CBD Google searches surge in the US as experts call it ‘snake oil’

According to our Google searches, Americans are more interested in CBD than any other health product or topic, a new study reveals. 

In the US, an average of 6.4 million unique Google searches are made for CBD each month – more than those for meditation, exercise, veganism and even marijuana, according to the new University of California, San Diego research. 

Trendy CBD – short for cannabidiol – oils, edibles and other products has taken the US by storm as the marijuana derivative as legalization has spread to 33 states for medical purposes and 11 for recreational use. 

It’s sold in dispensaries, pharmacies and entire cafes have cropped up to peddle CBD, advertising it for everything from anxiety to acne and menstrual cramps 

But in reality, its only proven and FDA-approved use is to seizures, argue the study authors who compare the product to ‘snake oil.’ 

There are some 6.4 million unique Google searches a month for CBD oil, according to new research – but the study authors warn all but one of the trendy product’s uses are ‘unproven’ 

‘CBD has become insanely popular,’ said study co-author Dr John Ayers, the Vice Chief of Innovation in the Division of Infectious Disease and Global Public Health at UC San Diego. 

‘Three years ago, there was essentially no one searching about CBD online, but now there are an estimated 6.4 million unique searches each month.’ 

It’s not just online that the product is having a ‘moment.’

On the first of this month, the first cannabis cafe in the US opened shop in Los Angeles and is now serving up joints as a side dish to farm-to-table dinners and boasting its own dispensary area for marijuana products. 

And despite warnings from local health officials, coffee shops in many states have been offering to drop some CBD into lattes – for a small additional fee – to help customers calm down while they get caffeinated up for their days. 

But those promised advantages haven’t been confirmed. 

Studies have suggested all kinds of potential benefits of CBD, the non psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – but those findings have not been verified. 

Depending on the state, patients can get a medical marijuana ‘prescription’ for conditions like wasting disease, nausea, easing chemotherapy side effects, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, seizures, PTSD, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and more. 

It’s legally allowed, but scientifically unfounded, according to the UC San Diego researchers. 

And in many states, the non-psychoactive CBD can easily be obtained without a prescription of any sort, like Advil or DayQuil coudl be.  

‘At this time there are no known benefits for taking CBD over-the-counter,’ said Dr Davey Smith, a physician and Chief of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at UC San Diego. 


Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are both derived from the cannabis plant. 

Together, they are part of the cannabinoid group of compounds found in hashish, hash oil, and most strains of marijuana. 

THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the euphoric, ‘high’ feeling often associated with marijuana.

THC interacts with CB1 receptors in the central nervous system and brain and creates the sensations of euphoria and anxiety. 

CBD does not fit these receptors well, and actually decreases the effects of THC, and is not psychoactive. 

CBD is thought to help reduce anxiety and inflammation. 

‘CBD is this generation’s snake oil, where millions are engaging with the product without evidence of any benefit.’ 

Scientists’ skepticism has done little to stop Americans from flocking to the trendy product, which has quickly become the hottest topic in health and wellness, according to the new study. 

‘When talking to colleagues about our study we often play a game we call “CBD or” and almost every time experts are shocked to learn that CBD is more popular or nearly as popular,’ said Dr Alicia Nobles a research fellow at UC San Diego. 

‘Consider this one example. For every two internet searches for dieting in the United States we found there is one for CBD!’

The study, published in JAMA Network Open,’ also found that there are now nearly seven-and-a-half-times as many unique online searchers for CBD as for acupuncture, five-times more than for apple cider vinegar and over three-times as many as for meditation. 

CBD searches surpassed vaccination searchers by 63 percent, exercise by nearly 60 percent, veganism by 12 percent, and even its own parent plant, marijuana, by 13 percent. 

The rise of CBD searchers has been steep, and the researchers predict it will only continue. 

Searches for the compound increased by 125 percent over the course of 2017 and another 160 percent during 2018. 

Now, researchers project another 180 percent increase by the end of this year. 

And the growth of interest in CBD has persisted across all regions of the country. 

Though its broadly viewed as harmless, some patients have sought out CBD as not just a complement to but substitute for proven treatments of life-threatening diseases, including cancer, a pattern that has experts deeply concerned.  

‘Some consumers might forgo seeing a physician or taking medications with known, tested and approved therapeutic benefits in favor of CBD and thereby become sicker or succumb to their illness,’ said Dr Smith. 

‘Now is the time to act,’ added Ayers. 

‘Government regulators must step up to the plate give CBD products the same level of scrutiny as other proven medications. 

‘Moreover, anyone considering taking CBD should know there are no proven over-the-counter health benefits.’    

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