You can get CBD (Cannabidiol) nearly everywhere.  It’s available in CBD stores, gas station convenience stores, big box stores, pharmacies, Dr’s Offices, online, and from your friend the CBD distributor.  This big trend begs a quick review of this plant-based supplement.  What is it and what is it used for?  This discussion will start with the basics and move into more science information and review.  There is so much data available on CBD, much of which is quite good and beneficial and a lot that is exaggerated and hyperbole.

     I’ll focus on CBD oil as a “cosmetic product” or a dietary supplement which is currently how it is regulated by the government agencies in most states and federally.  In 2018 the U.S. FDA downgraded Cannabidiol from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 5 substance.  Basically, decreasing its status from a most potent dangerous substance to a mild, non-hazardous substance.  This opened the flood-gates for use and sale. 

     In short there are two species of Cannabis plants.  The first is Hemp and the second is Marijuana.  Hemp extract contains all of the cannabinoids except for THC, which means it has all of the beneficial properties of cannabis without any alteration of mental state or functionality.  A discussion of Marijuana can be undertaken at a later date.

     Cannabidiol is a hemp-derived oil with therapeutic potential.   Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is not psychoactive and does not induce a “high”.  By definition, CBD from Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC. Phytocannabinoids is a term that refers to THCA and CBDA, which are derived from the cannabis plant upon exposure to temperature and time to cause a specific chemical reaction, carboxylation.  There are over 100 different cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant.  Each of these cannabinoids has a unique activity in the body.

     Terpenes are group of compounds also found in the cannabis plant.  They too have medicinal value and are what give the plant its unique smell.  In combination with certain cannabinoids, the terpenes have a synergistic effect and produce unique effects such as sleep promotion or stimulation. 

     Inside our body is a whole system that responds to these cannabinoids.  It’s called the Endocannabinoid System.  There are two receptors and two hormone-like substances in this system that when bound together cause specific cellular activity.  Think of a receptor like the electrical outlet on the wall and the hormone like a plug that fits into that receptor.  When joined a cellular process is caused.  These work as internal cannabinoids and are created by us.  When external cannabinoids enter the body, they block the breakdown of our two endocannabinoid hormones thus creating more plugs for our receptor outlets.  This creates specific beneficial effects

     CBD can also bind with serotonin receptors, GABA receptors and other brain and nerve receptors that cause various outcomes and contribute to their beneficial effect for certain conditions.   It is currently estimated that there are more than 60 targets for CBD in the body. CBD products that enhance sleep act on GABA transmitters in the brain and CBD products that impact pain act on our immune cells circulating to reduce cytokines and inflammation.

     Now to put this into simple English, here are most of the known current effects of the various CBD products on our body.

  • Reduce Anxiety
  • Reduce Psychosis
  • Anti-seizure activity
  • Neuroprotective effect
  • Vasorelaxant
  • Antispasmodic
  • Anti-ischemic
  • Anti-proliferative, anti-cancer effect
  • Anti-emetic
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-diabetic
  • Anti-psoriatic
  • Intestinal anti-prokinetic
  • Analgesic, pain relief
  • Bone growth stimulant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Immunosuppressive                                                                                                            

     The most common uses and greatest effect for patients seems to be with insomnia, anxiety and stress, and pain.   There are many brands and many different formulations available.   Most are sold as tinctures and come in dropper bottles.   There are low dose and higher dose regimens.   Some products can be quite expensive, but if they reduce the need for prescription sleeping pills or pain medication they are well worth the money.

     What about potential side effects of CBD oil?   CBD products are generally very safe.  There have been mild side effects reported.   Some reported side effects include dry mouth, low blood pressure, dizziness, and drowsiness.  There are some rare reported cases of liver injury, but additional study regarding this must be done.  Some short-term studies have shown daily doses of 300mg to be extremely safe when taken up to 6 months and doses up to 1500mg daily have been well tolerated up to 4 weeks.  Further evaluation is ongoing but indicators continue to show these products are very safe.

     There is a prescription form of CBD used for childhood seizures and this has been found to be extremely safe in children.   Interactions with other medications have been very uncommon and not studies have to date demonstrated any significant issues.  If you are on other medication from your doctor, a discussion about taking CBD would be recommended before using it.  It is possible that a decrease in some prescription medications could result from the use of CBD.

     Let’s summarize.  CBD is a substance from the Cannabis plant without psychoactive qualities.  It is not Marijuana and will not make someone “High”.  It does not contain Delta 5 Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.  It is safe and has been found to date to be beneficial for many medical disorders.  The current primary positive effects are found with sleep, relaxation, pain, certain childhood seizures, and anxiety.  As time and study continues, there will be more definitive answers as to the various effects and therapeutic benefits of these natural substances.