Is CBD a cure-all or just the latest snake oil?

Let me share a first-hand experience with the latest so-called miracle remedy…

A chemical in marijuana called cannabidiol, or CBD for short, has been widely covered in the media. You may even have seen it portrayed as… well, a sort of miracle cure-all for whatever ails us. For many of us baby boomers, that could be quite a list of aches and pains.

Although it’s a chemical found in marijuana, it doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces a high.

Hemp seeds and leaves that can be processed into CBD.

Still, CBD seems to be the rage these days among boomers, and many others as well. It’s the hot new thing people are talking about in hopes of finding a more natural cure for everything from anxiety to pain.

It usually comes in the form of oil or tincture (which means the chemical has been dissolved), but CBD is also sold as an extract, an ointment, a vaporized liquid, and an oil-based capsule. Food, drinks, and beauty products are among the many CBD-infused products available online. It’s available in flavored teas. There’s even a candy containing CBD.

Tea sold in Switzerland infused with CBD.

CBD tincture is widely used for many different health-related purposes. Yet there isn’t a great deal of research on the oil’s potential health benefits. It’s taken as a few drops under the tongue. Dosage varies, so it’s mostly trial and error.

It’s claimed that the tincture or oil can boost stamina, promote sounder sleep, reduce inflammation and pain, fight oxidative stress, improve heart health, and support weight loss.

Is CBD the new snake oil?

But according to WebMD, experts say the evidence is scant for most of these touted benefits.

Worse, CBD is being produced without regulation, resulting in products that vary widely in quality, says Marcel Bonn-Miller at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

And, there’s no oversight to marketing claims, so CBD companies can declare whatever they believe will con the public into buying, according to Bonn-Miller.

Dr. Ben Pearl in Arlington, Virginia, believes “CBD offers an alternative to more addictive narcotic options for pain control.” But, the picture’s not all bright.

CBD marketing to the public is at a “wild west” stage. There’s the smell of big profits in the air, attracting funders ranging from entertainment celebrities to sports figures to big business. Business opportunity potential is boosted by the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been slow to figure out what to do about CBD, so it remains unregulated.

What we know about CBD at this stage is… not much

I certainly do not claim to have more than pedestrian knowledge of CBD. I’ve taken the tincture in hopes it might provide overall pain relief from foot surgeries. But all it seems to have done is make me drowsy at the wrong time of day, and it’s darn pricey.

A small bottle of CBD tincture costs about $90.

CBD use also carries some risks, says the Mayo Clinic. Though it’s often well-tolerated, CBD can cause side effects such as dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, dizziness, drowsiness, and fatigue. CBD can also interact with other medications you’re taking, such as blood thinners.

Another cause for concern is the unreliability of the purity and dosage of CBD in products we can easily buy. A recent study of 84 CBD products available online showed that more than a quarter of them contained less CBD than labeled. In addition, THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, was found in 18 products, according to Mayo Clinic.

The CBD gold rush

CBD today is being sold with little regard for state or local restrictions. It’s probably only a matter of time before CBD products will line the shelves of pharmacies, large and small, and be for sale in groceries, in the “big box” stores like Walmart and Target, and online.

The only advice I can share with baby boomers is caveat emptor: Let the buyer beware.