Google searches from 2004 through April 2019 were used to measure U.S. public interest in cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical component of hemp and cannabis.

Searches from the United States that mentioned “CBD” or “cannabidiol” were stable from 2004 through 2014 before substantial increases in search volumes of almost 126% in 2017 compared with 2016 and 160% during 2018 compared with 2017.

“This big data strategy allowed us to directly observe public interest in CBD,” said Dr. Eric Leas, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health and lead author of the study. “Rather than relying on self-reports where some might not be willing to discuss CBD openly we directly observed millions of instances of people seeking out information or even shopping for CBD online.”

There were 6.4 million Google searches for CBD during April 2019 and year-over-year forecasted search volumes are expected to increase by nearly 118% during 2019 compared with 2018.

“CBD has become insanely popular,” said study co-author Dr. John W. 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.”

A limitation of this observational study is that Google searches may reflect an interest in CBD rather than an interest in its use.

“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!”