First things first: What is CBD, exactly?
CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid compound that’s found in the marijuana plant, but is actually legal to sell in most states (though not all). Unlike THC, another cannabinoid that, as you know, is not legal to sell, CBD can help deliver some of the same therapeutic effects as THC—but it doesn’t get you stoned. Or in trouble with the law. If anything, people say it’s more of a body high, rather than a mental high. And though there’s still limited research on CBD, some preliminary studies have shown that it can help all sorts of ailments, from epilepsy to schizophrenia to insomnia to anxiety and depression.
But where CBD may be most helpful, as far as fitness fans like you guys are concerned, is its ability to help with pain relief. CBD has been shown to suppress your body’s inflammatory response, which basically means that it can help relieve tension from your sore muscles and other workout-induced aches and pains. CBD has also been shown to help support a stronger immune system in general, which helps keep your body in top form overall. That means that, if you’ve been upping your fitness game lately—maybe you’ve started doing more yoga or began working out with a trainer—CBD could be the recovery move for you.
In fact, CBD’s association with pain relief also fits right into a greater, incredibly zeitgeisty cultural narrative: recovery in general. As more and more athletes are pushing themselves to the max in crazy-intense boutique fitness classes or with a private trainer, the whole concept of “active recovery”—in which you make intentional moves to recover instead of just having a much-needed couch day—is gaining serious traction these days. Yes, people are finally realizing that they need to prioritize their “recovery practice” just as much as they pay attention to their workout routine, or else they’ll burn out entirely. It makes sense, then, that CBD is becoming more and more popular in the recovery world, too.
But wait: Is CBD safe?
Of course, it’s also important to note that the verdict is not officially out on the effectiveness of CBD—we’re still in the early stages of research, and simply do not know enough yet to be fully clear. Some doctors say that CBD may not mix well with certain medications, for example. And in the New York Times article I mentioned above, Dr. Esther Blessing, an assistant professor at New York University School of Medicine who studies CBD, also points out that most of the products we’re putting CBD in, like food and coffee, may not have enough CBD in them to even be effective. “There’s no solid evidence that they contain enough CBD to do anything,” she told The Times. “A CBD coffee may only have five milligrams in it. In order to treat anxiety, we know you need around 300 milligrams.”
And then there’s the legal issue. Even though it is technically legal in many states—but not all— it’s still not fully regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. In June 2018, the FDA approved the first CBD medication ever, Epidiolex, which is specifically designed to treat seizures associated with two particularly rare forms of epilepsy. But even though that was a big historical moment for marijuana in general—truly the first government-sanctioned use for CBD!—it was by no means conclusive or sweeping. The regulation status of CBD overall is still hazy at best. In fact, the DEA still considers other CBD products aside from Epidiolex to be a Schedule 1 drug, which, believe it or not, is the same category as heroin. Still, many states, especially those in which medical or recreational marijuana is legal or likely on its way to being legal, are selling more CBD than ever before.