CBD exists at the confluence of three huge consumer trends. The first is the herbal supplement boom, a $49 billion-a-year industry that has seen rapid expansion since about 2010. The second is the rise of the anxiety economy, in which all sorts of products, from fidget spinners to weighted blankets, are pitched as reducers of the mild panic of everyday life. And the third is the near-overnight creation of a legitimate cannabis industry, thanks to the spread of marijuana legalization.
Figuring out how much CBD oil to take can feel like trying to navigate through a complicated maze. The sheer volume of CBD brands on the market can create confusion for consumers, and when you take a closer look, it’s not difficult to understand why. Not only do vendors use different source materials (CBD-rich cannabis vs. industrial hemp, different strains, etc.), but they also implement different extraction techniques .
The truth is that no one knows precisely what any of these molecules are doing to us. It is a case of finding the effects first and working backwards to understand the mechanisms. “There are a number of possible transmitter systems that CBD could act on,” says McGuire. “And it’s not 100% clear which ones are critical for anxiety, or psychosis or schizophrenia. But [the antipsychotic effect] is a different mechanism from existing treatments, which is a big deal because existing treatments aren’t working.”
“CBD inhibits the cytochrome P450 enzymes that break down important psychiatric drugs,” says Blessing. CBD isn’t the only substance that messes with the body’s ability to metabolize these drugs — both St. John’s wort and the humble grapefruit are unfriendly — but CBD is comparatively poorly studied. The way CBD inhibits those enzymes could dramatically raise the levels of SSRIs or opioids in the system, potentially leading to an overdose.
Despite this, CBD is something nobody knows much about, and certainly nobody is monitoring it properly. CBD is widely marketed as a supplement, despite the Food and Drug Administration saying it does not qualify as such (this is because it is an active ingredient in drugs which are either approved or under investigation to be approved). CBD goes largely unregulated by the agency; on the FDA’s FAQ page, a vague answer maintains there are “many factors in deciding whether or not to initiate an enforcement action.” The Department of Agriculture handles research grants and pilot programs for hemp, but that’s where its involvement ends.

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