Late last month, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, a new drug for treating rare seizure disorders. FDA approves many new drugs each year, but Epidiolex made headlines for two reasons: The strawberry-flavored syrup is designed to be palatable to young children, and its active pharmaceutical ingredient—cannabidiol—comes from marijuana.
The therapeutic potential of cannabidiol, one of the major phytochemicals found in marijuana, was largely ignored by doctors and scientists for decades. But in recent years, its ability to treat rare seizure disorders has come to light, leading to the first FDA approval for a drug that contains cannabidiol. As scientists try to understand the mechanism of the compound and explore its possible health benefits, some worry that hype is threatening to outpace hope. Read on to learn more about this cultural phenomenon.