By Monika Ghosh and Sharon Lewis This article is the last of a four-part Tech’s Year in Review series reviewing developments across industries in 2020. It discusses the world of healthtech and biotech, foodtech and agritech, and sustainability. This article is the last of a four-part [...]
Cannabidiol has taken the wellness industry by storm and has made its way into smoothies, facials, lattes and even bath bombs.
For the last couple of years, cannabidiol (or CBD) has been the rising superstar of the wellness industry. From lattes and post-workout smoothies to facials and baths, CBD seems to be everywhere in countries where it’s legal. And people can’t seem to get enough.
Far from the niche-market product it started out as, this cannabis derivative is making its way into the mainstream. Last year, ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry’s announced plans to make CBD-infused ice cream. Oreo-maker Mondelez is also exploring the addition of CBD-infused snacks to its product line.
According to the Global Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil Industry Report 2020, the global market for CBD oil is expected to reach $5.3 billion by 2025, compared to $967.2 million in 2020. The report also found that while North America had the largest share of the CBD oil market in 2019, Asia-Pacific is one of the fastest-growing regions.
The demand and supply are both clearly there, but CBD is still trying to shake off its association with recreational drug usage and create its own identity as a solution for anxiety, stress, insomnia, and even acne – all of which startup founders tend to experience to varying degrees.
So, should founders be looking at CBD as a catalyst for improved business performance? We roll out all the facts for you below.
What is cannabidiol?
CBD is the second-most prevalent active component (out of over 100) in the cannabis sativa plant, whose two variants are marijuana and hemp. While CBD is present in marijuana, it is more abundant in hemp, and only hemp-derived CBD can be legally harvested, possessed, sold, or bought in the United States and most other countries.
Unlike the psychoactive THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – the most active ingredient in the plant – CBD doesn’t cause intoxication or euphoria (the “high”). Compared to marijuana, hemp also has very low (less than 0.3%) levels of THC.
According to a study by Grand View Research, Inc., the global cannabidiol market size is worth $9.3 billion and is forecasted to reach $23.6 billion in 2025, from $4.6 billion in 2018.
U.S. consumer sales of CBD are expected to reach $1.8 billion by 2022, a staggering growth rate compared to sales of around $500 million in 2018. In 2019, California had the biggest CBD market in the U.S., with an estimated sales of around $730 million.
Health benefits of cannabidiol
From treating inflammation and depression to anxiety and nausea, CBD is believed to help with a plethora of conditions. However, the strongest scientific evidence for CBD’s use in medical treatment is for childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). In 2018, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first cannabis-derived medicine – Epidiolex – to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy.
Studies have suggested that CBD may help patients suffering from insomnia to help fall asleep and stay asleep. This could be good news for founders, who can often be so invested in their businesses that they experience problems sleeping – a problem that Ariana Huffington says can be a founder’s downfall.
According to a study from the European Journal of Pain, an animal model showed that when applied on skin, CBD helped reduce pain and inflammation caused by arthritis. However, more studies on humans are needed to substantiate the claims.
With its anti-inflammatory characteristics and calming effects, CBD is said to help improve focus and reduce stress. Research also suggests that CBD can spark a motivational boost, with other studies finding that CBD can help enhance mental clarity by improving brain function.
Several behavioral studies on animals and humans have used CBD to treat anxiety. While the sample sizes of human studies have been small, evidence has shown that small to moderate doses of CBD can help reduce anxiety.
There are also several claims that CBD can treat a number of other ailments, such as acne and side effects of chemotherapy. However, many of these claims “are taking one piece of information and running with it, and I think they’re really making claims that are well ahead of the available science,” said toxicologist Thomas Lewandowski.
With the available evidence and abundance of products, it’s possible to speculate that CBD could alleviate some of the negative aspects of being a founder. Burnout, common among founders, is one example of where CBD could play a role. Even at the employee level, where mental health could be another pandemic in the making, CBD in combination with mental health apps might be effective corporate strategies for improving morale and raising productivity.
How is cannabidiol used?
CBD is extracted from cannabis plants as either an oil or powder and is mixed into creams or gels. They can be taken orally, put into capsules, or applied on skin. CBD smoking is the most common medium of use for medical marijuana. Vape pens and e-cigarettes are also a quick way to take CBD. Athletes commonly use creams, rubs, roll-ons, oils, and balms to administer it.
A variety of CBD edibles are available in the market, including chocolates, candies, and gummies. CBD cafés that offer infused lattes and spas offering CBD facials are also popping up in many places. The product has even worked its way into dog treats and bath bombs.
“CBD cafés are popping up primarily because folks are looking at easy opportunities to incorporate CBD into their daily lives and frankly consumers are actively looking for it,” said Christine Smith, Founder of Grön Cafe, which claims to be America’s first licensed CBD café and tasting room. “People are curious, and they are interested in exploring and learning more.”
Is cannabidiol safe?
Nausea, fatigue, and irritability are some of the common side effects of CBD, according to Harvard Medical School.
According to the FDA, some of the most common side effects that occurred in patients who were treated with Epidolex were sleepiness, sedation, diarrhea, insomnia, decreased appetite, and poor quality sleep, among others.
By itself, CBD does not cause a high in patients. According to the World Health Organization, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
A study led by the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney and conducted at Maastricht University in the Netherlands found that CBD does not impair driving. However, the study (which was published last week) also found that moderate amounts of THC can cause “mild driving impairment lasting up to four hours.”
“These findings indicate for the first time that CBD, when given without THC, does not affect a subject’s ability to drive. That’s great news for those using or considering treatment using CBD-based products,” said Dr. Thomas Arkell, the lead author.
As many CBD studies are carried out on rats or on a small group of people, and are often short trials, the long-term effects of the substance are not yet known. Furthermore, as CBD is not a controlled pharmaceutical, it is hard to ascertain the quality of the product or the required dose for health benefits.
In order to avoid side effects, Mechoulam said that it is important to classify and regulate drugs correctly.
“Companies should be careful when they’re taking compounds and claiming therapeutics. They need to do it in accordance with the regulation in order to create consistency in the language…because people confuse recreational use with the medicinal use and aren’t necessarily looking to a specific indication, with specific dosing,” Mechoulam told Forbes.
The evolution of the cannabidiol industry
Cannabis-derived medicines have been in use throughout history, with the first documented use dating back as far as 2737 B.C. However, it was only in 1839 when William B. O’Shaughnessy, an Irish physician and medical researcher published a study investigating cannabis’ therapeutic effects, that researchers started exploring the medical applications of the plant.
In 1942, CBD was successfully isolated by the American chemist, Roger Adams, and in the 1960s, Dr. Rafael Mechoulam, known as the “father of cannabis research,” made a breakthrough with his findings on the active principles of the plant, which later led to the discovery of the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a network of receptors that interact with receptors found in cannabinoids and these receptors can influence our perception of pain, mood, appetite, sleep, stress, memory, metabolism, and other functions.
As research progressed through the years, interest in CBD started gaining momentum in the U.S. Ultimately, it was only in 2008-2009 that it was commercialized, primarily in San Diego, CA, and Denver, CO.
In 2018, the U.S. passed a farm bill that federally legalized hemp. The same year, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first CBD drug – Epidiolex – for rare, severe forms of epilepsy, prompting greater interest in various CBD products. Today, from CBD-infused coffees to candies and lotions, it’s everywhere.