Cannabidiol or CBD is currently one of the fastest growing wellness trends in the U.S, and CBD topical creams, oils, cosmetics, and edible products are popping up in health stores and online marketplaces across the country.

Despite their popularity, you may be surprised to learn that the Food and Drug Administration has yet to provide concrete guidelines for the use of CBD in food and cosmetics.

However, due to recent deregulation of cannabis-based medicinal products in the U.S., the FDA is now moving closer to that goal, having issued a press release to state their goals for the future of CBD regulation.

In light of this recent action, you may be wondering about the history of CBD regulation and guidance from the FDA and just how (and when) their new take on the use of CBD topical creams and other CBD products may shape the future of the industry.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural compound found in many of the plants that belong to the cannabis genus of flowering plants. It is one of over one hundred “phytocannabinoids” that lend the plant its many therapeutic properties.

Though barriers to research concerning the use of cannabis-based medicines still exist, THC and CBD are the two phytocannabinoids found in cannabis plants that have undergone the most extensive research by scientists.

However, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the cannabinoid that CBD is most often associated with – CBD itself is not actually psychoactive. This means that CBD will not and cannot produce the high that is typically called to mind when individuals think of cannabis plants and is therefore considered safe for daily application.

While it has been found that THC can also offer the substantial pain-relieving benefits of CBD to users, its psychoactive properties make its use more taboo. Those same psychotropic effects are the main reason for THC’s continued strict regulation for medicinal purposes.

CBD, on the other hand, works within the endocannabinoid system to modulate our response to pain signals by inhibiting the pain receptors that are located on cells throughout the body. It has also been found to subdue pain by working as an anti-inflammatory agent.

This makes CBD an excellent solution for individuals who are looking to experience the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without experiencing a high, or without experiencing as much of a high as pure THC would provide.


The history of CBD use and research

The following timeline displays the history of the use of CBD use – from ancient China to modern-day America – and the key factors and important decisions regarding its production and sale that have led to the current state of the CBD oil market.

  • 2737 BCE

    Emperor Shen Nung of China uses a cannabis-infused tea to help alleviate symptoms of his rheumatism, gout, malaria, and memory loss.As a result, he is often depicted with a green coat that is covered in leaves, and in the sphere of historical Chinese medicine is considered the patron of all herbalists and apothecaries.Cannabis and its extracts were most likely used in China throughout the subsequent centuries, but there are fewer conclusive written records to confirm this theory.

  • 1839

    Fast forward a few millennia to modern day Ireland, Irish medical researcher and physician William O’Shaughnessy publishes a scientific study detailing the therapeutic properties of cannabis.He details its potential for use in the medical field and his ideas for its use as an anesthetic, in particular. His study at the time is met with great controversy, but in actuality, he paves the way for the research into the topic of cannabinoids and their potential use in the medical field that follows.

  • The late 1800s

    Queen Victoria is reported to have used cannabis products to combat the pain associated with menstrual cramps.Though Western medicine seems to ignore the potential of cannabis-related treatments, as indicated by the Queen’s use of cannabis products, some members of society still use these compounds for personal medical issues.

  • 1940

    British chemist Robert S. Cahn discovers the partial structure of CBD, which he later reported as a fully formed structure.

  • The 1980s

    In the U.S., Dr. Mechoulam continues research into the medical properties of cannabis by experimenting with the use of CBD as a means of treating the symptoms of epilepsy. His experiments were widely successful, as half of the participants reported decreased episodes or complete cessation of seizures after just four months of CBD treatment.However, the stigma associated with cannabis at the time prevented these results from being reported as the true breakthrough that they were.

  • 1998-2000

    Following California’s 1996 legislation lead, Oregon, Alaska, Washington (1998), Maine (1999), Hawaii, Nevada, and Colorado (2000) also legalize medical cannabis.The legality of cannabinoids in these states leads to more research studies on the therapeutic properties of CBD, which, in turn, lends more legitimacy to the legalization movement.However, the vast majority of Americans oppose legalization due to the widespread belief that cannabis is addictive and dangerous; the federal government also has difficulty regulating CBD, given its close relation to THC, which is labeled as a controlled substance because of its psychoactive properties, and therefore restricted from government funded research.

  • The 2000s

    As public opinion slowly starts to shift toward openness to legalization, prominent figures begin to endorse the substance publicly and share how CBD helped them combat pain.

  • 2018

    Congress passes the 2018 Farm Bill, formally and federally legalizing hemp and distinguishing it from marijuana plants. This turns the growth of hemp and the manufacture and sale of CBD products into a lucrative business model almost overnight. The FDA also approves a CBD-based drug for epilepsy called Epidiolex.

  • 2019

    The FDA issues a press release detailing its future efforts to make the regulation, sale, and buying process of CBD products as transparent as possible.

    These efforts include holding a public hearing to collect input from CBD users and creating a “working group” to discuss potential pathways for CBD dietary supplements and legally marketable FDA-approved foods.

    The FDA press release contains statements concerning the department’s plan to crack down on producers of CBD products who market their merchandise in a manner that is misleading or too much like a drug.

CBD today

The trajectory of CBD research and its use as a medicinal treatment experienced various upsets throughout history, and it has taken a long time for public opinion to be swayed concerning the stigma of CBD use, particularly in the United States, where regulations concerning substance use are stricter than in other areas of the world.

Despite this, CBD products were still able to make it to the mainstream, a testament to just how much this chemical compound has to offer the medical field.

Since the passing of the Farm Bill in 2018 and the FDA’s press release in 2019, CBD-infused foods, cosmetics, and other lifestyle products have arrived on shelves in stores and online.

CBD, the FDA, and the food industry

The lack of federal regulations regarding CBD and food has led most national restaurant chains to steer clear of any major menu additions, but some boutique restaurants and luxury hotels have begun exploring CBD-infused food options.

In states where cannabis is legalized recreationally, some bartenders are creating CBD-infused mocktails to provide patrons with additional relaxation. While some bar owners remain wary of mixing alcohol with a non-FDA-approved substance, others offer CBD-infused shots as an addition to their normal cocktail menu and create specialized beverages that are designed to be infused with CBD, either by adding CBD oil or infused bitters.

Some cities, such as New York, are cracking down on the sale of CBD-infused foods in bars and restaurants until the FDA can issue a clear-cut statement on whether it approves of adding the substance to meals and beverages.

However, the popularity of CBD puts a great deal of pressure on the FDA, especially from restaurant owners and entrepreneurs who want to market CBD-infused foods to a larger audience while remaining in compliance with the current and constantly fluctuating regulations regarding CBD use.

CBD-infused cosmetics

Despite the fact that not even a year has gone by since the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, cosmetic sales giants like Sephora and Ulta Beauty are already stocking products that contain CBD.

In fact, it is estimated that the CBD market, in general, could reach a value of $16 billion by 2025, and it is probable that the development and sale of CBD beauty and wellness products will play a large role in that growth.

CBD is appealing to skin care and cosmetic goods producers because of its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Some research even suggests that CBD can be used to treat a number of skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, and dry skin, which makes it even more valuable to the skin care industry.

There is also evidence that applying CBD to the face can regulate the oil production of the sebaceous glands. Combined with the anti-inflammatory properties already known to be present in CBD, products containing this compound could suppress breakouts and mitigate the risk of acne.

CBD pain relief rubs

Possibly one of the most popular current uses of CBD extract, CBD pain relief rubs have taken the medical field by storm, demanding action from the FDA concerning the study of their use as a potential alternative to standard pain relief medications.

CBD infused creams and lotions can help to relieve the pain and inflammation of sore muscles and joints, making them a popular choice among professional athletes and other individuals with physically demanding occupations. So much so, in fact, that the World Anti-Doping Agency was led to deregulate their use by professional athletes as a controlled substance in 2018.

Individuals who suffer autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may also benefit from the use of hemp-oil infused lotions and creams, when applied directly to the afflicted area.

The FDA: opening new avenues for continued CBD research

Up until now, the majority of the research completed concerning CBD products has been done in states where medical or recreational cannabis is legalized. This is largely because it is simply much easier to perform accurate research and conduct precise experiments when the substance being tested is legal and regulated.

It is also important to note that most major studies conducted on the effectiveness of CBD have been done on animals. However, with the passing of the Farm Bill, more experiments are taking place every day on human use of CBD to help determine whether the benefits CBD use by animals can be replicated in humans.

Final thoughts

In retrospect, it is unfortunate that modern Western medicine has been unable to benefit from the potential therapeutic and pain-relieving properties of cannabis plants due to the stigma associated with their use.

However, in current times, it seems this stigma may finally be behind us and that the FDA and the American public are beginning to recognize the potential value and benefits of utilizing CBD hemp oil for pain relief and management.

CBD made its way into the American culture of natural health and wellness remarkably quickly following the passing of the Farm Bill, and public opinion is currently more open to the legalization of cannabis for medicinal use than it has ever been before.

Researchers, manufacturers, and farmers involved in the responsible production of CBD products and regulation of the CBD market are optimistic that the publication of further studies concerning the potential effects of CBD on various health problems will shed more light on the myriad of benefits this product can provide.

With time, and with more clarity on behalf of the FDA and other regulatory bodies, CBD may even become a household staple over the possibly addictive non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and opioid-based pain relief medications that are the current standard in the U.S. as people become more willing to invest in natural pain relief.

It is an excellent sign that the FDA seems willing and ready to address the needs of both individuals who are attempting to make a living selling high0-quality CBD products and those who can potentially benefit from the use of those products for a variety of reasons.

Researchers and users are optimistic the FDA will continue to take steps to ensure a thriving and legal CBD market with proper regulation to elicit the development of pure products and smart business practices.