Plant Medicine: CBD

Depending on where you live, you may have started to see “CBD” products – capsules, tinctures, salves – pop up in your natural food stores or even at the supermarket. And if you’re “canna-curious,” you may have questions about the health benefits of this non-psychotropic medicinal as well as its different forms and delivery methods. Understanding how CBD works and what’s available can steer you toward a product that works best for your individual needs.

Wide-Ranging Benefits

CBD, aka cannabidiol, is a compound found in the cannabis plant, but unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive and non-intoxicating, meaning there’s no “high” associated with it, making it much more tolerable for a wider variety of people and the reason it has received so much attention as of late.

While the FDA does not allow companies to make health claims about CBD products, there’s enough anecdotal evidence to suggest it can be a very effective, natural medicine. For example, the Medical Board of California’s “Guidelines for the Recommendation of Cannabis for Medical Purposes” names medical conditions including cancer, anorexia, AID’s, chronic pain, spasticity, arthritis, and migraines as conditions that respond well to cannabis treatments.

So, why is CBD so effective in treating such a wide array of conditions? CBD acts as a regulator of the endocannabinoid {EC} system, a communications system in the brain and body that plays a pivotal role in homeostasis. Homeostasis helps to regulate vital functions in the body like the immune, digestive, central nervous, and cardiovascular systems. The EC system, therefore, plays an important role in body functions like sleep, perception of pain, metabolism, cognition, and pleasure, and CBD helps modulate these functions. The list of conditions CBD may treat continues to grow, but the following have the most anecdotal evidence.

Sleep

CBD improves the quality of sleep by helping people fall asleep and stay asleep. While it’s been shown to assist with sleeping disorders like insomnia, it also alleviates the symptoms that disturb a good night’s sleep, such as stress, anxiety, and restlessness.

Pain Management

Because CBD is an anti-inflammatory, it’s great for pain, especially with conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines, cramps, and even gut-related disorders like colitis and Crohn’s disease. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that CBD significantly reduced chronic inflammation and neuropathic pain in animals. If you have chronic pain, consider a regular CBD regimen as this will likely prove more effective than just taking it once in a while.

Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

CBD calms the body and mind, alleviating stress and stress-related disorders, improving cognitive functions and mood, reducing anxiety {general, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder}, trauma-related disorders like PTSD, and depression.

Neurological Conditions

There is strong scientific evidence that CBD effectively treats neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. For example, well-known documented cases if CBD shows it reducing the severity and number of seizures in children who were previously unresponsive to anti-seizure medications. The CBD-heavy cannabis strain “Charlotte’s Web” was created specifically for Charlotte Figi, who was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a rare and severe form of epilepsy that was causing her to have 300 grand mal seizures a week.

Cancer-Related Symptoms

This includes nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite associated with chemotherapy, as well as pain. Although more research needs to be conducted, CBD used in combination with chemotherapy could assist in combating cancer cells and suppressing cancer cell growth overall.

Hemp – vs. Cannabis-Extracted CBD

Depending on where you live, you have two CBD choices: CBD derived from hemp or CBD derived from THC.

CBD can be extracted from cannabis and hemp, and there’s a reason why that matters. If you were to see a cannabis plant and a hemp plant next to each other, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference. They look the same because they come from the same plant species: Cannabis sativa. The difference is that in order for a plant to be classified as “hemp,” it has to be bred to contain very low levels of THC, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis {i.e., what causes a “high”} – less than .3 percent to be exact. When CBD is derived from hemp, there are only minute traces of THC, whereas CBD that comes from cannabis can have larger amounts of THC present. If you are sensitive to THC or you don’t want to experience possible psychoactive effects, you’re better off sticking with hemp-derived CBD. But if you’re not sensitive to a little THC, there are benefits to cannabis-derived CBD.

Hemp-Derived CBD

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of hemp, removing hemp and hemp-derived products from its former Schedule 1 status within the Controlled Substance Act, making CBD derived from hemp federally legal in the U.S. so that it’s accessible to anyone that wants to try it.

At your local health food store, you’ll typically find CBD oil, capsules, tinctures, salves, and edibles like chocolate. The dosage of these products varies, and where to start depends on your tolerance and ailment. Taking 10-25 mg of CBD is a great place to stat for newbies. If you’re especially sensitive to medications you may wish to start at 5 – you may not feel the effects of the medicine, but it will provide a gauge for how your body will respond.

Once you’ve experimented a bit with the options, you may wish to branch out. You can go online and search “hemp-derived CBD products” and find a multitude of choices, but here’s where things get a bit tricky. While the FDA has regulatory authority over CBD, it has not established any definitive set of rules for the industry other than barring cannabidiol products from being sold as dietary supplements. As a result, there are serious quality control issues in the market at the moment. Products can be poorly labeled, have inconsistent quality and/or be overly processed, or they might contain toxins like pesticides, mold, and solvent residues. You will need to research reputable brands to find good-quality CBD.

Look for products that have been tested by a third-party lab, ensuring that the product is microbial, pesticide, and solvent-free. Buy CBD products made with organic, American-grown hemp or cannabis. Consumer Reports suggests looking for products made in states that have legalized the recreational and medical use of cannabis since they have more regulations and testing procedures in place.

Cannabis-Derived CBD

If you live in a state where recreational use is legal, you can try CBD products from a licensed dispensary. The same goes if you live in a state where medicinal use is legal and you have your medical marijuana card.

While CBD derived from hemp has only trace amounts of THC, CBD derived from cannabis will include various amounts. Some people prefer cannabis-derived CBD, as the two cannabinoids -CBD and THC – work very well together, creating what’s known as the “entourage effect,” where each enhances the therapeutic benefits of the other.

There are strains of cannabis bred specifically to be high in CBD and low in THC, including ‘ACDA,’ ‘Cannatonic,’ ‘Charlottes Web,’ ‘Ringo’s Gift,’ ‘Sour Tsunami,’ ‘Harlequin,’ and ‘Hawaiian Dream.’

With extracts like CBD oils and tinctures, you can find different ratios available. A ratio of 1:1 for example, means there are equal parts CBD to THC. If you don’t want to be “high” or prefer milder psychoactive effects from the THC, look for high CBD ratios like 15:1, 10:1, and 7:1. For some, having just a little THC enhances the overall benefits of CBD without any negative side effects.

Full Spectrum CBD Oil

Because CBD has only just been legalized, it will take a while for scientific research to back up mounting anecdotal evidence of its therapeutic profile and medicinal benefits, but you can be sure it’s coming.

Isolate, Full Spectrum, and Broad Spectrum CBD

When shopping for CBD products, you’ll find three choices that relate to the extraction process: isolate, full-spectrum, and broad-spectrum.

    • CBD isolate is more than 99 percent pure CBD – the CBD molecules are isolated from the other parts of a hemp or cannabis plant.
    • Full Spectrum CBD also called “whole-plant formula,” extracts CBD along with other beneficial phytocannabinoids, including trace amounts of THC as well as terpenes and flavonoids.
    • Broad Spectrum CBD is like full spectrum but contains zero THC. While CBD isolate is pure CBD, researchers believe that full and broad-spectrum extracts offer more therapeutic value, as they’re more bioavailable and activate more benefits.

10mg CBD Oil

Delivery and Dosage

How you choose to consume CBD depends on what you wish to treat, the effect you hope to achieve, how long you want it to last, and what feels the most comfortable and convenient for you. No “dosing protocol” or medical predictability exists, which makes dosing a bit tricky, so you’ll have to do some experimentation. ‘Low and slow” is key: start with a low dosage and take it slow. Although you cannot die from a cannabis overdose {there’s not a single documented case in the world}, you can “over dose” yourself, resulting in symptoms like high anxiety and paranoia from intense psychoactive effects. Don’t rush the process; start with 5-10 mg and go from there.

Smoking or Vaporizing Flower

“Flower” refers to the trichome-covered part of a female cannabis plant. As mentioned, there are strains of cannabis bred specifically for high amounts of CBD and low THC. The benefit of smoking or vaporizing {“vaping”} flower is that the effect is felt almost immediately, making self-regulation of dosage fairly easy. If you have health issues and don’t want to smoke, you can put flower into a vaporizer, an electronic device that heats dried flower to vapor.

CBD Oil Capsules

Also called “canna caps,” these contain a concentrated extraction of CBD. Fast-acting because they’re so easy to metabolize, they’re also discreet and the dosage is easy to control. Read the label, but capsules typically work for 4-6 hours.

CBD Oil Tinctures

These are extracted from flower or plant matter using alcohol, oil, or vegetable glycerin. Dropped sublingually under the tongue, CBD absorbs immediately into the bloodstream. People like tinctures because they’re easy to control, discreet, and fast-acting.

Buyer Beware: A product labeled as “hemp oil” is not necessarily a CBD product. Read the label carefully to see how much CBD it contains. A product labeled “hemp seed oil” does not contain CBD naturally, unless it has been added.

CBD Infused Edibles

From chocolate to gummies to beverages, CBD edibles come in an incredible variety of forms. Edibles require a bit more time to take effect because the digestive system has to break them down, so depending on what’s already in your stomach and how fast your metabolism works, they may take anywhere from 1-3 hours to kick in, and the effect can last between 4-8 depending on the dosage. For this reason, more than any other delivery method, low and slow is the key with edibles. Start with no more than 10 mg and wait and see how you feel.

At the end of the day, our physiology is complex, so it will likely some trial and error to figure out what works for you. Consider keeping a journal, noting what you tried, the dosage, how long it took to kick in, how long it lasted, and how it made you feel – and whether it worked beneficially for your body.

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