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Products containing CBD have become popular over the past year and are said to have numerous health benefits. Getty Images / Special to The Forum

The Monday Mark: What exactly is CBD, and why is it so popular?

You see it everywhere from big retail chains to small health food stores to gas stations: CBD.

It can be found in oils, creams, supplements and more and is said to treat everything from anxiety and depression to cancer and epilepsy. But what exactly is CBD, and does it work?

Thursday, Aug. 8, is National CBD Day, which is a chance to give you a few fast facts before you buy.

What is CBD?

CBD is short for cannabidiol. It's the second most prevalent of the active ingredients in marijuana and an essential component of medical marijuana. However, it is derived directly from the hemp plant, a cousin of the marijuana plant, and it does not contain the ingredient that causes marijuana users to feel high.

Is it legal?

Yes, but not in all forms. In fact, if CBD posted its relationship status with the Food and Drug Administration on Facebook, it would be "it's complicated."

While CBD was legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill, the FDA is still somewhat restricting its usage in food and pet food. And just last week, the FDA sent a letter to one CBD manufacturer stating the company's CBD products, including lotions and pain-relieving patches, were being sold in violation of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The FDA stated CBD is unapproved and unsafe for pets.

Knowing which CBD products are given the thumbs-up and which are not remains a little murky.

Are there health benefits?

The jury is still out on many of the claims made by CBD manufacturers, including that CBD is effective in treating cancer. However, according to the Harvard Medical School, CBD might "prove to be an option for managing anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain," and "the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to anti-seizure medications."

Numerous studies have shown CBD was able to reduce and sometimes stop the seizures, but more studies are needed across the board.

Are there side effects?

Known side effects include nausea, fatigue and irritability. It can also raise the level in your blood of the blood thinner Coumadin and possibly other medications. CBD has also been linked to liver damage.

Who uses it?

According to a recent study, the average CBD consumer is white, has some higher education and has full-time employment.

Just how popular is it?

According to leading cannabis researchers BDS Analytics and Arcview Market Research, CBD sales will surpass the $20 billion mark by 2024.

Bottom line

Because CBD is sold as an unregulated supplement, it's hard to know exactly what you're getting. Further studies are needed to assess the benefits for various health conditions.

However, there is promising evidence that it might help anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain and seizures. If you think you'd like to try CBD, ask your doctor — especially to see if it might affect any current medications you're taking.

Other holidays this week

  • Monday, Aug. 5: Work like a Dog Day
  • Tuesday, Aug. 6: Fresh Breath Day
  • Wednesday, Aug. 7: Lighthouse Day
  • Thursday, Aug. 8: Frozen Custard Day
  • Friday, Aug. 9: Book Lovers Day
  • Saturday, Aug. 10: Bowling Day
  • Sunday, Aug. 11: Presidential Joke Day
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