Marijuana’s best-known active chemical is Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol — THC — but researchers have recently shifted their attention to cannabidiol, a lesser-known compound. Known as CBD, it shows promise for treating medical issues like chronic pain, seizure disorders, and psychosis. As legalization efforts push forward across the United States, medical evidence is rapidly piling up to support the use of marijuana’s derivatives as therapies. Most recently, a new study in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry shows CBD’s therapeutic potential for treating epilepsy.

The paper, published Tuesday, outlines the results of a systematic review of existing studies on CBD’s effect on people with epilepsy. By examining the results of 30 observational studies and six randomized controlled trials, the researchers, led by Emily Stockings, Ph.D. of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in Australia, found that teenagers who took CBD for seizures found significant relief.

“In many cases, there was qualitative evidence that cannabinoids reduced seizure frequency in some patients, improved other aspects of the patients’ quality of life and were generally well tolerated with mild-to-moderate [adverse events],” write the study’s authors. Teens who took CBD for seizures, they found, saw their risk of seizures decrease by more than 50 percent and reported that their quality of life improved as a result.

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This CBD product advertises unproven claims, but medical research is catching up to the cottage industry and proving that some of the hype is true.

The systematic review’s results are promising, but they also reveal that CBD research has some progress to make. Currently, CBD products typically contain very little or no THC and don’t produce the high associated with marijuana, but they’re not without side effects.

In the randomized controlled trials, teens who took CBD rather than a placebo were more likely to withdraw from the trial for adverse effects. Teens who took part in some of the observational studies reported the same trend, in which they stopped taking CBD because of the side effects. The treatment potential for the drug is still there, but the simple fact is that marijuana and its derivatives aren’t magic bullets that cure all ailments. These results suggest that CBD’s side effects should be the subject of further study.

Further complicating the picture, states regulate CBD in a patchwork pattern across the U.S., much like marijuana. Some states have CBD legalization bills in the works, whereas others that don’t allow marijuana do allow CBD products. As with any hot-button issue, more research is needed to see where the rhetoric ends and the facts begin. For CBD, the evidence suggests that the advocates have been pretty close to correct.

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