The world of cannabis and cannabinoid substances is expanding rapidly. It seems every day there are new advancements and exciting discoveries reported in the media about the health benefits of this ancient medicinal plant. Slowly the legalities surrounding the plant are also starting to open up. On top of the recent positive media exposure on marijuana, there is also increasing discussion about something called CBD, or cannabidiol. Although it’s often associated with cannabis, even spoken in the same breath, there are still many questions left unanswered for many people. This article will address this lingering question...What is CBD?
Scientifically, both THC and CBD are from the same plant. They are two out of dozens of cannabinoids found within the cannabis sativa plant. This plant is technically both medical marijuana as well as industrial hemp, however the differing percentages of cannabinoid make up, specifically of THC, make the versions drastically different. Both versions of the cannabis plant can produce CBD oil, however it might be surprising to find out that when derived from industrialized hemp it is legal and available worldwide due to miniscule levels of THC.
Cannabidiol is a cannabinoid, but what exactly does that mean? A cannabinoid is naturally produced by the body (an endocannabinoid), and can also be found in the cannabis plant (a phytocannabinoid). Phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids interact directly and indirectly with the endocannabinoid system, a system that regulates homeostasis within the body. Essentially protecting the internal against external fluctuations. For example, the endocannabinoid system regulates inflammation, pain management and cell life cycle. This system doesn’t just exist within humans, but also in all vertebrate species, with scientists pegging its evolution to roughly 600 million years ago. The endocannabinoid system is an essential component of a healthy, functioning, vertebrate life.
The phytocannabinoids found within the cannabis sativa plant are able to mimic the size and shape of the endocannabinoids produced naturally in our bodies. They interact with two different receptors: CB1 found mainly within the nervous system, connective tissues, glands and organs and CB2 which are located throughout the body working in association with the immune system. Through stimulation of the CB1 and CB2 receptors, cannabinoids such as THC and CBD (some of the most widely studied), have been found to have many medical benefits.
At this point, scientists are still digging into the complexities of the endocannabinoid system, many processes and connections still remain only partially understood. With this is mind, the interaction with CBD is also pretty foggy on a molecular level. However, the amount of study into the outcomes of CBD oil therapy is mounting. The crescendo of lab, animal and clinical research done on the topic of CBD oil is overwhelmingly supportive of the medical potential of the substance.
Perhaps it’s best to clarify what CBD doesn’t do, before we go into the things it does do. Despite coming from the same genus of plant as THC, ingesting CBD will not make the user high or in any way intoxicated. The CBD cannabinoid interacts much differently than THC, and has no psychoactive properties. It also doesn’t cause other side effects often associated with marijuana use such as increased appetite, increased anxiety, and mood changes. If anything, CBD increases relaxation and produces a sense of calm. It also has the ability to counter the increased anxiety and psychoactive stimulus that can be a result of THC consumption.
According to all the available information, including human trials and anecdotal evidence, there are no major side effects. The side effects that have been found (beyond the sense of relaxation) are only under extremely high doses in clinical trials. For example, extreme doses in a study treating tremors related to Parkinson’s Disease seemed to trigger increased tremors. However, CBD has been found to reduce tremors when taken in the correct dose. Because there is nearly no risk of side effect under normal circumstance, many people are now turning to CBD as an alternative to normal pharmaceuticals. Cannabidiol also is safe to use where other options (including medical marijuana) might not be suitable, including with seniors, children and animals.
What benefits are people reaping from CBD oil therapy? The list continues to grow with the advancements in study, but there are a few major highlights that demonstrate the potential for amazing medicinal benefit.
For people who suffer from certain forms of seizures, CBD has been found to drastically lessen the frequency and severity of these seizures. This has been especially exciting news for parents of small children who had proven unresponsive to traditional seizure medication. On top of this, it is safe to use with zero known side effects in this application.
Cannabidiol therapy is beneficial in two ways for cancer treatment. What it is mainly used for now is reducing suffering during chemotherapy by maintaining appetite levels and reducing nausea. The exciting new aspect being ferociously studied is CBD’s ability to inhibit and reduce specific cancer cell growth. This has been found with breast, lung and colon cancer cells in particular.
Perhaps the number one reason why people are turning to CBD in lieu of traditional pharmaceuticals is its ability to reduce chronic pain and inflammation. It does so without any of the side effects associated with major pain medications such as opiates. It is neither addictive nor toxic for the mind and body.
One of the newest pursuits in CBD therapy is in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders. In one often repeated study, it has been proven to lessen anxiety in people prior to a stressful event (like a public speech). It is also being pursued to treat addictions.