Does CBD Oil Work? The Science Behind Cannabidiol

What is CBD oil? What does science have to say about the extract's proposed health benefits?

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD
4-minute read
Episode #305

CBD Oil and Cancer

One study also found that CBD reduced the proliferation, invasion, and metastasis of human breast cancer cells grown in dishes, highlighting a possible non-toxic route toward thwarting cancer progression. However, the American Cancer Society warns that, although cannabinoids have so far been found to be safe in treating cancer, they should not be used as the only method of treatment as studies have not conclusively shown that they help control or cure it.

Research into other purported CBD benefits have been less conclusive. For example, CBD was found “safe but not effective” in treating Crohn’s Disease in a study of 20 patients.

CBD Oil Side Effects

There are reasons to be wary of extensive CBD use as well. CBD does come with side effects, including nausea, fatigue, and changes in appetite. (Although these side effects are less problematic than those associated with other anti-seizure medications.) It may also lead to increased levels of certain types of blood thinner in your blood. Perhaps most importantly, CBD is considered a supplement, at least in the US, which means its safety and purity are not regulated by the FDA. So there is no way to know if the contents of your CBD oil are as promised on the label.

Our limited understanding of CBD’s health benefits also means that we don’t yet know what the proper dosage is for addressing different ailments. The fraction of a cannabis oil dose that a person absorbs and how long it stays in their system also vary widely depending on the person, making dosages even harder.

Is CBD Oil Legal?

In 2016, Forbes reported predictions that CBD could become a $2-3 billion industry by 2020. This will no doubt be due in part to the increase in legal access to the extract and to marijuana itself. In September of 2018, the FDA placed certain drugs containing CBD, like Epidiolex, into Schedule V, or the least restricted category of drugs. Biologists are also working to grow strains of marijuana that have lowered THC content and increased production of CBD. More broadly, cannabis is legal for medical use in 23 states in the United States as well as in Israel, Canada, and the Netherlands. Uruguay has also voted to legalize it.

So while we may start to see more CBD oil being offered in smoothies or as add-ons at coffee shops, we also may see more concrete research on whether or not we can credit CBD with as many health benefits as its supporters would like.

Until next time, this is Sabrina Stierwalt with Everyday Einstein’s Quick and Dirty Tips for helping you make sense of science. You can become a fan of Everyday Einstein on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, where I’m @QDTeinstein. If you have a question that you’d like to see on a future episode, send me an email at everydayeinstein@quickanddirtytips.com.

Image courtesy of shutterstock.


About the Author

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD

Dr Sabrina Stierwalt earned a Ph.D. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from Cornell University and is now a Professor of Physics at Occidental College.

You May Also Like...