What Is CBD?

Despite increased media coverage of CBD, not everyone knows exactly what it is. Here is a clear overview on what CBD is, and what it can do for you.

What Is CBD

CBD or cannabidiol is a chemical compound known as cannabinoid, which is found in the flower of the cannabis plant. It can be extracted from marijuana, but it can also come from hemp.

Some of the confusion regarding CBD is due to another cannabinoid called THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. It is this chemical compound that causes people to feel intoxicated. CBD and THC are entirely different compounds and the main difference is that people do not feel any intoxicating effects when taking CBD. CBD has no psychoactive properties and it doesn’t work as a mind-altering drug.

Both THC and CBD have their own therapeutic properties. But since CBD doesn’t cause any type of intoxication, it’s clearly a better choice for many people especially children. It’s also a much safer choice for adults who don’t wish to fail drug tests, or who will drive, operate heavy machinery, or need to concentrate at work.

Potential Benefits Of CBD

Admittedly, the research on the medical properties of CBD is still in its initial stages. However, it has shown a lot of promise in possibly helping to treat a long list of medical ailments. An increasing number of studies have indicated that CBD may be effective in treating these medical conditions:

  • Autoimmune diseases such as inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis [E. B. Russo, “Cannabinoids in the Management of Difficult to Treat Pain,” Journal of Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management 4, no. 1 (2008): 245–259.]
  • Cardiovascular dysfunctions including atherosclerosis and arrhythmia [Francois Mach and Sabine Steffens, “The Role of the Endocannabinoid System in Atherosclerosis,” Journal of Neuroendocrinology 20, no. S1 (2008): 53–57. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2826.2008.01685.x.]
  • Gut disorders such colitis and Crohn’s disease [Zachary Wilmer Reichenbach and Ron Schey, “Cannabinoids and GI Disorders: Endogenous and Exogenous,” Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology 14, no. 4 (2016): 461–477. doi:10.1007/s11938-016-0110.]
  • Metabolic syndromes like diabetes and obesity [E. A. Penner, H. Buettner, and M. A. Mittleman, “Marijuana Use on Glucose, Insulin, and Insulin Resistance among US Adults,” American Journal of Medicine 126 (2013): 583–589.]
  • Neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea, stroke, and traumatic brain injury [J. Fernández-Ruiz, O. Sagredo, M. R. Pazos, C. García, R. Pertwee, R. Mechoulam, and J. Martínez-Orgado, “Cannabidiol for Neurodegenerative Disorders: Important New Clinical Applications for This Phytocannabinoid?” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 75, no. 2 (May 25, 2012): 323–333.]
  • Skin diseases like acne, dermatitis, and psoriasis [N. Dobrosi, B. I. Toth, G. Nagy, A. Dozsa, T. Geczy, L. Nagy, C. C. Zouboulis, R. Paus, L. Kovacs, and T. Biro, “Endocannabinoids Enhance Lipid Synthesis and Apoptosis of Human Sebocytes via Cannabinoid Receptor-2-Mediated Signaling,” The FASEB Journal 22, no. 10 (2008): 3685– 3695. doi:10.1096/fj.0604877.]

Other studies indicate that CBD may have anticancer properties [A. A. Thomas, L. P. Wallner, V. P. Quinn, J. Slezak, S. K. Van Den Eeden, G. W. Chien, and S. J. Jacobsen, “Association between Cannabis Use and the Risk of Bladder Cancer: Results from the California Men’s Health Study,” Urology 85, iss. 2 (2015): 388–393.].

It may even stimulate the growth of new brain cells [Gary L. Wenk, “Animal Models of Alzheimer’s Disease,” Animal Models of Neurological Disease I (1992): 29–64, doi:10.1385/0-89603-208-6:29.]

How Does CBD Work?

CBD works in several ways. One way is by interacting with the human endocannabinoid system. This system has an important role in regulating a long list of physiological processes that affect our day to day activities. It affects the will, energy level, and mood. It has an effect on the blood pressure, glucose metabolism, bone density, and immune activity. It affects how people experience stress, hunger, and pain.

If the endocannabinoid system doesn’t work properly, the result is disease. Just about every disease that people experience comes with a corresponding problem with the endocannabinoid system.

But CBD (and also THC) modulates and enhances the endocannabinoid system. This may explain why it can help treat so many ailments.

The Availability Of Pharmaceutical CBD

The FDA finally regarded CBD is a real medicine by approving Epidiolex. This is a pharmaceutical drug with a formula containing virtually pure CBD. It’s meant to treat Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, which are severe seizure disorders in children.

Because of the FDA approval, the Drug Enforcement Agency announced afterwards that Epidiolex is no longer under the Schedule I classification, which is the category of illegal and dangerous drugs with no medical application. It was classified as a Schedule V drug, which is the least dangerous category under the Controlled Substances Act.

However, cannabis and even pharmaceutical CBD itself are still regarded as part of the Schedule I drugs and considered a dangerous (and illegal) drug. It’s also extremely expensive, compared to the cost of other CBD oil products that are sold not as medicine with FDA approval.

CBD Oil Products

CBD Oil is sold online by various manufacturers. Some of them contain pure CBD isolates that are chemically similar to the Epidiolex formula. The main difference is that the manufacturer cannot claim that their product is meant to treat some type of medical ailment. The other main difference is the price, as these products are invariably cheaper.

CBD can come in various forms, such as oil or powder. It can be taken orally, rubbed into the skin or even vaped or smoked.

CBD From Hemp

In 2018, the Farm Bill was passed by the federal government. One of its many provisions legalized the cultivation and sale of hemp. Hemp is part of the cannabis plant family, except that its THC content is less than 0.03%.

Because of this law, the CBD market has been flooded with CBD oil extracted from hemp. It’s a more attractive substitute for people who do not want to risk any sort of intoxication for themselves or for their children. It is entirely legal, and it is much more affordable.

However, CBD oil from hemp is often marketed as a supplement. This means that there is not much FDA oversight unless the manufacturer makes claims as to the effectiveness of their products as a type of medication for certain diseases.

Because of this inadequate oversight, CBD oil products can vary widely in their quality. Many studies (including those conducted by the FDA itself) have discovered that many of these CBD oil products do not contain the amount of CBD as stated in their labels. Some don’t even contain any CBD at all.

Much worse is the problem of contamination. Some of these CBD oil products may contain THC and inadvertently cause their users to feel intoxicated. Others may be contaminated by toxic solvent residues due to the use of cheap and dangerous extraction processes.

Other manufacturers may have obtained their hemp sources from other countries. These may not have been organically grown. The cultivators may have used pesticides and herbicides that the hemp plant can absorb. The hemp plant may also absorb heavy metals from the soil, including toxic ones like lead and mercury.

Final Word

For now, it is only suggested that CBD may be able to help some consumers. But more evidence must be gathered to support claims that it can help treat various ailments, while more thorough investigations must be conducted regarding potential side effects.

Finally, the CBD oil market has to be better regulated. Consumers need to be protected so that they are only able to buy high quality CBD oil. 

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