Healthy Aging

To CBD or not to CBD

It’s that time of year—shopping for holiday gifts for family and friends and hostess gifts for people you may be visiting. What to get? What to get?

One single trend—the CBD craze—may help you reduce your own stress and check off most people on your list—especially if your gift recipients need to sleep better, be less anxious, are interested in elevating their wellness or pampering their pets. And if they’re, well, a little bit adventuresome, or could be coaxed to be.

CBD stands for cannabidiol, and is one of more than 100 cannabinoids found in marijuana. While some people call it a non-psychoactive cannabinoid –as opposed to THC, the cannabinoid that gives you a high—some experts say a better term is ”non-intoxicating.” CBD can come from either the marijuana or the hemp variety of the cannabis plant.

CBD is showing up in tons of products. Gift guides with titles such as “The Best CBD Gifts for your Significant Other” and “Made by Hemp 2018 Gift Guide” are popping up online, usually courtesy of the industry selling the products, but also found in magazine and website articles.

Bethany Gomez, director of research for The Brightfield Group, a market research firm focused on the cannabis industry, calls CBD the ”hot new ingredient,” and sees no end to the boom. “The explosion of product innovation has continued at full blast, with more and more products entering the market, particularly in the beauty, skincare and topicals space. Topicals alone grew by 161% in 2018, she says, …and seniors are more likely than any other age groups to use them, Gomez says.

The Scope of Products

Where do you find CBD? A better question might be-where don’t you? 

It’s in skincare products, treats like chocolate bars, a muscle freeze meant to soothe sore joints and muscles, a skin patch to quell pain, a tincture held under the tongue and swallowed for overall health, totable lemonades, bath bombs, mascara, pet treats, lubricants, supplements and more.

Where’s the Science?

If you want proof behind the testimonials, however, you are going to have to look harder. It’s sparse, although researchers are trying to change that reality.

In 2017, an expert panel for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that the effects of cannabinoids or cannabis were ”modest to moderate” when used for three conditions: chronic pain, nausea induced by chemotherapy and spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis. Their review took in the whole scope of cannabinoids, however, not just CBD. 

Their huge report was done after combing the medical literature and finding that studies on CBD—and cannabis in general—are limited.  Some studies lack scientific credibility; even when a study is scientifically done, the number of people studied is often small. Everyone agrees more research is needed.

More research is underway. At the University of Colorado Boulder, Angela Bryan, PhD, and her team have been studying cannabis, both THC and CBD, for health purposes. One study is looking at it to improve back pain.  At Harvard, Staci Gruber, PhD, is looking at CBD for anxiety. She says evidence is already good that it helps social anxiety, at least in a lab-based situation. Now she is testing that in the real world.  And Dutch researchers recently reported that oral extracts with THC and CBD reduced pain in patients with a rare skin disease, epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a rare condition that results in blistering skin.

Challenges of Research

Researchers are hampered by federal regulations, Bryan says. In the eyes of the federal government, CBD is viewed as a Schedule I substance, defined as drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. (One exception: in 2018, the FDA did approve a CBD drug, Epidiolex, for two rare childhood pediatric disorders.) And that CBD for your anxious pet? The American Veterinary Medical Association views it as illegal, too, even in states that allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana.

Are You Shopping and Buying CBD Legally?

CBD products are sold widely over the internet. But depending on which state you live in, it may not be legal to buy it.

Currently, 33 states haves passed medical cannabis access laws, although not all programs are up and running, says Paul Armentano,  deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). In addition, he says, 12 states have enacted CBD-explicit medical laws. 

Two other states, Indiana and Kansas, have state-specific laws regulating retail sales of CBD for non-medical uses. And three states (Idaho, South Dakota and Nebraska) have no laws addressing either access to medical cannabis or CBD.

However, there’s also the state-federal conflict.  Despite the illegality on a federal level, enforcement does not seem to be a priority, some experts say. Some retail stores selling CBD in states where it isn’t legal have been ”busted.”

 Changes may be in store, Armentano says. Pending Senate legislation has provisions excluding traditional hemp (cannabis with THC levels below 0.03%) and any cannabinoids derived from said plants from the federal controlled substance act. 

So, for now, perhaps the best advice is, check your state regulations about CBD and even then, it’s buyer beware. Maybe wrap that CBD gift in plain brown paper.

To learn more, check out the Project CBD website.


If you could wave a wand to make your iPad easier to use would you:

 Photo: Justin Aiken for Unsplash


5 responses to “To CBD or not to CBD

  1. What really bugs me is that more dangerous drugs that are consumed recreationally without a Dr’s prescription aren’t classified of dangerous drugs with no proven medical us. Specifically, tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, snuff, nicotine smoking aka Vaping, beer, wile, whiskey. In tobacco and nicotine are among the most addictive drugs out followed by alcohol. They belong on that list right beside heroin. I’ve never had Pot and don’t see myself using it now. As I see, i=t, unlike alcohol and tobacco is non addictive. Regardless of drug of choice, to use or not to use is an individual decision.

  2. Personally, I’m for anything that relieves pain and not gives the side effects of most Western medicine.
    I am also a believer one must work diligently on various levels to get to the root of their pain.
    After years of being sick all the time a healing from a chiropractor and instruction on nutrition
    in the early 1960’s brought me sound health for years. Never drank, smoked, took drugs. The mind
    is a powerful healer. I believe we must ‘face the music’ life deals us. How character is formed and

  3. If liberals will have their way, the whole world will be (blindly and involuntarily) addicted to drugs of any kind and under any name! I pity them for they don’t know how to live in a sober state. Like a baby they need a constant pacifier!

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