Synthetic vs Natural CBD
As the CBD market booms so to have knock off products flooded the streets, and they try to take advantage of unassuming or uninformed consumers. Stories have been publicized across the US about illnesses and even deaths related to synthetic CBD and other cannabinoids. While there are plenty of reasons to be wary of synthetic CBD there is a place for it when it’s manufactured responsibly.
Pharmaceutical companies have made good use of synthetic cannabinoids and they are providing useful research in the medical field. So far however synthetic CBD products found in gas stations and corner stores have been notorious for establishing a pattern of low quality and dangerous manufacturing of synthetic CBD with little to no testing for safety.
What is Synthetic CBD?
Synthetic CBD comes in two forms, illegal and legal. The illegal form is what we have seen sold as “spice” and has been marketed as herbal blends or even as air fresheners. Synthetic CBD has also been found in vapes and caused respiratory problems as well as some cases leading to hospitalization and even death. Edibles has also been a known culprit of synthetic CBD and some products have been found to be laced with fentanyl an opioid that has been linked to 30,000 deaths last year.
Synthetic CBD or chemically synthesized CBD is known as an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) and this is produced as a ultra-pure crystalline powder. At a molecular level this is chemically identical to natural plant derived CBD. Because CBD has such a simple molecular structure it is easy for pharmaceutical companies to replicate. The benefit of pharmaceutical companies see by producing CBD in a regulatory-approved API facility is a controlled environment with a repeatable process to consistently produce stable batches.
To achieve a chemically identical synthesized CBD product oils like “Oleamide” are used. This is a fatty acid derivative that produces similar effects to natural plant CBD. This does however have hypnotic properties and these have to be balanced and reduced by pairing with other chemicals. In addition to oleamide, there are other ingredients used to imitate the effects of CBD like harmine and harmaline two chemicals found in plants used for psychedelic experiences like Ayahuasca. Some brands have also been known to include other stimulant ingredients to influence a mild psychedelic effect.
Is it safe or dangerous?
As with all chemically synthesized products there are side effects most are mild while others can be quite severe and lead to deaths. Synthetic CBD produced by API regulated pharmaceutical companies will take the time and resources to produce a higher quality product. But even they will have some side effects which is just the nature of producing any synthetic product.
It’s because of the potential for harmful and lethal side effects that so much time and effort is spent on clinical trials and testing. But with that said not all manufacturers hold themselves to high quality standards and don’t have the resources to see their product through rigorous testing and quality assurance. This is why we have seen the danger warnings about synthetic CBD obscure vapes and edibles products bought from places like gas stations that have caused so many health scares.
According to the CDC some of the known side effects found in clinical trials of synthetic are:
- Inability to concentrate
Psychiatric symptoms include:
- Violent behaviour
- Suicidal thoughts
Physical signs and symptoms:
- Severe nausea
- Chest pain
- Heart attack
- Kidney failure
There are inherent dangers to using synthetic CBD for many of the reasons listed above, and the long term effect of exposure is still unknown.
So far the FDA has only approved one CBD based medicine designed to treat seizures called Epidiolex. It appears that there is a synthetic CBD product set to be approved by the FDA as well called Zygel and it is for treating behavioral symptoms like developmental and epileptic encephalopathies (DEE) as well as autism spectrum disorder.
Although most of the synthetic CBD that has made it to the market has generally been extremely dangerous there are a few responsible producers of the product. These responsible producers however aren’t making product for regular consumers, they are making their products for narrow medical uses designed to target just a few health problems.
It is extremely important to research your products that you are buying by reading the product labels completely and thoroughly as well as taking the extra step and going to their product website. To be sure that it is a quality product you should be able to find testing results on their website as well as information about their manufacturing process. Most CBD companies like to brag about their product from where they source their CBD to how they manufacture their products and why theirs is better than their competitors. Look for these clues and you’ll find yourself better educated and away from potentially dangerous synthetic CBD products.
FDA DISCLAIMER: The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act require this notice.
Associated Press. “’Russian Roulette’: Investigation Uncovers Dark Side of CBD Craze.” New York Post, New York Post, 17 Sept. 2019, nypost.com/2019/09/17/russian-roulette-investigation-finds-cbd-products-spiked-with-illegal-synthetic-marijuana/.
“Coming Soon: Synthetic CBD (and Other Cannabinoids).” Vaping360, vaping360.com/vape-news/81331/coming-soon-synthetic-cbd-and-other-cannabinoids/.
“Is Synthetic CBD the Future of Cannabis Pharma?” Cardiol Therapeutics, www.cardiolrx.com/is-synthetic-cbd-the-future-of-cannabis-pharma/.
McCoy, Michael. “Natural Extracts and Synthetics Square off as Cannabinoid Drugs.” Chemical & Engineering News, American Chemical Society, 8 Jan. 2019, cen.acs.org/pharmaceuticals/pharmaceutical-chemicals/Natural-extracts-synthetics-square-off/96/i46.“Synthetic Cannabinoids (Spice): An Overview for Healthcare Providers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Apr. 2018, www.cdc.gov/nceh/hsb/chemicals/sc/healthcare.html.