By Damian McNamara, MA July 25, 2022
Cannabidiol (CBD) products made from hemp have gotten more popular in recent years. But how much can you trust what the label says, compared to what really is in CBD patches, creams, and lotions?
A team of investigators decided to find out. They bought 105 hemp-derived CBD topicals – products designed to be applied to the skin – from physical stores and online sites.
Of the 89 labels that list the amount of CBD, for example, 24% matched what was inside; 58% of the products had more CBD; and the remaining 18% contained less.
Also, more than a third – 35% – of the topicals tested contained delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), including some that claimed to be THC-free.
THC is the compound in marijuana associated with "getting high." But hemp products are allowed to contain 0.3% or less THC, and all the products in this study met the regulation.
People should "be wary of cannabinoid products available in retail stores. The products may not contain the amounts of CBD or THC that are advertised," says lead study author Tory R. Spindle, PhD.
The study was published in JAMA Network Open on July 20.
Can Be Deceiving
CBD topicals are over-the-counter (OTC) products, so the FDA does not regulate them the same way as prescription medications. But at the same time, the agency does not allow OTC products to make claims about health benefits.
"The health claims made on the products, which are often very pricey, may not be supported by clinical research," says Spindle, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Cannabis Science Laboratory in Baltimore.
He and colleagues found 28% of the 105 products made a therapeutic claim, mostly about helping ease pain and inflammation. And 14% claimed to help improve skin quality or appearance.
"This study really highlights that current regulatory oversight of cannabinoid products is not sufficient," says Spindle, who is also an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
More hemp-derived CBD products are showing up on store shelves and online because of the 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act. This act, more commonly known as the Farm Bill, removed hemp and hemp products from the U.S. controlled substances list…
For JAMA Research Cannabinoid Content and Label Accuracy of Hemp-Derived Topical Products Available Online and at National Retail Stores JAMA Network Open