Employee & Community Health

CBD basics: What you need to know

8/15/2019 by Sonya Peters, PA-C, MS

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You've heard plenty about CBD oil, and you may have even tried it. But what are the issues and concerns with this hot new health product?

What it is

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive derivative of cannabis, also known as marijuana. In other words, you can't get high from it. The opioid epidemic and chronic pain have driven interest in using CBD oil for treating pain. More studies are exploring its effectiveness in relieving pain, but the data is still limited. 

Complicated to study

One key factor complicates research into CBD: At the federal level, CBD-containing products are illegal, even if they're legal in some states. 

No standard regulation

Neither the FDA nor federal regulatory agencies oversee the production or distribution of CBD sold from dispensaries or on the internet. States that have legalized cannabis expect the growers, processors and distributors to self-regulate the production, marketing and selling of these products. 

As a result, products may not be pure, the concentration and dosing may not be accurate and the labeling may be misleading: 

  • Among CBD products sold online, studies report significant differences in CBD concentrations; there is no consensus on recommended doses. 
  • Studies have identified contaminants in CBD, such as pesticides, metal particles and synthetic cannabinoids, along with molds, bacteria and aflatoxins, which may have entered the plant while it was growing. 

What you need to know — for now

What you need to know about CBD is there's a:

  • Lack of evidence for the popular uses of CBD oil 
  • Risk of contaminants, misleading labels and legal issues 

Before using CBD oil products, be sure to talk with your health care provider. They'll be able to determine if there are potential interactions between CBD and drugs on your medication list. To learn more about CBD, check out Mayo Clinic's story on the benefits of CBD and the natural medicines website

Sonya Peters, PA-C, MS, is a physician assistant with Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Community Internal Medicine (CIM) at Mayo Family Clinic Northwest. Her areas of special interest are women's health and procedural medicine.