CBD is riding a popularity wave but practitioners and consumers should take care to source from high-quality manufacturers exclusively.
CBD is one of the fastest growing ingredients in the natural products world. CBD is the acronym for cannabidiol and is a compound found in the marijuana plant, cannabis. The other main ingredient found in cannabis is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD derives from the hemp plant but contains very low levels of THC, i.e., 0.3 percent. This distinction is important, as THC is what causes the “high” from marijuana.
As products containing CBD can be bought over-the-counter, it is no wonder that there is a great deal of misinformation about what CBD is and what it is not. And practitioners are discovering the role that CBD can play in an overall wellness plan. Based on the number of people that have discovered CBD, the myriad of CBD manufacturers and the new and pending legislation regarding CBD, one thing is for certain: CBD is here to stay.
What Is CBD and Its Uses
CBD interacts with the cell-signaling system known as the endocannabinoid system. “The scientific community has only newly discovered this system. Its primary function is to help support balance (homeostasis) in the body,” said Jason Mitchel, ND, CEO of HF Labs, a manufacturer headquartered in Colorado.
“Cannabis does not mean marijuana,” noted Grace Kaucic, senior communications manager for Bluebird Botanicals, another Colorado-based manufacturer.
Dr. Jenny Wilkins, a naturopathic doctor and clinical research associate based in Florida, explained further, “CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid receptors in your brain and the immune system. These receptors are small proteins attached to your cells. They receive chemical signals from different stimuli that help your cells respond. THC is actually what binds to the cannabinoid receptors, while CBD encourages the body’s production of endocannabinoids. This can lead to an anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effect. It is precisely this reaction is what makes CBD so useful for pain management, among other conditions. CBD also activates 5HT1A serotonin—one of the ‘happy’ chemicals our brain produces—receptors in the brain, which is helpful for treating anxiety and depression and relieving general stress,” she said.
Although hemp and hemp-derived products are no longer considered to be controlled substances, CBD’s legal status on a federal level is still in flux and is expected to change as more and more research is being done regarding its efficacy and safety of CBD. All 50 states have laws pertaining to the uses of CBD, which contributes to the confusion around CBD products. The recently introduced Hemp and Hemp-Derived CBD Consumer Protection and Market Stabilization Act of 2020—Bill H.R. 8179—is pending before Congress and if passed would make any hemp product, including CBD, legal as an ingredient in a dietary supplement.
“If H.R. 8179 passes, it will greatly benefit the future of the CBD market. It will likely result in a consolidation of CBD companies, but will lend the industry a much more positive and trustworthy reputation, which it is sorely lacking right now. With that, reputable CBD companies could focus on creating more innovative wellness products with CBD, as many have already begun to do. Overall, we see many years of growth ahead,” said Kaucic.
Consumers choose CBD to address a variety of conditions, including joint pain and inflammation, sleep, anxiety, stress management and to boost energy, brain function and cognition. “While we can’t make claims about the efficacy of our formulas under FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) guidelines, we find that our consumers regularly use it for general and chronic pain, arthritic pain, Parkinson’s, Crohns, to assist with sleep, depression and anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), general well-being among many others,” said Greg Carpenter, president and co-founder of Blue Sky CBD, a manufacturer based in Colorado.
For whatever reason consumers are turning to CBD, the numbers are climbing. A Gallup poll last year found that 14 percent of consumers acknowledge using CBD products regularly. Another study by SingleCare conducted this past May said that at least a third of all Americans have used CBD, said Mitchel, adding, “As education and public awareness around CBD increases, that number seems to be growing every day.”
People of all demographics and age groups take CBD. “Typically, CBD consumers are mostly between 25 and 45. While younger people are more likely to try CBD in place of medications, many older people are looking for a plant-based alternative,” said Grant Rogers, digital marketing manager for Extract Labs, a Colorado-based manufacturer.
Myths about CBD
There is a great deal of misinformation floating around about CBD, in part due to it being the new kid on the shelf. There is currently not much regulation in the CBD industry, and manufacturers have come out of the woodworks. “A number of these companies have gone to market without vetting their products and making inappropriate claims. There is no education, no transparency or traceability on the product. These companies are simply out to make a quick buck, and it negatively impacts those of us who are trying to do it right. It is a risk to the entire industry,” said Tom Siciliano, company president and CEO of Elixinol, a manufacturer based in Colorado. He added that it will be beneficial and protective for everyone if CBD is regulated in the future.
Another major myth is that CBD can get you high. However, that is untrue, as only TCH has psychoactive side effects. “There is no risk of intoxication or developing dependence like there is with a lot of conventional drugs,” said Wilkins.
Another misconception is that CBD provides instant relief for whatever ails you. “The key to receiving the full benefit of CBD is consistency. As with any new supplement, you likely won’t see immediate changes. With regular CBD use, the endocannabinoid system becomes more active and more sensitive to stimulation by cannabinoids—helping you take full advantage of the benefits CBD provides, providing more balance,” said Siciliano.
Wilkins agreed that some people believe that it is a miracle cure-all, but in reality, consumers need to find the right dosage and delivery forms to get optimal benefits.
Kaucic also agreed. “CBD can produce a lot of benefits for people with unbalanced endocannabinoid systems, but it can’t fix an unhealthy lifestyle.” It is also quite important for consumers to choose quality products and to look for those that undergo third-party independent laboratory testing.
Because all eyes are on CBD, the ingredient is the subject of a great deal of research currently. “Research is the key to the viability of our industry,” said Siciliano.
CBD delivery systems are varied. “No matter what you are taking CBD for, you have no shortage of delivery options to choose from; there are oils, gummies, tinctures, suppositories, topical creams, lotions and more. Each has its benefits, so it’s best to try a few and see what is right for you,” said Wilkins.
She added that CBD can be used to treat multiple issues at once. “Often conditions will exacerbate other conditions. For instance, someone with chronic pain might also experience anxiety as a result of their condition. With CBD, you only need to take one thing to treat both conditions, rather than taking a handful of drugs every day for each issue,” she said.
“One challenge with supplemental CBD is that it is fairly unclear how much to take, and it may be even wildly different from person to person,” said Mitchel.
Elixinol, headquartered in Colorado, is one of the leaders in the CBD industry and are members of the U.S. Hemp Authority and U.S. Hemp Roundtable. The company’s products include capsules, oils, and topicals. In addition to full-spectrum CBD, Elixinol’s tinctures include MCT coconut oil and BCP, beta caryophyllene. “BCP is one of the few terpenes that bind to the endocannabinoid receptors, making it a great addition to our oil formulation,” said Siciliano.
Elixinol’s CBD capsule product line pairs full-spectrum CBD with functional ingredients that target a special need,” he added. Sample products are Stress Less Capsules, which pair CBD with ashwagandha; Good Night Capsules, in which CBD is paired with melatonin for regulating healthy sleep patterns; and Body Comfort Capsules, which incorporates boswellia to support healthy joints.
HempFusion Wellness Inc. started its practitioner division, HF Labs, in 2019. “We are recognized as one of the first to research and develop nutritional products from hemp and have been pushing the industry forward since late 2015,” said Mitchel. The company offers CBD hemp extract tinctures in two dosages; a range of CBD capsules, from traditional CBD hemp extract capsules to those that combine with other compounds that help support the body; and a product called Endo Support. The latter combines CBD hemp extract with omega-3, ginger and turmeric via liposomal delivery. All products are U.S Hemp Authority Certified.
Bluebird Botanicals manufactures CBD in oil, topical and soft gel form. “We selected these delivery methods because they are the most popular and comfortable methods for our customers, particularly our CBD oils which are easy to take on their own or mix with a food or beverage,” said Kaucic. The company uses full-spectrum hemp extract, which includes cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and more, with nothing artificial added. They also include additional ingredients in many products to further enhance benefits, including frankincense, black cumin seed oil, ginger and vitamin D3.
Extract Labs manufactures a number of CBD products, including tinctures, topicals, soft gels, vape products, edibles and even bath bombs. “We also batch track all of our products so customers can see an exact COA for the product in their hand,” said Rogers.
Blue Sky CBD manufactures CBD products in topical and sublingual formats. One such product is the Blue Sky 1,000 mg Deep Relief Balm; another is the Blue Sky CBD Sky Gel, a CBD isolate. The company’s maximum relief product is made with a combination of CBD and CBG—another cannabinoid known as cannabigerol.
The Nevada-based company BioActive Solutions manufactures products under the Trokie name; these include a number of CBD products, including lozenges, a pain patch, nanocapsules and several salves, creams and sprays. Kenton Crowley, PharmD, ABAAHP, founder and creator of Trokie, said he has a patented buccal delivery system for his products.
State of the Market/Trends
CBD is rapidly finding its way into the wellness space alongside many other natural products.
Many consumers likely have heard of CBD and/or knows someone who takes CBD in one form or another. With consumer awareness about CBD on the rise, it is unsurprising that the market is expanding, particularly as more research is being devoted to studying its efficacy. Plus, more manufacturers are entering the marketplace, even though some of their claims may be dubious.
“The CBD industry is projected to grow 145 in 2020, reaching $4.7 billion in industry sales,” said Siciliano. This is in alignment with an overall increased interest in trustworthy, natural products. “From research to development to support teams, it will be interesting to see the industry grow up and the economic impact it will bring.”
Dr. Wilkins believes that the future of the market is bright, particularly as more states legalize medical marijuana.
“The number of patients turning to CBD has grown tremendously the last two years alone. As CBD becomes more and more accepted by mainstream society, and more of the myths and stigmas associated with it are broken, people are more willing to give it a try,” she said.
Other trends impacting the market include branded supplements. “As the CBD market took off in the last few years, you could get CBD in every form and fashion from just about anywhere, even gas stations,” she said. But as it becomes more accepted, she said that people will start looking for name brands they know and trust.
COVID has impacted the CBD market positively in that some companies are becoming more innovative and introducing new functional CBD products. One example is Bluebird, which introduced its Immune Support blend that includes vitamin D3. “We have seen steady growth, even in light of the pandemic. I think people are looking for things to help them keep calm, and shopping online for them since many retail stores are closed,” added Rogers.
Practitioners and Patient Expectations for CBD
Practitioners cannot prescribe CBD but many are recommending it to their patients. CBD products can have a prominent role in an overall wellness plan, but it is crucial that both patients and practitioners fully understand CBD, its uses and its delivery forms. To that end, many manufacturers provide educational materials to help both consumers and practitioners understand the breadth of CBD and CBD products. And some companies, such as Blue Sky CBD, provides samples to practitioners to try products risk-free.
Dr. Wilkins takes a holistic approach with her patients. When she recommends CBD, it is often in conjunction with other treatments. For example, she said, “If someone comes to me asking for help with insomnia, I’m not just going to give them some CBD and send them on their way. I’m going to recommend running hormone tests, ask about diet, and about any significant life events they are experiencing,” said Dr. Wilkins.
Like with everything, there is always the possible risks of side effects, though for many consumers, these are minimal. However, Dr. Wilkins said some common side effects are fatigue, diarrhea and weight gain, though these are usually temporary; any lingering side effects are manageable by adjusting the dosage.
“CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and except for a few sensitive to it (i.e. orthostatic hypotension, drowsiness) it really has no adverse events associated with it, unlike all the other treatments for pain, anxiety, etc.,” said Crowley.
Rogers added that some people report drowsiness. “People on medications that state they should avoid grapefruit should also use caution when using CBD,” he added.
That is why Mitchel said his company always recommends “starting low and slow” until someone reaches a level that seems to be beneficial.
As there is a movement toward natural products in general, there may be benefits of using CBD versus conventional treatments, depending on the condition. “In short, most OTC (over-the-counter) or prescribed treatments are not good for the body long term. CBD is a naturally occurring molecule in the human body, and when used properly can help provide the same relief as other medications without the negative side effects to the liver and kidney,” said Carpenter.
As CBD is available over the counter, consumers should also seek counsel from their practitioners before starting any regimen, particularly to ensure against other drug interaction.
When practitioners do recommend CBD, Mitchel said it is essential that they seek, and help their patients seek, companies that are in compliance with the rules. “A good place to start is to look for the U.S. Hemp Authority certification on packaging, and to only consider manufacturers who offer full transparency to third party testing results, including for cannabinoid levels, heavy metals and pesticides, and microbial contamination. If a company is unwilling to share lot-specific results, including a full certificate of analysis, that’s likely a company that’s not following the rules,” he said.
Bluebird Botanicals offers a transparent batch database, which allows customers to scan a QR (quick response) code on their bottle and view third-party lab tests for every batch of every product. “These lab tests include reports on cannabinoid potency, terpene profile, pesticides, heavy metals, mycotoxins, microbiology and residual solvents,” said Kaucic.
Many companies, like HempFusion, cater to the licensed professional and provide merchandising support, educational and marketing materials, as well as drop ship capabilities.
But perhaps most importantly is that practitioners should advise patients to set realistic expectations.
“There’s been a lot of hype around CBD—much of it deserved, and some not. We believe the hemp plant, and so many of the compounds it contains—including CBD—can offer tremendous benefits. But CBD isn’t the solution to everything. It’s not a miracle. To us, the human body and its endocannabinoid system are the miracle. CBD hemp extract is just another way to help support that miracle,” said Mitchel.
Healthy Take Aways
• CBD is being discovered by more people than ever and is utilized in support of a number of conditions, from joint pain to sleep function.
• CBD is currently unregulated, but pending legislation could act to legitimize the ingredient and to remove several untrustworthy manufacturers from the marketplace.
• CBD should not be viewed as a magic ingredient but as an aid or a supplement as part of a more comprehensive wellness plan.
For More Information:
BioActive Solutions/Trokie, https://shopbioactive.com, https://trokie.com
Bluebird Botanicals, https://bluebirdbotanicals.com
Blue Sky CBD, www.bluesky-cbd.com
Extract Labs, www.extractlabs.com