Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon, is most recently known for his documentary series on the cannabis industry. On Sunday, he introduced the fifth in that series, Weed 5: The CBD Craze, on CNN by addressing how much the industry has evolved since his first documentary, WEED 1 aired in 2013.
In it, Gupta attends the World CBD Expo, visits the Stanley brothers of Charlotte’s Web in Colorado again, and re-tells the story of Charlotte Figi, “patient zero” of the CBD craze. He briefly looks at the countless CBD products available at the expo, from balms and lotions to bath bombs and pet products.
“It’s been more than six years since our first investigation into medical marijuana,” Gupta begins. “Since we first introduced you to an ingredient in the cannabis plant. Then, it was a word few could even pronounce: cannabidiol, or CBD. Now, it’s part of our daily dialogue, and it’s ignited a multibillion-dollar industry. That got us wondering: Has it gone too far?”
Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, then went on to explore the ubiquity of CBD. He cited statistics such as the fact that two in three Americans now know what CBD is, with one in seven using the cannabinoid. He explained the 2018 Farm Bill so viewers could have a better understanding of the complex legal side of CBD, before turning to the fiscal side of things: CBD was a $591 million market in 2018, Gupta says, a number that is projected to reach $22 billion by 2022.
What exactly prompted Gupta to produce this CBD documentary for CNN?
“CBD is everywhere,” he says. “It’s a word most people didn’t know when we first reported on cannabis more than six years ago in WEED 1. Many people wonder if what’s in the stores is safe and effective. It felt like we had to weigh in now.”
The Risk Posed by Unethical Companies
After addressing the national craze CBD has ignited, Gupta focuses on the controversial side of things.
“Many [people think] because it’s non-psychoactive, it’s safe – [they’re] thinking, can’t hurt, might help, why not?” Gupta says. “Because CBD is not regulated, the products are not required to go through safety testing or even prove they are authentic. While CBD itself is generally safe and non-psychoactive, there are unscrupulous players taking advantage of people. We went out to investigate if the craze had gone too far. And what we uncovered was surprising, to say the least.”
Gupta met with Jay Jenkins, a teenager who was hospitalized due to a tainted CBD oil product called YOLO. A similar issue was seen in Salt Lake City, Utah, where several people were also hospitalized due to YOLO. Gupta says lab tests showed this product did not contain CBD but rather a synthetic cannabinoid.
He then met with a family similar to Figi’s: The Wilson family. They moved from New Jersey to Colorado in order to get their daughter, who suffered from seizures, access to CBD. Unfortunately, CBD didn’t work for her seizures the way it did for Figi’s.
The Need for More Regulation in the Industry
The lack of regulation in the CBD industry poses problems, Gupta says. In one research study, for example, researchers tested 84 CBD products. Over three-quarters were improperly labeled.
“The product you are buying at your local store or online is not regulated,” Gupta says. “It’s not tested for safety and efficacy. The buyer should know that and take precautions.”
Gupta then explored the regulatory side of CBD by taking a trip to a small town in the U.K. where a company called GW Pharmaceuticals produces Epidiolex, a pharmaceutical product used to treat seizures that is derived from cannabis.
Here, Gupta addressed one major area of concern in the world of CBD: Is it better for companies to go the pharma route or the supplement route with their products? The pharma route has more oversight and regulation, of course, but nearly all CBD companies are going the supplement route in order to keep up with rising consumer demand. Gupta mentioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s ever-changing role related to CBD, citing their increased involvement in coming down on fraudulent companies as of late.
Shortly before wrapping up, Gupta took a look at the promising side of CBD. There are myriad potential benefits to using the product, in particular when it comes to helping addicts manage pain without the use of opioids. More research, however, is needed in this area. There is a paucity of research on CBD, Gupta says, with only five studies examining its potential therapeutic benefits.
Gupta ended by addressing one major question: How can consumers be discerning when purchasing CBD products? He encouraged people to read the ingredients label on their CBD product carefully and look for a certificate of analysis from the company.
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CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s fifth documentary on the cannabis industry, WEED 5: The CBD Craze, will premiere this Sunday, Sept. 29, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CNN.
The hour-long film will focus exclusively on CBD and the emerging industry. Gupta published an op-ed ahead of the film’s release. He argues that lack of regulation in the marketplace can be harmful to consumers.
“Without the respect of being treated like the medicine it is, or reasonable regulation when it is purchased as a supplement, CBD has been hijacked by unscrupulous actors peddling crooked, corrupt and contaminated products,” Gupta writes. “They’re making a quick buck and disappearing into the ether without a trace.”
He cited a JAMA study that shows 69 percent of a group of 84 CBD products purchased online were inaccurately labeled.
“The legitimate vendors of CBD, who took the time to ensure consistency, safety and quality, are now sadly lumped together with the dishonest and dodgy ones, leaving the consumer confused about where to turn,” Gupta adds.
According to a CNN spokesman, WEED 5 will follow Gupta as he travels around the country to learn about the CBD industry. The film includes footage from New York City, Utah, Colorado, Virginia and South Carolina, the spokesman says.
Gupta also provides updates on families he met during his previous WEED documentary projects, including a 12-year-old girl named Charlotte Figi, who uses a CBD-rich extract known as Charlotte’s Web to treat her seizures.
“Make no mistake: Cannabis is a medicine,” Gupta writes. “Over the last six years, through countless articles and essays, and now five documentary films, my team and I have made that case and we have provided the proof. At times, it can heal when nothing else can. Denying people this substance represents a moral issue just as much as a medical one.”
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The CBD industry is hot—even professional athletes are jumping in. On September 5, a group of athletes including Olympic champion Gabby Douglas announced Motive CBD: a new line of CBD products to help athletes train, perform, and recover from intense physical activity.
“Motive was created by athletes for athletes and our goal is simply to keep people active and pain free,” said Corey Poches, founder and CEO of MotiveCBD. “We provide a line of consistently-tested CBD products, formulated to fit any routine, that help athletes of all ages, shapes and sizes recover from sports-related conditions.”
MotiveCBD is far from the only athlete-endorsed CBD brand. Olympians Lolo Jones and Kerri Walsh Jennings, both of whom are preparing to compete in the 2020 Olympics, have partnered with cbdMD.
In 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances. This decision corresponded with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to craft regulations for the sale of CBD. WADA continues to prohibit the use of “cannabis, hashish, marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids.” A reasonable observer would suppose that WADA’s regulations are similar to the FDA’s—defining CBD as the byproduct of a cannabis plant containing .3 percent or less of THC—but the regulations are not definitive.
These are just a few of the names and faces that believe in the potential of CBD.
Gabby Douglas, Olympic gymnast: uses CBD for pain relief
“My experiences in using CBD have led me to believe that I could have been more pain free throughout my gymnastics career if CBD had been allowed,” Douglas said. “I am glad that athletes across all Olympic sports will now have the opportunity to use these products and hopefully experience their benefits.”
Kerri Walsh Jennings, Olympic beach volleyball player: uses CBD for sleep
“As a mother, I’m a big fan of sleep,”Walsh Jennings said. “Implementing cbdMD’s CBD PM into my routine has improved my sleep and I definitely see a change in my overall well-being.”
Lolo Jones, Olympian athlete in track and field and bobsled: uses CBD to increase recovery speed
“I’ve always worked hard to take care of my body and be in the best shape possible, Jones said. “I’ve integrated cbdMD products into my daily routine, noticed the change in my recovery speed, and am proud to partner with them to educate others about my experience.”
Teal Stetson-Lee, professional cyclist: uses CBD to treat injuries and sore muscles
Stetson-Lee wrote on her personal blog back in 2017 about her decision to partner with
Reno-owned KYND Cannabis Company and the MYNT Dispensary. She called herself “the first ever professional athlete, cannabis ambassador in Northern Nevada.” Recreational cannabis use became legal in Nevada in 2017.
“Most professional athletes who have come out as advocates for cannabis do not do so until after their careers are over, for fear of immediate repercussions,” wrote Stetson-Lee. “That is exactly the reason why I feel the need to take this stance, while I am still in the prime of my competitive professional career.”
“As an athlete, the CBD tinctures and creams are extremely useful for injuries and sore muscles,” she added.
Judith Hagger, professional triathlete: uses CBD as a muscle relaxant“
The muscle relaxant was the main thing for me, particularly after my more intense training sessions, said Hagger, who partners with CBD company Spirit of Hemp. “I also found my sleep improved massively—I was able to really relax and recover through deeper sleep.”
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Ask around your friends or family members and you probably won’t be surprised that many who experience a monthly period also experience the wide variety of not-so-pleasant side effects: cramping, headaches, sore muscles, tender breasts, joint pain, bloating, diarrhea, trouble sleeping and more.
For a number of years, the generally accepted way to handle these symptoms was to pop a Midol while clutching a hot water bottle. Thankfully, times have changed, and with more and more people understanding the potential pain-relieving power of CBD, many are finding actual relief from typical menstruation symptoms.
My own relationship with menstruating has (excuse the pun) ebbed and flowed throughout my life. After getting my period for the first time at age 12, I went through monthly bouts of intense cramping, sore back muscles, and nausea so bad that I would occasionally miss a day of school. I started birth control pills at 15 to help with the worst of the symptoms, but didn’t catch a break until after I gave birth and my period stayed away for a glorious 18 months postpartum. Unfortunately, it returned with a vengeance and a host of similar side effects, only this time I had more tools in my arsenal to help combat them, including CBD.
“I absolutely see it as a viable treatment option,” says Katie Stem, CEO of Peak Extracts. “CBD can be useful in treating pain, inflammation and smooth muscle spasm, all of which are present during the experience of menstrual pain and discomfort. In addition, CBD often has a calming or anti-anxiety effect, which can be useful for the emotional side of PMS.”
It might feel a bit overwhelming—especially when CBD seems to be everywhere—to find what works for you. First, take stock of your symptoms and then, with the guidance and approval of your doctor, decide which type of treatment you’d like to try, and if you’d prefer something topical, oral, or both. Stem, who has a background in health and science, prefers oral methods for faster, more potent relief.
“In my experience,” Stem says, “inhaled or oral use tends to be more beneficial, as menstrual pain is typically referring from deep in the abdomen. Tinctures, chocolates or other edibles will have an onset of about an hour, and will last four to six. Vape pens will have an immediate onset, but not last as long. Some people swear by topical application over the abdomen for cramps, and it’s certainly worth a try to see if it works for you. There aren’t a great deal of suppositories on the market, but I have heard great things about vaginal suppositories as well, which is sort of a hybrid between topical and internal use, as CBD is absorbed by the vaginal mucosa.”
Cramps, Aches and Pains
When you menstruate, your body releases hormones that cause muscles in your uterus to contract. These contractions can cause painful and uncomfortable cramps and back pain, a symptom that more than 90 percent of women with periods experience. CBD may be able to help combat this pain at the source. The cannabinoid has muscle-relaxing properties, easing the tightness of your uterus and, in turn, your discomfort.
In addition to your uterus, CBD could benefit other areas that experience soreness during your period. From tender breasts to joint pain, the influx of hormones during this time can lead to aches throughout the body. The inflammation-reducing properties of CBD may provide noticeable relief for these areas. CBD also works on your vanilloid receptors (receptors in your brain that regulate pain), which can help ease the pain you feel.
You can either rub a CBD topical into your sore spots, or take an oral dose of CBD. If you’re like me, you’ll go for the double shot of topical and oral.
The influx of hormones before and during a period can often cause a rollercoaster of emotions, making feelings like anxiety, sadness, or even anger feel extra heightened. CBD has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety, and we know it interacts with the limbic system (responsible for regulating our feelings), so taking some internally, such as a tincture, in the days leading up to your period and throughout it could help combat the extreme emotions that we can experience. For a brief pick-me-up, a topical application can be useful, especially when combined with calming essential oils.
Nausea and Bloating
Stomach woes can be a monthly symptom for many, resulting in bloating, queasiness, and diarrhea. CBD has been shown to help alleviate stomach issues by regulating our bowel movements, which can be especially needed during menstruation. Also, by reducing inflammation in the bowels, CBD can help reduce bloating and feelings of nausea. Although topicals can help, oral via tincture or even inhaled CBD oil via a vape pen could help target these symptoms faster.
It is important to note that everybody’s endocannabinoid system is unique, so the way one person reacts to a certain serving size may be different than someone else. Start with a low dose and work your way up until you find what works for you. Also, make sure that the CBD product you are using is high quality, as this will provide better results.
Stem notes that there’s some evidence that in high doses CBD can compete for liver enzyme activity, which can be a concern for folks on other medications that are metabolized by the liver. “If you are on prescription medication it’s a good idea to consult with a physician or pharmacist about possible interactions,” she says.
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