CBD: A wonder drug or wannabe? – Jersey’s Best

CBD-infused pills, oils, tinctures and topical lotions are finding their way onto the shelves of grocery stores, pharmacies and health food stores in New Jersey and across the nation. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

With the help of a few drops of oil, Nancy Reinhardt is sleeping soundly these days.

The 57-year-old South Plainfield resident wakes up around 3 a.m. most mornings. Before discovering cannabidiol oil – also known as CBD – she would toss and turn, watching her sleep hours tick away.

Now, she squeezes a few drops of the hemp-extracted oil under her tongue and soon drifts back to blissful sleep.

“Before, I couldn’t fall back asleep,’’ Reinhardt said. “It was torture. I’d wake up tired and cranky. Now, I feel great.’’

Reinhardt is one of an estimated 64 million Americans who have tried CBD for everything from insomnia to anxiety, muscle pain to arthritis, according to a January 2019 Consumer Reports survey. CBD-infused pills, oils, tinctures and topical lotions are finding their way onto the shelves of grocery stores, pharmacies and health food stores in New Jersey and across the nation.

But what is the evidence that this milder relation to marijuana works? What about side effects – short and long term? And what exactly are CBD users putting into their body?

The answers are murky. Anecdotes abound, but scientific studies are sparse and mostly inconclusive.

First the basics.

While technically legal, the Food and Drug Administration, which governs products designed for human consumption, has yet to issue any standards for CBD-infused substances. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

CBD is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. Unlike its cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it does not get users high. Federal legislation known as the 2018 Farm Bill essentially legalized hemp-derived products like CBD, as long as they contain less than .03 percent THC. This paved the way for a proliferation of these products.

While technically legal, the Food and Drug Administration, which governs products designed for human consumption, has yet to issue any standards for these substances. That probably won’t happen for a couple of years. In the meantime, consumers are left on their own to navigate the maze of CBD products and claims.

“CBD is considered a supplement, not a drug,’’ explained Brian Pinto, a pharmacist who owns Tiffany Natural Pharmacy in Westfield, which sells CBD products. “With any supplement, you can’t make claims about its efficacy for certain conditions. CBD manufacturers can’t say this will cure your insomnia.’’

Studies conducted on animals have shown promising results. But, most of those studies did not extend to humans, so there’s no solid evidence of efficacy for any conditions, doctors say.

As for side effects, few have been reported. Some users may experience fatigue, changes in appetite and weight gain or loss. No studies have examined long-term effects, so that’s an unknown. But, the good news is there is no evidence that CBD, in its pure form, is harmful, said Dr. James C. Salwitz, an oncologist with Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA), Central Jersey Division.

“A lot of patients are using it and many say it has some benefits,’’ Salwitz said. “Others say it doesn’t do anything. It’s highly variable among individuals. CBD probably has benefits beyond just the placebo in a subgroup of people with mild to moderate pain, sleep or anxiety issues.’’

“The product does work for some people to relieve inflammation, pain and arthritis,’’ added Bill Ashnault, owner, Twin City Pharmacy in South Plainfield. “Like with all medical conditions, it depends on the root cause of the issue.’’

Absent regulations, the biggest risk people face with CBD is they do not know what’s inside the bottle.

California-based Green Gorilla is one of only four CBD-producing companies that earned an ‘A’ in a recent study from the Center for Food Safety. Photo courtesy of NJ Advance Media

A recent study from the Center for Food Safety, a national nonprofit, evaluated 40 companies producing CBD products and gave nearly half a “D” or an “F”. Only four companies — Fountain of Health, Green Gorilla, Palmetto Harmony and RE: Botanicals — earned an “A.’’

“It is so completely unregulated,’’ Salwitz noted. “There is no consistency in production standards. What it says on the bottle may or may not reflect accurately what’s inside.’’

With so many uncertainties, consumers should take precautions to ensure they are using quality products, doctors and pharmacists say.

Dr. Kristen Cardamone, who specializes in pain management at Summit Medical Group, recommends CBD to many of her patients suffering from muscular pain.

Before recommending the products, however, Cardamone conducts her own research, searching out companies who conduct internal auditing and external testing. She also takes a conservative approach, usually starting patients with topical solutions before moving to oral forms and then in the lowest doses.

“I’m always looking for other methods of pain management,’’ Dr. Cardamone said. “I’ve been using CBD pretty effectively for the past couple of years, but I also closely monitor patients to see how they are reacting. Everything should be recommended through a doctor. I don’t recommend patients going out and getting it on their own.’’

People also should check with a doctor or pharmacist to be sure CBD will not cause adverse reactions with other medications.

“CBD is generally well-tolerated with most medications, unless a patient is taking something for insomnia or is taking a sedative,’’ Cardamone said.

For consumers who do want to go it alone, Janel Ralph, chief operating officer of RE: Botanicals, has some advice.

“While the FDA has not come out with a framework to regulate these products, it does have one in place for supplements,’’ Ralph said. “A good manufacturer is going to be compliant with those standards that are already in place.’’

RE: Botanicals is an organic hemp apothecary that ships CBD-infused products to the Garden State. Photo courtesy of RE: Botanicals

Ralph’s company manufactures two of the four brands ⁠— Palmetto Harmony and RE: Botanicals ⁠— that earned an “A” on the Center for Food Safety’s list.

Consumers, she advised, should first check to see if the product is labeled appropriately, meaning it includes manufacturing and distribution locations. Labels should also carry the USDA Organic Seal, which certifies that it meets organic-growing standards. “100 percent organic” doesn’t cut it, Ralph said.

Consumers also should contact the supplier to inquire if they are registered with the FDA to market supplements.

In addition, reputable companies hire third-party labs to test each batch produced. These reports detail whether the batch meets standards for additives such as pesticides and metals and has the required .03 or less THC, among other measurements.

“A good, responsible manufacturer is going to have a third-party lab conduct batch tests and make those results available either via their website or email,’’ Ralph said. “Ours are available on our websites.’’

While these precautions can help steer consumers to quality products that may relieve discomfort or help them sleep, some advocates and medical professionals say a better solution is medical marijuana – or even legalizing recreational use.

“Clearly, medical marijuana is a far better product,’’ Salwitz said. “The two aren’t even comparable in terms of their efficacy. Medical marijuana provides more rapid benefits for more serious discomforts.’’

The state’s recent expansion of conditions that allow a person to access medical marijuana means many more people can benefit.

“There are now 18 indications, including chronic muscular pain, chronic organ pain, degenerative arthritis and anxiety,’’ Salwitz said. “It really does open it up very widely to a lot of people.’’

Tom Olah, an adjunct professor at Stockton University, which has recently established a minor in cannabis studies, said the real solution is legalizing pot.

“I think what people are buying now is a risky venture,’’ Olah said. “Once we have recreational cannabis, products that combine THC and CBD will become available. You’ll get a better quality product and a better tested product. If you don’t have THC, you don’t have the real McCoy (or real thing).’’

For people like Reinhardt, though, CBD is working just fine. And she doesn’t have any plans to stop using it anytime soon.

“I like waking up feeling ready to go,’’ Reinhardt said. “That works for me.’’

Source: https://www.jerseysbest.com/cbd-a-wonder-drug-or-wannabe/