Products made with a component of marijuana that doesn't get you high are surging in popularity

Shutterstock
  • Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis.
  • CBD won’t get you high; THC is the component of cannabis responsible for that.
  • Products made with CBD extract are becoming increasingly popular, but because of limited research, it remains unclear what most of them do.
  • Only two CBD-containing medicines have been studied extensively, and neither has yet to get US approval.

I knew I’d arrived in California when a friend offered me an edible – for my dog.

The treat didn’t contain THC, the component of marijuana that’s responsible for getting you high. Instead, it was made with cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in marijuana that may potentially be useful for a range of therapeutic applications. The research on this front remains in its infancy, but thanks to a wave of developments into new cannabis-based drugs, it’s an exciting time to keep an eye out for new research.

CBD is thought to be responsible for many of marijuana’s therapeutic effects, from pain relief to a potential treatment for some rare forms of epilepsy. But because much of the research on marijuana remains in its infancy, it’s largely too early to say for sure whether CBD has any use for most people.

But that hasn’t stopped retailers from touting the benefits of CBD in dog treats, vape pens, lotions, lip balms, lozenges, and oils. Some products made with CBD are available legally in some states where medical marijuana is not. On the medicinal front, one promising CBD-based medicine – designed to treat a rare form of epilepsy – is currently in development and awaiting approval from the US Food and Drug Administration.

Given CBD’s unclear legal framework, it’s important to be cautious when purchasing items containing the ingredient. It’s also helpful to know that marijuana isn’t just composed of CBD and THC – it has some 400 different compounds, each of which may be responsible for a distinct effect.

The future of cannabis-based medicines

Getting marijuana-based drugs approved in America is no easy task.

Only one drug made with cannabis-derived ingredients has clearance from the FDA. That drug is dronabinol, which treats some of the negative side effects of chemotherapy and AIDS, such as nausea, loss of appetite, and weight loss. It is made using lab-produced versions of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and is available with a doctor’s prescription.

On the CBD front, British drug company GW Pharmaceuticals is leading the charge with two medicines – Sativex and Epidiolex. The first is a nasal spray that the British government approved last year for severe pain; the second is a syrup that is still being studied in the US for its potential to treat two of the hardest-to-treat forms of childhood epilepsy.

So for now, purchasing products made with CBD is somewhat of a gamble. Based on the current research, it’s premature to claim that the ingredient would have any measurable health benefits for most people. That said, it’s an exciting time for cannabis research, and future studies will help to shed light on the potential applications of some of the hundreds of compounds in marijuana, of which CBD is only one.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.