The cannabidiol (CBD) industry is currently booming, with many people finding that it may be able to relieve a wide variety of illnesses or everyday inconveniences. This article will explain what CBD is and how it is used, and explore some of the health claims surrounding it.

CBD DEFINED

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the decarboxylated phytocannabinoid of CBDa found in heated cannabis. It was discovered in 1964 and is the second most abundant phytocannabinoid found in cannabis. CBD is one cannabinoid out of more than 100 that can be found in cannabis plants.

Because of CBD’s impact on the body’s endocannabinoid system, it can interact with the body and influence mood, appetite, immune responses, hormones, and sleep.

The legality and classification of CBD depend on the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is the chemical compound that causes the “high” associated with marijuana use; however, THC must be consumed in large amounts for this effect to be felt. Crucially, the level of THC determines whether CBD can be considered hemp or marijuana. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD is legal when it contains under 0.3% of THC (read more about CBD’s legal status here).

Up until recently, CBD itself was incorrectly considered the same as THC by both the DEA and FDA. In June of 2018, however, CBD was federally reclassified from a Schedule I to Schedule V drug in the US – the least-restrictive category of drugs. In December of 2018, the 2018 Farm Bill officially reclassified hemp and CBD away from any drug scheduling. This allowed the Department of Agriculture to manage it as a crop. This bill also allowed interstate commerce of hemp and hemp products, including CBD. It also let hemp farmers purchase crop insurance, and opened the door to additional research from pharmaceutical companies.

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HOW IS HEMP-BASED CBD DIFFERENT TO MARIJUANA?

Both marijuana and hemp are derived from the cannabis plant and can look pretty similar to the untrained eye. However, there are differences between the two, both from a botanical and a legal point of view.

Firstly, hemp is the most commonly used word for cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC. When CBD comes from hemp oil, it will contain less than 0.3% THC and, therefore, have no intoxicating effects.

Marijuana, on the other hand, is simply the term for cannabis with a THC level of 0.3% or more – it can sometimes be as high as 30%. CBD derived from marijuana will likely have a THC level above 0.3% and, therefore, be illegal in most of the US.

Another difference is how cannabis plants are cultivated. By growing the plant in a specified environment, farmers can determine whether it will be female (and, therefore, have a high THC content and considered to be marijuana) or male (and, therefore, have a low THC content and considered to be hemp). Growing marijuana requires a lot of control and a high level of attention, while hemp is easier to produce in large amounts.

HOW DOES CBD WORK?

Both CBD and THC are cannabinoids; natural components found in hemp. However, and in contrast to CBD, THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid, i.e. it can cause intoxicating effects.

THC works by binding to two types of receptors in your body’s natural endocannabinoid system: CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors. This binding, especially its binding to CB1, is what causes the “high”.

As CBD mostly affects CB2 receptors instead of CB1, it produces no psychotropic effects, and its effects can be felt immediately.

Any strain containing more than 8% CBD is considered a high CBD strain, as CBD binds to CB2 receptors much quicker and much easier than THC does to CB1 ones.

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NON-MEDICAL USES OF CBD

Throughout history, hemp has been used in a multitude of ways (over 50,000, in fact!). This is because it is made up of some of the strongest naturally made fibers in the plant world.

Some of its most common uses include:

TEXTILES, INDUSTRIAL TEXTILES, AND BUILDING MATERIALS

From clothes to diapers, hemp fibers are known to create sturdy textiles. This also includes shoes, bags, denim, and several types of fine fabrics. Even the Mayflower’s sails were made of hemp.

Except for everyday clothing, hemp is also used for items such as rope. Tarps and canvas are often sewn with hemp fibers, as are caulking, netting, and carpeting. Molded items and specially molded parts in the industrial world, as well as fiberboard, fiberglass, and insulation, may also utilize hemp fibers.

Additionally, hemp oil can be used to seal furniture, and can also be found in oil paints and other oil products. It’s also included in varnishes, fuel, and printing ink.

FOOD

A multitude of studies has indicated that hemp has several beneficial properties. Hemp seeds or hemp hearts are high in fat and highly nutritious. Hemp seed oil can also be used as cooking oil.

Hemp is also used in protein powders as a popular method for vegans to ingest the necessary proteins. It is made by grinding the hemp seeds into a powder and ends up with a nutty taste which is perfect for smoothies.

PAPER

Because of their strength, hemp fibers can create strong, high-quality paper. Hemp can also be a useful ingredient in newsprint, special packaging, and cardboard. Even the Declaration of Independence was written on paper made from hemp fibers, as were the best Bibles.

SELF-CARE

Because of its potent anti-inflammatory properties, hemp seed oil (as well as hemp supplements) is often used cosmetically to improve the skin, especially in regards to acne. There are multiple hemp soaps and shampoos on the market today, and hemp can be found in makeup, lotions, lip balms, and other cosmetics.

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POSSIBLE HEALTH BENEFITS OF CBD

While CBD has recently been promoted as a panacea, many medical experts caution against the hype often associated with it. The problem is that, after decades of stagnant medical research because of its illegal status, rigorous studies into CBD have only recently started.

Given the fact that, in 2018, 75 studies were being conducted in the US alone, this will surely change in the near future. Until then, most studies already conducted suffer from problems such as small samples, lack of control groups, etc.

Unfortunately, this has led many to completely dismiss CBD’s possible health benefits and the many studies performed on hemp-derived CBD that have helped researchers understand the benefits and effects of CBD extracts and oils.

One of the most comprehensive studies on CBD was conducted in 2017 by the World Health Organization (WHO). They found no public health risks or abuse potential for CBD. The WHO concluded that naturally occurring CBD was safe and well tolerated in humans and animals, and is not associated with any negative public health effects. Specifically, the WHO report found that:

In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential. CBD has been demonstrated as an effective treatment of epilepsy in several clinical trials, with one pure CBD product (Epidiolex®) currently in Phase III trials. There is also preliminary evidence that CBD may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions.

CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile. Reported adverse effects may be as a result of drug-drug interactions between CBD and patients’ existing medications.

To date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.

The report included a list of diseases for which CBD may have a therapeutic benefit:

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The consensus among the medical community is that:

  • CBD has strong anti-inflammatory properties. These seem to be most effective when the cannabinoid is used to relieve acne, arthritis, and other painful or uncomfortable conditions.
  • CBD has potent antibacterial capabilities. Some studies have observed that hemp, along with other fibrous plants, can be utilized to fight against several types of pathogenic bacteria.

Because of these properties, CBD may benefit people with several different conditions, some of which are outlined in further detail below.

1 – CBD AND EPILEPSY

One of the few proven medical benefits of CBD involves syndromes of childhood epilepsy.

As a neurological disorder, epilepsy can cause seizures of varying levels. The episodes can be recurring and sudden and often lead to convulsions, irregular electrical brain activity, fainting, and lack of consciousness. Whereas strokes are defined as disruption or loss of blood circulation taking place in the brain, seizures are neurological and occur when there is an electrical surge in the brain.

Among the several treatments available for epilepsy is Epidiolex; a CBD derivative approved by the FDA in June 2018. Specifically, Epidiolex has been approved for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome for patients 2 years of age and older. Dravet syndrome is triggered when a patient is exposed to high temperatures. Lennox Gastaut syndrome most often causes tonic seizures, which cause an uncontrollable contraction of muscles. Several patients with Lennox Gastaut syndrome often experience either long seizure episodes or a cluster of short ones.

It should be stressed that Epidiolex aims at decreasing both the severity and frequency of seizures; not cure epilepsy.

2 – CBD AND EATING DISORDERS

For many people, eating is an enjoyable experience. For others, it is a source of fear, stress, and anxiety, which can lead to eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

Anorexia usually causes a person to feel intense anxiety at the thought of eating, leading to them avoiding food completely. Those with bulimia, on the other hand, will experience an avoidance of food, but will ultimately lose control and eat a huge amount of calories at once. This is then followed by an immediate purge of food.

Both anorexia and bulimia are often caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and can have serious negative effects on a person’s physical and mental health. Studies suggest that hemp CBD can cause a welcome alteration in the brain’s chemistry, causing a decrease in anxiety and an increase in appetite.

3 – CBD AND INSOMNIA

While insomnia is usually defined as a condition which deprives people of sleep, some people are able to fall asleep but don’t have the ability to stay that way for more than a short period of time.

Those with insomnia experience high levels of fatigue, a decrease in energy, decreased performance and concentration, and/or mood changes and disturbances. Sometimes, insomnia is temporary and occurs at times of high stress and pressure. However, chronic insomnia can occur every day and last several months, or even longer. In some cases, the condition may be due to psychological issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, or anxiety. External and physical factors such as stress, chronic pain, endocrine issues, allergies, or asthma may also impact a person’s ability to sleep, as can lifestyle choices, such as working irregular hours.

There are several treatments for this condition. Many people will turn to over-the-counter medicines or medical prescriptions. If insomnia is caused by mental issues, individuals will often try therapy. Others, simply learn to change their lifestyles.

Studies indicate that hemp CBD interacts with melatonin and other key receptors in the brain to impact sleep cycles. It also has been shown to decrease anxiety, which can be a huge factor when it comes to insomnia.

A 2016 study observed a 10-year-old girl with PTSD and insomnia. Pharmaceutical medications were unable to permanently help alleviate her condition, but CBD was able to significantly improve her condition. Whereas she was unable to sleep alone beforehand, she was soon able to sleep in her own room as well as perform better in school.

You can read more about how CBD can help combat insomnia and improve your sleep here.

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4 – CBD AND PTSD/ANXIETY

Many people suffer from anxiety, which is an intense feeling of worry or general unease. It often arises due to specified triggers or uncertainty. In some cases, this anxiety can lead to panic attacks or unhealthy and compulsive behavior.

Although anxiety medications work extremely well for some people, many come with several negative side-effects, with some causing further anxiety, depression, or insomnia. If you are taking medication to ease anxiety and it is simultaneously causing insomnia or depression, more issues can quickly surface.

PTSD can have a big effect on anxiety. It takes place after individuals experience a traumatic event such as activity in the military, sexual assault, abuse, or extreme injuries. However, pharmaceutical medications for PTSD are often unable to improve a person’s condition.

Studies have shown positive effects when the patients used CBD as a treatment. One study used the treatment first on animals, then on humans. Both results were successful in treating PTSD and helping patients sleep better and feel less anxious in their day-to-day life.

5 – CBD AND CHRONIC PAIN RELIEF

Chronic pain occurs due to a wide variety of ailments, including arthritis, pain related to cancer, neuropathic pain, and inflammatory pain.

Inflammatory pain and neuropathic pain are two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. As the name suggests, inflammatory pain is a result of swelling stimulating the nerves, which causes soreness and pain. Neuropathic pain, however, takes place when there is damage to the somatosensory nervous system (the nervous system relating to the sensation of touch). The pain may be episodic, continuous, or a mixture of both. It is hard to treat without extensive and strong medications, but even then, the pain can still be intense.

Studies have shown that CBD can inhibit neuropathic pain by reducing inflammation. This is also the case for other types of chronic pain such as arthritis, which can be treated by applying CBD to the skin. Again, the CBD inhibits this pain through its anti-inflammatory properties.

The method CBD uses to relieve pain is through an interaction with receptors found in the immune system and brain. When CBD interacts with these receptors, it can reduce pain and inflammation, both of which can relieve people suffering from chronic pain.

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6 – CBD AND TREATMENT OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Not only is CBD non-addictive but, perhaps surprisingly, studies suggest that it can help stop substance abuse.

A 2015 research studied a young male with recreational marijuana addiction. During treatment with CBD, the patient did not use any marijuana, even after his dose was decreased from 24 mg to 18 mg.

Overall, the patient perceived a decrease in his anxiety and an increase in the quality of his sleep. In fact, some CBD researchers believe that CBD may be able to reduce the effects of THC on those addicted to marijuana and other substances.

7 – CBD AND CANCER SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT SIDE-EFFECTS

Both cancer and its treatment can cause extreme pain and discomfort. A study involving a CBD-based mouth spray saw decreased levels of nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy.

There is ongoing research on the benefits of CBD oil for pain relief in cancer patients. The initial findings are promising, since CBD oil seems to be effective in managing cancer symptoms and treatment symptoms. Due to its powerful anti-inflammatory qualities, CBD oil could act as a major pain relief by reducing inflammation. In one study, patients who received CBD supplements experienced far less pain than those without.

Cancer-related pain can occur either due to inflammation or tumors touching and hurting organs; CBD oil could alleviate such pain.

CBD oil is also believed to be effective in treating chemotherapy-related symptoms like nausea and vomiting.

A recent study (Nature, July 2018) also found that combining chemotherapy with CBD inhibited the proliferation rate of cancer cells and tripled the survival rate of mice with pancreatic cancer. A 2013 study found that the same combination of therapies decreased the reproduction of cancer cells, while several other studies have found that this mixture helps repair damaged cells and maintain the balance of healthy cells in the body.

There is plenty of ongoing research on the effects of THC and CBD in actively reducing cancer tumors, with promising initial results. However, as of today, there is no approved drug protocol which includes THC or CBD for cancer treatment.

If you are thinking of trying CBD or THC for cancer-related symptoms, consult with your doctor first as it can impede your treatment.

You can read more about CBD and THC cannabinoids and their effect on cancer here.

HOW SAFE IS CBD?

Several companies offer multiple CBD products, including CBD isolate oil, full-spectrum CBD oil, CBD capsules, and CBD gummies. When taken in the right doses, they may have a distinctly positive effect on many health conditions.

However, as with any medication, CBD can also have side-effects, such as nausea or dry mouth. Also, because CBD is effective in the treatment of eating disorders and insomnia, side-effects can include fatigue and appetite changes. Thankfully, CBD’s side-effects are not considered serious, and it is practically impossible to overdose on the cannabinoid or become physically addicted to it.

If you are taking other medications, it’s important to consult with a doctor before taking CBD, as they could have negative interactions. For example, CBD can cause the levels of other medications already in your system to rise, including blood thinners such as Coumadin. And glaucoma patients should avoid CBD, as it can increase intraocular pressure.

It should be stressed that, while hemp and its products are legal in all 50 US states, the FDA does not regulate CBD. Because of this, CBD products cannot be sold as medication, but as health supplements instead. It is advisable to purchase a product from a company that provides third-party lab test results that clearly show the exact content and confirm the presence or absence of harmful chemicals and pesticides.

However, CBD dosage can have a big effect on its effectiveness, as can its quality.

No matter how you choose to take CBD, you need to make sure you have bought it from a trusted source and ask for a Certificate of Analysis. Research has shown that the majority of products in the market have misleading information on their labels. Mislabeled products claim that they contain less than 0.3% of THC but actually contain more. This can make you test positive for THC in drug tests. Other products contain less CBD than they claim.

That is why it is essential to ask for the manufacturer’s COA (Certificate of Analysis) when buying CBD products. It is even better when such tests are handled by a third-party facility, explicitly certified for THC analysis. It is best to buy CBD oil produced from hemp grown by trusted hemp farmers.

This is particularly important, as hemp is used in many countries to clean up the soil by absorbing heavy metals and pesticides from the ground. This produces polluted hemp, which leads to polluted CBD oil. CBD oil from locally grown hemp, produced in qualified laboratories, and tested during the extraction process is the best guarantee that you are buying real CBD oil.

Read more tips on choosing a reputable CBD producer here!

Have you tried CBD for an ailment or condition? Did it work for you? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments!