Products made with CBD, a component of marijuana, are skyrocketing in popularity — here’s what it is

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I knew I’d arrived in California when a friend offered me an edible — for my dog.

The treat didn’t contain THC, the component of marijuana that’s responsible for getting you high; just CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in marijuana that can supposedly be used to calm and soothe.

In the Golden State, you can buy CBD in dog treats, vape pens, lotions, lip balms, lozenges, and oils. CBD oil is legal in 43 states, while medical marijuana is legal in only 28. Companies that sell products with the ingredient advertise it for everything from calming your nerves (and those of your pup) to relieving aches and pains. But there may not yet be enough research to say if most of these products do anything.

Only two medicines made with CBD have been studied extensively, and neither of them has gotten US approval yet.

Because of the unclear legal framework surrounding the ingredient, it’s important to be cautious when purchasing it. Many products that claim to be made with CBD may not contain it at all, or they may have different amounts or concentration than those they advertise. And many of its advertised benefits may be overstated, exaggerated, or simply untrue.

Cannabis is comprised of nearly 400 compounds

Cannabis (a term many researchers prefer over marijuana because it refers to the actual name of the plant) is comprised of some 400 different compounds. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are only two of them.

“Cannabis contains many constituents. It’s not just THC. And whether these have medicinal properties that can be used, the answer is very likely, and they should be studied,” Jeffrey Lieberman, the director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the chair of Columbia University’s department of psychiatry, told Business Insider in 2016.

Cannabidiol or CBD plays no role in getting you high.

On the contrary, it is thought to be responsible for many of marijuana’s therapeutic effects, from pain relief to a potential treatment for some rare forms of childhood epilepsy.

Still, the amount and proper dose of CBD responsible for those effects needs more research.

British drug company GW Pharmaceuticals is leading the charge with two medicines containing CBD — Sativex and Epidiolex. The first is a nasal spray that the British government approved last year for severe pain; the second is a syrup that is still being studied in the US for its potential to treat two of the hardest-to-treat forms of childhood epilepsy.

A preliminary 2005 study of 58 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, roughly half of whom were given a placebo and roughly half of whom were given the CBD-containing medicine Sativex, found “statistically significant improvements in pain on movement, pain at rest … and quality of sleep” in the patients on the drug.

Two large clinical trials released last year of Epidiolex suggested that the drug helped reduce seizures.

While it may seem like a long road to approval for a drug that has no psychoactive properties, it’s important to keep in mind that the FDA has already given the green light to two other drugs that contain components of cannabis. Marinol and Syndros, two medicines that are designed to treat anorexia, use dronabinol, a synthetic form of THC.

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