CBD, or cannabidiol, oils, gummies, patches, and more are becoming more and more widely available throughout the United States at dispensaries, natural grocery stores, health food markets, and more. It is just one of the over 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis, or marijuana, plant and is used medicinally for a wide variety of sicknesses from epilepsy to anxiety.
While some remain skeptical, a burgeoning foundation of research is indicating that CBD extracts are a safe treatment for some ailments. Read on for 30 things to consider, including source, dosing, and method of delivery, before adding CBD to your health care regimen.
1. It Won’t Get You High
Sorry, folks. If you were holding out hopes for a legal high, CBD is not the ticket. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the cannabinoid that is responsible for the high or euphoria experienced by people who smoke or consume whole plant cannabis. In CBD products, THC is either wholly removed or present only in incredibly trace amounts.
While it won’t you get high, many CBD users do report a lessening in anxiety and pain thanks to the calming and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD. CBD can also help with epilepsy, especially in children, and even has been shown in initial research to slow the growth of cancer cells. So, why it might not be as fun, it’s undoubtedly a very medically useful cannabinoid.
While there are well over 100 cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant, CBD is one of the main components, being responsible for a great deal of the plant’s cannabinoid content. Selective breeding has led to more strongly mind-altering varieties of cannabis that have far higher THC to CBD ratios, but now the trend is leaning back towards encouraging higher CBD concentrations.
In the US, legally grown hemp can contain no more than 0.3% THC, so hemp is the primary source of CBD oil due to its higher concentrations. The growing interest in CBD as a medicine has led to many legal status changes within the United States and in countries around the world.
Interestingly, the human body actually has receptors in the brain and nervous system that are specifically attuned to various cannabinoids, making them cannabinoid receptors. It is the interaction between the cannabinoids and these receptors that create the medicinal and mind-altering properties of cannabis.
In the human body, cannabinoid receptors are responsible for functions governing mood, appetite, pain suppression, and mood. The two types of cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2. CB1 mainly occurs throughout the nervous system, while CB2 is present in the immune system and liver cells. It’s no surprise that cannabinoids are proving medically useful given that our body is literally set up to accept cannabinoids!
Unlike the cannabinoids found in cannabis, the human body produces its own cannabinoids known as endocannabinoids, meaning inner cannabinoids. These cannabinoids were first discovered in the 1980s and are being increasingly studied. The endocannabinoids bind with the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors previously discussed.
Endocannabinoids work within the body by serving as lipid messengers. In the simplest terms, these messengers are a lipid, or fat, molecules that biologically signal within a cell by bonding a protein or other molecule. The various endocannabinoids that have been discovered thus far all work as lipid messengers but in different ways in different systems throughout the body.
There is a proposed disease called Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency that means the body has a deficit of the vital lipid messenger endocannabinoids previously discussed. It is theorized that a deficiency in these endocannabinoids could lead to a variety of symptoms, including migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS,) and more.
Researchers are currently studying the clinical, chemical, and pathophysiological traits of diseases like migraines and IBS to investigate what role endocannabinoids may play in the disease state. Some initial research shows promising results that CBD or other cannabinoid therapy may help to alleviate the pain of migraines, fibromyalgia, and more, which would be a welcome relief for chronic sufferers.
One of the most thoroughly researched uses for CBD as a medical treatment is for epilepsy, especially in children. Studies have routinely found that CBD is a safe and effective treatment for some forms of epilepsy. Unfortunately, much as with other epilepsy medications, tolerance can build over time with reduces the effectiveness.
CBD is so useful for epilepsy that the FDA has approved a concentrated, refined form of CBD marketed under the brand name Epidiolex for two specific causes of childhood seizures, Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. Even in states with very limited CBD legalization, seizures are often one of the accepted disorders allowed to be prescribed CBD for treatment.
Another well-researched use of CBD treatment is for the reduction of inflammation. Not only does inflammation cause pain, but it can contribute to the development of a wide range of diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. Reducing the body’s levels of inflammation has been shown to have a protective effect against many chronic conditions.
CBD has shown promising results for pain associated with inflammation in chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis and multiple sclerosis. The reduction in inflammation may also help with some autoimmune diseases and chronic diseases like diabetes. CBD is far easier on the digestive system than the traditional NSAID painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs so that CBD may be a popular pain remedy in the future.
The cannabis plant has well over 100 different cannabinoids, and it has been proposed that an “entourage effect” causes all of the various cannabinoids to work together synergistically to create an effect that is greater than if any of the cannabinoids are isolated and used alone.
Proponents of whole plant medicine advance this entourage effect theory. In this proposed entourage effect theory, isolating a cannabinoid and using it alone robs it of efficacy by removing the synergistic interrelationship of all of the other related cannabinoid compounds. While the approach is popular among whole plant medicine advocates, there is, thus far, no substantial evidence that cannabinoids work less effectively when isolated and much research is focusing on treatments using isolated cannabinoids.
An essential factor to consider when using plant-based medicine is how the origin plant in question is grown. Since CBD oil is extracted directly from plant matter, it is especially important to consider the source of the plant and how it is raised before purchasing a CBD product.
The most significant factor in the growth of cannabis plants is pesticides. Unless a CBD product is certified organic, there is no limit to the type of pesticide that may have been used on the plants, mainly if they were raised outside the United States in a region with fewer laws on agricultural chemicals.
If you work in manufacturing, a Department of Transportation driving field, or another area that requires frequent or random drug testing, CBD products may not be a safe treatment for your employment status. In the United States, industrial hemp is not allowed to have higher than 0.3% concentration of THC. However, some products end up with a higher strength due to extraction techniques, and even a very low concentration may trip a positive on especially sensitive tests.
If you genuinely want to try CBD therapy, ensure that you are purchasing a product that is certified to contain zero THC, as any non-zero amount has the possibility of triggering a drug test. The US has little legal recourse for job loss due to positive drug test results.
Much like with any medicine, the concentration of the CBD product affects its strength and how much you will have to take, whether through an edible, patch, or some other means, to reach a therapeutically useful dose. When shopping for oil or other CBD product, do your homework first on a concentration that is right for your needs.
For everyday uses like osteoarthritis, low doses of CBD appear to be the most effective in the long-term. A higher concentration in an edible or oil will allow you to take less. For oils, more dilute oil may be ideal for applying to patches or directly to the skin, whichever method is advised on the packaging.
There are several ways to extract CBD from whole plant matter efficiently, and some believe the method has an impact on the efficacy of the end product. While this is debatable, it is a popular marketing tool among CBD manufacturers, so it is wise to understand the various extraction methods and their proposed pros and cons.
The most widely preferred extraction method is using CO2 gas. It is the most extensive method but produces a residue and solvent-free product. Hydrocarbon extraction can provide extremely potent CBD products but is more dangerous and subject to scrutiny from facility inspectors. Ethanol is the fastest method but leaves in impurities that require a second round of processing.
There are quality CBD products made all around the world, but if you are concerned about pesticide and safety regulations, you may wish to purchase a CBD product sourced and made entirely in the United States. USA made CBD products have to be at or below the 0.3% THC threshold, which will vastly reduce the mind-altering effects and physical side-effects of cannabinoid products.
US sourced and made products, especially those that are certified organic, are also subject to the same safety and chemical procedures required of all other US certified natural products, meaning many common neonicotinoids and glyphosate were not allowed to be used on or around the plant material.
Contrary to what Reefer Madness may have told us, cannabinoid products are not addictive. Any chemical substance may be habit-forming through psychological dependence, but cannabinoids are not physically addictive in the way nicotine, opiates, and other drugs are. Given the opioid crisis in the United States, non-addictive painkillers are certainly in high demand.
There is more scientific debate around the addictive nature of THC specifically, but CBD is widely recognized as safe and non-addictive. While tolerance may form for those using it to treat seizures, this is different from the tolerance built when abusing an addictive drug, as many other seizure medications also establish tolerance over time.
15. Cannabis Has Been Used Medically For Centuries
It indeed seems like the “hot new thing” is rarely all that new. Cannabis and cannabinoids are no different. There is archaeological evidence of cannabis use for rituals and medicine dating back centuries. Cannabis is indigenous to central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, where there is ample evidence of its depiction and application as early as 1000 BC.
In many ancient cultures, it was used for its psychedelic and mind-altering effect in religious rituals. The Aryans reportedly used it to enter trances, and a Greek historian reported that the people of Scythia burned the seeds of cannabis plants for recreation. Hemp seeds have been found at the sites of numerous early civilizations, confirming its use.
While an increasing number of states are legalizing whole plant cannabis for medicinal use and even recreational use, a handful of them still have stringent laws regarding CBD products. There is also a great deal of legal limbo with hemp now being legal in all 50 states thanks to the 2014 farm bill, but CBD being widely considered illegal at the federal level due to the federal prohibitions against cannabis.
Thanks to the 2018 farm bill CBD products should be legal in all 50 states, but many are still in grey areas in which prosecution is primarily up to the attorney general and county sheriffs. Iowa, for example, varies widely in the treatment of CBD from county to county with some shutting down stores and seizing supplies with others allowing the free sale.
You may have seen the brightly colored CBD gummies frequently available at smoke shops and even some movie rental chains. However, that is far from the only way of using CBD products. Many oils can be applied topically or taken internally as a tincture. There are patches available that are either pretreated with CBD oil or reusable with oil applied as needed.
Proving that CBD products are genuinely going mainstream, there is now even a multi-level-marketing company selling CBD products! Research the best method of CBD delivery for your specific problem before buying. If you have a specific sore joint, a patch, oil, or balm will likely be the ideal route. For anxiety, an edible or capsule is likely to be more effective.
In addition to finding a dependable US source of CBD product, it’s also important to find a reputable vendor. Oils that are packaged on site may be diluted with other oils to increase the profit margins of the vendor. Pop up shops and vendors that include a few edibles as an after-thought impulse buy may be stocking CBD products from lower quality sources.
It boils down to this: CBD should be treated as a medicine. You wouldn’t buy sketchy looking vitamins at a tobacco shop, so you shouldn’t buy CBD products in a similar fashion. Look for a reputable store with knowledgeable staff that can help you find the right CBD product for your needs.
Speaking of tobacco shops, good news for the smokers out there! There is some early, initial evidence that the use of CBD products could make quitting nicotine use easier. In a study in which subjects inhaled vaporized, non-combustible CBD oil, they felt the need for fewer cigarettes and had an easier time quitting smoking altogether.
There is also evidence that CBD taken in any form helps alleviate the anxiety, depression, mood swings, and overeating that often accompany attempts at quitting smoking. Given some of the mood side-effects of popular smoking cessation medications like Chantix, CBD could be a hugely important aid for those determined to stop.
It’s no secret that the United States is in the midst of an opiate crisis. It is estimated that over 100 people die every single day from opiate misuse and abuse. In addition to the abuse of prescription opiates like fentanyl and oxycontin, “street” opiate use, including heroin, is on the rise as well.
There is some good news in CBD, as there is initial research that CBD can reduce withdrawal symptoms for those being treated for opiate addiction. The withdrawal symptoms from opiate abuse are notoriously unpleasant, with severe mood swings, hallucinations, and GI upset. CBD appears to be effective at helping with all three, much as it does for those attempting to quit nicotine use.
Schizophrenia is a much feared mental health diagnosis due to its difficulty to treat, deep paranoia, and complicated interaction with reality. A growing body of research has found that CBD has a vitally crucial antipsychotic effect on patients with schizophrenia and is remarkably safe, especially compared to the often dangerous traditional pharmaceutical antipsychotics.
The mechanism of action behind CBD’s effect on schizophrenia is not yet well understood, but MRI imagery research indicates that CBD does have a measurable impact on the regions of the brain traditionally associated with psychotic behavior. This treatment holds a great deal of promise and hope for those who have schizophrenia and other mental illnesses with psychotic components.
In addition to the numerous anti-inflammatory, mood improving, and antipsychotic effects of CBD that have been measured, the hard-working little cannabinoid may have another lifesaving trick up its sleeve: slowing the growth of cancerous cells throughout the body. CBD (and whole plant medicine) are often advocated for among cancer patients due to the stimulation of appetite for those receiving chemotherapy, but it’s possibly CBD’s benefits could extend significantly beyond that.
Only small studies have been done thus far, but there is some preliminary evidence that an unknown mechanism of CBD can actually slow the growth and spread of cancerous cells, particularly those in the bladder and prostate.
Anyone who has had to take strong antibiotics started a new psychiatric medication, or gone through chemotherapy can tell you that sometimes you kind of wish what made you stronger would just kill you already. Medicines can have truly awful side-effects, sometimes so severe they require more drugs to alleviate the symptoms of the initial medication.
Perhaps the most significant overall benefit of CBD is its low toxicity on the liver and kidneys and its extremely low incidence of side effects and especially severe side effects. Many drugs are hard on the organs that process them, the liver and kidneys, but CBD has low toxicity that makes it an ideal treatment for people with compromised or diseased organ systems.
Whole plant cannabis, especially those strains bred to be high in THC, can actually increase anxiety and especially paranoid thoughts, and the effect is even higher in those with anxiety or paranoia disorders. Thankfully, CBD does not share this effect of its cannabinoid sibling, and can actually lower anxiety, making it an ideal low toxicity treatment for mild anxiety.
CBD has initial research supporting its use for generalized anxiety and panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, social anxiety, and more. Initial studies found a reduction in anxiety feelings and better sleep among anxiety sufferers using CBD, but extensive controlled clinical studies have yet to be conducted.
While this list has primarily focused on the internal medicinal benefits of CBD, it can also help externally with that scourge of prepubescent people everywhere: acne. The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD can help calm the skin and reduce irritation, which subsequently can reduce the amount of sebum and oil the skin protectively produce in response to inflammation.
There is initial evidence that CBD has antimicrobial and antifungal effects, both of which can help keep the skin clear of infectious agents that contribute to acne, especially the painful, deep cystic acne. Stress also plays a role in acne, so the anxiolytic effects of CBD could also play a role in reducing acne.
Type 1, sometimes known as juvenile onset or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic disease in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, and the body’s cells are resistant to the little insulin that is produced. It does typically develop in young children.
While human studies have been limited, in rats CBD has been shown to aid in the control of blood sugar and reduce inflammation associated with diabetes. There is also preliminary evidence that CBD may work to reduce pancreatic inflammation, a severe complication of type 1 diabetes. While the research is all very preliminary, any new routes for treating this widespread, expensive, and quality of life reducing disease are fascinating.
Alzheimer’s is a rapidly increasing cause of death that is also one of the most expensive diseases to treat due to the high level of constant care required in later stages of the disease. It is also an immensely tragic disease, robbing both the patients and their families of their memories and bonds. Thankfully, CBD may one day play a role, alongside other treatments, in providing therapy for this terrible disease.
The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD may play a pivotal role in treatment, as inflammation appears to play a significant role in the damage the disease causes to the brain. CBD is also an anti-oxidant, which can help protect brain cells from the damage caused by oxygen deprivation in Alzheimer’s.
28. Tiredness and Diarrhea Are The Most Common Side Effects
While fatigue and diarrhea certainly aren’t walks in the park, they pale in comparison to some of the severe and even debilitating side-effects that many medicines can cause. CBD is a very low toxicity drug that is easier on the kidneys and liver than many other drugs, and it ranks extremely low for side effects and, most importantly, severe and life-threatening side-effects.
The flip side to CBD not causing mind-altering effects for those that want it is that it doesn’t cause mind-altering effects for those only looking for pain relief, anti-anxiety effects, and other therapeutic effects.
Due to legal prohibitions against researching cannabis and cannabis derivatives, some of which are still in place in the United States, there is very little long-term data on the efficacy of cannabinoid therapy and any harmful long-term consequences that there may be from use.
With the rapidly increasing popularity of CBD and other cannabinoid therapy, there will be an ever-increasing amount of both short- and long-term research both on efficacy and safety. The Food and Drug Administration is now also actively involved in the study of cannabinoids, which will help to broaden the field of research.
30. Talk To Your Doctor Before Starting CBD Treatment
As with any medication, it is important to talk to your doctor before starting any form of CBD therapy, even a simple patch or gummy. CBD is a potent cannabinoid that interacts with many systems within the body, and could potentially interact with other medications you’re already taking.
Your doctor may also be able to advise you on the correct form and dosage and reputable places in your area to purchase high-quality CBD products. If you are in a legal grey area, your doctor may also be able to advise alternate treatments to avoid any legal ramifications.