Article written by
Tina MagrabiSenior Content Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Is CBD a wonder drug? Cannabidiol (CBD) has been touted in the media as a miracle treatment for everything from depression to cancer. But the truth is not that simple.
Yes, CBD has many potential therapeutic uses and has helped millions of people enhance their health. But buyers need to beware of the greed that has penetrated this billion-dollar industry.In a quest for cash, brands and advertisers have cooked up a cauldron of myths about what CBD can do for you.
Uncover the truth about CBD and learn what the science has to say as we dispel seven common myths about this popular cannabinoid.
Myth: CBD Is Not Psychoactive
CBD is psychoactive but not intoxicating in the same way tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is. CBD does not bind to the same receptors in our bodies as THC and does not produce the same intoxicating effects. However, CBD interacts with our brains and influences serotonin receptors like 5HT1A – the definition of “psychoactive.” After all, it has anxiety-beating effects and can often relax people when taken in large doses, especially when there’s some THC in the mix.
Also, if you’re using a CBD-rich, unprocessed cannabis bud/flower, there will be terpenes. These terpenes will also have a physiological effect and interact with CBD and other cannabinoids in different ways to produce various effects. For example, a high concentration of myrcene in a product may have sedative effects.
Myth: CBD Is Medicine, THC Is a Drug
Truth: We can view both CBD and THC as medicine. After all, both cannabinoids have shown therapeutic promise in treating various physical and psychological conditions. You may consider THC a drug because it can get you high, while CBD cannot.
But THC has proven just as useful for health as CBD and, in some cases, possibly more useful. For example, both cannabinoids have been channeled as anti-vomiting agents for people undergoing chemotherapy, some anecdotal evidence has spotlighted THC as the better option for this purpose.
Myth: Indica Strains Have More CBD
Truth: While indicas and sativas have become common colloquial descriptors of the effects of different strains, the terms are inherently misleading. Indica and sativa refer simply to the growth patterns of a particular plant (sativa strains grow taller and have narrow leaves, whereas indicas tend to grow short and stout and have broader leaves). Over the years, most cannabis strains have become a hybrid of different types, with thousands of strains containing different chemical compounds.
CBD can be found in various cannabis varieties, both sativa and indica. Many CBD-rich strains originate from sativa and hybrid strains (e.g., Island Sweet Skunk, Charlotte’s Web, ACDC, Purple Cheese) and indica strains (e.g., Dark Star, Violator Kush).
There may be a good reason for the confusion, as there are sometimes differences between cannabis varieties from different geographic regions. Cannabis varieties from Afghanistan, where many of today’s “indica” varieties hail, may contain a high amount of CBD. Varieties closer to the equator (e.g., Durban Poison) may contain more THCV, leading to more energetic (but perhaps shorter-lasting) effects.
However, it must be said that cannabis plants also produce specific cannabinoids in reaction to their environment (e.g., type of soil, amount of sunlight, age of harvest) and not just genetics. This means that you might not always get the same cannabinoids if you’re growing a particular variety in different environments, even if you’re growing the same type of plant.
Myth: CBD Can Cure Cancer
Let us be clear: there is no cure for cancer. While CBD is not a cure for cancer, the cannabinoid can potentially shrink cancerous cells and tumors. One 2020 study hailed CBD as a promising anti-cancer drug. Researchers explained how CBD may be a powerful tool against cervical cancer, prostate cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, and many other types of cancer. In the studies cited, CBD inhibited cancer cell growth and metastasis (spreading). The research authors praised CBD as “robust” in attacking cancerous cells and tumors.
Myth: CBD Has No Side Effects
Indeed, the side effects of CBD are usually mild, but to say that CBD poses no side effects is inaccurate. While some people may not encounter any side effects from CBD, others report minor side effects. The minor side effects of CBD may include headache, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, and skin irritation or rash if you’re using topical products. Most of these side effects are transient and mild enough that people do not need medical attention.
Myth: CBD Is the Same as Cannabis
Many legal CBD products derive the compound from the hemp plant, not the cannabis (marijuana) plant. This botanical origin explains why CBD products only contain trace amounts of THC. The cannabis plant and hemp plant are indeed the same species, but their concentrations of THC differ dramatically. This is because they are bred for different purposes: hemp for its stalk and fiber and cannabis for its cannabinoid content.
THC is present in concentrations of 0.3% or less in the hemp plant, while the psychoactive cannabinoid clocks in at over 0.3% in the cannabis plant. In a nutshell: it’s likely to be hemp-derived CBD if it has less than 0.3% THC and cannabis if it has more than that amount.
Myth: CBD Is Addictive
No research indicates that hemp-derived CBD is addictive in any way. Even whole-plant cannabis with intoxicating THC is not generally considered addictive. However, some people may consume the plant (in particular THC) too frequently and develop cannabis use disorder. No corresponding disorder or condition exists with CBD. Quite to the contrary, CBD has been studied for its potential as a natural intervention for addictive behaviors.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Is CBD completely non-psychoactive?
Does CBD really do anything?
Scientists have uncovered many potential health benefits of CBD, from relieving muscle aches to shrinking tumors. However, everyone will react to CBD differently. Your experience will depend on multiple factors, including the quality and potency of the product you use and the condition you are trying to treat.
Your endocannabinoid system (ECS) also plays a huge part in this outcome. Some people will find that CBD alone is helpful, whereas others will need some THC to get any therapeutic benefits from cannabis. Others may find that CBD alone is helpful but that THC actually improves CBD’s efficacy and lowers the dosage needed to benefit from its healing effects.
What are the bad things about CBD?
Overall, CBD has an excellent safety and tolerability profile. But that doesn’t mean side effects are non-existent. You may experience dry mouth, nausea, dizziness, or diarrhea when using CBD or feel amazing. The “bad things” about CBD depend on how your unique body chemistry interacts with the cannabinoid.