NEWS | April 19, 2019

CBD 101

What we know and don't know about cannabidiol (CBD)


From supplements to snacks like gummy bears, CBD products are a fast-growing trend. But are they safe? Yu-Fung Lin, an associate professor with joint appointments in the Departments of Physiology and Membrane Biology and in Anesthesiology at UC Davis Health, shares what research to date tells us about the safety and health benefits of CBDs.  

Cannabis plant Cannabis plant

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of more than 100 different chemicals known as cannabinoids found in the Cannabis plant. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that is cultivated for recreational use, CBD does not produce a “high” and is considered well-tolerated and nonaddictive. 

What are the different types of CBD products?

Different varieties of cannabis plants exhibit different CBD-to-THC ratios. Due to high consumer demand, many CBD products prepared from the plants are available on the market, from oral tinctures, edible gummies, soft gel capsules to CBD wax and topical creams. 

Are CBD products safe?

CBD may have multiple health benefits but should not be considered completely harmless as more research is required. While CBD seems well-tolerated by the human body and does not cause dependence, research on the safety of its long-term use is still lacking. Consumers need to be aware that CBD products are considered supplements and are unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As a result, the purity or amount of CBD as labeled on the products is not reliable; in addition, how much THC -- a psychoactive and addictive compound -- is present in CBD products is of concern. CBD can also interact with other medications, such as blood thinners, so it is best to talk with your doctor to ensure that it won’t interact with other medications.

What are the health benefits of CBD?

CBD has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, and is known to protect nerve cells from damage.  CBD may also help reduce pain and anxiety.

In June 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first cannabis-based medication (Epidiolex), a concentrated CBD oil to treat two severe pediatric seizure disorders, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Children with these disorders can have multiple seizures per day that do not respond to existing medications. 

In over 25 countries outside the U.S., a cannabis-based product with CBD-THC in a 1:1 ratio (Nabiximols; trade name: Sativex), is approved for the treatment of muscle spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis.

Is CBD safe for pets? 

The medical potential of cannabis is not well-researched in veterinary species, and legislation has been proposed in California and other states defining how veterinarians talk with pet owners and recommend its use.