An introduction to CBD oil
CBD is one of many cannabinoids – a compound found in cannabis and hemp plants. It comes in several forms – often as an oil. CBD is not cannabis. Cannabis is a plant; CBD is just one of nearly on hundred compounds found in that plant (and hemp). CBD is non-psychoactive – it will not get you high. The cannabinoid in cannabis responsible for getting you stoned is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), not CBD.
CBD can come from hemp or cannabis
While CBD can be derived from cannabis or hemp, many recreational strains of cannabis have very little CBD in them (as they were bred primarily for their psychoactive effect). So cannabis tends to be high in THC and low in CBD. There are some varieties on the market that are as high as 24% THC and 0.2% CBD. Clearly, these are designed for their psychoactive payload.
Hemp on the other hand is almost the complete opposite. It has a high CBD content and very low THC content – as high as 20% CBD and <0.3% THC. Hemp-derived CBD is designed for its medicinal value, not to get you high.
A lot of CBD (in Europe at least) comes from hemp, not cannabis. (Of course, as the world of CBD and medical cannabis grows, entrepreneurs and cannabis growers are developing new strains to satisfy every demand in the market. Expect an ever-increasing number of choices, strengths, flavours and more to come – and we think that’s a good thing!) In fact, increasingly there are medical cannabis dispensaries who can help clients find the strain types recommended by their physicians.
For nearly 5,000 years, the medicinal effects of cannabis have been well described, although the mechanisms responsible for these actions were unknown until recently. Just as these benefits were being discovered, they were simultaneously disregarded in the 20th century due to laws prohibiting the use of cannabis.
All of the medical benefits of cannabis, which were first described in China in 2737 BC and later confirmed in India, Egypt, and Europe, became part of ancient history. Many reports on the success of cannabis as a surgical anaesthetic and for treating pain, dysentery, cholera, rheumatic diseases, and childbirth disorders became irrelevant as the war to keep hemp from the public became a greater fight than the War on Drugs.
Powerful industrial lobbyists feared hemp. Why? The commercial uses of hemp include textiles, foods, body lotions, medicine, fuel, plastics, building materials, paper, rope, and cordage. Hemp is a sustainable crop requiring no pesticides or herbicides. Industry had a lot to lose and so hemp (and cannabis) was demonised and criminalised to protect large corporations’ profits. We are still paying the price to this day but hopefully more people are waking up to the fact that cannabis and hemp is medicine.
While the medicinal benefits of cannabis have been reported for centuries, but governments policies have prevented adequate research into CBD’s properties since the 1940s. Federal government restrictions, sparse funding, lobbying pressures, and a lack of interest in plants compared to the rapidly expanding world of synthetic pharmaceuticals. Many believe this is not a coincidence.
The US Government classified CBD as cannabis as a Schedule I drug meaning it has “no medical value and high potential for abuse”. This is clearly absurd yet it’s a decision that we still live with although – hopefully – the tide is beginning to turn.
Within the last five years, CBD research has escalated significantly, although federal regulations still prevent optimal access to the plant and its extracts. Some of the greatest strides have been made in CBD’s use as a treatment for seizure disorders, neuropathic pain, cancer, and traumatic head injuries, although further clinical trials are still needed.
Discovering the Endocannabinoid System: a game-changer
The discovery of the endocannabinoid system in 1992 excited researchers and led to further CBD studies. With the knowledge that the body produces its own endogenous cannabinoids researchers began investigating the ways in which both endocannabinoids and plant cannabinoids work to promote health. (Incidentally, the fact that we have a system that runs on cannabinoids such as CBD is proof that human beings evolved with cannabis – we consumed it, lived among it – and our body requires it. There is no other reason why we would have such a system otherwise.)
Patients have also helped tremendously in bringing CBD to the forefront. In recent years, anecdotal reports of CBD’s success in treating seizure disorders and cancer have accelerated research into its uses.
From a historical view, CBD was common in cannabis landraces (a natural cannabis strain growing wild in a specific geographic area) from Afghanistan and Morocco, along with other countries. However, because it lacks psychoactive properties, over the last hundred years it has largely been bred out of recreational cannabis.
CBD’s remarkable therapeutic potential
There is nothing inherently novel about CBD that pushed this cannabinoid into the limelight. What is new are increasing numbers of scientific studies and anecdotal success stories describing medicinal effects of CBD oil.
CBD has potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-seizure, anti-rheumatic, anti-tumor, anti-anxiety, anti-emetic, and anti- bacterial properties. With mild sedating properties, CBD helps to reduce the psychoactive effects of THC in strains containing both cannabinoids.
Both THC and CBD have a variety of therapeutic benefits but their relative proportions in extracts are important for optimizing medicinal use. They actually work best in combination – the so-called “entourage effect”. Using the whole plant to create CBD oil also retains other phytochemicals such as fatty acids, flavonoids, aromatic terpenes and minor cannabinoids in addition to CBD and THC. Each of these compounds has particular healing attributes so that the therapeutic impact of the whole plant exceeds the sum of its parts. This has led some scientists to advocate using the entire plant as therapy.
CBD oil has become a patient-directed movement with anecdotal and preliminary reports of it being used to successfully treat seizure disorders, tumors and even cancer. (Note: We are not saying CBD cures cancer – and beware anyone who says categorically that it does. However, the fact is, there is an ever-growing wealth of scientific study pointing to its potential and/or qualities worthy of further research.
Here is just a sample:
- CBD as potential anticancer drug
- CBD inhibits angiogenesis by multiple mechanisms
- The inhibitory effects of CBD on systemic malignant tumors
- CBD inhibits cancer cell invasion via upregulation of tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases-1
- Marijuana fights cancer and helps manage side effects
- Cannabinoids – a new weapon against cancer?
- Antitumor activity of plant cannabinoids with emphasis on the effect of cannabidiol on human breast carcinoma
CBD’s anti-convulsant properties were dramatically proven in a CNN report on 5-year old Charlotte Figi – a girl who suffered from Dravet Syndrome – an uncontrollable, severe form of epilepsy that saw her have 300 seizures a week, nearly two every hour – each one potentially fatal. Charlotte’s epilepsy did not respond to any medication. Many of the drugs prescribed left her catatonic or were even potentially fatal.
Charlotte’s parents learned about CBD and approached a grower who was willing to grow a high-CBD, low THC CBD strain. Once administered, Charlotte’s seizures went from 300 a week to one a week. The grower named the strain Charlotte’s Web – which is a leading brand to this day – in her honour. Sadly, Charlotte died in 2020 at the age of 13 from complications with her condition but they were years her parents would not have had with her otherwise were it not for CBD.
Charlotte’s case really propelled CBD into the public consciousness and for the first time people became aware of the right to self-medicate. It could be argued were it not for Charlotte Figi, there would be no CBD movement today.
CBD’s anti-convulsant properties have been proven in laboratory tests. A small study by Paul Consroe tested CBD as a treatment for intractable epilepsy. In this study, patients stayed on the anticonvulsant medications they had been on (which failed to eliminate their seizures) and added 200 mg/day of CBD or a placebo. Of the seven patients getting CBD over the course of several months, only one showed no improvement. Three subjects became seizure-free, one experienced only one or two seizures over the course of the study, and two experienced reduced severity and occurrence of seizures.
There are also ample independent scientific studies (too many to list here) detailing CBD’s role as an anti-convulsant medicine. Here is just a sample:
- Report of a parent survey of CBD-enriched cannabis use in pediatric treatment-resistant epilepsy
- Medicinal marijuana stops seizures, brings hope to a little girl
- Cannabinoids for epilepsy
- Cannabis, CBD, and epilepsy – From receptors to clinical response
- Chronic administration of CBD to healthy volunteers and epileptic patients
- Endocannabinoid system protects against cryptogenic seizures
- Cannabidiol: Pharmacology and potential therapeutic role in epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders
CBD has anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing), antipsychotic, and antispasmodic properties. This has led to exciting research that looks at the endocannabinoid system and CBD as a treatment for post–traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social-anxiety disorder. Cannabinoids also act as adaptogens that modulate the stress response, making their effects unique to the individual. CBD oil has a sedating or calming effect.
Multiple recent studies have shown that CBD can help with PTSD symptoms, such as nightmares and replaying negative memories. These studies have looked at cannabidiol as both a standalone PTSD treatment as well as a supplement to traditional treatments like medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
For generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that CBD has been shown to reduce stress in animals such as rats. Study subjects were observed as having lower behavioral signs of anxiety. Their physiological symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, also improved.
CBD oil may also benefit people with other forms of anxiety, such as social anxiety disorder (SAD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It may help treat anxiety-induced insomnia as well.
In 2011, a study researched CBD’s effects on people with SAD. Participants were given an oral dose of 400 milligrams (mg) of CBD or a placebo. Those who received CBD experienced overall reduced anxiety levels.
Again, there are plenty of scientific studies attesting to CBD’s effectiveness for treating anxiety. Here is just a handful:
- CBD as an anxiolytic drug
- Antidepressant-Like and Anxiolytic-Like Effects of Cannabidiol: A Chemical Compound of Cannabis Sativa
- Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of CBD in generalized social anxiety disorder
- Effects of CBD on regional cerebral blood flow
- Plant-based medicines for anxiety disorders
- A systematic review of plant-derived natural compounds for anxiety disorders
- The Endocannabinoid System and Anxiety
Homeostasis refers to the body’s amazing ability to establish and maintain a condition of balance or equilibrium within its internal environment, even when faced with external changes. In homeostasis, the body’s various systems work together to maintain health. For example, skin cells, blood vessels, the thyroid gland, and other organs function synergistically to maintain an internal temperature of approximately 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of the temperature outside.
One of the most often noted properties of CBD is its ability to restore and maintain homeostasis. It does this by correcting imbalances and modulating nervous system and immune system functions. This fundamental property of CBD oil helps explain how the compound can benefit so many different diseases that seem unrelated. When disease is seen as a result of impaired homeostasis, it makes sense that CBD and other cannabinoids could have profound healing effects.
There is no universal dose for CBD. The reason is that it affects individuals differently (in the same way alcohol or cannabis does). One reason why CBD’s effects vary between individuals may be down to each person’s endocannabinoid systems.
While treatment success with CBD oil is making headlines, fine-tuning doses on an individual basis and working with different CBD:THC ratios for maximum results makes it difficult to predict outcomes. No one dose of cannabinoids fits all.
However, the good news is that CBD is safe and you cannot overdose on it and so experimenting to find the dose that works for you is perfectly fine.
Extracted and adapted from Cannabis Extracts in Medicine: The Promise of Benefits in Seizure Disorders, Cancer and Other Conditions (McFarland Health Topics)