Misinformation surrounding CBD (cannabidiol) continues to infiltrate the Internet, the news, and even the federal government. The benefits of non-psychoactive CBD are many and proven, including use for chronic pain and arthritis, pain management and common skin conditions and anxiety relief, yet myths continue to be perpetuated, and not just from the usual group of fear-mongering conspiracy theorists.
In a blatant example of unsupported allegations coming directly from the FDA, a recent Consumer Update offers a suggestion that, if it were true, would be a sure-fire way to make men everywhere swear off getting anywhere near CBD. And the allegation is that it can impair the male reproductive organs. To the point, the FDA’s ballsy claim implies that if you take CBD, you risk shrinking your testicles.
The FDA’s shock-and-awe warning is both irresponsible and unsupported. No peer-reviewed studies exist anywhere in the world to support the claim that male reproductive organs are affected in any way by CBD. Furthermore, the World Health Organization directly contradicts the FDA, in a 2017 report noting the safety of CBD which suggests that it be eliminated from the Controlled Substances Act. According to the WHO report, “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”
The FDA’s Consumer Update is blatantly misleading, and takes advantage of a common tactic – asking a leading question and implying an answer that is unsupported. For example, an article using this tactic may lead with the question, “Is there a secret government plot to take away your homes and cars?” there is not, but the question itself is a scary one, and simply by asking it implies an affirmative answer even though there is no evidence of any truth to it. In the FDA report, the government agency uses this tactic by beginning its report by posing the question, “Does CBD cause male reproductive toxicity in humans, as has been reported in studies of animals?” Again, the answer is “no,” but by asking the question, they are perpetrating the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) factor into the minds of CBD users unnecessarily. The studies the FDA references in their loaded question are not peer-reviewed, inconclusive, and offer no evidence whatsoever that the question should be answered in the affirmative.
That CBD would cause harm to one’s manhood isn’t the only absurd claim being perpetrated. In the same report, the agency claims that “CBD can cause liver injury.” This claim is taken out of context. For comparison, let’s look at common over-the-counter pain relievers. Acetaminophen, if taken in excessively large quantities, can cause liver damage, though nobody is talking about putting this ordinary pain reliever on the Controlled Substances list. Though it is possible that acetaminophen causes liver damage, and it does happen, it requires extremely high doses of over 7,000 mg/day. CBD, and indeed hundreds of other perfectly legal and ordinary supplements and pain relievers, can indeed cause liver injury if you ingest massive quantities of it, but the FDA does not explain their claim in context. Reading the report could lead someone to believe that small, generally accepted doses of CBD can cause liver damage, which it cannot. The studies referenced by the FDA were animal tests, in which animals were exposed to doses of CBD that were, in human equivalents, far higher than any human would ever take.
The extreme warnings from the FDA should be taken with a grain of salt (just not too much salt, lest you raise your blood pressure). As with any substance, legal, illegal or otherwise, a bit of caution is always wise, and overdoing anything – from CBD to crème-filled cupcakes – can have a negative effect on one’s health. Simply exercise a little common sense and don’t take the whole bottle at once and you’ll have nothing to worry about. Rather than issuing these sorts of shocking warnings which are not supported by science and credible studies, the FDA should instead issue guidelines on standard acceptable therapeutic dosing for CBD, which it has not.
The more reputable WHO report does note that some adverse effects may result from drug-drug interactions between CBD and other existing medications, as is the case with any sort of supplement, including ordinary over-the-counter vitamins. NugRepublic, which offers a curated selection of CBD products from reputable providers, notes that “the side effects of CBD are extremely rare, and very mild if experienced. This is in stark contrast to conventional medications offered for similar ailments.”
Besides exercising some caution as to dosage levels and potential interactions, the best path to safe CBD use is to obtain it from a reputable source. Often, local shops sell CBD from questionable sources, or may even include contaminants such as synthetic marijuana. Avoiding substandard, counterfeit or tainted CBD is fortunately an easy task. You wouldn’t want to purchase acetaminophen from someone who makes tablets in their garage, so use the same common sense with CBD and go with a provider with a national reputation for selling legitimate products with clear labeling,from reputable companies with on-site testing labs.
In fact, there are even other studies that point to contrary results and even a positive result of improving sexual performance and drive. Of course, those studies too are inconclusive, but worth noting. Those studies show that the endocannabinoid system receptors (ECS), which are stimulated by CBD, exist in reproductive organs. CBD’s effect on ECS, along with CBD’s effect of relieving and reducing anxiety, may well lead to an improved sex drive.
In an NPR broadcast, the FDA claim was discussed with NPR’s health correspondent, who also disputed the claim, noting that the data came exclusively from animal studies, including a study on sea urchins – and also noted that the studies were not done on actual animals, only on cells which had been isolated from animals. In the NPR discussion, variability in the studies were highlighted, underscoring a shocking level of inconsistency in the FDA studies. In short, the FDA studies are unscientific and have proven nothing.