The world of weed is changing every day. It’s crazy to think that there are still people doing decades worth of time in federal prison for selling a little bit of the stuff just a couple decades ago, when now, in some states, there are dispensaries on every city street corner filled with happy, responsible adults purchasing everything from cbd-infused water and sweets, to thousands of strains of medical marijuana.
We’re doing more research on the wonders of medical and recreational cannabis than ever before, and it feels like we’re finally beginning to see what this stuff can really do. But one thing we’ve been hearing about over and over recently is CBD oil.
We’ve heard about its effectiveness when used to treat things like anxiety and depression, we’ve seen the videos of CBD oil being used to treat people—including children—suffering from severe seizures or Parkinson’s disease, and how seemingly miraculous their recovery is. With the recent passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, which effectively legalized the growth and harvest of industrial hemp and CBD nationwide, the conversation surrounding CBD oil is growing even greater.
But what is CBD oil? What does it do? What does the science say? What are the medical risks? What are the CBD legal risks? What do we know about CBD oil, and what do we still have to look into? These are all the important questions, and we’re going to do our best to answer them.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD is short for cannabidiol and is considered a cannabinoid. As is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the stuff in marijuana that gets you high. It’s important to note that while the two are both cannabinoids, that’s essentially where their similarities end. There are over 80 cannabinoids that we know of, and they just so happen to be two of them.
CBD is extracted from the stalk, stem and leaves of hemp plans, and is generally bottled for sale in places where it’s legal to do so. However, unlike THC—and this is super important to remember—CBD has absolutely zero psychoactive properties, which means it won’t get you stoned. Let us repeat ourselves: CBD will not get you stoned.
There are, however, a bunch of other benefits linked to CBD that can help with things like regulating your body’s immune system responses, pain management system, and sleep cycle. Primarily because of its ability to work directly with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). CBD oil in particular has been clinically proven to help things like inflammation, insomnia, psychological trauma, certain immune system issues, mood disorders, and a whole heap of other issues.
Is CBD The Same as Cannabis?
The most prevalent question people have about using CBD oil is: what differentiates it from traditional cannabis?
Well, believe it or not, there’s a lot more going on there than you probably think. It’s a little confusing and convoluted, but essentially, cannabis is a family of plants that includes two classifications known as sativa and indica. Marijuana can be considered both indica and sativa, but hemp—which is the stuff CBD oil primarily comes from—is considered cannabis sativa.
Both indicas and sativas can contain THC, but because of the biological structure of hemp, it doesn’t contain THC. However, that’s not to say traditional marijuana plants don’t have both CBD and THC in them, and that people don’t extract CBD from those plants as well. They do.
It’s confusing, but the important thing to remember is that cannabis is the umbrella that covers both marijuana and hemp plants. CBD and THC are two completely different types of cannabinoids and serve completely different purposes. CBD can be extracted from both marijuana and hemp.
While the two are related, the terms are not interchangeable, and there is a clear distinction between them.
Is CBD Oil Legal?
This is another really difficult question to answer. Right now, CBD oil and CBD products are in a bit of a legal grey area. The recent Agricultural Improvement Act (more popularly known as the Farm Bill) legalized the production of industrial hemp, which opened the door for CBD products on a federal level.
However, CBD that is extracted from other cannabis plants is still technically illegal on a federal level, which means each individual state is responsible for regulating its cultivation, production and distribution. So, you’re probably asking yourself what the difference is between CBD from hemp plants and CBD from other cannabis plants. We weren’t sure ourselves, so we reached out to the guys over at Ned, a Colorado-based CBD company, who were happy to explain it.
According to Ned Founder Adriaan Zimmerman, there isn’t much of a difference between the two at all, outside their federal classification.
“It's a common misconception that you can't get all the health benefits of CBD without higher levels of THC [from a cannabis plant]” Zimmerman says. “It's the same compound. The point of confusion is actually about CBD isolate vs ‘full spectrum’ CBD oil. Full Spectrum contains mostly CBD, but also low levels of THC, and a range of other minor cannabinoids like CBC, CBG, CBDV and CBN that all carry their own distinct benefits.”
According to Zimmerman, the reason why full spectrum CBD oil is so effective is because the different components of the cannabis plant—the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes, as well as trichomes, flavonoids, etc.—come together to create what’s called the “entourage effect,” which enables each element to maximize their effects on the body.
There are plenty of companies out there releasing THC/CBD hybrids, and those medications certainly have a place in the business, but the idea that you need higher levels of THC to work in concert with CBD is a myth.
Essentially, Zimmerman says, you’re jumping through a lot of extra federally regulated hoops to release the same product you would with industrial hemp.
The other legal “issue” is that there are new CBD companies popping up daily, offering customers a wide range of products, from serums, lotions and balms, to infused CBD drinks, foods and smokeables.
When it comes to the stuff we eat, the government has a whole other set of regulations for interested parties to be aware of. It means that the government—and the companies manufacturing CBD products—must be very careful about what’s allowed to be advertised as far as CBD benefits go and their food safety are concerned.
Basically, it’s tough to say. Technically, hemp-derived CBD is legal in all 50 states. However, that doesn’t mean all CBD oil is legal. Your best bet is to figure out what your own state’s cannabis laws are, and go from there. The Cannabis Industry website is a good place to start.
How Do You Take CBD Oil?
CBD comes in all different shapes in sizes. It can be inhaled as a e-liquid through a vape pen and be applied directly to the skin, but most commonly, it’s ingested orally as an oil.
The CBD is extracted from the plant and, due to its easy fat solubility, is added to a “carrier oil” like coconut oil, avocado oil, grape seed oil, olive oil, palm oil, etc. From there, people use it in teas or other drinks, eat it on food or simply ingest a couple drops orally, generally holding it under the tongue for at least 30 seconds.
There are also a metric tonne of creams, balms and lotions that can be applied topically, too.
What Are the Benefits of CBD Oil?
We’re learning more and more about CBD oil every day. Unfortunately, up until somewhat recently, a lot of the information we knew about CBD’s physical, psychological and emotional benefits came from anecdotal accounts and animal studies. But with the industry opening up, we’re seeing a lot more clinical studies regarding CBD’s efficacy in helping all types of ailments and issues.
One of the big ones is CBD for pain relief. At this point, CBD has been examined pretty thoroughly in both animal and human subjects to determine whether or not it’s an effective means of relieving certain types of pain.
One study, for instance, found that multiple sclerosis patients experienced drastically reduced muscle spasms, increased mobility and reduced pain when treated with CBD/THC hybrid oil. Other studies concluded that when used to treat patients with difficult to treat pain from things like cancer or injuries to the somatosensory nervous system, CBD oil is extremely effective.
There’s also plenty of research to support CBD use as a way to curb the pain associated with rheumatism.
We’re also seeing a lot more research on things like CBD for anxiety and depression. A review of studies in animal trials found that CBD is excellent for reducing stress, anxiety and the symptoms of depression, and determined that CBD may be an effective way to treat those diseases and disorders.
Other studies have found that CBD is an excellent anti-inflammatory, which is huge for people who’d prefer not to use pharmaceutical drugs and over-the-counter medications.
As we mentioned above, CBD has also found preliminary success in animal studies and clinical trials as a way to treat people suffering from severe epileptic seizures. However, as noted in the Neurology Today article in which it originally appeared, it’s important to understand that more research is necessary before anything can be said definitively about its efficacy in treating seizures.
Topically speaking, studies have shown that CBD is a “conceivable” treatment for things like psoriasis, tumor growth and other skin conditions like contact dermatitis and eczema. There’s also some research to suggest that CBD may, in fact, be a more potent and effective antioxidant than both vitamins C and E.
What Are the CBD Health Risks?
Ok, this stuff is dope. We get it. But what about CBD health risks? There’ve gotta be a million potential issues here, right? Well, actually, not quite. The World Health Organization stated pretty clearly in a study that, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential” and, “To date, there’s no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
However, like everything else on the planet, CBD oil and other CBD products do come with some minor side effects that include fatigue, nausea and irritability in some people. It can also increase the level of the natural blood thinner Coumadin in your body. So, if you have heart or other cardiovascular issues, or are already on any type of blood thinners, you should definitely contact your doctor before diving into CBD.
It should also be said that because CBD products aren’t yet federally regulated, the market is flooded with a lot of fake, ineffective bullshit.
For instance, hemp seed oil—the stuff that’s literally pressed out of hemp seed. It has a bunch of useful benefits, but don’t let anyone tell you their hemp seed oil is as potent as bona fide CBD extract. If you’re looking to purchase CBD products for the first time, make sure you’re purchasing it from reputable companies (which we’ll suggest below).
Another issue with the lack of regulation around CBD products is that each individual product comes with its own dosage guidelines, and each individual consumer is different. It means figuring out your perfect dosage may take some time. Luckily, however, it’s also worth noting that there’re no adverse CBD effects to over-dosing.
Celebrate the week of 4/20 by watching High End, our documentary on luxury weed, below.