Despite legal fuzziness, supplement companies crowd into CBD space

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Earth Science Tech's hemp oil product.
Earth Science Tech's hemp oil product.

Related tags Cannabis Hemp

Despite the cloudy legal status of dietary supplements and functional food products featuring cannabidiol (CBD), which is extracted from industrial hemp, as the approval of medical marijuana and legalization of recreational use of the plant spreads across the US, companies are clamoring to bring CBD supplement products to market.

One of these companies is Earth Science Tech, a company based in Boca Raton, FL.  The company has been investing in research on the effects of CBD in an attempt to differentiate the product from marijuana in both the eyes of consumers and regulators, said CEO Harvey Katz, PhD.

“No one has done a lot of research on CBD itself,”​ Katz told NutraIngredients-USA. “They mostly just look at medical marijuana. We know CBD has a lot of effects, and most recently we studied its effect on immune function.”

Cannabidiol, a non-narcotic fraction of cannabis, has been studied for a variety of health effects, from antioxidant properties to anti-seizure effects. The health effects appear to be real, increasing the interest of some supplement formulators in the ingredient, but there exists some uncertainty around the regulatory status of the parent plant​. 

Stimulating macrophages

Earth Science Tech recently concluded a preliminary study on CBD conducted at the University of Central Oklahoma. Katz said that study, which used the company’s CBD Rich Hemp Oil, found that the product could stimulate macrophages, an important immune cell, through the production of TNF α. The cytokine TNF α is a key cell signaler in the recruitment of immune cells. Furthermore, they also found that the CBD was capable of enhancing TNF α production by macrophages initiated by other compounds. 

That data will back up the immune health structure/function claim the company will make on the product which will be sold with a supplement facts panel on the package, Katz said. The company will sell the product online and through its wholly owned subsidiary, Nutrition Empire, which operates a retail store in Coral Gables, FL. A principal in that operation, Eric Fernandez, is a competitive bodybuilder who has been promoting the product on the natural bodybuilding circuit for its effects at speeding recovery after hard workouts. Research to back up that claim and to underpin a sports nutrition positioning for the dietary supplement are planned, Katz said.

Another company that appears ready for market in the CBD supplement space is Los Angeles-based Tauriga Biosciences.  The company recently announced the launch of a dietary supplement called CannaCaviar, which is packaged as a soft gel. As far as claims are concerned, the company says the product is meant  “to provide potential natural wellness and healing properties without psychoactive effects.”  The company also manufactures a line of non-cannabis dietary supplements.

Regulatory status

These companies and others seem to be hanging their hat on the legality of these supplements on the origin of the CBD from industrial hemp and hemp’s status as a food product. CBD, like its psychoactive cousin THC, is one of the many cannabinoids found in Cannabis sativa​.  Industrial hemp is a cultivar of the plant that has very low THC levels, with most regulatory bodies in the US pegging that level at 0.05% THC level as the maximum to qualify as hemp and not marijuana.

Earth Science Tech said its hemp oil “is derived completely from the federally legal industrial hemp plant. Industrial Hemp (Hemp) is not marijuana and will not get you 'high' and it does not require a medical license of any kind to authorize purchase.” 

For its part, Tauriga says “the legal and regulatory status of CBD oil extracted from industrial hemp is different from that of CBD oil extracted from medical marijuana plants, in large part because medical marijuana plants contain varying amounts of the psychoactive compound THC, while industrial hemp contains virtually no THC.”

New Jersey-based dietary supplement firm Inergetics has also said it plans to launch a CBD supplement sometime in 2015​.  CEO Mike James told NutraIngredients-USA that the company plans to sidestep the marijuana/hemp issue by deriving its CBD from a non-cannabis source.

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