You may have noticed that cannabidiol (CBD) seems to be available almost everywhere, and marketed as a variety of products including drugs, food, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and animal health products. Other than one prescription drug product to treat seizures associated with Lennox Gastaut syndrome (LGS), Dravet syndrome (DS), or tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) in people one year of age and older, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any other CBD products, and there is very limited available information about CBD, including about its effects on the body.
The FDA is committed to setting sound, science-based policy. The FDA is raising these safety, marketing, and labeling concerns because we want you to know what we know. We encourage consumers to think carefully before exposing themselves, their family, or their pets, to any product, especially products like CBD, which may have potential risks, be of unknown quality, and have unproven benefits.
Potential harm, side effects and unknowns
The FDA is actively working to learn more about the safety of CBD and CBD products, including the risks identified above and other topics, such as:
CBD products are also being marketed for pets and other animals. The FDA has not approved CBD for any use in animals and the concerns regarding CBD products with unproven medical claims and of unknown quality equally apply to CBD products marketed for animals. The FDA recommends pet owners talk with their veterinarians about appropriate treatment options for their pets.
The FDA continues to believe the drug approval process represents the best way to ensure that safe and effective new medicines, including any drugs derived from cannabis, are available to patients in need of appropriate medical therapy. The agency is committed to supporting the development of new drugs, including cannabis and cannabis-derived drugs, through the investigational new drug and drug approval process.
"If you search on Amazon for CBD product, you'll see a lot of stuff that's hemp seed oil-they're trying to capture unwitting people," said Odell. "Hemp seed oil is great; it's full of omega-3s, nutritious and everything, but there's very little (if any) CBD."
Also look for the "Microbiological Testing" section of the COA, said Villa. "This ensures there is no mold or bacteria in the hemp that was used to make your CBD product."
In comparison, broad-spectrum is distilled and does remove certain compounds, leaving the extract with "a majority percentage of a single cannabinoid (most commonly, CBD), with a broad-spectrum of accompanying cannabinoids and terpenes," says Dobson.
Caution: Avoid “Hemp Seed Oil”
Full-spectrum may imply that it contains THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, or the stuff in marijuana that gets you high). It would be noted on the label-and has to be under 0.3% in most cases-but you likely won't see this stuff outside a dispensary, since THC isn't legal everywhere. (See: What's the Difference Between CBD, THC, Cannabis, Marijuana, and Hemp?)
"Undoubtedly, California has some of the best product in the world coming out of the 'green triangle' in Humboldt County," says Miller. Ben Odell at Foria Wellness also nodded to California's market, mentioning Flow Kana, a California-based sustainable cannabis farming collective in which artisanal growers banded together.
Dobson also says hemp oil would be a better choice in lieu of isolate, citing research that showed the U-shaped curve and concluded that "pure CBD is not as effective in pain and inflammation management as unisolated CBD, as a full-spectrum cannabis extract." (Related: The Best CBD Oil Beauty Products)
NBC New York also decided to put commercially available CBD products to the test, and the results did not look good. Their investigative team tested three brands of CBD oil and four brands of gummies, purchasing five samples of each brand. They tested them at a third-party lab, and found that less than half of the samples tested actually had the stated amount of CBD inside the product, that one brand had no CBD whatsoever in their product, one brand contained a pesticide that exceeds California's acceptable standards, and shockingly, another had four times the amount of lead (!) than is allowed by the FDA.