What to know about CBD

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Across the country, CBD has become a major craze, showing up on the shelves of major grocery chains, on the menus of restaurants and even in beauty products such as shampoo and conditioner. Many companies are making wild claims about the benefits of this hemp-derived substance, but what's fact versus fiction when it comes to CBD?

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What is CBD?

CBD is short for cannabidiol, one of the more than 100 plant oils found within the cannabis family of plants. CBD is known for its medicinal properties and can be isolated and extracted from cannabis plants.

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Will it make you 'high'?

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the compound that gives pot its "high" sensation. CBD is separated from THC after it's extracted from cannabis plants, leaving it with only trace amounts. Because of its low or nil levels of THC, CBD is often touted as non-psychoactive or non-mind altering, but that isn't quite true. The exact way CBD affects people is still unclear, but it has been shown to significantly alter mind, body and mood -- just not in the same way THC does.

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What forms does it come in?

CBD oil is the most common form of CBD. Oils, along with sprays and lozenges, are meant to be absorbed under the tongue. There are CBD edibles in the form of gummies, truffles, mints and more that are absorbed through your digestive system. Topical CBD products such as lotions, creams, salves and patches are absorbed through the skin. You can also ingest CBD by smoking cannabis flower through a joint or using a vaporizer, vape pen or inhaler.

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How is it different from hemp oil?

Though it is made from hemp, CBD oil is not the same as hemp oil, hempseed oil or cannabis sativa seed oil that you can find at health food stores. Hemp seeds have 0% THC and only trace amounts of CBD, and oils extracted from them are used for cooking or beauty products but not for medicinal purposes. Hempseed can be found in food such as hempseed milk, granola and more as well as cosmetic products like moisturizer or face oil. While shopping for CBD oil, double check labels and make sure you're purchasing the correct product.

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Is it legal?

CBD currently exists in a murky legal grey area. The federal government passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp production as well as certain CBD products, leading to a "green rush" of CBD products flooding the market. They must be derived from hemp grown by a licensed American producer according to federal regulations and contain no more than 0.3% THC. However, state and local governments are currently in control of who can buy and/or use CBD products, and the laws and regulations vary widely.

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Is it safe?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has jurisdiction over CBD products, but currently, the only FDA-approved CBD product for therapeutic or medical uses is the epilepsy drug Epidiolex. That means any other CBD health products, dietary supplements or food are not regulated by the FDA and have not been deemed safe and effective for their intended uses.

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Is it safe?

Despite not yet being regulated by the FDA, CBD was found in a World Health Organization report to be safe for both humans and animals, with no effects indicative of any potential for abuse or dependence. Taking CBD is still a risk, however, because there isn't much research and there aren't many regulations. To find the more reputable CBD products on the market, consumers should look at company websites or product labels for a certificate of analysis( COA) by a third party lab. Some states have their own laws to help protect consumers, such as Indiana and Utah, which require CBD products to be tested for potency and purity. Buying CBD items produced in those states helps guarantee that what the label says is what you're getting.

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Does it have side effects?

CBD is known to have mild side effects, depending on the strain, dosage method and more. Users can experience diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, irritability, lightheadedness and loss of appetite.

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What can it treat?

Some companies make wild, unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of CBD. The only condition that CBD is proven by medical science to treat is epilepsy. Now that it is federally legal, researchers have begun studying CBD's ability to treat chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety and other medical conditions. Since CBD isn't an established treatment for most ailments, there are not any guidelines about the dosage necessary for CBD to actually be effective.

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Does it have other benefits?

CBD affects the endocannabinoid system, which regulates inflammation, immune activity, appetite, memory formation and other systems at the root of many health problems. This means CBD has many possible applications, from treating acne and boosting your mood to preventing a drug relapse or managing schizophrenia. Though it is by no means a "cure all," CBD has many exciting potential therapeutic uses that researchers are exploring.

Where can you get it?

Even in states where hemp is still strictly regulated, consumers can order CBD products online or find them on the shelves of pharmacy chain stores like CVS and Walgreens and grocery chains like Kroger. For example, in Kansas, buyers can find plenty of CBD products with THC despite the state law mandating that they contain 0% THC.

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Do you need a prescription?

The license that allows doctors to prescribe medicine is federal, and cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, meaning even in states where medical marijuana is legal, doctors are not allowed to write "prescriptions" for it. Instead, they write "recommendations" for it. CBD laws differ from state to state, so some, like Virginia, require a doctor's certification to buy and possess CBD. No matter the laws in your state, you should talk to your doctor before taking any CBD products.

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Does it interact with other medications?

One of the biggest concerns for physicians and scientists when it comes to CBD is that it's unclear how the compound interacts with many medications, so there's no guarantee someone won't have a negative reaction. CBD may block the metabolism of drugs used for blood thinning or increase the side effects of anxiety medications like Xanax, causing you to feel more sedated. It could also interfere with everyday over-the-counter painkillers or antihistamines. Consult with your doctor before beginning any CBD regimen to help mitigate the risk of negative side effects.

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