CBD Oil - A Complete Guide to Understanding Cannabidiol
Cannabis, marijuana, weed, pot — no matter what you call it — it contains CBD. Although it won’t get you high, this plant compound can take your health to the next level.
What is CBD oil?
Cannabidiol, most commonly known as CBD, is one of over 60 compounds that are most commonly found in the cannabis plant. that are found in the cannabis plant. Researchers have been looking at the potential therapeutic uses of CBD.
Oils that contain concentrations of CBD are known as CBD oils. Most cannabis plants contain less than 4% CBD, so the only way to get a good amount of this cannabinoid is from pure CBD oil. Most CBD oil is extracted from industrial hemp, which usually has a higher CBD content than marijuana.
After extraction, the CBD is added to a carrier oil and sold at many different potencies to be used in a variety of different ways.
Is CBD marijuana?
CBD oil is a cannabinoid derived from the cannabis plant.
Until recently, the most well-known compound in cannabis was delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is the most active ingredient in marijuana.
Marijuana contains both THC and CBD, but the compounds have different effects.
THC is well-known for the mind-altering "high" it produces when broken down by heat and introduced into the body, such as when smoking the plant or cooking it into foods.
Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive. This means that it does not change the state of mind of the person who uses it. However, it does appear to produce significant changes in the body and has been found to have medical benefits.
Most of the CBD used medicinally is found in the least processed form of the cannabis plant, known as hemp.
Hemp and marijuana come from the same plant, cannabis sativa, but they are very different.
Over the years, marijuana farmers have selectively bred their plants to be very high in THC and other compounds that interested them, either for a smell or an effect they had on the plant's flowers.
On the other hand, hemp farmers have not tended to modify the plant. It is these hemp plants that are used to create CBD oil.
[You can skip to "How CBD works" if you don't want to confuse yourself with the detailed chemistry behind THCA, THC, and CBD.]
The Difference Between THCA, THC, and CBD
Industrial hemp (a popular variety of the cannabis plant) tests out at less than 0.3% THC. THC rich cannabis in its raw form is non-psychoactive. “Raw” THC is actually THCA. What we call “Marijuana” is cannabis that tests out with THCA between 5 and 35%.
THCA is beginning to demonstrate immense therapeutic qualities. Some people add THCA-rich cannabis leaves and flowers to their salads and smoothies, others consume with a tincture.
THCA becomes the psychoactive THC through a chemical process called decarboxylation, which occurs with heat and time. The delivery methods for THC are smoking, vaporizing, and consuming “edibles.” Drying and curing cannabis will cause some decarboxylation to occur.
Cured cannabis flowers will often test for small amounts of THC along with THCA. THC is fat soluble (and not water soluble). THC infused cooking, from pesto to chocolate, is made by heating ground up THCA rich cannabis with oil at 220 degrees Fahrenheit (104 Celsius) for 30 to 45 minutes.
THC rich treats are commonly referred to as “edibles,” and they typically have massive amounts of sugar btw!
THCA’s Therapeutic Properties
THCA is the most abundant cannabinoid in a plant, depending on the time at when it is tested. THCA has been seen to have many benefits in a limited number of studies.
Studies have found THCA to be anti-inflammatory, neuro-protective, anti-emetic, and anti-proliferative.
There is plenty more this compound can do, and there are other cannabinoids, like the many varieties of terpenes and THCV, all proving to have some similar and some very different effects, and many of which are proving to be medical viable in very different ways.
The science on all of these other cannabinoids is in its infancy. The cannabinoids that we know most about, however, are CBD and THC.
The Relationship Between CBD and THC
In particular, the effect that CBD can have when ingested with THC has garnered significant interest. What research has found so far is fascinating.
For example, when active THC is ingested alone, it increases pulse rate, disturbs time tasks, and induces strong psychological reactions in some people, but when CBD is ingested with the THC, it blocks most of these adverse effects.
CBD also has been found to decrease the anxiety component of a THC “high” in such a way that the study subjects reported more pleasurable effects when CBD was included with the THC.
This evidence suggests that it is better for our health to have a higher percentage of CBD in or with our cannabis if we decide to ingest the plant in any form.
How CBD works?
All cannabinoids, including CBD, attach themselves to certain receptors in the body to produce their effects.
The human body produces certain cannabinoids on its own. It has two receptors for cannabinoids, called CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors.
CB1 receptors are found all around the body, but many of them are in the brain.
The CB1 receptors in the brain deal with coordination and movement, pain, emotions and mood, thinking, appetite, and memories, among others. THC attaches to these receptors.
CB2 receptors are more common in the immune system. They affect inflammation and pain.
It used to be thought that CBD acts on these CB2 receptors, but it appears now that CBD does not act on either receptor directly.
Instead, it seems to influence the body to use more of its own cannabinoids.
Because of the way that CBD acts in the body, it has many potential benefits.
1) Natural pain relief or anti-inflammatory properties
People commonly use prescription or over-the-counter drugs to relieve pain and stiffness, including chronic pain.
Some people feel that CBD offers a more natural way to lower pain. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that CBD significantly reduced chronic inflammation and pain in some mice and rats.
The researchers suggest that the non-psychoactive compounds in marijuana, such as CBD, could be a new treatment for chronic pain.
2) Quitting smoking and drug withdrawals
There is some promising evidence that CBD use may help people to quit smoking.
A pilot study posted to Addictive Behaviors found that smokers who used an inhaler containing the compound CBD smoked fewer cigarettes but did not have any additional craving for nicotine.
Another similar study posted to Neurotherapeutics found that CBD may be a promising substance for people who abuse opioids.
Researchers noted that some symptoms experienced by patients with substance use disorders might be reduced by CBD. These include anxiety, mood symptoms, pain, and insomnia.
These are early findings, but they suggest that CBD may be used to avoid or reduce withdrawal symptoms.
3) Epilepsy and other mental health disorders
CBD is also being studied for its possible role in treating epilepsy and neuro-psychiatric disorders.
A review posted to Epilepsia noted that CBD has anti-seizure properties and a low risk of side effects for people with epilepsy.
Studies into CBD's effect on neurological disorders suggest that it may help to treat many of the disorders that are linked to epilepsy, such as neuro-degeneration, neuronal injury, and psychiatric diseases.
Another study published in Current Pharmaceutical Design found that CBD may have similar effects to certain anti-psychotic drugs and that it may be safe and effective in treating patients with schizophrenia.
More research is needed to understand how this works, however.
4) Helps fight cancer
CBD has been studied for its use as an anti-cancer agent.
A review posted to the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology notes that CBD appears to block cancer cells from spreading around the body and invading an area entirely.
The review indicates that this compound tends to suppress the growth of cancer cells and promote the death of these cells.
Researchers note that CBD may help in cancer treatment because of its low toxicity levels. They call for it to be studied along with standard treatments, to check for synergistic effects.
5) Reduce anxiety disorders behaviors/symptoms
Patients with chronic anxiety are often advised to avoid cannabis, as THC can trigger or amplify anxiety and paranoia in some people.
However, a review from Neurotherapeutics suggests that CBD may help to reduce the anxiety felt by people with certain anxiety disorders.
The researchers point to studies showing that CBD may reduce anxiety behaviors in disorders such as:
post-traumatic stress disorder
general anxiety disorder
social anxiety disorder
The review notes that current medications for these disorders can lead to additional symptoms and side effects and that people may stop taking the drugs because of these unwanted effects.
CBD has not shown any adverse effects in these cases to date, and the researchers call for CBD to be studied as a potential treatment method.
6) Ease Type 1 diabetes inflammation
Type 1 diabetes is caused by inflammation when the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas.
Recent research posted to Clinical Hemorheology and Microcirculation found that CBD may ease the inflammation in the pancreas in type 1 diabetes.
This may be the first step in finding a CBD-based treatment for type 1 diabetes.
7) Treat Acne
Acne treatment is another promising use for CBD. The condition is caused, in part, by inflammation and overworked sebaceous glands in the body.
A recent study posted to the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that CBD helps to lower the production of sebum that leads to acne, partly because of its anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
CBD could be a future treatment for acne vulgaris, the most common form of acne.
8) Prevent Alzheimer's disease
Initial research published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease found that CBD was able to prevent the development of social recognition deficit in subjects.
This means that CBD could potentially prevent people in the early stages of Alzheimer's from losing their ability to recognize the faces of people that they know.
This is the first evidence that CBD has potential to prevent Alzheimer's disease symptoms.
Cannabis is legal for either medicinal or recreational use in some but not all states.
Other states approve CBD oil as a hemp product without approving the general use of medical marijuana.
Laws may differ between federal and state level, and current marijuana and CBD legislation in the United States can be confusing, even in states where marijuana is legal.
There is an ever-changing number of states that do not necessarily consider marijuana to be legal but have laws directly related to CBD oil.
The laws vary, but they generally approve CBD oil as legal for treating a range of epileptic conditions at various concentrations. A full list of states that have CBD-specific laws is available here.
This information is up to date as of March 30, 2018, but the laws frequently change.
Different states also require different levels of prescription to possess and use CBD oil. In Missouri, for example, a person must show that three other treatment options have been unsuccessful in treating epilepsy.
If you are considering CBD oil as a treatment for a suitable condition, talk to your local healthcare provider. They will have an understanding of safe CBD sources and local laws surrounding usage. Research the laws for your own state. In most cases, a prescription will be required.
Many small-scale studies have looked into the safety of CBD in adults and found that it is well tolerated across a wide range of doses.
There have been no significant side effects in the central nervous system or effects on vital signs and mood among people who use it either slightly or heavily.
The most common side effect noted is tiredness. Some people have noticed diarrhea and changes in appetite or weight.
There are still very little long-term safety data available, and, to date, tests have not been carried out on children.
As with any new or alternative treatment option, a patient should discuss CBD with a qualified healthcare practitioner before use.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved CBD for the treatment of any condition.
It can be difficult to know whether a product contains a safe or effective level of CBD or whether the product has the properties and contents stated on its packaging and marketing.
How to use
CBD oil is used in different ways to relieve the symptoms of different conditions.