What Does CBD Do? Mostly, It’s Just Expensive.


The cannabinoid compound probably isn’t harmful, and it may have health benefits, but we don’t know what they are yet.

Well, Actually is a weekly column by Slate’s Shannon Palus. Each week, she’ll test health and wellness products to help readers figure out what they should try, what they should skip, and why.

Imagine if you could buy cupcakes with … a little Lexapro in them. Or coffee with some Lexapro, mixed in like sugar or milk. Or tinctures laced with Lexapro, sold by your friend from high school on Facebook alongside essential oils, you know, citrus for energy, herbal for sleep, Lexapro oil for feeling calm. Or maybe makeup: Lexapro lotion, or Lexapro mascara.

This is, in a way, the situation we’re in with cannabidiol, known as CBD. I realize this as I speak to Daniele Piomelli, a neuroscientist and the editor in chief of the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, about the current state of the compound. To Piomelli, CBD, a nonpsychoactive compound found in marijuana and hemp, is a promising medicine. It’s one of the many compounds in pot that does not get you high or make you hungry (that’s THC) but could have some medicinal qualities. In Piomelli’s opinion, it “should be treated with respect and care.” I feel sort of weird as I speak to Piomelli about this, because I have a six-pack of CBD seltzers on my way to me in the mail, and once they arrive, I am planning on distributing them to my co-workers as a “fun office experiment.”

It is unclear how exactly CBD works, despite the fact that it is currently very available in many consumer goods. In many studies, CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety—when given to the likes of Wistar rats and Swiss mice. The potential medical and marketing case is incredibly broad: It may even reduce the brain damage that comes with Alzheimer’s, though again, the studies here are on rats or even just cells in Petri dishes. Research in humans only consists of tiny

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