Editor’s note: A primary care physician should be consulted before taking any supplements. No one other than a doctor should provide medical advice. This article is not intended to include medical advice, nor should it be interpreted as such.

A simple Google search for “CBD” produces more questions than answers. What do you need to know? What are the side effects? Why is it so expensive? And what is it?

Let’s start with the name.

CBD is short for cannabidiol. It’s found in the cannabis plant, more commonly known as marijuana or hemp. The CBD products you’ll find on the shelves here in the United States are derived from hemp.

There has been much recent preliminary research and/or many recent clinical trials on cannabidiol’s potential impacts on pain, anxiety, neurological disorders and cognition. However, it is too early for conclusive or confirmed results.

One common question CBD purveyors get from customers keeps cropping up: will CBD get me high?

Most CBD products contain little, if any, THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. That’s the psychoactive component of marijuana.

Nonprescription CBD products must be derived from hemp, because cannabis is a Schedule I drug, the most stringent classification in the United States for controlled substances. Cannabidiol has only one Food and Drug Administration-approved use for two epilepsy disorders.

So, say that after some preliminary research, you’re interested in trying some CBD products. How do you even go about starting to purchase?

Adrian Posteraro is the owner and founder of the CBD Wellness Store in Bethel Park. His suggestion is buyers do as much research as possible. Look for an established, top-rated brand. Third-party reviews and customer ratings can be a good indicator of a trusted product. Posteraro also recommends looking for hemp grown in the United States, as there are more stringent standards for growing and manufacturing. Most importantly, though, is third-party lab testing. That lab report can tell consumers the actual CBD content, whether or not the product contains THC and if there are pesticides or contaminants.

Posteraro also advises that consumers know what they want or what they’re trying to address before they start doing research. Different products can have different potential impacts or results. An oil is going to react differently than a topical or oral soft gel. Talking to a person in a store can be a great way to get personalized recommendations for what a customer is looking to address.

Bombash & Earley co-owner Tim Bombash says there is a lot of information available on the internet, and it can be incredibly overwhelming. Though he by no means is an expert – he has doubts anyone can be an expert on CBD yet, as the field is still developing – he reads as much as he can and tries to make complicated subjects easier to understand for his customers. That level of personal attention, along with quality products, keeps people returning.

Bombash has been selling CBD products for almost four years and now operates a store in Peters Township on East McMurray Road. His main focus is education; he wants to remove the “hocus pocus around this, that’s been lead by misleading marketing or just the overall belief that some people may just hear what they want to hear.” He wants customers to be prepared to ask questions, know what the goal is and pay attention to how the questions are answered.

Any seller should be eager and willing to answer any questions. If someone is hesitant to answer or making blanket statements, that can be a red flag. People that are genuinely trying to help, instead, can be a useful resource. Bombash said he’s not opposed to sending customers elsewhere if his products don’t suit a customer’s needs.

“I wish people knew that all CBD wasn’t created equal. I really wish people knew that, and I know there are companies out there that are even marketing that, but not explaining it.”

Bombash warns of what he’s dubbed “gas station CBD.” Though products found in minimarts might benefit some, is it possible really know what you’re getting from a place like that?

Those products are more there to make money rather than to help people, Bombash says. The water with CBD, shirts infused with CBD, CBD coffee, these products are often merely capitalizing on the buzz and the trend, he says.

“Ask questions. What strain does it come from? Is it whole plant? Is it a total plant complex? Is it a breakdown of the entire plant?” Bombash suggests. “I wish these companies were more responsible and saying, ‘Here’s what strain we use. These are the major and minor cannabinoids. This is what’s in there.’ I think people need to know about THC content. People need to understand that a lot of these effective supplements do contain our state limit of THC. And yes, that can show up on a drug test. So if you’re subject to toxicology reports, I would stay off of the CBD.”

Posteraro says beware of companies making specific health claims or a price that seems way too good to be true. He recalls one study that says around 70% of CBD products purchased on the internet did not have the correct amount of CBD the product claimed on the label or included other harmful ingredients. One customer bought a product online that claimed to be free of THC, as this person was subject to drug testing for work. They were flagged for marijuana on their drug test.

Denise Muiter oversees the Your CBD Store locations in Bethel Park, Bridgeville and strip district. She warns those looking into CBD products to be careful.

“Watch out for CBD products that have big health claims on the label/bottle or are a lot cheaper than other similar products out there. Often times, these cheaper products have been made with lower quality and cheaper extraction methods and are not the same efficacy or quality of other products. You really do get what you pay for in most cases. I would be leery of online shopping unless you can research the company and source, and can verify that there is truly CBD in the product, not just hemp seed extract or oil. Often times, I have seen products that claim health benefits, with low prices, and then there is not truly any CBD in the product.”

Bombash has a helpful analogy for explaining the complexities of CBD products that many readers will find familiar: vitamin C.

“Vitamin C is your best analogy for this. Look at any Vitamin C bottle, and it’s going to say ascorbic acid on the back. That’s simply one constituent, similar to a CBD isolate. Now, where we have minor phytocannabinoids that come in acronyms – CBG, CBN, so on and so forth. Over here, you have factors, so you have factor C, factor H, factor N. Those factors play a very real role.”

Bombash goes on to explain the discovery of citrus in curing scurvy. James Lind, a Scottish surgeon in the Royal Navy, is generally credited with proving that scurvy can be successfully treated with citrus fruit, not Vitamin C alone.

“You can’t cure scurvy with Vitamin C alone. So how can you help a lot of these other problems with just CBD? Again, it needs the other factors. It needs its friends to have a truly synergistic relationship with your body.”

It’s truly the Wild West when it comes to the CBD industry. Bombash says sometimes he worries about the future of CBD.

“It’s just sad that it’s been so commercialized and so beaten and abused, to the point that there are enough people our there, whenever they even hear ‘CDB,’ you can almost see their eyes roll,” he says. “It’s sad, because it has very real benefits. It’s been taken out of context in too many areas.”

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