Is marijuana the same thing as cannabis?
People often use the words “cannabis” and “marijuana” interchangeably, but they don’t mean exactly the same thing.
Throughout the rest of this fact sheet, we use the term “cannabis” to refer to the plant Cannabis sativa.
What are cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are a group of substances found in the cannabis plant.
What are the main cannabinoids?
The main cannabinoids are THC and cannabidiol (CBD).
How many cannabinoids are there?
Besides THC and CBD, more than 100 other cannabinoids have been identified.
Has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved cannabis or cannabinoids for medical use?
The FDA has not approved the cannabis plant for any medical use. However, the FDA has approved several drugs that contain individual cannabinoids.
Is it legal for dietary supplements or foods to contain THC or CBD?
The FDA has determined that products containing THC or CBD cannot be sold legally as dietary supplements. Foods to which THC or CBD has been added cannot be sold legally in interstate commerce. Whether they can be sold legally within a state depends on that state’s laws and regulations.
Are cannabis or cannabinoids helpful in treating health conditions?
Drugs containing cannabinoids may be helpful in treating certain rare forms of epilepsy, nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, and loss of appetite and weight loss associated with HIV/AIDS. In addition, some evidence suggests modest benefits of cannabis or cannabinoids for chronic pain and multiple sclerosis symptoms. Cannabis isn’t helpful for glaucoma. Research on cannabis or cannabinoids for other conditions is in its early stages.
The following sections summarize the research on cannabis or cannabinoids for specific health conditions.
Are cannabis and cannabinoids safe?
Several concerns have been raised about the safety of cannabis and cannabinoids:
Can CBD be harmful?
Unlike Epidiolex (the purified CBD product sold as an FDA-approved prescription drug), over-the-counter CBD products may contain more or less CBD than stated on their labels, and because of less rigorous regulatory oversight than prescription drugs, they may also contain contaminants, such as THC.
CBD may have side effects, including decreases in alertness, changes in mood, decreased appetite, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea. CBD may also produce psychotic effects or cognitive impairment in people who also regularly use THC.
In addition, CBD use has been associated with liver injury, male reproductive harm, and interactions with other drugs. Some side effects, such as diarrhea, sleepiness, abnormalities on tests of liver function, and drug interactions, appear to be due to CBD itself rather than contaminants in CBD products; these effects were observed in some of the people who participated in studies of Epidiolex before its approval as a drug.
Research Funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)
Several NCCIH-funded studies are investigating the potential pain-relieving properties and mechanisms of action of substances in cannabis, including minor cannabinoids (those other than THC) and terpenes (substances in cannabis that give the plant its strain-specific properties such as aroma and taste). The goal of these studies is to strengthen the evidence regarding cannabis components and whether they have potential roles in pain management.
NCCIH is also supporting other studies on cannabis and cannabinoids, including:
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