Is CBD just a money-making hoax?


Brita Huengs | The DePaulia

Danielle Larson, manager of CBD Kratom in Lakeview, gives customers the sales pitch on the store’s products.

Years ago, the idea of putting a byproduct of marijuana on one’s body would have been laughable , but today, CBD dominates the health and self-care industries. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound from the marijuana plant. Besides supplements, CBD-infused gummies, bath bombs, lotions and face masks are a few other popular ways to use the product. It can be vaped, swallowed, and wrapped into a joint or a cigarette and smoked. Coffee shops and bars have CBD-infused cocktails and coffee drinks, with fees up to an additional $10 for a drop of a product that may not even be authentic or worthwhile. CBD is said to have calming properties on the mind and the body and is commonly used to ease anxiety and insomnia, according to Peter Grinspoon, M.D., in a piece written for Harvard Health Publishing. In a world with endlessly negative news cycles and the impending threat of global warming, people may be searching for alternative and low-risk ways to ease their worries. 

Around 2018, CBD products began to infiltrate makeup stores, homeopathic medicine offices and even the service industry. Out of seemingly nowhere, people began to talk about it, take it, and even feed it to their dogs. CBD in makeup and skin care products have become the norm, oftentimes used as a way to seem more natural, even if the product is not legitimate. It can  have numerous effects on humans, such as pain relief and anxiety reduction. Since it is derived from cannabis, there were and are still plenty of misconceptions of how it works and what exactly it does to the body. People have expressed worries that it would make them high, like consuming true cannabis would, but CBD lacks any traces of THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana. 

According to Austin Lim, Ph.D, a neuroscience professor at DePaul University, CBD is a plant-derived compound from certain species of cannabis plants. It acts to modify the activity of receptors that our body naturally uses, called the cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are activated by compounds that our body naturally makes. It is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not produce any intoxication or buzz. 

“It’s hard to say what changes – cannabinoid receptors are expressed all over different brain circuits and is one of the most common receptors we have in the brain,” Lim said. 

People consume CBD for numerous reasons. The product can be used to lessen pain, calm people down, ease nausea, and even cure depression. Loving pet owners give it to their animals to calm them down or ease pain from their injuries. 

“There is still limited evidence, but the main benefits are to help with chronic pain, inflammation, and epilepsy,” said Lim. “We don’t know of any downsides, since we don’t know the toxicity level of the substance. Also, it is unlikely to have any long term exposure side effects.” 

Despite how widely consumed the supplement is, there is still limited evidence that it actually works. Even with these potential effects, the market for CBD is so saturated and fast-growing that it is hard to know if the product is pure or a placebo. According to the FDA, there are no approved drug products that contain CBD; they are concerned about products that are marketed for therapeutic and medical reasons but contain either impure or no CBD at all. Reading the ingredients and about the manufacturer’s production methods could help a consumer choose the right and authentic product for them. 

“There’s a chance that the placebo effect is here, but placebo effect is remarkably robust and may still provide benefits, as long as the product does not also contain toxins,” Lim said. 

Despite the lack of regulations, CBD is quite popular among Americans. According to a survey conducted by Gallup, 14 percent of adults in the U.S. use CBD. 

“I take it for my anxiety. I think it works, but I guess I can never be sure,” Karen Pravlochak said, an avid CBD user that has been taking it every morning and at night for two years straight. “I get it from a nearby chiropractor, so I trust that it is authentic, but who am I to say?” 

People can now get their CBD fix at a bar on a night out or in their morning coffee, which are two unique and relatively new ways of consuming that have emerged as the trend progressively became more prominent. Many bars in the Chicago area offer CBD either listed as an ingredient in a cocktail or as an option to add in for an additional price. 

“I think adding CBD is just a way to make extra money,” said Noah Miller, a server and musician. “It seems a bit unnecessary to mix it with alcohol.”

Coffee shops offer splashes of CBD in their lattes and bags of coffee grinds are sold online and in grocery stores. Famous American musician Willie Nelson created his own CBD-infused coffee brand, called Willie’s Remedy, which costs over $20. Other brands of CBD-infused coffee, like Green Roads, can cost up to $40 for an 8-ounce bag. 

“It is possible for different routes of administration to alter the effect of the drug,” Lim said. “Oral routes have longer onset and usually stick around longer compared to smoking, the traditional way CBD gets into the body. It may also interact with caffeine in some ways, but nothing in any harmful capacity. It is hard to say if the effects are worth the cost.” 

Does CBD have the potential to stay around? Daniel Turack, a chiropractor in Western Pennsylvania, said “Trust that whatever you are naturally feeding your body is doing the job.” 

He does not encourage people to allow unnatural substances into their bodies, but evidence shows that even if CBD is all a hoax, it does not have the ability to inflict any harm. With future studies, the questionable effectiveness of CBD might be answered. In the meantime in this crazy world, people will gravitate towards the health solutions they feel most in control over, and CBD might either be valid or just simply be a byproduct of that desire.