Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of roughly 100 chemicals contained in marijuana called cannabinoids, meaning they are unique to the cannabis plant (which contains several hundred more chemicals in addition to cannabinoids). Unlike THC, the psychoactive marijuana component primarily responsible for producing the “high,” CBD is not psychoactive.

Manufacturers tout CBD as a magic bullet that cures or relieves symptoms of a multitude of diseases and conditions and as a “wellness” product that improves health. Hundreds of CBD products — oils, salves, sprays, tinctures, even gummies – are available. But little science supports CBD’s medical claims.

“It is a kind of a new snake oil in the sense that there are a lot of claims and not so much evidence,” says Dustin Lee, an assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University. He is planning a clinical trial to see if CBD can help smokers quit.

Last summer. the FDA approved Epidiolex, the only form of pharmaceutical CBD that has met FDA standards of safety and efficacy, to treat two rare forms of epilepsy. Because CBD is a drug, it cannot be sold in food or drinks, and several states and cities have ordered restaurants to stop adding it to “lattes, smoothies, muffins, and other foods.”

That hasn’t stopped producers from selling CBD gummies, lollipops, and peanut butter, however. Google “CBD,” click on “Images,” and scroll sideways to “edibles” to see the wide array of commercial food products available.

Dr. Yasmin Hurd, who directs the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai and is professor at the Icahn School of Medicine, has studied CBD extensively. She says there is potential for CBD to reduce heroin cravings in those recovering from addiction. But “let’s do the research,” she says. “It’s crazy that this substance is being consumed by everybody, yet we still don’t know the mechanism of action.”

Dr. Lee adds that procuring high quality, uncontaminated CBD for research remains a daunting task. “It might be available at the local 7-11 in Pennsylvania, but any product you get on the market is not federally regulated by the FDA, so the purity and safety and quality are questionable.”

A recent study of CBD products ordered online found that nearly 70 percent were inaccurately labeled and contained either higher or lower amounts of CBD than indicated on the label.

Says Dr. Hurd, “People are making it out to be a nirvana kind of drug, and that’s a problem. One compound cannot cure everything.”

Read the New York Times article here.