CBD Oil: Health and Wellness Cure-All or Fitness Industry Snake Oil?

Sore and in pain from the gym? Buy CBD Oil. Need to calm your anxiety? Buy CBD Oil. Have trouble falling asleep at night? Buy CBD Oil.

Even if you aren’t someone who normally frequents the gym, you’ve probably seen ads plastered all over social media with various claims to the benefits that CBD has to offer you. The market for CBD oil is only growing and it extends well beyond just the fitness industry. CBD oil is now commonly sold as a cure all with no shortage to the number of ailments it can supposedly fix.

But are any of these claims warranted? Do we have research to back that CBD can help relieve pain, reduce anxiety, or potentially improve your sleep quality? Here’s what you need to know.

1. What is CBD Oil?

CBD (short for cannabidiol) is a naturally occurring substance found in Cannabis.

Wait…CBD is derived from Cannabis? That’s Marijuana…is this going to get me high?”

No.

CBD often get’s mistaken for THC (“tetrahydrocannabinol” the psychoactive responsible for most of Marijuana’s effects), because both are derived from cannabis. However, CBD is distinctly non-psychoactive (psychoactive: affects the mind). This means you should not feel mentally “altered” by the use of CBD, granted a small percentage of people will claim feeling psychoactive effects from CBD regardless of the fact that it is NOT psychoactive.

CBD is a cannabinoid which can interact with our endocannabinoid system. While it’s a system we still don’t fully understand it’s thought to play a role in things like sleep, mood, appetite, and memory. We are capable of producing our own endocannabinoids, which are similar to cannabinoids just made by our body instead of ingested.

2. Is CBD Legal?

Because CBD is derived from Cannabis (the same plant which THC is derived from) everyone’s first question is, “Is this legal?

Yes. For the most part…

The key difference being in where the CBD Oil is derived from. Currently CBD Oil derived from the Hemp plant is legal across the states, while any CBD Oil derived from the marijuana plant would, for the most part, be illegal to make and distribute. Both Hemp and Marijuana are varieties of Cannabis with the difference being their THC content. Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC content and is what is considered legal for distribution, whereas Marijuana is cannabis with a THC content greater than 0.3% and is largely illegal across the states.

The substance while originally banned has been removed from the WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) list, meaning you won’t run into any problems at a drug tested competition. Additionally, CBD Oil should not trigger a drug test if you are tested for work, however, CBD products are unregulated by the FDA making it difficult to know exactly what’s in them. If there is enough THC present in the CBD product you currently use, it’s possible in a rare case to trigger a test for THC (Note: rare case).

3. CBD In Relation to Pain, Sleep, Recovery, and Anxiety

So all those cool claims for CBD Oil, pain reduction, improving sleep, reducing anxiety…does it actually work?

Going straight to the point, we don’t know. More specifically, we do not have the research to comfortably support any of the above claims ^

All of the research for CBD’s best claimed benefits are in a very early, and truthfully weak stage. Meaning, no one should be going on the internet right now and claiming with 100% certainty that the use of CBD oil is going to fix someone’s problems (Not that that’s going to stop influencers from continuing to do so). The best evidence for the use of CBD is for it’s use in the reduction of drug resistant seizures, however, this is not the effect you will see being touted over all of social media.

This lacking research does not mean these benefits couldn’t be proven in the future, nor does it mean they don’t exist. We just currently don’t have any conclusive evidence to date. Because this is such a massive market, it’s likely research into CBD oil will continue, hopefully answering these questions to a better degree of certainty in the future. For now, I’d urge caution when listening to anyone definitively claiming the benefits of the use of CBD oil.

4. CBD’s Best Evidence (Word of Mouth)

If CBD Oil doesn’t have conclusive research backing it, how has this market exploded?”

Anecdotal evidence.

CBD Oil’s greatest marketing strength is that people absolutely swear by this stuff. You will hear stories of CBD completing curing anxiety, shoring up years of unresolved pain, helping a person finally get to sleep at night. If there is an ailment that exists, there’s probably someone who has a story of CBD helping cure it. These emotionally charged stories sell more than any amount of research ever could.

I actually don’t mind anecdotal evidence. CBD oil is a fairly new area of study and it’s largely all we have to go off of right now. If CBD has helped you now or in the past, I don’t care if the research isn’t there, keep doing you. What get’s more problematic is when online personalities use all of this anecdotal evidence as if it is actual lab tested research…which it’s not. 

All of the greatest purported benefits of CBD (pain reduction, sleep aid, anxiety reduction, recovery) are currently in a very weak state when it comes to actual research backed evidence. That’s not to say these benefits won’t be proven in the future as CBD will definitely garner lots of funding for future research. More so, if you see someone talking about all the “great benefits” of CBD oil, know they are not doing so from a large evidence base.

For now the best you can really do is try CBD Oil out for yourself if you are interested in it. Just keep an open mind, and do your best not to let the internet hype influence your decision.

5. Any Known Risks?

The biggest concern with CBD oil comes in the variability of the product itself. Because this is not an FDA regulated product it can vary widely in terms of what the packaging says you’re getting, and what you are actually getting. The actual concentration of CBD you are getting is often incorrectly listed, additionally (while minute) different products can also have varying levels of THC in them (still nowhere close to the amount found in marijuana). This can be frustrating from a dosing standpoint as you never no what you are truly getting, and as stated above from a drug test concern if those trace amounts of THC trigger a drug test.

Notable concerns include the possibility of CBD oil negatively interacting with other prescription drugs (such as anti-epilepsy medications). Additionally, reported side effects come in the form of diarrhea, dry mouth, fatigue, and concerns over potential liver damage.

Dosing is also largely disputed in terms of how much is the “proper effective dose” add on top of that your product might not have the amount of CBD in it that it say it does and you’re left with a frustrating time figuring out how much you want to take.

 

Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.