November is known to many as the official kick-off month for holiday shopping — but it’s also notorious for something more insidious. It’s the dawn of SAD season. You’ve probably heard of seasonal affective disorder, but here’s a refresher: SAD occurs when cold-weather changes, such as shorter daylight hours, set off a major depressive episodes in some people.Symptoms usually lift in the summer, when you’re naturally exposed to more light, says Inua Momodu, MD, the chairman of the department of psychiatry at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center. Some people have severe symptoms, while others experience milder ones, including low energy or loss of interest in activities they normally enjoy. Regardless of the intensity, SAD can be draining. And now, people are turning to something new to combat the condition: CBD.
There’s only one form of CBD, or cannabidiol, that’s currently approved by the FDA — Epidiolex, a prescription-strength oil used to treat epilepsy. There is no conclusive evidence that the compound, which is derived from hemp plants, has any other benefits. In fact, this spring, the FDA began warning some companies about the claims they were making about their CBD products.
Still, since the 2018 Farm Bill removed some legal restrictions on CBD, the trendy ingredient has been everywhere. Despite the lack of research-backed health benefits and the absence of FDA approval, marketers and suppliers of CBD products claim that it can heal anything from insomnia to chronic pain to anxiety. But experts are cautioning the growing number of people eager to use it that it’s not a panacea for all of your ailments, and this includes SAD.
There is “some interest” in the possibility of the ingredient as a mood disorder therapy, though as of now there are no reputable studies confirming its effectiveness, says J.H. Atkinson, MD, the co-director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. He says it’s possible that CBD could ease inflammation, which may in turn boost mood; studies indicate that inflammation may be a risk factor for depression. But, Dr. Atkinson stresses, more research needs to be done before the medical community starts recommending CBD to patients for anything other than epilepsy.