The gist: What is CBD?

You likely can’t go through a couple of days without reading or hearing about CBD in the news ... but what actually is it? CBD for short, it stands for Cannabidiol, which is a derivative of the cannabis sativa plant. This is also the same plant from which THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol comes from. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that produces the high you get from ingesting or smoking it. CBD is not thought to produce any kind of high. CBD and THC have the same chemical formula -- 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms. The difference lies in the way the atoms are arranged. That gives CBD and THC different chemical properties, and they affect your body differently.

There are over 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis sativa plant and CBD and THC are only two of them. While THC is thought to be addictive, psychoactive, cause extra cravings and anxiety-inducing, CBD hasn’t yet been determined in those areas.

The controversy: Does CBD work?

CBD has been touted to cure everything from recurring pain, sleep issues, PTSD, epilepsy and a host of other medical problems but its largest use seems to be in reducing anxiety. However, the biggest issue is that for every study you will read that supplies evidence that CBD helps improve specific, life-changing benefits for people, you will find an equal amount of studies that say it does not and merely produces a placebo effect which accounts for its apparent reduction of symptoms. While the controversy continues, CBD is popping up everywhere and in various food products. It has been added to lollipops, candy bars, coffee, carbonated beverages, cookies, and more.

Studies on CBD

Many, if not most, of the advertisements you see on products containing CBD are using unproven medical claims to draw consumers in to buy them. The medical benefits are not proven and there is no clear cut evidence that it actually works while side effects range from gastrointestinal distress and liver injury to mood changes and changes in alertness and agitation.

Here is what we do know according to the FDA:

CBD and pregnancy

There are many potential negative health effects that stem from using marijuana and other products containing THC during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. The FDA Food and Drug Administration strongly advises against the use of cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and marijuana in any form during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. According to the U.S. Surgeon General marijuana use during pregnancy may affect fetal brain development, because THC can enter the fetal brain from the mother’s bloodstream and the Surgeon General also advised that marijuana may increase the risk of a newborn with low birth weight. Research also suggests an increased risk of premature birth and potentially stillbirth. There is little research done on CBD and pregnancy.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women who are pregnant or even contemplating pregnancy should not use marijuana or any of its byproducts, including medical marijuana. Studies show that marijuana use during pregnancy can lead to smaller babies with lower birth weight and other unwanted outcomes. For that reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), ACOG and the U.S. surgeon general all warn pregnant women not to smoke or vape marijuana or use any by-products.

To sum it up: It's a risk

Until significant, long-term studies are done which clearly prove the benefits as well as side effects associated with CBD, you are taking a huge risk when you consume it. There is no way to tell as of right now whether it can harm you. And it goes without saying that if you are pregnant (or even considering getting pregnant), any kind of CBD, THC, or marijuana is strictly off-limits.

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