Despite the 2018 Farm Bill legalizing hemp on the federal level, hemp-derived CBD is still largely unregulated by the FDA. Even though a growing body of scientific research indicates that CBD may possess a number of therapeutic and medicinal benefits, and even though there’s a mountain of anecdotal evidence from CBD users who have used the cannabinoid to help treat various ailments, the Food and Drug Administration has refused to approve almost all CBD products for medical use. They’ve even gone so far as to send warning letters to CBD companies that market their product as having health benefits.
To date, there is only one FDA-approved CBD product available in America and Europe—Epidiolex.
What Is CBD?
Cannabidiol, abbreviated CBD, belongs to a class of compounds referred to as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are found primarily in crystalline structures called trichomes located on the outside of hemp and cannabis buds. While there are over 100 unique cannabinoids we’ve identified, the two most common are THC and CBD.
One of the key differences between these two compounds is that THC produces the mind-altering high associated with marijuana use, and CBD is non-intoxicating. However, just because CBD doesn’t get you high doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its own uses.
Benefits Of CBD
Studies indicate that CBD could be an effective tool for relieving pain that’s been historically difficult to treat. The research suggests that chronic pain conditions such as arthritis, as well as peripheral neuropathic pain and intractable cancer pain could be mitigated by CBD at a level comparable to other analgesics. Part of what makes CBD so appealing to pain patients is that, unlike traditional pharmaceutical options like opiates, CBD doesn’t come with the risk of addiction or overdose.
Pain relief is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to CBD’s medicinal potential. CBD may help reduce anxiety, combat insomnia, and stimulate the appetites of those suffering from terminal illness wasting.
Perhaps CBD’s best-documented medicinal use comes from its treatment of seizures in severe cases of epilepsy. Cases like Charlotte Figi’s propelled CBD into the national spotlight and forced the medical community to take notice. Charlotte was a young girl who suffered from a rare form of epilepsy that caused her to have over 300 grand mal seizures a week, rendering her unable to walk or communicate. After finding no relief from conventional therapies, her mother turned to low THC CBD oil. At the time, cannabis plants weren’t regularly cultivated for cannabidiol, limiting her options. After the introduction of CBD, Charlotte’s seizures reduced to only two to three a month. Her story captivated audiences during a special report from CNN in 2013 featuring Dr. Sanjay Gupta and brought CBD to the attention of mainstream medicine. Which brings us to Epidiolex:
What Is Epidiolex?
So what is the first FDA-approved CBD product? Epidiolex is a prescription pharmaceutical-grade CBD oil designed for use in the treatment of severe seizure disorders. GW Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Epidiolex, first began conducting clinical trials in 2015. After being fast-tracked, the drug was given FDA approval in 2018.
Essentially, Epidiolex is CBD oil—specifically CBD isolate. This means that it doesn’t contain other terpenes or cannabinoids such as THC. It’s taken orally, the same way as other tinctures, or CBD oils are administered.
Epidiolex may be the first CBD product to receive approval from the FDA, but it’s not likely to be the last. Every day we uncover more about CBD and its effects on the endocannabinoid system. As more research is conducted, evidence of CBD’s medicinal benefits will get harder to ignore.