Question: There are CBD products in the supermarket, is this something that can help improve my appetite or will it make me high?

Answer: What a timely question and no wonder as CBD (Cannabidiol) is hitting the market. Confusion is rife regarding CBD oil and marijuana, which although legal in the State of Oregon, is not Federally recognized as legal and in some populations carries negative connotations.

So let’s start with the differences between CBD oil from the hemp plant and marijuana.

Both hemp and marijuana come from the same species of Cannabis plant (like dogs are a species but a German Shepherd and a wiener dog are not the same!) and have been cultivated to strengthen certain plant traits, both contain CBD which is just one specific cannabinoid (substance) from the cannabis plant. There are about 400 active compounds in the cannabis plant with cannabinoids being the major components.

The marijuana (cannabis plant) was bred to increase its psychoactive properties, commonly known as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) the substance that makes you ‘high’, while hemp plant derived CBD products have less than 0.3% THC, and will not make you high.

Historically, CBD oil has a reputation for treatment of rare forms of childhood epilepsy, with the FDA approving a medication for this application just last year. Other health claims include reducing pain, inflammation and nausea, improving appetite, a muscle relaxant, immune system booster, reducing anxiety and depression, macular degeneration and ‘pet health’ issues!

So why the sudden arrival of CBD everywhere? In 2018, the Farm Bill was passed classifying hemp as an agricultural product which allowed for the cultivation and marketing of hemp and hemp products for sale. Hemp products are under the dietary supplement umbrella commercially.

Products containing CBD include capsules, tinctures, suppositories, skin creams, lotions and more. For lotions, the type of technology used to infuse the CBD is important and labels should include terminology such as ‘nano technology, encapsulation or micellization of CBD (meaning it can be absorbed thru the skin).

When looking at product labels identify if it is CBD oil or hemp seed oil. They are fundamentally different products with different properties.

Studies by the FDA and the American Medical Association looking at potency found that 70% of CBD products were mislabeled, some containing no CBD and some containing trace amounts of THC. Look for independent laboratory testing to help confirm ingredients.

This fall, the beverage industry hopes to market ‘sparking energy water’ containing both CBD and vitamins, however approval is still needed by the FDA. Manufacturers need to be careful with health claims as there is little supportive data available, mainly due to lack of government funding for research into historically ‘illegal substances’.

Once the legalities are decided, there will likely be more research into the properties of CBD and its use in cancer treatment and medicine in general, and allowing guidelines regarding safety, dosage and application to be developed.

Of note, the hemp plant is what is called a ‘bioaccumulator’, meaning that it draws toxins from the soil. Eliminating toxins from CBD involves the use of solvents like hexane and butane, so looking for organically grown products is recommended to hopefully reduce the level of soil toxins and the use of solvents.

An area of concern involves interaction with other medications. The liver’s Cytochrome P-450 system metabolizes over 60% of pharmaceutical drugs. CBD is also processed through this system and means that medications may take longer to be processed resulting in side effects, or necessitate lower medication dosage.

A rule of thumb, if you take a medication that says to avoid grapefruit juice then you would probably get the same recommendation regarding CBD.

Important medications of concern include; blood thinners (Warfarin) beta blockers, oral hypoglycemics, anti-depressants, calcium channel blockers, anesthetics and many more. Check your medication list with your pharmacist.

There have been (rare) cases of urine tests showing positive for drugs in people taking CBD and are probably similar to people who showed positive after eating a poppy seed bagel, but if you are subject to random drug testing at work be advised.

The World Health Organization published a report in 2017 stating that limited data shows CBD is not associated with abuse potential (not a ‘gateway drug’ in other words). They caution however, that many products claim unsanctioned medical uses, meaning no scientific data, so important to remember that while we hear miraculous stories about CBD it is wise to have conversations with your physician if you have an illness, and are already taking medication or receiving treatment.

Bottom line: Check dosage and origin of product, choose organic. Be wary of hyped up claims for health benefits until we have a bit more data under our belt. Hopefully that will be coming soon and any true benefits of this plant can be utilized.

And most IMPORTANT check if there are interactions with any medications that you are currently taking. As far as appetite improvement, THC is the cannabinoid most associated with this.

Ally Gottfried is a registered dietitian at the Community Cancer Center in Roseburg. She has 20 years of experience in hospitals, pediatric health and community settings.

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