What you need to know about the trendy supplement that's popping up everywhere.

Holly Pevzner
March 02, 2020

It's in gummies, tinctures, lotions, seltzers, and more. CBD, a compound derived from the cannabis plant, is pretty much everywhere you turn these days. (Even showing up in places like Target and Walmart!) And about 62% of people taking CBD are using it to treat a medical condition, such as pain, anxiety and depression, according to a report in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. But is CBD oil right for you? We've got the answers to your questions and important things to know before checking out the trend firsthand.

Related: Miracle Cure-All? Facts You Should Know About CBD Oil

What Is CBD?

CBD is a natural compound called a cannabinoid found in hemp and marijuana, two varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant. Cannabinoids influence signaling pathways between cells (basically how cells talk to each other), potentially impacting multiple systems in your body. However, unlike its chemical cousin THC (which is only in marijuana), CBD does not have psychoactive effects, meaning it won't get you stoned. "In fact, our bodies naturally churn out chemicals that are very similar to CBD," says Debbie Petitpain, M.S., R.D.N., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Getty Images/ANGELA WEISS

7 Things to Know Before You Buy CBD

Curious about trying the trend? These are seven things experts want you to know before diving in to CBD.

1. Talk to your doctor

If pain is the issue, speak with a pain specialist. If insomnia is the issue, talk to a sleep specialist. You get the idea. "Expressing interest in cannabinoids is the start of a conversation," says Edward Mariano, M.D., professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine in California. "You're telling your doctor that what you're currently doing isn't working and you want to try something new." Plus, your physician might be able to point you in the direction of CBD products that other patients have had success with, and (at the very least) will help monitor your progress and reactions.

2. Learn about possible interactions

The World Health Organization notes that CBD is generally well tolerated and has a good safety profile, but it's important to know that rigorous safety studies have yet to be done on CBD. Before dabbling, talk to your doctor about any possible interactions. For instance, CBD increases your risk of bleeding if you're on certain blood thinners and should be avoided if you have any liver issues.

3. Understand possible side effects

Using CBD may cause diarrhea, drowsiness and/or irritability, according to a recent FDA report.

4. Skip it if you're pregnant

It appears as though fetuses develop certain cannabinoid receptors in the brain by 14 weeks. "So CBD may potentially interfere with normal fetal brain development," says Mark Zakowski, M.D., a professor of obstetric anesthesiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

5. Do some investigating

If your physician recommended a trusted manufacturer, great. If not, look for companies that adhere to the FDA's Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP); they're not yet required to comply, but reputable manufacturers will. Reputable manufacturers also tend to have a third party analyze their product for quality. Look for a certificate of analysis, or COA, which is proof that an independent lab has tested their CBD. "THC can contaminate a CBD product at concentrations high enough to be detected on a drug screen," says Debbie Petitpain, M.S., R.D.N., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "This could be a real problem for someone who works for an employer with a zero drug policy."

6. Be prepared to pay a premium

"Hemp doesn't make much CBD, so a lot of it is required to get a concentrated product, and that's going to drive up the price," says Petitpain. Third-party testing also drives up the price. "If the CBD oil you've been eyeing is priced too-good-to-be-true, it probably is," says Petitpain.

7. You'll know quickly if it works

"Your body will reach peak concentration of CBD in a day or two," says Petitpain. "So if you're not getting the effects that you hoped for after a couple of days, that's probably not going to change and you should check back in with your doctor."

Read on: Should You Give Your Dog CBD Oil?

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