The Food and Drug Administration issued a stern warning to the public recently about the “potential harm” that can be caused by using products that contain cannabidiol, or CBD. This includes “liver injury” and a host of side effects such as “gastrointestinal distress” and changes in alertness and mood.
While this news certainly can leave consumers with the uneasy feeling that CBD products are not safe, the reality is that the FDA’s warning should not be cause for public alarm.
CBD, a molecule found in hemp, can provide therapeutic relief for aches, pain and inflammation as well as may help with anxiety and an assortment of other problems. It is the latest buzzword in health.
According to a recent report, Google searches for the terms “cannabidiol” and “CBD” have spiked over the past few years at “massive rates.” Thanks to the 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act, which legalized the commercial production of hemp, the recent availability of hemp-derived products has been made possible. Unfortunately, it has also resulted in a litany of claims with limited proof.
Consumers, in turn, have been left with trying to judge these claims and brands with limited insights. From treating Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s and even cancer, consumers are flooded today with unsubstantiated claims made about the benefits of CBD products. That is why it is no surprise that last week the FDA also sent warning letters to 15 companies for illegally marketing and selling CBD products.
So, as the emerging CBD market continues to grow, how can consumers better understand what they are actually buying?
First and foremost, the FDA has made it clear that CBD for topical use is the only category of CBD products the agency fully allows. This is why the side effects the FDA outlined in last week’s warning pertained to the oral ingestion of CBD.
Second, consumers should take into account if the product is made in an FDA registered facility. Because the FDA is still working on full guidance for CBD products there is limited oversight, which means consumers need to confirm if a CBD company uses an FDA-registered facility to make products. Most reputable companies will have that information on their website.
When it comes to choosing a reputable brand, consumers should look to national retailers, which are starting to play a key role in the sales of CBD products. Most large retailers select CBD brands that are manufactured in FDA-registered facilities and have proven products in the market. Just like most types of products, any CBD products that have passed evaluation by name-brand national retailers are probably more trustworthy.
Another critical factor is determining the amount of CBD actually in the product. In 2018 the FDA confirmed a substantial percentage of companies were selling CBD products with less than advertised or no CBD in them. A website review of most reputable CBD brands will show applicable lot testing to verify amounts and purity. On a related note, consumers should evaluate topical products on CBD concentration. The higher the concentration of CBD per dollar the better potential benefit and value of the product.
Finally, consumers using CBD products that are applied topically should not have powerful scents of menthol, camphor and other comparable ingredients that only mask pain. Products where CBD is doing the work should have a high concentration of CBD and low or no concentration of ingredients like menthol, which can be purchased for a tiny fraction of the price in other topical products.
The CBD market is certainly a new and exciting one. While there is a lot more the industry is learning about how CBD works, the government thankfully has given us the start of a framework to help ensure that consumers can use CBD in a safe and effective manner. And, so while the FDA’s warning makes for good news headlines, in reality it is reaffirming in many ways the guidance they have already given. With that and a little bit of due diligence, consumers should feel more at ease.