Jun 08, 2019 09:43 AM EDT
A natural alternative to ibuprofen. An antidote to anxiety. A sleep aid. A post-workout recovery booster. Those are some of the claims about cannabidiol, or CBD, oil. You may have heard about this cannabis extract, which is said to provide widespread health benefits without the drawbacks of marijuana. And because of new federal legislation, you'll probably be hearing a lot more about CBD over the next few years. Already, a growing number of athletes, including many in the trail running and ultramarathon community, consider CBD a key part of their regimen.
Almost all commercially available CBD products are made from industrial hemp, a cannabis plant that, by definition, contains not more than 0.3 percent THC. In December, President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalizes industrial hemp. It had previously been federally classified as a Schedule 1 drug; its production and distribution were prohibited. The upshot: The federal Drug Enforcement Administration can't interfere with the interstate commerce of industrial hemp. CBD products made from hemp are as legal as most other commercial nutritional supplements.
In terms of athletics, hemp-derived CBD was removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of prohibited substances earlier this year. Hemp legalization and more companies targeting athletes should further separate CBD from its cultural association with marijuana.
Some anecdotal reports are impressive. Erin Dawson-Chalat, M.D., of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, says that her persistent plantar fascia pain went away within a few days of applying topical CBD balm to the area. Like many athletes, Dawson-Chalat appreciates that CBD is a natural product.
"I don't like to take stuff like ibuprofen or prescription medications," says Andrew Talansky, a professional triathlete from Napa, California, who, as an elite cyclist, rode in the Tour de France. "I'm always looking for natural alternatives." When Talansky heard an increasing number of athletes talking about CBD, "I went from skepticism to being interested in asking advice on how to use it," he says.
Talansky says that his sleep improved almost immediately when he started taking CBD daily. Soon after, he was also less anxious about transitioning from pro cycling to his new sport, felt that he recovered more quickly from hard training, and had fewer flare-ups of his old cycling injuries. Now he encourages other athletes to try CBD, in part "to get rid of the association with smoking weed," he says. "It's completely different."
CBD manufacturers' raw material expenses will drop significantly once enough farmers figure out how to profitably grow hemp, says PurePower CEO Don McLaughlin. Because of legalization, McLaughlin expects national chains to start offering CBD. "I've seen buyers from Whole Foods, CVS, and Walgreens at industry shows," he says. "They want CBD on their shelves."
McLaughlin and other current CBD entrepreneurs think there's room for small and large brands. Prevail CEO Brock Cannon says, "I don't think there's an advantage in trying to be everything to everyone. We're going to make products we would want as runners. Like it would be cool to have a CBD shot block to take on the trail."
Athletes may soon find such products as normal as energy gels.
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