kind of cancerous brain tumor in adults. Its standard treatment includes surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. The results of the study indicated CBD induced cell death and enhanced radiosensitivity of glioblastoma cells but not normal, healthy cells.

In other words, CBD appeared to help kill and weaken the cancerous cells without damaging any healthy, normal cells.

Then there’s the misleading point that “no research has been done.” Contrary to this, significant research has been done outside the United States, some of which the U.S. government funds.

Israel was the first country to study medical cannabis in earnest. Now you can find studies from a range of countries:

  • A 2018
    from the United Kingdom showed promising results
    using CBD in treating ulcerative colitis.
  • A 2014
    from Italy suggested that CBD inhibits the growth of cancerous
    cells in people with colon cancer.
  • A 2017 study
    from Brazil found that a group of people who took CBD had less anxiety around public
    speaking than the control group, or the participants who took a placebo.

Does this mean CBD cures cancer, anxiety, and is the best treatment for ulcerative colitis? Of course not.

But credible — randomized, double-blind — CBD studies have been done. And they’re available to any journalist or curious individual through PubMed, the National Institutes of Health’s research archive, and similar resources.

The wellness industry is going to do what the wellness industry does best: try to make money. And CBD is proving to be a great way to do that. As a result, CBD is unnecessarily ending up in some cosmetic and wellness products. But some unnecessary applications of CBD don’t mean every application of CBD is unnecessary.

Take tea tree oil, which has documented antibacterial properties. If the wellness industry sees enough interest in tea tree oil and starts putting it in eyeliner and mascara (which seems like a terrible idea, but bear with me for the sake of the analogy), people might start rolling their eyes.

They might start believing that tree oil is a marketing scam, that it’s nothing more than a way to charge an extra $10 for your cosmetics. This doesn’t change the fact that the oil has antibacterial properties. It just means you probably don’t need to put it on your eyelashes.

So, while CBD doesn’t need to be in all of the products it’s in, that doesn’t diminish its legitimate applications.

Of all the bad CBD takes, this is by far the worst. Fortunately, it doesn’t require much of an explanation. I’ve read a number of pieces where the author tries CBD for a week or two, and at the end of the week they report that they felt no different after the experiment than they did before.

But here’s the rub: There wasn’t a condition they were trying to treat in the first place. It’s like deciding to take Tylenol for a week when you’re not in pain. What exactly are you evaluating with your experiment?

Before you try CBD, consider if you have a condition or symptom that CBD can treat. And remember that personal anecdotes aren’t science.

you’re considering taking CBD, consult with your doctor first to find out if
it’s right for you. It’s not recommended for certain people, like those who
are pregnant or breastfeeding.

It’s 100 percent true that the legal gray area where CBD exists — hemp federally is legal, marijuana is not, and you can get CBD from both types of the cannabis plant — makes for some sketchy products.

Lab tests have revealed that many of the CBD-labeled products sold on the internet actually have little or no CBD in them. Aside from Epidiolex, CBD products aren’t approved by the FDA. Critics are right to highlight quality issues. Consumers should do their research before purchasing CBD.

But it would be a mistake to conflate junk CBD and quality CBD, lest you write the compound off as a whole because of some shady producers.

Say you buy a questionable bottle of aloe vera because you’ve gotten a sunburn and it doesn’t help. It turns out what you bought was 2 percent aloe vera and 98 percent green food-colored goo. Does that mean aloe vera doesn’t soothe burns or is it, instead, that the product you purchased simply wasn’t high quality?

The same can be said for CBD products. Ultimately, it’s important to do your research into what’s quality and what isn’t, as well as what’s legal and not in your state or country.

How do you decipher what’s reliable and responsible CBD information? As is the case with most questions surrounding health and wellness, a lot of it is down to doing your due diligence when it comes to research.

For example, when you’re reading information about CBD, check to see if the article:

  • mentions the FDA approval of the CBD-based
    seizure medication
  • has looked at research from other countries in
    addition to the Unites States
  • doesn’t conflate the medical potential of CBD
    with industry issues (lack of industry standards, false or unproven claims,
  • talks about the uses for specific conditions as
    opposed to generalizations and hype
  • notes that not all CBD products are created
    equal and stresses the importance of consumers doing their own research to find
    reputable brands and sources

You can also read up on more information about CBD here and here.

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.

Katie MacBride is a freelance writer and the associate editor for Anxy Magazine. You can find her work in Rolling Stone and the Daily Beast, among other outlets. She spent most of last year working on a documentary about the pediatric use medical cannabis. She currently spends far too much time on Twitter, where you can follow her at @msmacb.