Cedars-Sinai Blog

CBD: What You Need to Know Before You Try

The reported health benefits of CBD cover a variety of conditions. It is most commonly used to treat chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, and insomnia.


"We're not here to say no. We're here to help guide you toward safe and effective healthcare decisions."


What is CBD?

CBD is a chemical compound found naturally in the cannabis plant. It does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis responsible for making users feel "high."

"There's a misconception that CBD and medical marijuana are the same thing and that's not the case," says Dr. Jeffrey Chung, director of the Cedars-Sinai Epilepsy Program. "CBD on its own is not psychoactive."

CBD can either be derived from marijuana or hemp—cousins in the cannabis family.

The legality and availability of CBD depend on the source and state laws. Hemp and hemp products are legal in all 50 states, while recreational marijuana is currently legal in just 9 states, including California.

What are the health benefits of CBD?

The reported health benefits of CBD cover a variety of conditions. It is most commonly used to treat chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, and insomnia.

One study showed that CBD may relieve pain by affecting receptors of the endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate pain, mood, and memory, in addition to many other physiological and cognitive functions.


"There hasn't been enough clinical research done with humans to recommend specifics products or strengths."


There is also strong evidence that CBD can help patients with seizure disorders. In 2018 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first prescription medication containing CBD to treat epilepsy.

"CBD as a treatment for seizures isn't new. We've been talking about it for several years now," Dr. Chung says.

"We know that CBD is an effective treatment for some types of seizures, but it's important to understand that it's not a cure-all."

According to a 2017 report from the World Health Organization [PDF], CBD may be a useful treatment for other medical conditions but more research is needed before making definitive conclusions.


"There's a misconception that CBD and medical marijuana are the same thing and that's not the case."


"Patients are trying this and some people say they get benefits and others don't," says Dr. Janet White, medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Integrative Health Program.

"There hasn't been enough clinical research done with humans to recommend specifics products or strengths."

Side effects and safety concerns of CBD

Reported side effects of CBD include dry mouth, drowsiness, and low blood pressure.

The biggest concern about CBD is the lack of regulation. Most CBD-infused products are marketed as supplements, which are not regulated by the FDA. Regulation is done at a state level and each state takes different approaches to ensuring product safety.

"You don't always know what dosage you're getting and what ingredients might actually be in it," says Dr. Chung. "There are a lot of variables in what you could be getting."



What's the bottom line?

Before trying any new health-related product, you should do your research and speak to your doctor to discuss your individual risk.

"CBD is fairly safe but there's always potential for interaction with other medications," says Dr. White.

Dr. Chung adds that it's important to not be embarrassed to talk to your doctor.

"We're not here to say no," he says. "We're here to help guide you toward safe and effective healthcare decisions."