Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring compound found in the flower of cannabis, a plant with has been used as medicine for thousands of years. Shown to be a safe, non-addictive substance, CBD is one of more than a hundred “phytocannabinoids,” that are unique to cannabis and provide it’s therapeutic properties.
CBD is closely related to another important (and more widely known) phytocannabinoid: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is the compound that causes the high that cannabis has been widely known for.
While both CBD and THC have significant therapeutic attributes, CBD does not make a person feel “stoned” or intoxicated. That’s because CBD and THC act in different ways on endocannabinoid receptors in the brain and body.
CBD will actually lessen or neutralize the psychoactive effects of THC, depending on how much of each compound is consumed. Many people want the health benefits of cannabis without the high of THC and this is where CBD comes into play.
The fact that CBD is therapeutically potent as well as non-intoxicating, and easy to consume in many forms, makes it an appealing treatment option for those who are cautious about trying cannabis for the first time.
CBD: THE MULTIPURPOSE MOLECULE
Natural medicine is on the rise as people are seeking alternatives to pharmaceuticals and their harsh side effects. By tapping into how we function biologically, CBD has shown to provide relief for inflammation, pain, anxiety, depression, and multiple other conditions.
Extensive scientific research, and mounting first hand accounts from patients and physicians highlight CBD’s potential as a treatment for a wide range of maladies, including (but not limited to):
- Autoimmune diseases
- Neurological conditions
- Metabolic syndromes
- Neuropsychiatric illness
- Digestive problems
- Cardiovascular dysfunction
- Skin ailments
CBD’s anti-cancer properties are being investigated at several academic research centers in the United States and world-wide. A 2010 brain cancer study by California scientists found that CBD “enhances the inhibitory effects of THC on human glioblastoma cell proliferation and survival.” This means that CBD makes THC even more potent as an anticancer substance. This is frequently refer to as the entourage effect and is why you should shop for full-spectrum CBD products. Also in 2010, German researchers reported that CBD stimulates neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells, in adult mammals.
HOW DOES CBD WORK?
CBD and THC interact with our bodies in a variety of ways. One of the main ways they impact us is by mimicking and augmenting the effects of the naturally occurring compounds in our bodies called “endogenous cannabinoids.” These are compound found in all of us that are very similar to the molecules found in the cannabis plant. These endocannabinoids are part of a regulatory system called the endocannabinoid system.
The discovery of the endocannabinoid system has significantly advanced our understanding of health and disease. It has major implications for nearly every area of medical science, and helps to explain how and why CBD and THC are such versatile compounds.
The endocannabinoid system plays a pivotal role in regulating a broad range of physiological and psychological processes that affect our everyday experience.
What would happen if the endocannabinoid system failed to function properly? What are the consequences of a chronically deficient or overactive endocannabinoid system?
In a word, disease.
It has been shown, that in almost every disease process, there is a deregulated endocannabinoid system to accompany it. Thus, it can be theorized that “modulating endocannabinoid system activity may have therapeutic potential in almost all diseases affecting humans,” as Pal Pacher and George Kunos, scientists with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggested in a 2014 publication.
By refining the endocannabinoid system and enhancing endocannabinoid tone, CBD and THC can slow – or in some cases stop or reverse – disease progression.
CBD oil products and flower with varying levels of CBD can be found all over the internet as well as in local health store and vape shops.
In response to massive consumer demand, a huge, unregulated market in CBD oil products reached head in 2018. A surge of consumer interest in CBD began to show on the news, and flooded the internet with praise coming from athletes, film stars, soccer moms, and parents of desperately ill children.
CBD oil has been touted as a curative for the sick and a preventive for the healthy, an all-purpose palliative for people and pets of all ages.
But along with a growing awareness of cannabidiol as a potential health aide, there has also been a expanse of falsities about CBD and cannabis.
THE CBD CHALLENGE
CBD is a molecule, not a miracle. Many people could benefit significantly from legal access to a wide range of cannabis remedies, not just low-THC or no-THC products. CBD alone may not always do the trick. There is compelling evidence that CBD works best in combination with THC and the full spectrum of other cannabis components.
Figuring out how to optimize one’s therapeutic use of cannabis is the driving force behind the great laboratory experiment in democracy known as medical marijuana that’s been unfolding state-by-state and country-by-country in recent years.
The advent of potent cannabis oil concentrates, non-intoxicating CBD-rich products, and innovative, smokeless delivery systems has transformed the therapeutic landscape and changed the public conversation about cannabis.
It’s no longer a matter of debating whether cannabis has merit as an herbal medication – today the key challenge is discerning how to utilize cannabis for maximum therapeutic benefit. Given its low-risk profile, many people are using CBD as an add-on therapy to their existing treatment plans.
But most health professionals know little about CBD or cannabis therapeutics or they have pre-existing aversions to it. They lack sufficient expertise to adequately counsel patients regarding dosing, modes of administration, full-spectrum synergies, and any risk factors, including interactions with current medications and supplements.
Instead, the duty has been on a loose-knit community of self-reliant patients, supportive families and a few pioneer physicians who’ve learned a lot through trial and error and shared information about how to navigate promising avenues of cannabis therapy.
WHAT ABOUT CBD FROM HEMP?
CBD has also catalyzed the rebirth of the U.S. hemp industry, which lay dormant for decades because of drug war politics. The 2018 Farm Bill includes a provision that legalizes the cultivation of hemp (cannabis with less than 0.3 percent THC) in large part because of the popularity and driving economic force of CBD.
Growing hemp is now an exploding agricultural enterprise in the United States. Cannabidiol is just a mouse click or a phone tap away for anyone willing to roll the dice and purchase CBD oil products that are manufactured with little regulatory oversight.
The upside of all this is easy access to CBD oil; the downside is inconsistent quality.
Many hemp-derived CBD oil products are mislabeled as to CBD and THC content. And poorly processed CBD oil may be tainted with toxic solvent residues, pesticides, corn syrup, artificial flavors and colors, and other contaminants.
Fortunately, good quality CBD oil products are also available for the conscientious consumer – the label reader, the brand researcher – who understands that cannabis and CBD are best used as part of a healthy lifestyle.