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Ever wondered what’s the deal with marijuana, hemp, THC and CBD? What does it all mean? Well, hold onto your hats … err, bandanas and tie-dye T-shirts, because we’re about to take a wild ride through cannabis craziness! From the versatile hemp plant to the chill vibes of CBD, this is one ride filled with “highs” and lows you won’t want to miss.

CBD products are sweeping the nation. From CBD-infused drinks to skincare creams, it seems like everyone and their grandma is jumping on the CBD bandwagon. Whether it’s for pain relief, anxiety reduction or just a little extra relaxation, CBD products are flying off the shelves faster than you can say “hemp-tastic.” There’s plenty of innovative products out there, such as these 15 CBD food and beverage brands that Foodboro highlighted. However, how safe are they?

While some hemp products are generally considered safe for consumption, others, like hemp flowers, leaves or certain oils may lack sufficient safety data. Health and wellness professionals must be aware of potential side effects and safety concerns associated with different forms of hemp consumption, particularly for vulnerable populations like pregnant or breastfeeding consumers and children.

As consumers, clients and patients increasingly turn to hemp and CBD for health and wellness purposes, dietitians play a crucial role in providing evidence-based information and guidance. They need to be knowledgeable about the latest research findings, potential benefits and risks associated with hemp and CBD consumption to effectively educate and support their clients. Health and wellness professionals need to understand hemp and CBD to provide accurate nutritional guidance, ensure client safety, navigate regulatory complexities and effectively educate clients about these products’ potential benefits and risks.

In honor of April 20, or 4/20, quickly approaching, grab your favorite snack (maybe some hemp seeds?) and buckle up for an enlightening adventure into the wacky world of weed.

Hemp

Hemp, scientifically known as Cannabis sativa, belongs to the same plant species as cannabis. However, it differs from cannabis in that it contains minimal levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), according to WebMD. Both hemp and cannabis share cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD), cannabidivarin (CBDV), cannabigerol (CBG), among others. The 2018 Farm Bill outlined the specific distinction between hemp and cannabis by capping the THC content in hemp at 0.3%. Hemp seeds are rich in fats, protein and various other compounds.

While hemp is utilized for various purposes such as addressing constipation, high cholesterol, eczema, arthritis and more, there is insufficient scientific backing for these applications. It’s important to differentiate hemp from Canadian hemp, hemp agrimony, cannabis or CBD, as they are distinct entities. Unlike cannabis, the sale of hemp and hemp-derived products is legal under federal law in the U.S.

When ingested orally, hemp seed, seed oil and seed protein are frequently consumed as dietary staples. Hemp seed oil may be considered safe when used medicinally for a duration of up to six months. However, there is insufficient reliable data to determine the safety of hemp flowers, leaves or oil derived from these parts, as well as the potential side effects associated with their consumption.

When taken orally, hemp seed, seed oil and seed protein are commonly consumed as food items. Hemp seed oil may be considered safe for medicinal use for a period of up to six months. However, there is insufficient reliable information available regarding the safety and potential side effects of hemp flowers, leaves or oil derived from them.

For consumers who are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s recommended to err on the side of caution and avoid the use of hemp due to insufficient data on its safety in these circumstances. Regarding children, there isn’t enough reliable information to determine the safety of hemp. It’s worth noting that hemp seed oil has been associated with rare cases of sleepiness, bloodshot eyes and liver issues in children. Consumers allergic to cannabis should exercise caution when using hemp, as there may be a risk of allergic reactions. For consumers scheduled for surgery, it’s important to be aware that hemp protein may lower blood pressure, potentially causing it to drop excessively during surgery. Therefore, it’s advisable to discontinue the use of hemp protein at least two weeks before undergoing surgery.

Hemp can potentially interact with various medications and may cause side effects, according to Verywell Health. Caution is advised when combining hemp with the following:

  • Other cannabis-derived products: Due to the presence of CBD, hemp may heighten the side effects of marijuana, non-prescription CBD products or prescription medications like Epidiolex.
  • Seizure medications: CBD found in hemp can interact with drugs used to treat epilepsy, such as Onfi, Banzel, Topamax and Zonegran. Combining hemp with these medications might increase the risk of side effects or reduce seizure control.
  • Blood thinners: CBD can interact with medications like warfarin (Jantoven), necessitating extra monitoring if you’re taking warfarin alongside hemp.
  • Pain medications: CBD may elevate the levels of morphine, leading to side effects such as excessive sedation and slow breathing rate.
  • Anxiety medications: CBD can potentiate the effects of benzodiazepines like Valium and Ativan.
  • Antidepressants: CBD might increase the levels of tricyclic antidepressants such as Tofranil.

In addition to potential interactions, hemp may also cause side effects ranging from mild to severe, including throat irritation, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, slow heart rate, high blood pressure, fatigue and liver abnormalities.

Since the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements as rigorously as prescription drugs, it’s crucial to choose third-party tested products and consult healthcare professionals before incorporating hemp supplements into a routine. Carefully reviewing supplement labels and discussing potential interactions with medications, foods and other supplements is essential for safety and efficacy.

CBD

Cannabidiol or CBD, a compound found in marijuana, lacks THC, the psychoactive component responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana use. Typically available in oil form, CBD is also sold as an extract, vaporized liquid and oil-based capsule. A plethora of CBD-infused products, including food, drinks and beauty items, are sweeping the market.

As of now, the only FDA-approved CBD product is a prescription oil called Epidiolex, sanctioned for the treatment of two types of epilepsy, according to Mayo Clinic. However, CBD’s legal status varies across states.

While research explores CBD’s potential in treating various conditions like Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and anxiety, scientific evidence supporting its benefits remains limited. Using CBD carries inherent risks. Although generally well-tolerated, CBD may induce side effects such as dry mouth, diarrhea, decreased appetite, drowsiness and fatigue. Moreover, CBD can interact with other medications, notably blood thinners.

Concerns also arise regarding the purity and dosage accuracy of CBD products. A recent study examining 84 CBD products purchased online revealed that over a quarter of the items contained less CBD than indicated on the label. Additionally, THC, the psychoactive compound, was detected in 18 products.

Trends

Maryland-based market researcher Fact.MR says the global hemp-based products market is poised for substantial growth.

Projections indicated a value of $1.8 billion in 2023, surging to an impressive $16.2 billion by 2033. This meteoric rise is anticipated to be driven by a robust compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.5% from 2023 to 2033. One of the pivotal factors fueling this expansion is the legalization of hemp product sales and farming in various countries worldwide. The regulatory landscape, shaped by governments globally, will play a crucial role in shaping the demand for hemp-based products in the years ahead.

For instance, India recently witnessed a significant development with its Food Safety and Standards Authority permitting the sale of hemp seed flour and oil as food items. This move has opened up new horizons for hemp-based product manufacturers in the country, paving the way for a burgeoning industry.

Several factors are poised to drive sales of hemp-based products in the foreseeable future, including the increasing awareness of the benefits of CBD consumption, the expanding scope of hemp applications, a growing emphasis on eco-friendly products, rapid commercialization and rising demand from the vegan demographic. However, challenges such as limited awareness about hemp benefits, product prohibition in certain regions and intricate regulatory frameworks may impede market growth throughout the forecast period. Europe and North America currently dominate the global market, jointly accounting for approximately 70% of the market share. This dominance is expected to persist, propelled by the rapid legalization of marijuana and CBD products in these regions.

CBD, on the other hand, is being embraced by consumers and traditional merchants due to their perceived medical benefits, according to Research and Markets.

Furthermore, the growing number of regulatory approvals acts as a significant driver for market expansion. Projections indicate that the global CBD market is poised to reach $6.17 billion by 2023, with a projected CAGR of 27% during the forecast period.

CBD is available in diverse forms including pills, patches, oils, extracts, vape pens and topical skin treatments. The increasing demand for CBD stems from its medicinal attributes, driving its adoption for health and wellness purposes. The oil segment holds the largest market share due to its versatility in treating common ailments such as chronic pain and psychological disorders. CBD oil’s non-psychoactive nature and lenient legislation contribute to its dominance and expected high growth rate.

Between marijuana and hemp, the marijuana segment currently dominates the market, driven by the increasing adoption of medical marijuana for treating chronic diseases and mental disorders. However, the demand for hemp-based CBD is also rising due to its high CBD and low THC content.

The medical segment commands the highest market share, with applications including pain management, anorexia, nausea, muscle spasms, seizures and more. Various medicinal benefits have spurred investments from both small and large corporations in the medical sector, supported by global legalization efforts.

By distribution channel, the offline segment currently dominates, with direct interactions and informational campaigns targeting consumers. Partnerships with retail stores, pharmacies, clinics and online platforms are common strategies. While offline channels currently lead, online distribution is poised for growth, driven by increasing social media advertising and innovative marketing tactics.

Regions and demographics

The North America region, including the United States, Canada and Mexico, currently dominates the market, fueled by significant legalization of CBD for medical and research purposes. The presence of major market players and increasing investments, along with favorable government initiatives, contribute to market growth.

Europe is additionally a significant market with growing acceptance of CBD products. Covered countries include France, UK, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. While still emerging, the Asia Pacific market shows promise due to increasing awareness and adoption of CBD products. This region includes major countries like China, Japan, Thailand and India.

The increasing millennial population is a significant driver, as millennials are drawn to CBD for its various benefits, particularly for mental wellness. CBD’s popularity among this demographic, known for normalizing discussions about mental health, is expected to further boost market growth in the coming years.

Warnings

The widespread awareness of products containing CBD for various medicinal conditions has led to an increase in popularity. However, this popularity has also attracted unlicensed producers who create synthetic products devoid of CBD. These synthetic products may produce similar effects to CBD but can be harmful to the user’s health. For example, the outbreak of e-cigarette, vaping, use-associated lung damage (EVALI) led to numerous hospitalizations and fatalities due to the use of synthetic marijuana. Instances of mislabeling and the presence of synthetic substances in CBD products have resulted in reduced market demand. The FDA has taken action by issuing warning letters to businesses found to be selling products with no traces of CBD.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant financial and psychological impacts worldwide. While the CBD market was experiencing positive growth trends until the end of 2019, the outbreak of COVID-19 hindered further expansion. The CBD industry, which requires substantial research for product development, faced challenges due to decreased government funding during lockdown periods. Government-mandated lockdowns disrupted research activities, impacting the ability to meet demand for CBD products. However, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the CBD market continued to see merger and acquisition activity in the first half of 2021. Additionally, recognition of the health benefits of CBD-infused products by various governments led to increased research and development efforts in the sector. Investments in research and development, along with technological advancements following the COVID-19 outbreak, are expected to further drive market growth.

In conclusion, the landscape of hemp and CBD is vast and continually evolving, offering both exciting possibilities and important considerations. As these products gain popularity and the market expands, it’s essential for consumers and health and wellness professionals alike to stay informed about their nutritional value, potential benefits and safety concerns. With proper education and awareness, we can navigate this journey into the world of hemp and CBD with confidence, ensuring that we make informed choices.

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