CBD: What Is It And What Are Its Benefits And Risks?

All You Need to Know About CBD, Including Its Benefits and Potential Side Effects

If you haven’t heard about CBD, you have probably not been following the news closely in recent years. More and more people are learning about this ‘amazing’ compound from the controversial cannabis plant. It is reportedly delivering benefits that conventional treatments aren’t able to provide for certain conditions.

Hemp Cannabis Seeds
Hemp Cannabis Seeds

What is CBD? Is this cannabinoid one you can consider giving a shot for a health issue you may be having? What is the stance from research on its effectiveness and safety?

This article attempts to provide answers to above questions and more. Learn more about this compound, including benefits and possible risks you need to be aware of.

What is CBD?

CBD is the abbreviation of the word “cannabidiol.’ It is one of the many compounds present in the cannabis plant. These compounds are also referred to as cannabinoids.

Although you might just be hearing about CBD, it has been around for thousands of years. People were just not aware of it.

The psychoactive delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most popular cannabinoid – it’s simply another word for cannabis to some people.

CBD is the most active compound in the cannabis or marijuana plant, after THC. It accounts for as much as 40 percent of the plant’s constituents.

The cannabinoid was discovered in 1940 and its chemical structured defined in 1963. But it’s only in more recent years that most people start to know about it, as more and more benefits are being associated with it.

As would be expected, the rising popularity has led to a wide variety of CBD products being made available on the market. But a huge majority of these offerings do not have FDA approval.

CBD, THC and Cannabis

It may be argued that the marijuana plant is controversial mainly due to the presence of compounds that make people feel “high.” This effect is what makes recreational users to turn to the plant.

On the other hand, CBD produces no psychoactive effect. The World Health Organization recognizes that the compound, especially the pure variety, exhibits no potential for abuse or dependence issues.

This difference may have to do with processes by which the cannabinoids are synthesized. Both THC and CBD results from the same metabolic pathway in cannabis. But the enzyme CBDA synthase catalyzes the precursor to the latter instead of THCA synthase which does same on THC’s precursor.

Extracts from the cannabis or marijuana plant usually have higher THC content. CBD products ideally come from the hemp plant, a member of the Cannabis sativa family of plants.

The hemp plant typically have very low THC content – not higher than about 0.3% by dry weight in the United States. Non-psychoactive hemp is also commonly called industrial hemp. This supposedly means that this cannabis variety can be safely utilized for a variety of industrial purposes.

How CBD Works

Cannabidiol is known to mostly help with neurological disorders. But it is not entirely clear how it’s able to help improve health outcomes without creating a high feeling.

Scientists know, however, that cannabinoids function as ligands. They are molecules binding to a site on a target protein to generate a signal or form a complex compound for a biological purpose. These molecules are able to modulate the behavior of a receptor.

Specifically, cannabinoids interact with cannabinoid receptor types 1 and 2, also known as CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are present in different areas of the body and are particularly plentiful in the brain. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are present in highest number in the immune system.

It is the effects that cannabinoids such as THC have on the CB1 and CB2 receptors that result in mind-altering effects of the cannabis sativa plant.

In its own case, CBD has minimal effects on these receptors. This quality enables it to deliver health benefits without exposing you to “highness” or dependence issue. It is also used in conjunction with THC to enhance the favorable effects of that other cannabinoid while reducing its psychoactive tendency.

Some researchers say a possible reason for CBD not being mind-altering is that it prevents the breakdown of a brain chemical that regulates pain sensation and psychological health. This effect appears to inhibit some psychotic symptoms observed in schizophrenia and other similar conditions.

Benefits and Uses of CBD

Research has shown the potential of cannabidiol to help with a variety of health issues. However, the observed level of effectiveness of the compound for the different problems differs. We discuss below some of the most popular uses and benefits of CBD.

Epilepsy treatment

Perhaps, the most convincing evidence of the health benefit of this cannabinoid has to do with epilepsy. First-class research shows that CBD can help with this condition, especially in children. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a drug named Epidiolex for treatment of this condition.

The cannabidiol-based medication is indicated for treatment of two of the most brutal childhood epilepsy syndromes, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome (DS). The effect of CBD on these conditions, which often do not respond positively to popular anti-seizure drugs, is very impressive.

You could even find videos online showing the amazing effect of CBD on children suffering from epilepsy and seizures.

Multiple sclerosis treatment

Prior to the approval of Epidiolex by the FDA, there was already an approved CBD-containing medication in Canada. The drug Sativex, a brand of nabiximols, containing the compound along with THC had been approved for treatment of multiple sclerosis as far back as 2005 by Health Canada.

Research shows that CBD can improve some of the symptoms of this potentially disabling neurological condition. It helps to relief pain and muscle tightness seen in people with multiple sclerosis.

Anxiety relief

If you can get the dose right, CBD can provide you relieve from anxiety. This is one of its common uses, although there seems to be no high-quality research supporting this benefit. Some people who have used it for this purpose do report that it helps.

We have to state again that the key to enjoying this benefit is the dose. Get that wrong and you may not notice any improvement or your anxiety may worsen. You will likely have to do some trial and error to get this right.

Skin care

It appears CBD is increasingly being used in some of the most expensive beauty products on the market. This is obviously because it helps to enhance the health of your skin.

The cannabinoid has the potential to help with a variety of skin issues, including acne, rashes and uneven tone. It boasts anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-aging properties.

CBD combats free radicals to prevent DNA damage and regulates inflammatory response. It may help prevent excessive skin oil production and reduce appearance of wrinkles.

Pain management

This hemp component could serve as an alternative or adjunct to pain relievers. Its usefulness for conditions such as multiple sclerosis has to do with this effect in part.

CBD is seen as a possible option for a variety of chronic pain that is difficult to treat, including neuropathic and inflammatory pain. A study published in the European Journal of Pain showed that it can reduce inflammation and pain in arthritis when applied topically.

Insomnia

Are you finding it difficult getting quality sleep every night? You may want to give CBD a shot.

Research suggests that the cannabinoid may help people suffering from insomnia to fall asleep and stay asleep. In one study, a 160mg dose taken before bed by insomniacs helped to enhance their sleep time.

However, insomnia is also a possible effect of high dose or long-term use.

Immune System Support

Are you suffering from a weakened immune system? CBD may also be of help. This might sound surprising, especially if you already knew about the tendency of cannabis to suppress the immune system.

Your body’s endocannabinoid system helps to regulate your immune response to keep it from being less or too active. A hyperactive system can be as harmful to your body as a weakened one. CBD gives the endocannabinoid system support in this regard for efficient regulation.

Cancer management

There are some people who say CBD may help cure cancer – especially manufacturers. But there is no evidence to back up that claim.

While the compound may not be a cure-all for the dreaded disorder, it can help in some ways. This is so when you consider its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is known that inflammation has a role to play in development of disorders such as cancer and HIV/AIDS.

Through the support it provides the immune system, the cannabinoid supposedly assists in destroying cancer cells. This helps patients to live longer, healthier lives.

The CBD-THC combo drug Sativex is also indicated for treatment of pain related to cancers.

There are several other potential benefits and uses of the compound, including treatment of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and muscle disorder. It may also help when looking to quit smoking.

New research suggests that CBD could possibly help with treatment of antibiotic-resistant infections as well. The scientists say the compound exhibited potency comparable to common antibiotics when it came to killing bacteria. It actually eliminated these organisms faster than some of the drugs.

Types of CBD Products

With increasing use of cannabidiol for a variety of health reasons, there are now more types of products to choose from than ever before. You will most certainly find one that you can use easily, if you wish to give the compound a try. We briefly describe below some of the most common forms available on the market.

CBD oil

CBD Pure Hemp Oil
CBD Pure

This is arguably the most popular type of CBD products you can buy. Perhaps, owing to ease of use, many people looking to try this cannabidiol for the first time usually consider this.

CBD oil is probably your choice when looking for the most potent form. It is even better when it contains the full spectrum of beneficial constituents of the hemp plants, including terpenes and essential oils.

If you need a recommendation, you can give CBDPure a try. This is apparently not only one of the most popular CBD oil products, but also one that ticks all the right boxes in terms of attributes to look out for.

Edibles and gummies

If you desire to munch on something while also enjoying CBD benefits, edibles and gummies may be your preferred choice. These are usually tasty substances you can consume directly or add to your foods to make them more healthful.

Edibles and gummies are becoming increasingly popular obviously because they are more enjoyable to use. But they are probably not the best form when it comes to dosing for efficacy. Examples include baked goods, gums, candies and chocolates containing cannabidiol.

Vape oil

Some people turn to this type of CBD products because its effects are more rapid. As the name suggests, vape oil is intended for vaping or inhaling into the lungs, from where it diffuses into the bloodstream. You use a vape pen, vaporizer or an e-cigarette to administer it.

Individuals who are not so open to using cannabis may not find vape oil ideal. It uses more concentrated CBD and is more likely to produce side effects.

Topicals

Topical CBD products are somewhat similar to CBD oil. The major difference is that you can apply the former to your skin directly, while you, ideally, need to first mix the latter with a carrier oil.

Topical products get to work when they enter your body through the skin. They are often used to relieve pain, enhance muscles, and improve the skin. Examples include creams, lotions and salves.

Tinctures and concentrates

Tinctures, like CBD oil, offer a great means of staying in control of dosing when using cannabidiol. You use them with the aid of a dropper. Typically, they include a solvent, such as alcohol.

Concentrates are similar to tinctures. You also take them with a dropper. But they typically contain a higher concentration of CBD. They are, therefore, more ideal for experienced users.

Other forms of cannabidiol available include powders, sprays and capsules.

CBD Oil vs. Hemp Oil

Going by earlier explanation, you may be able to easily figure that CBD oil isn’t the same as cannabis oil. The latter typically comes with more THC – perhaps, in highest proportion.

Ideally, CBD oil should be made with industrial hemp plant. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it is the same as hemp oil.

CBD oil usually refers to that extracted from the flowers, leaves, and stems of the hemp plant. Hemp oil, on the other hand, comes from the seeds.

Hemp seed oil is also beneficial, especially when cold pressed. It contains little to no THC. But CBD oil is thought to be more potent.

Is CBD Legal?

Considering its association with cannabis, you may wonder if cannabidiol is legal to buy and use. That actually depends on where you live.

Laws regarding the sale and use of CBD vary by jurisdictions. The fact that it is legal in a country doesn’t make it so elsewhere. Even the legality can vary between states, as is the case in the U.S.

Federal laws in America make it illegal to sell CBD as food or supplement. It is considered a Schedule I substance, even though WHO recommends it remains unscheduled. But some states allow the use of cannabis and its derivatives, mostly on medical grounds – this has been so for years in some of them.

CBD products are readily available in stores across the U.S. despite federal restrictions. Manufacturers ship nationwide and the FDA hasn’t really taken legal action against them.

It appears all 50 states currently allow the sale and use of CBD to varying degrees. The 2018 Farm Bill permits sale and shipping of products derived from the hemp plant between states.

Possible Side Effects and Precautions

While CBD is a lot safer than THC, it is not entirely without side effects. The compound is typically well-tolerated. But if you do experience any side effects, they may include any of the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia

You are more likely to feel these side effects if you take CBD at very high doses. If you stick to instructions for a quality product, you should be all right.

One factor that does increase the likelihood of adverse reactions in some people is the fact that dietary supplements are not regulated the same way as drugs by the FDA. Yet, supplements constitute the most popular form in which cannabidiol is taken.

The quality of these products differs between manufacturers in terms of purity and safety. There are fears that some companies may adulterate CBD by mixing with other undisclosed substances.

Apart from purity consideration, this compound may also interact with certain medications you may be taking. For instance, it is capable of increasing your blood level of the blood thinning medication Coumadin.

CBD inhibits cytochrome p450 family of enzymes that plays a role in the formation and breakdown of diverse chemicals and molecules in cells. The enzymes help to metabolize drugs and get rid of toxins. This essentially means that cytochrome p450 inhibition can cause drug and toxins to remain high in your body for longer.

It is, therefore, better to use CBD only after speaking with a health professional.

Tips for Intending Users

You might have been able to pick, albeit indirectly, from the previous section that it is important to exercise caution when buying CBD products. They are not all the same! Quality and purity differ.

Here are a few things that may be worth considering before buying:

Brand – You will most likely benefit from ensuring that the product you buy is by a reputable manufacturer. This means such company has something at stake if it sells ineffective or poor-quality CBD offering. It is easy to check reputation online by conducting a quick search.

THC-CBD ratio – The best products will usually have very negligible amount of the mind-altering THC, relative to CBD. You should check the label to ensure that THC proportion isn’t greater than 0.3% – the closer to zero, the better.

Potency – It is possible to find information on the strength of CBD dose by reading a product label. Confirm the strength of each dose or drop to ascertain how likely it is to deliver desired benefits. You may need to confer with your doctor in establishing the ideal dose.

Purity – You will do well to ensure the product you buy is not contaminated with other compounds. It is not easy to tell this from the label; the substances may not be disclosed. This is where ensuring a brand has good reputation helps. Read what previous users had to say on this.

It also helps to buy a product that is third-party tested for purity and safety. Availability of a certificate of analysis (COA) is a plus.

CBD doesn’t really have a standard dose yet. You may need to start with a little dose as a beginner and then work up from there, depending on how sensitive you observed your body to be to the compound.

Conclusion

Early evidence suggests that CBD has a lot to offer when it comes to enhancing health outcomes. There is a consensus that it doesn’t produce psychoactive effects typically associated with cannabis, more specifically THC, as well.

Its benefits and uses range from control of pain to treatment of epilepsy, anxiety, multiple sclerosis and insomnia. The effectiveness for the different indications vary, however.

CBD oil, topical solutions, tinctures and concentrates are some of the forms that help you to stay in better control of doses. The legality of sale and use of these products differs from place to place. But it can be bought legally in all states in the U.S., even though federal law still prohibits that.

We advise that you speak with your doctor if you intend using this cannabinoid. It may interact with some medications and produce certain side effects, even though it’s safer to use than THC.

 

REFERENCES

Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t – Harvard Health Blog – Harvard Health Publishing (https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476)

Cannabidiol – Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabidiol)

CBD 101: Everything You Need To Know About This Medication Alternative (https://usa.inquirer.net/33128/cbd-101-everything-you-need-to-know)

Cannabidiol: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning (https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1439/cannabidiol)

CBD as a Superbug Antibiotic? (https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/news/20190624/cbd-as-a-superbug-antibiotic)

 

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