Overview of Cannabidiol (CBD)
Cannabidiol (CBD) has been suggested as a natural headache remedy, stress-tamer, and pain fighter. It offers safe and effective treatment for many common conditions and some that are less so. Yet there is still much confusion over Cannabis-derived medicinals: How are they produced? Are they legal? How do they affect the body?
While each individual is unique and will need to tailor their usage, there are some general facts about CBD that are universal. Read on for a basic understanding of those facts, as well as answers to common questions about CBD and other Cannabinoids.
An Overview of CBD Production
Cannabidiol is not made, but rather it is extracted from plants. It is a naturally occurring compound found in Cannabis plants. Different variety or strains of the plants produce varying levels of CBD. It is distilled from the plants in a process that separates it from other compounds. The result of the distillation process is pure Cannabidiol. This distillate is then recombined with other ingredients to produce the desired end-product.
What’s in a Name? Hemp vs. Marijuana
Cannabinoids, including CBD, can be extracted from both hemp and marijuana plants. Although they are the same species of plant, each has its own cannabinoid profile. There are approximately 100 chemically-unique cannabinoids present in cannabis plants, including in industrial hemp and medical marijuana. Some varieties have higher concentrations of particular chemicals.
Medicinal marijuana is bred and grown for its high levels of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This well studied compound is what produces the tell-tale “high” of marijuana. Medical marijuana plants are characterized by a fairly high ratio of THC to CBD. Their chemical profile makes distilling pure CBD difficult, and it is not generally used for the production of CBD products.
Hemp, on the other hand, is specifically grown to be low in THC. Only plants with THC levels below 0.3% are considered hemp. The plant is an excellent source of Cannabidiol (CBD) and is the source of most THC-free CBD products marketed and sold in the United States.
U.S. Government Position on Cannabidiol
The United States government recognizes the tremendous potential benefits of Cannabinoids, despite its reluctance to publicly acknowledge them. This is particularly true for non-psychoactive compounds such as Cannabidiol.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was issued a patent in 2003 for non-psychoactive “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants”. It has licensed those rights to pharmaceutical companies to conduct research and, hopefully, develop treatments for neurological disorders.
The 2018 Farm Bill and Legality
Commercial CBD products are almost always made from industrial hemp. This is largely because of legal concerns. Legislation passed in 2018, known as the Farm Bill, reclassified industrial hemp so it is no longer considered a controlled substance. The bill moved federal oversight of hemp production from the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (FDA) to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This legislation allows U.S. farmers greater access to information and technology necessary for hemp production. More importantly for the CBD industry, the 2018 Farm Bill also allows products manufactured from industrial hemp to be transported between states.
Final CBD Products
A wide variety of CBD-based products are manufactured and utilized today. There are oils or tinctures that can be taken internally for a variety of health, fitness, or cognitive benefits.
Some oils are incorporated into creams or salves to alleviate pain and inflammation in specific areas of the body.
Powders are a convenient form of CBD. They are great for mixing with other bases and are often incorporated into encapsulated supplements.
Many people add CBD products to their food, such as drinks and baked goods. This can help to mask any flavor of the product and make it both more palatable and convenient to consume.
Considerations on Product Forms
It is important to keep in mind that each product will have its own percentage of CBD, so read labels carefully to determine if you can realistically get the dose you are seeking form a product. More isn’t necessarily better, either. You can learn more about dosing recommendations in this article.
Consider also that absorption rates vary between dosing methods. Sublingual oils and tinctures will likely offer the highest absorption rates. However, capsules or supplements with complementary ingredients may be more convenient for you and your lifestyle.
Weigh the pros and cons of each form to determine the best products for your particular situation.
Understanding How Cannabinoids Work Within the Body
Researchers long believed that CBD, like other cannabinoids, worked directly on CB receptors within the Endogenous Cannabinoid or Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Recent studies have pointed to a less direct, but highly effective, effect. To fully comprehend how CBD works within the human body, you must first have a basic understanding of the endocannabinoid system.
The Endocannabinoid System
Of the myriad systems within the human body, cannabinoids are part of the endocannabinoid system. The ECS is comprised of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and other proteins and compounds that work with them.
The ECS not only recognizes and reacts to cannabinoid compounds, but it also produces them. The compounds produced within the ECS are called endocannabinoids. They represent a large portion of the complete endocannabinoid system.
The ECS manages a complex variety of functions within the body. It helps to regulate functions such as immune response, pain, and sleep patterns. You may notice that these are areas where cannabinoids have been shown as effective treatment options, and where current research is focused.
CB receptors are present within both the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). Although there may be other receptors that also act within the ECS, there are two primary CB receptors: CB1 and CB2. When activated, these receptors transmit signals throughout the nervous system. In doing so, they directly impact the brain and neurological function.
Concentrations of CB1 receptors are highest within the brain and the Central Nervous System. Activation of these receptors can result in conditions including anxiety, fear and paranoia, heightened alertness, pain, and inflammation. Suppressing the CB1 receptor functions may help to negate some of these conditions.
CBD as a Cannabinoid System Modulator
Cannabidiol is considered a cannabinoid system modulator. Instead of directly impacting the sensitive CB receptors, it helps the body maximize the effects of its own endocannabinoids. At the same time, it interferes with compounds that would bind to, and activate, CB receptors within the ECS.
This modulating effect has been shown to help reduce psychotropic effects of other cannabinoids, like THC. It may also be responsible for CBD’s reported effectiveness in helping alleviate withdrawal symptoms for many people.
Because CBD has been shown to reduce activation of CB1 receptors, it has potential application in cases where these reactors produce fear, anxiety, or pain. Reduced brain activity in response to fear has been noted in studies of Cannabidiol, although further study is needed to support treatment options.
Neuroprotective Properties of Cannabidiol
Cannabidiol is showing promise for potential neuroprotective properties. Medical professionals acknowledge that the ECS plays a role in neurodegenerative disorders. Individuals with compromised endocannabinoid systems or CB receptors have increased susceptibility to these types of disorders.
New research is trying to uncover how, through its roles as a CB1 receptor antagonist and ECS modulator, CBD may help with conditions that involve neurological damage. These may include damage from sudden injury, as in cases of stroke or trauma, as well as in chronic conditions like Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s Disease.
These protective properties could be a welcome addition to treatment options for a wide range of conditions that cause long-term neurological damage.
Accepted Uses for CBD
There are many accepted uses for Cannabidiols, and research is still uncovering the medicinal benefits of these complex compounds. The FDA recently approved a CBD-based seizure medication, Epidiolex. This helps illustrate the wide variety of medical uses for CBD and offers strong encouragement for medical professionals to expand research into other uses of the compound.
Researchers are not the only ones discovering the widespread benefits of CBD. There is strong anecdotal evidence of its efficacy for a wide range of ailments. It has been used to treat anxiety, stress, and depression; reduce pain and inflammation; shorten muscle recovery times; as well as help increase mental focus and memory.
Anxiety, Depression, and Psychological Disorders
Finding a successful treatment is crucial for those suffering from psychological disorders. Commonly prescribed medications can have side effects ranging from mild to downright scary. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia, then you know how difficult finding a suitable treatment can be. Many people have found that Cannabinoids, including CBD, have helped ease symptoms.
Many anecdotal reports show that THC-free CBD products can help alleviate mild anxiety, or even ward off an anxiety attack if taken at its onset. There has been some success with using it to help with the anxiety and paranoia that often accompanies withdrawal from pain medications.
There is a growing body of documented evidence supporting the effects of Cannabidiol. A peer-reviewed study, reported in the American Journal of Psychology, showed that CBD, when taken in addition to prescription medication, helped ease symptoms of schizophrenia.
Additionally, a 2015 review of previous medical studies showed promise in treating anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Pain and Inflammation
The abundance of CBD-infused creams, gels, and other topical solutions shows that people have begun to realize its potential pain-reducing benefits. This is not strictly anecdotal either.
Medical professionals, researchers, and scientists have begun to examine the effects of CBD on pain and inflammation. Sativex is a prescription medication that has been approved in Canada for controlling pain in conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and cancer.
A 2015 study showed decreased inflammation and reduced inflammation biomarkers within rodent study subjects that received Cannabidiol through topical application. This research could have a profound and lasting impact on the millions of people affected by arthritis and related conditions. Current treatments for these conditions often rely on oral and injectable pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs with multiple side effects.
Muscle Recovery and Athletic Performance
Many of the pain and inflammation benefits of CBD can also be used to help speed muscle recovery. Reduced inflammation allows the body to focus its efforts on repairing damaged tissue instead of reducing swelling and combatting pain. This can allow muscles to heal faster and lead to a quicker turnaround between training sessions.
Athletes may also experience increased performance ability when using Cannabidiol. This is partially because of its ability to allow muscles to relax and also because of its potential for allowing increased training frequency.
Cannabinoids also affect cognitive function and mental focus. Stripped of the mind-altering effects of THC, Cannabidiol has become a popular method of boosting memory and focus. Athletes have noted that it helps them keep on top of their game. Observational evidence suggests it can help you remain on task and get more work done in shorter periods of time.
Early research and testing indicate that CBD may help to slow cognitive decline. Perhaps more astonishing, however, is its effect on those affected with Alzheimer’s Disease. It has been suggested that regular Cannabidiol use may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and minimize some of the most common complications of the condition.
Researchers noted a direct impact of CBD on physical neurologic markers. These appear to influence facial recognition and could potentially mitigate social withdrawal that is common among individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions.
Some Final Thoughts
People have long understood the importance of cannabis and cannabis-derived products. They have appeared in both cultural and medical applications for millennia.
Cannabinoids are present in all cannabis plants. Growers have selectively bred varieties for their particular chemical profiles. For example, industrial hemp is bred to have extremely low levels of THC (less than 0.3%), which makes it ideal for THC-free CBD production.
Cannabinoids in general, and Cannabidiol in particular, have come under scrutiny for their ability to help with a wide variety of medical conditions. CBD has been suggested as an effective method for:
- Reducing pain and inflammation
- Improving focus and attention
- Reducing the frequency and intensity of seizures
- Protecting against memory loss and social withdrawal
- Easing anxiety
- Lowering stress levels
- Increasing athletic performance
- Aiding in muscle recovery
- Decreasing symptoms of depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Despite mounting research and evidence showing the safety and efficacy of CBD, many people still attach a stigma to the compound. Cannabidiol is considered a relatively safe treatment option for most people. There are limited reports of side effects. These are minimal and may include nausea, irritability, and sleeping issues. As with any medical treatment, you should seek the advice of your health professional if you have any questions or concerns.