Dreaming of catching the crest of the wave of the next big thing? Looking for the next product that will be in everyone’s fridge or medicine cabinet? Here’s a hint: It’s not marijuana.

Droves of entrepreneurs and first time investors see the growth in the cannabis industry as just the incentive they’ve been waiting for to jump into the game. Although legalized marijuana will indeed create a massive market it does have its limits. There are only so many patients who are willing and able to deal with the psychoactive side effects of marijuana, and not all adults are into recreational use.

In 2017 sales of marijuana and derivatives in the US are expected to generate around $7 billion. That’s a big market by any measure. But the bottom line is that THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, will probably not find its way into mass marketed, mass produced, over-the-counter, all-ages, consumer products, such as vitamins, or skin creams, or painkillers for the foreseeable future. THC will always be a niche-confined, mostly “adult-use” product or prescription drug. It’s highly unlikely you’ll find it in your local grocery store any time soon.

Enter CBD

But there’s something else bubbling up in the conversation. There’s a piece of the cannabiz pie which is currently relatively small, but which promises to outpace, outgrow, and out-perform all other cannabis derivatives for one simple reason: It is fast becoming a popular, over-the-counter consumer product.

Over the past decade focus is shifting from medical marijuana and THC to another cannabinoid called cannabidiol, or CBD — and for good reason. Scientific research is now bringing to light the many health benefits of CBD. And while cannabidiol is a component of cannabis, it is non-psychoactive and does not produce a high. Even more encouraging is that with all of its many demonstrated benefits, CBD is non-toxic and appears to exhibit few side effects and none life-threatening – it can’t kill you.

Moreover, CBD can be produced from hemp which, for all practical purposes, is devoid of THC, and can be grown far more efficiently than marijuana. Hemp is also a legal crop in many US states.

Taking into account that there was already a black market demand for marijuana before it started to become legal, comparatively, growth in global demand for hemp is growing far faster than demand for marijuana.

The volume of evidence of CBD’s medical benefits continues to expand. With its many therapeutic applications CBD is rapidly sparking worldwide interest from the medical profession, pharmaceutical companies, cannabis derivatives manufacturing and extraction technology industries, and the consumer market.

Scientific studies and preliminary trials reveal that CBD offers many more health benefits than previously imagined. Aside from major medical uses such as treating cancer and epilepsy, as you’ll see below, CBD also shows promise as a treatment for many of the day-to-day health issues that Americans face. Studies are suggesting that CBD reduces inflammation throughout the body including the skin, is a natural and safe pain killer, has neuroprotective properties, is effective at treating psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and sleeplessness, and even helps people kick dependence on addictive substances.

It sounds unbelievable. How could this one substance have such a wide variety of seemingly unrelated health benefits? The oversimplified answer is by maintaining organ health through regulation of cellular functions. A more detailed answer would be an article in itself.

CBD is showing up in everything from chewing gum to suppositories, foot powder to shampoo, beer to smoothies, gummy bears to chocolate bars. That trend will continue. Health foodies will become as loyal to CBD as they are to other supplements. It’s easy to imagine a day when CBD starts showing up in over-the-counter products – suntan lotion or energy drinks for example. That’s just not going to happen with THC.

It’s important to note here that at this time, due to federal regulations, CBD cannot legally be marketed as a dietary supplement. Nor can it be marketed as a treatment for any of the ailments mentioned in this article. The accuracy of any speculation on the marketing and growth of CBD depends on the future regulatory climate, which is another story for another day. However, many believe that it’s only a matter of time before CBD is down-regulated to over-the-counter status.

The Hemp Business Journal (HBJ) recently released “The CBD Report” in 2016 showing cannabidiol as one of the fastest growing market categories in the U.S. with an astonishing compound annual growth rate of 59%. The report estimates the total US CBD market will grow to a $2.1 billion industry by 2020. (It’s worth noting that all cannabis derivatives have been outperforming similar reports for years.)

Below are just a few of the potential niches currently being explored and exploited by CBD producers and marketers.

CBD Dietary Supplements

The Market:
Dietary supplements are commonplace in US culture. From vitamins and minerals, to fish oil capsules, to protein drinks and bars, supplements take an endless variety of forms. Figures for the entire supplement market would take some serious thought and time to gather. However, according to a report published by Grand View research, the market for dietary supplement capsules alone was valued at over $26 billion in 2015!

The Research:
Evidence of CBD’s wellness promoting properties is mounting quickly. CBD is proving to be as effective or more so than any currently available dietary supplement at maintaining a variety of aspects of good health. Rather than mentioning any particular study here, since dietary supplements typically have many purposes, take a look at the more focused potential uses for CBD listed below. Each presents a synopsis of a study or studies pointing to a variety of benefits which make CBD an ideal candidate for use in dietary supplements.

The Future:
Dietary supplements are already by far the largest segment of CBD products. The global dietary supplements market size is expected to reach an astounding $278 billion by 2024, according to the Grand View report. One can only speculate on what percentage of the market will include CBD products, but 2024 is eight years away. A lot is going to happen for CBD between now and then.

CBD Pain Management Products

The Market:
It’s estimated that more than 37 million Americans, and perhaps as many as one billion people worldwide suffer from migraines. Many more of us just want to manage the usual aches and pains that come with life. According to a report by BCC Research, the market for pain management drugs and devices was valued at $35.4 billion in 2012.

The Research:
Migraines are caused by abnormal brain activity which can be triggered by many things, however the precise origin and chain of events is still unknown. While research is still preliminary, the potential for CBD as a treatment for migraine headaches is showing much promise. According to one study, scientists have proof that smoking marijuana (which contains both THC and CBD) can cure migraines. While the study did not specifically test CBD for its effect on migraines, an SFGate survey strongly suggests that using CBD oil might also be an effective means of treating migraines but without the buzz. While a poll admittedly is not the same as a clinical trial, SFGate’s poll results are compelling nonetheless, with 100% of respondents stating that CBD oil provided them headache and migraine relief.

Research has also been conducted suggesting that CBD can help reduce the pain and inflammation relating to various types of arthritis, gout and other inflammatory joint diseases. In laboratory animal tests, subjects were induced with arthritis. CBD was administered to the subjects after the onset of symptoms, and in both forms of arthritis the treatment effectively blocked the arthritis’ progression. CBD was equally effective whether administered orally or by injection.

Even more important than merely managing aches and pains, medical cannabis has been a real life saver. According to a report by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, deaths ascribed to pain medications have fallen by 25% in states where medical cannabis has become legal. “The difference is quite striking,” said study co-author Colleen Barry who told Newsweek that the shift showed up quite quickly, becoming clear as early as one year after medical marijuana was accepted in each state.

The Future:
Currently millions of Americans use over-the-counter medications to manage their daily aches and pains, including chronic ailments such as migraines and arthritis. In the not too distant future you may see CBD as a featured ingredient in products that compete with Tylenol and Excedrin and Advil.  Total market value for over-the-counter pain medications is expected to reach a respectable $41.5 billion in 2017.

CBD Smoking Cessation Products

The Market:
More and more Americans each year are starting to say “no” to smoking. Transparency Market Research, a global market intelligence firm recently released “Smoking Cessation and Nicotine De-addiction Products Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast, 2013 – 2019.” The report claims that as far back as 2012 the global smoking cessation and nicotine de-addiction products market was worth over $5 billion.

The Research:
The role of CBD as an effective means of controlling nicotine addiction is becoming more widely acknowledged and accepted. In a double-blind placebo controlled study to determine the impact of CBD use by cigarette smokers who desired to quit smoking, 24 smokers were randomized and given an inhaler, with 12 smokers receiving an inhaler containing CBD, and the other 12 smokers receiving an inhaler containing only a placebo. The results after one week showed that the number of cigarettes smoked by the placebo treated smokers remained virtually unchanged, whereas those smokers treated with CBD reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked by approximately 40%. While further studies are required, the preliminary data showing CBD’s use as an effective treatment in this arena looks to be very promising.

Although we’ll talk more about this in Part 2 of this series, it’s important to point out here that cigarettes aren’t the only habit shown to be more kickable with the help of CBD. There are a variety of studies in which CBD has been shown to modulate various neuronal circuits involved in drug addiction. A 2015 report entitled, “Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence” which came out of the University of Montreal found 14 studies, 9 of which were conducted on animals and the remaining 5 on humans, and a handful of preclinical studies which suggest that CBD may have therapeutic effects which make it an effective treatment for opioid, cocaine, and psychostimulant addiction.

The Future:
Although CBD is not legally marketed as a smoking cessation product, many smokers have already turned to CBD vaporizers as a means of quitting. As more and more people kick the habit, the number of CBD-based smoking cessation products is bound to rise. According to the market research mentioned above, the market is anticipated to reach $16 billion by 2019, exhibiting a healthy 8.70% CAGR between 2013 and 2019.

CBD Depression and Anxiety Treatments

The Market:
Zion Research recently published a report titled “Depression Drug (Benzodiazepines, SNRIs, TCAs, TeCAs, Atypical Antipsychotics, Monoamine Oxidase inhibitors and Others) Market: Global Industry Perspective, Comprehensive Analysis and Forecast, 2014 – 2020” According to the report, the global depression drug market was valued over $14 billion in 2014. All of the existing Rx treatments have potentially life-threatening side effects and some are highly addictive. Many consumers also turn to a wide variety of over the counter products to mitigate symptoms of depression and anxiety such as St. John’s wart, kava, chamomile, and others. These products take an almost endless variety of forms from herbal supplements, to teas, to aromatherapy bath products.

The Research:
One study on mice indicated that CBD can help to significantly reduce fear memory, thus reducing anxiety levels. In both animal and human studies, CBD has proven to be effective at fear extinction and diluting traumatic memories at the cellular level. Many patients diagnosed with PTSD, depression or anxiety who use CBD regularly have reported significant improvement in their symptoms – including fewer anxiety attacks, improved sleep patterns, less intense depression and improved in social interaction with others, and does so without inducing the psychoactive effects normally caused by THC. In fact, until recently, the use of marijuana or even CBD was not a viable option as the presence of any cannabinoids found in their system could potentially cost them further benefits due to VA policies. This policy has now been revised and the use of medical marijuana and hemp products (including CBD) has received congressional approval.

The Future:
According to a new market report published by Transparency Market Research “Anxiety Disorders and Depression Treatment Market – Global Industry Analysis, Pipeline Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast, 2014 – 2020,” the global anxiety disorders treatment market is expected to reach over $18 billion in 2020. Added together with depression drugs, that’s a whopping $26 billion market. And that’s just for prescription drugs. As mentioned, there is also a large market for over-the-counter and herbal products.

CBD Energy and Focus Boosting Products

The Market:
The US energy drink and shots market grew by 56% between 2009 and 2014, even though the category was entangled in litigation and had negative publicity in 2013. In fact, global energy drink sales reached nearly $50 billion in 2014, according to BeverageDaily.com, an online news service covering the food and beverage industry. Annual sales of energy drink Red Bull, alone, are currently more than $5 billion.

The Research:
According to a report out of the Autonomous University of Campeche, Mexico entitled, “The nonpsychoactive Cannabis constituent cannabidiol is a wake-inducing agent,” when administered 10 or 20 microg/1 microl to wake-inducing brain areas, CBD enhanced wakefulness and decreased slow wave sleep and REM sleep. Furthermore, CBD increased alpha and theta power spectra but diminished delta power spectra. In simple terms, the findings suggest that CBD is a wakefulness-inducing compound.

The Future:
There’s no sign whatsoever that growth in energy drinks sales are going to slow any time soon. Based on a 2015 survey by global research firm Mintel, the US energy drink market will grow by an estimated 52% from 2014 to 2019 bring it into the $15 billion range.

CBD Sleep Aids

The Market:
According to a 2015 market report published by Persistence Market Research “Global Market Study on Sleep Aids: Sleep Apnea to Witness Highest Growth by 2020,” the sleep aids market is witnessing substantial growth due to rising incidences of sleep disorders attributed to a growing geriatric population and the stressful modern lifestyle. The global sleep aids market was valued at $58.1 billion in 2014.

The Research:
The study mentioned above in regards to energy drinks shows CBD to be promote wakefulness during the day. Ironically, there are other studies which suggest that CBD can alternatively help people sleep at night. It seems that CBD has a modulating effect on sleep patterns. A report published out of  National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism comes right out and says in the title of the report that, “Endocannabinoid Signaling Regulates Sleep Stability.” The study looked at the hypnogenic (sleep inducing) properties of cannabis (which, of course, have been recognized for centuries). The study gathered findings from a series of sleep experiments with mice. Amazingly, the report finds that the magnitude of the sleep inducing effects produced by cannabinoids are dependent on the time of day they are administered. Taken at night they help you sleep. Taken during the day, they promote alertness.

The Future:
There will be no shortage of customers for sleep aid products as populations age and the world moves faster and faster. According to the same market study mentioned above, the global sleep aids market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 5.7% to a whopping $80 billion by 2020.

CBD Anti-Acne Products

The Market:
CBD is increasingly becoming more widely accepted as a potential solution to one of the most common skin conditions: acne. Acne currently afflicts approximately 50 million Americans. 95% of all Americans will experience acne at some point in their lives. Research and Markets has published a report titled, “Global Acne Treatment Market: Size, Trends & Forecasts (2016 Edition).” According to the report, the global acne treatment products market is currently approximately $5 billion.

The Research:
Accutane, a common treatment for acne, is one of the deadliest drugs in Western medicine. But several scientific studies have shown that CBD may inhibit lipid synthesis, the major cause of acne, just as well; although the exact mechanism by which this inhibition occurs is still being researched. At a 2009 meeting of the ICRS, Tamas Biro gave a talk entitled “Cannabidiol as a Novel Anti-Acne Agent? CBD Inhibits Lipid Synthesis and induces Cell Death in Human Sebaceous Gland-Derived Sebocytes.” In the talk Biro claimed to have applied CBD to cells that had been treated with anandamide, a fatty acid neurotransmitter, expecting that CBD would further stimulate lipid synthesis. “To our surprise,” Biro recounted, “Anandamide in the presence of CBD was unable to produce a lipid synthesis! CBD does exactly the opposite of the endocannabinoids [cannabinoids produced by the human body]. It does not stimulate but inhibits lipid synthesis, especially if the lipid synthesis was previously upregulated, as for example in acne. It was very surprising,” he reiterated, “that a phytocannabinoid [CBD from hemp] could prevent the action of the endocannabinoids.” Acne can also be considered an inflammatory disease since the skin within the blemish becomes greatly inflamed, and although not yet tested on human skin cells specifically, with the general anti-inflammatory properties of CBD already proven, the use of CBD as an effective remedy for acne could be twofold.

The Future:
Some day soon, every pimple-faced teen in America could have a tube of CBD-infused anti-acne cream in their medicine cabinet. We’re not sure how fast this market is growing but if CBD does become commonplace it’s a safe bet that it will find its shelf space growing at a much faster rate than the growth rate of the acne cream market itself.

CBD Cosmetic Applications

The Market:
MarketResearch.com recently published a blog post highlighting the top segments of the beauty and cosmetics market. According to the post, the United States has the largest cosmetics market in the world. Skincare is the largest category in the cosmetics industry, accounting for approximately 35% of the global market in 2014. Globally, skincare products is a $121 billion industry. Hair care products represent a large segment of the beauty market as well, with sales reaching $11.6 billion in the U.S. in 2014.

The Research:
Skin ailments take a variety of forms from allergies to psoriasis to eczema to just plain dry skin. CBD appears to have therapeutic benefits for the majority of common skin ailments. A report titled, “The endocannabinoid system of the skin in health and disease: novel perspectives and therapeutic opportunities,” produced by the Department of Physiology, University of Debrecen, Research Center for Molecular Medicine, Hungary looks at CBD’s impact on multiple regulatory functions, both in health and disease. Here’s an excerpt from the abstract:

“It seems that the main physiological function of the cutaneous ECS is to constitutively control the proper and well-balanced proliferation, differentiation and survival, as well as immune competence and/or tolerance, of skin cells. The disruption of this delicate balance might facilitate the development of multiple pathological conditions and diseases of the skin (e.g. acne, seborrhea, allergic dermatitis, itch and pain, psoriasis, hair growth disorders, systemic sclerosis and cancer).”

Allergic contact dermatitis (skin allergies) affects about 5% of men and 11% of women in industrialized countries and is one of the leading causes for occupational diseases. “Attenuation of allergic contact dermatitis through the endocannabinoid system,” a report put out by the Department of Molecular Psychiatry, University of Bonn, Germany, looked at CBD’s effect on cutaneous contact hypersensitivity (again, skin allergies). The study showed that mice which were lacking cannabinoid receptors display exacerbated allergic inflammation. In contrast, mice which have increased levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide, displayed reduced allergic responses in the skin.

The Future:
Skin care products may very well become the largest segment of the CBD market after dietary supplements. The same MarketResearch.com post mentioned above claims that the U.S. skin care and make-up market is expected to reach $8.4 billion by 2018, while the global cosmetics market is expected to reach over $126 billion by 2019.

As evidence of CBD’s wellness promoting properties continues to mount, more research is being conducted, funding is expanding, acceptance is broadening, and demand for CBD is growing. And CBD is just getting up to the launch pad. The coming explosion of consumer demand will inevitably have a positive effect on medical cannabis policy, send CBD rocketing into the mainstream, and CBD producers and marketers to the top of the charts.

The applications mentioned above are just the over-counter opportunities for growth. This discussion doesn’t even take into account the numerous quality-of-life-improving and potential life-saving properties of CBD. CBD is fast becoming a popular treatment for cancer, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinsons and Alzheimers, autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s Disease, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and more. That another entire article for another day.