There are over 2,000 clinical studies on Pubmed about cannabidiol, most commonly known as CBD. Many of these trials focused on investigating its potential therapeutic benefits across a broad spectrum of conditions, ranging from chronic pain, anxiety, stress, depression, insomnia, and even cancer. The most reliable scientific evidence to support its effectiveness exists in the treatment of seizures. Thanks to the numerous purported health benefits, CBD-based products, such as full spectrum CBD oils, isolate CBD, gums, supplements, and concentrated extracts are becoming remarkably popular.
What is CBD?
CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the over 113 naturally occurring cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It is most commonly derived from strains of the hemp plant. CBD can be as high as 40% of all the cannabis plant’s extracts. Although it can be obtained from marijuana, most CBD products on the market are extracted from hemp. Unlike THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) – the primary psychoactive compound found in the marijuana plant -, CBD contains no intoxicating properties and shows no potential for abuse or dependence.
What is the endocannabinoid system (ECS)?
ECS is a relatively recent discovery. Scientists were unaware of its existence up until about 30 years ago, and its numerous functions are still not fully understood. The first cannabinoids of the cannabis plant identified by scientists were THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol), and CBN (cannabinol). Researchers were particularly intrigued by THC and set out to understand the mechanism through which it exerts its euphoric effects. Their research had lead to the discovery of our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). It is the body’s primary tool to maintain homeostasis, by regulating and balancing nerve functions, movement, immune system, energy and more.
Does CBD get you high?
Cannabinoids work by interacting with the ECS. ECS is a network of CB1 and CB2 receptors that are located in various places in the human body; in the brain, connective tissues, organs, glands, and immune cells and the central nervous system. THC’s ability to bind to CB1 receptors located in the brain’s reward system is thought to be the primary reason for the euphoric effect that people experience when using cannabis. Unlike THC, CBD does not act directly on the CB1 receptors, which is why it’s not intoxicating, and it won’t give you a “high.”
How is CBD extracted?
Mainly for legal reasons, most CBD products are derived from the stalks and stems of industrial hemp instead of the marijuana plant. Hemp is a cannabis plant with a much lower concentration of THC, about 0.3% or less. After cultivation, producers transport the plant to an extraction facility. There are two main methods of extractions, one with the use of CO2 and the other with ethanol. CO2 extraction can isolate cannabinoids at a 90% efficiency rate. The second method involves the use of a solvent, ethanol to separate the cannabinoids. One downside to the first method is that only smaller quantities can be accommodated. On the flip side, with ethanol extraction, large amounts of extracts can be produced.
Hemp vs. Marijuana CBD
While CBD can be isolated from both, marijuana and hemp, these two plants are grown for different purposes. Industrial hemp has a long history of use to produce oils, paper, textiles, and food. On the flip side, people grow marijuana plants primarily for its psychoactive effects. Marijuana contains much higher levels of THC anywhere between 3% and 15%, whereas the levels found in industrial hemp are much lower, typically less than 0.3%. Cannabinoid ratios vary by cannabis strain. Hemp has high concentrations of CBD, CBG, and CBC. Whether the CBD is extracted from hemp or marijuana, the molecule is the same.
How to ingest CBD?
People consume CBD in many ways. Sublingual administration by the use of CBD oils is the most popular method. The reason for the high demand for oils are:
- Ease of use
- Accurate Dosing
- Generally high quality
Cannabidiol oil is best consumed sublingually, which means placing drops under your tongue and keeping it there for several seconds, then swallowing it. This sublingual use allows for rapid absorption into the bloodstream. While some people do not mind the flavor of CBD oils, there are others who have a hard time getting used to it. If you aren’t fond of the taste, you can put it into a glass of juice to make it more palatable.
Types of CBD Oils
Considering the many touted health benefits of cannabidiol and its excellent safety profile, more and more people are interested in tapping into its therapeutic potential for a broad range of conditions. As the demand for CBD products increases, so does the number of options on the market. If you are looking for a high-quality CBD product, you may find it challenging to choose from all the different varieties.
Full Spectrum CBD Oils
The two primary forms of CBD oils used today are full spectrum and isolates. As the name indicates, full spectrum CBD oils contain CBD, along with all the other 100+ cannabinoids and terpenes that occur naturally in the marijuana plant. In full spectrum products, the various chemical compounds are in ratios that were naturally occurring in the plant at the time of extraction. Some of the other cannabinoids besides CBD are CBN (Cannabinol), CBG (Cannabigerol), and THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin).
Full spectrum oils are also referred to as ‘whole plant”. All these varieties contain trace amounts of THC at concentrations of up to 0.3%. This low amount of THC causes very little cerebral and psychoactive stimulation.
These products contain purified CBD that is extracted from the cannabis plant and isolated from all other cannabinoids. This method is the least expensive way to get CBD to the market. Even though isolated cannabidiol products are less expensive than their full spectrum counterparts, they are likely less effective. Most often isolates are derived from industrial hemp.
Up until 2015, many believed that isolate CBD products were more potent than full spectrum ones. Researchers disproved this theory in a study done at the Lautenberg Center for General Tumor Immunology in Jerusalem. When comparing isolate and full spectrum cannabidiol, the full spectrum version was found more potent and more efficacious. The authors of the study added that this benefit was likely due to the synergistic effect between cannabidiol and all the other cannabinoids present in the full spectrum version.
Why is full spectrum CBD oil more effective?
There is a long history of using plants as medicine. For example, ginger is known to reduce inflammation and help with nausea, lavender is anti-fungal with calming attributes, peppermint can help clear your respiratory tract, and garlic has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Even today, scientists know very little about how all the different chemical compounds that make up these plants create the effect that we attribute to the whole plant. Accumulating evidence suggests that medicinal plants are more effective in their whole, natural state.
Similarly to other medicinal plants, cannabis has a complex biochemical composition. With over 500 unique chemical compounds, the cannabis plant is made up of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids. The Entourage Effect is best described as the phenomenon of the hundreds of unique compounds of cannabis synergistically contributing to produce a therapeutic effect. When working together, they have a much greater influence on the human body and mind than any one of the compounds alone. (1). It isn’t fully understood why, when we combine various compounds in their natural state, we end up with so much more than the sum of each part. Each plant chemical compound amplifies chemistry of another, which makes the entire plant far more effective than its isolated components.
As mentioned above, cannabis contains over 113 different cannabinoids. Each of them offers a unique combination of benefits. While CBD provides most of the benefits that all the other cannabinoids combined, it is quite possible that when they work together, they have a multiplying effect. Take a look at the numerous health benefits associated with some of the cannabinoids:
Inhibits cancer cell growth
Helpful with psoriasis
Promotes bone growth
Reduces seizures and epileptic episodes
Decreases muscle spasms
Slows bacterial growth
Inhibits cancer cell growth
Promotes bone growth
Helps with sleep
Inhibits cancer cell growth
Promotes bone growth
This doesn’t mean that isolate CBD products aren’t effective. Especially in those states, where THC-containing CBD oils are prohibited by law, isolated forms of CBD allows people to receive some of the benefits. If your employer subjects you to frequent drug testing, you will probably want to stay away from whole-plant varieties. Besides the fact that isolate CBD does offer benefits, it also represents an important stepping stone to bridge the gap between legislation and medicine.
How to choose a quality product?
Whether you decide to go with the purified or the whole-plant version of CBD, be sure to buy a high-quality product. Just because a product is sold at a health food store or marketed online, it doesn’t automatically guarantee quality.
- Research the manufacturer’s production and extraction methods. Avoid those that use toxic solvents such as hexane, propane or butane as a means of extraction.
- Find out where the hemp is sourced from.
- Choose brands that provide third-party lab results.