Cannabis: Nature’s most nearly perfect plant

Is it a drug, an herb, a supplement, a nutritional powerhouse?

Todd Runestad, Content Director,, Sr. Supplements Editor

September 22, 2015

2 Min Read
Cannabis: Nature’s most nearly perfect plant

There's a revolution happening in even the socially disruptive world of cannabis. It's called CBD – cannabidiol, the newest thing in the marijuana world. The familiar psychoactive component is the cannabinoid known as THC, but a non-buzzy cannabinoid, called CBD, for cannabidiol, is showing provocative health effects that are shaking up regulators, Big Pharma, the supplements business, with ramifications felt all the way from Colorado to Canada.



The Denver Post reports that hundreds of families from around the country have moved to Colorado to try using CBD to cure their disabled children of seizures.

But because this medicine is derived from the cannabis plant—aka, marijuana—the nation’s institutions and authorities are scratching their heads over what to do with it. 

As a result, CBD is not considered a traditional medicine, yet since it provides no buzz, it’s not really a street drug either.

That’s brought this rush of dietary supplement players to get in on the action. A supplements industry company president described it like the start of a swim race where everyone is standing at the edge of the pool, poised to jump in—but nobody really wants to go first because nobody wants to have their company name on the press release if the FDA or the DEA busts them.

The FDA, for its part, issued a comment on a message board—falling decidedly short of an official rule or regulation—concluding that CBD does not qualify as a dietary supplement. (Natural Products Expo interpreted the comment in such a way as to ban CBD supplements from the show.)

But if CBD were a phytochemical from any other plant in the whole entire world, there's little question it would qualify as just another botanical supplement.

Already, botanical organizations like the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and the American Herbal Products Association have published monographs and reports on everything from identification testing to pharmacokinetics. 

Pharmaceutical interests are said to be interested in CBD, under the proviso that if a compound becomes a pharmaceutical first, then it can never be a dietary supplement.

But if it’s a supplement first, it can later become a drug, a la fish oil, which was a supplement for years, but now high concentrates qualify it as a drug (Lovaza), at 4 grams per dose.

The Canadian hemp industry looks at CBD warily. That’s because the hemp industry worked diligently, mightily and with care to make sure everyone understands that hemp is not marijuana but rather a nutritious, omega-rich plant—and now comes this cannabis bioactive called CBD that occupies a gray area between the two. 

Nobody knows how this one’s going to play out on any of these fronts. 

As the answer to that first question at the top, the answer, it would appear, is yes.


About the Author(s)

Todd Runestad

Content Director,, Sr. Supplements Editor, Natural Products Insider

I've been writing on nutrition science news since 1997. I'm The content director for NaturalProductsInsidercom and digital magazines. Other incarnations: supplements editor for, Delicious Living and Natural Foods Merchandiser. Former editor-in-chief of Functional Ingredients magazine and still cover raw material innovations and ingredient science.

Connect with me here

My daily vitamin regime includes a morning smoothie with a range of powders including protein, collagen and spirulina; a quality multi, B complex, C with bioflavonoids, >2,000IU vitamin D, E, magnesium, high-selenium yeast, PQQ, choline, alpha-lipoic acid with carnitine, coQ10, fish oil concentrate, probiotics and some adaptogenic herbs. 

Subscribe and receive the latest updates on trends, data, events and more.
Join 57,000+ members of the natural products community.

You May Also Like