What is CBD?
We get bombarded with all sorts of remedies for what ails us. Some are powders or creams, some are to be smoked or taken in pill form. You’ve heard of essential oils, Kratom, pro-biotics, CBD—it can be confusing. One confusing thing about CBD is that one might expect it to be three words, one starting with “C” etc. Rather, CBD is Cannabidiol, a phytocannabinoid that helps relieve pain and is known to have anti-depressant properties.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about CBD—its chemical makeup, its origins, how it is produced and how it is beneficial.
It’s Not Marijuana, But What IS CBD?
We’ve established that CBD is short for cannabidiol. To put that in context, we need to look at a few key terms.
First, cannabinoid: Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that are found in Cannabis plants. They start as Cannabinoid acids, and when affected by heat, become Cannabinoids proper. Cannabidiols are one major type of Cannabinoid.
Now, the plot thickens when we consider that, like amino acids or minerals like Iron, Cannabinoids naturally occur in the human body. This takes us to our next term, the Endocannabinoid System. This is abbreviated ECS and it’s composed of the cannabinoids themselves, their receptors, and enzymes that break down cannabinoids. Well, one of the key functions of the ECS is keeping balance (homeostasis) in our systems. So when you get that sharp pang of hunger, it’s the ECS telling you to eat, to get your undernourished system back into balance. More on the subject of CBD, the ECS keeps us balanced by helping to regulate sleep, supporting our immune system, fighting inflammation, and activating our pleasure and reward system. When these processes are helped along by the ECS, the enzymes in the system will eventually push back so that our system won’t go overboard—we’ll go back into balance.
So, when you hear the term phytocannabinoid, that means a cannabinoid that comes from a plant. There are about a hundred of them.
Now, on to Cannabis. Cannabis is a genus of plants. Genus is a grouping between family (for example, dog) and species (pit bull). (A pit bull’s genus is canis.) There are three main species of Cannabis plants, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.
Cannabis Sativa is the plant otherwise known as marijuana. In other words, not all Cannabis plants are marijuana—Cannabis is the larger grouping, and the Sativa variety is what is largely called “pot.” The distinction comes from THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. Yes, it is a Cannabinoid, along with CBD. Well, the various Cannabis plants can sport different levels of THC. One common way of classifying them is to designate that Cannabis plants with more than 0.3% THC are marijuana, and those with less than 0.3 are hemp.
So, if you’re using the leaves of a plant with a higher than 0.3% concentration, you have marijuana, pot, wacky tobacky, electric lettuce, etc. CBD, on the other hand, is an extract from one variety or another of Cannabis either with a lower concentration, or if not, the THC has been removed. CBD absolutely cannot contain more than 0.3% THC.
To review, the two major cannabinoids to come from the outside world, which we can take in to supplement those in our bodies, are THC and CBD. THC is what makes marijuana what it is, while CBD comes from Cannabis plants that don’t have significant amounts of THC.
CBD Compared to THC
The cannabinoid THC really activates the pleasure and reward parts of our ECS, causing feelings of euphoria, which most people call a “high.” That is the name-brand difference between THC and CBD: CBD does not produce psychoactive effects related to mellowness or joy.
While THC is listed as a Schedule I drug under the U.S.’s Controlled Substances Act, it has been legalized in California, Michigan, and Colorado, Vermont, Maine, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, DC. Except for a handful of very conservative states, THC/marijuana is either decriminalized or legal for medical use in the rest of the country.
As for the medical benefits of THC, it provides positive effects for the following conditions:
- Chronic pain
Side effects can include dizziness, dry mouth, limited brain function, red eyes, and depression, among other possible side effects. Naturally, those looking to use this cannabidiol for pain relief, mood enhancement, etc., run into the danger of the impairment they face when under the influence. You sure can’t be caught under the influence at work, and as we’ve seen, in most parts of the country, you have to be cleared for medical use to get it-legally. And that brings us to CBD.
In the game of CBD vs. marijuana, the major difference is that CBD doesn’t get you high, which means it isn’t psychoactive. Here’s how this works. We mentioned Cannabinoid receptors earlier. Now it’s time to mention that there are two main types, conveniently named CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found mostly in the brain—specifically, they rest on the surface of cells (where you’d expect something that receives messages to be, right?). These are the receptors that THC bonds with, and in short, this is where the “high” and any psychoactive action happens. CB2 receptors are in various parts of the body, but primarily the immune system. The way CBD works is interesting because it actually doesn’t bind with either type of receptor. But don’t get mad that we explained the types of receptors to you, because that info is still important.
Now, on to the issue of legality, which is a big point of comparison between CBD and pot. One of the properties that defines what is CBD is its legality. The main thing you need to know is that CBD derived from hemp is federally legal due to the 2018 Farm Bill. The main substance of this law is to legalize the industrial growth of hemp.
Because hemp is legal, it is also the case that CBD derived from it is also federally legal. CBD is legal if:
- It comes from the hemp plant. Some CBD comes from the Cannabis plant, has its TGC removed and is tested to ensure it falls under the 0.3% THC threshold. However, almost all CBD comes from hemp, and it is easy to find this out from the manufacturer.
- It comes from hemp grown by a licensed grower.
- The grower adheres to federal and state regulations.
Now, CBD derived from Cannabis is legal for medicinal use in all states states but Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
If you live in one of the nine states that, at the time of this writing, allow marijuana for recreational use, you don’t have anything to worry about—any variety of CBD is good to go, for any kind of use.
CBD’s Pain Relief
We saw that THC works on pain. But CBD is even more beneficial for a wider variety of pain. When a person uses CBD, rather than binding with these CB receptors, it works with them to activate TRPV1 receptors. The receptors tell us when we are too hot and they also detect pain. Detection is the first step to a remedy, so CBD is important in getting the immune system going to fight pain.
CBD also activates a neurotransmitter called Anandamide, and this may be the larger benefit. Anandamide has also been proven to stop the spread of breast cancer cells. It is centered in the part of the brain associated with higher-level thinking and memory. Further, Anandamide helps grow cells (this is called neurogenesis) and has anti-anxiety and anti-depression benefits.
One of the reasons CBD users feel improved mood when taking it is that Anandamide produces medium-term sensations of joy (and is nicknamed “the bliss molecule”). Incidentally, chocolate contains Anandamide, as a reference point.
So, rather than binding to the CB receptors per se, CBD works on many functions of the ECS, including activating Anandamide—it’s nice to have brain cells growing while also feeling some bliss.
As to the medical benefits of CBD, they include relief of:
- Chronic pain
- Multiple Sclerosis
All of these have been not only experienced by thousands of people, but are documented and scientifically tested. Further, many people use CBD as a substitute for opioids, and/or a way of getting off of an addiction to these dangerous drugs.
There is no possibility of overdosing on CBD and it is not addictive. But what sets it apart from marijuana definitively is that there are no side effects of CBD. It doesn’t harm the central nervous function or cognitive functions at all. Now, if people become drowsy while using CBD, or if in a worst-case scenario, they have diarrhea, they should consult a doctor and try, first, to reduce their dosage.
CBD vs. marijuana is almost an apples vs. oranges comparison. However, it’s probably fair to conclude that what a lot of CBD users appreciate about it is that it’s a bit more medical than recreational in its effects; it’s legal in all fifty states, available in most cities, and largely without the stigma from which pot suffers.
How Does CBD Relieve Pain?
Well, if pain relief is one of the key benefits of CBD, we should go into a bit of detail in this area. One of the great things about how CBD works is that it is great as an anti-inflammatory agent. When we look at chronic conditions like fibromyalgia, Crohn’s Disease, and arthritis, a major common trait is inflammation. Remember that the ECS (endocannabinoid system) wants balance or homeostasis. Inflammation involves an imbalance of white blood cells and the swelling that it ultimately causes. CBD promotes the production of more cannabinoids, and does the things discussed in the last section. The result is decreased inflammation.
It’s also worth it to note that CBD is thought to protect neurons, which is particularly important when it comes to arthritis. Because there is no chance of overdose from CBD and because the side effects are rare and minor, one has the ability to try it after doing research and getting the facts.
What is CBD Oil?
Sometimes you hear the term CBD and sometimes you hear “CBD Oil.” In a sense the two are one and the same. Flowers of the hemp plant are picked, ground, and placed into a solvent. The chemicals that we call CBD then enter the solvent, which becomes CBD oil. That is how CBD and CBD oil are synonymous.
- CBD tinctures
The way that CBD oil is sold as oil (with a few ingredients sometimes added) is in the form of tinctures. These are small bottles that have the oil (which has been distilled, as outline above) and a small dropper. The user puts the correct number of droplets under her or his tongue and holds them there for roughly ninety seconds, as directed on the bottle. The number of milligrams per drop will be listed on the bottle, as will be the recommended serving.
One reason that users like tinctures is that they deliver the CBD most quickly into the system. The CBD doesn’t get broken down by the digestive system the way it does when taken either in pill or edible form. Some users prefer to take a pure oil rather than a product with sugar and additives in it as well. So, when you see signs advertising “CBD Oil,” they refer to tinctures.
What Other Forms Does CBD Oil Come In?
As we’ve seen above, the product referred to as CBD is an extract from the hemp plant. Because it is created via a solvent method, it is an oil. But in addition to being available in tinctures, CBD oil is the base of many CBD products.
- CBD Capsules- As is the case with most supplements, CBD is available in capsule form. Sometimes you’ll see it in gel caps, and sometimes in soft gels. This method is low-maintenance and quick, with no duration leaving droplets under one’s tongue. It involves some delay in delivery as is the cause with anything you take in capsule form.
- CBD Gummies- Those adverse to taking pills may prefer fun edibles. One can find CBD gummies in worm or bear form, or in varied shapes. Sometimes you’ll see gummies with as little as 5 mg each, but many vary from about 10-30.
Some CBD oil gummies are geared more toward sleep than others, and most will make users drowsy at about 50mg or more. They are often used for relaxation and some mood enhancement, but because they contain CBD, will deliver pain relief.
- Other CBD Edibles- It is common to find CBD oil infused in cookies and biscotti; one sometimes runs across other forms, such as almond bars, dried mango, raspberry clusters, turmeric chews, etc. Some of these edibles are more than a delivery system for CBD, but include a suite of very healthy ingredients (which includes CBD) for a holistic-healing approach that delivers great things to a person’s system. Some people opt to take in items like hemp, CBD, or THC with food ingredients.
Many brands of edible CBD make sure to not only use organic ingredients, but also to make at least some of their products with vegan ingredients. Many edible CBD products are allergy-friendly.
- Additional Forms of CBD- CBD products are extremely diverse. It’ll be amazing to see what innovations are on the way in the next few years. But, already, we have, in addition to all the forms just listed, products such as CBD breath strips, CBD skin lotion, and CBD for vaping.
What About CBD Oil for Dogs?
Now, there are a lot of rumors and conflicting information online. It can be hard to know the legality of CBD (see below) and how safe it is, etc. No one, but no one, is going to give a product to their dog without being absolutely sure about it.
You may have heard of CBD products for dogs. Many species of dog have cannabinoid receptors, meaning that CBD will act upon them a lot like the way it acts on people. It is effective for pain and inflammation, and also anxiety that your pet may suffer. It has been known to help dogs with decreased appetite; and this 2012 study shows how beneficial CBD can be in preventing seizures among our canine friends.
There’s a lot to know about CBD, Cannabidiol. To provide a handy review:
- It is a cannabinoid, which is a chemical that occurs naturally and that helps restore balance in our systems through the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
- It comes mostly from hemp plants, a type of Cannabis that has less than 0.3% THC.
- Because of that, it doesn’t get a person “high.”
- CBD does help greatly with pain relief, and scientific evidence has proven its benefits for many serious conditions such as fibromyalgia, epilepsy, breast cancer, and arthritis.
- CBD oil is extracted from the hemp plant; it can be taken in tincture form or infused into many other edible forms.
- CBD oil can be used by dogs to alleviate some of the same issues that plague people.
- CBD oil is legal by federal law, so long as it comes from hemp.
Therefore, find a CBD oil product that is right for you and enjoy safe, natural pain relief, anti-anxiety, and relaxation.