The Science behind CBD
How CBD works in the body:
Even though cannabis has been used and cultivated by mankind for at least 6000 years [Li, 1973] our current knowledge on its pharmacological properties is based on studies which have taken place only since the end of the nineteenth century. The very first compound isolated in pure form from the plant was cannabinol [Wood, 1899]. It was initially wrongly assumed to be the main active compound of the plant responsible for its psychoactive effects [Mechoulam and Hanus, 2000]. The second compound found was cannabidiol (CBD) by Mechoulam and Shvo [Mechoulam and Shvo, 1963]. The following year in 1964, Gaoni and Mechoulam isolated the main active compound, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (d-9-THC). We now know that THC is responsible for the plants psychoactive effects, but are still researching the plethora of other compounds including CBD.
It wasn't until the 1990's that scientist discovered that we had another biological system in the body, and since then more and more research has been conducted on the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). We now know that any organism with a Central Nervous System (that is, a brain and spinal cord) also naturally produces neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids in the body. These neurotransmitters bind to cannabinoid receptors that are expressed through the Central and Peripheral Nervous System to regulate physiological functions. The endocannabinoid system is involved in regulating a variety of physiological and cognitive processes including fertility, pregnancy, pre- and postnatal development, appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory, and in mediating the pharmacological effects of cannabis. So you see, cannabinoids have a vital role in literally every function of the human body from birth throughout our entire lives. It is no wonder that we have serious health problems this day in age, since our ECS has been severely malnourished and deprived for decades.
Two primary endocannabinoid receptors have been identified: CB1 (first cloned in 1990) and CB2 (cloned in 1993). CB1 receptors are found predominantly in the brain and nervous system, as well as in peripheral organs and tissues, and are the main molecular target of the endocannabinoid ligand (binding molecule), anandamide, as well as its mimetic phytocannabinoid, THC (the psychoactive component that gets you "high"). One other main endocannabinoid is 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) which is active at both cannabinoid receptors, along with its own mimetic phytocannabinoid, CBD. 2-AG and CBD are primarily involved in the regulation of appetite, immune system functions and pain management. As you can see from the diagram above, we have these receptors all over the body. So in summary, the phytocannabinoid CBD is a helpful neurotransmitter for literally every biological system in the body and assists in pretty much every physiological function.
Phytoannabinoids can also be found in other food sources and herbs, but in very small amounts. The Cannabis species is the only recorded plant on earth with a high concentration of the necessary phytocannabinoids including CBD.
What you need to know about CBD products:
In true Western pharmalogical fashion, the cannabis industry has followed suit by isolating the main component in a powerfully healing plant ally (in this case, Cannabidiol or CBD) and most companies are more concerned about profit than integrity. From an Herbalist's perspective, keeping the plant matter intact for medicinal use yields a much more bio-available (easily absorbed and assimilated) and much more potent product. The difference between a CBD isolate and a Full Spectrum (whole plant) product, is like taking a single B vitamin versus a B- Complex. The human body needs all of the B vitamins to work together in order to utilize a single one of the eight B's. For example, if you were to take a B-12 supplement by itself, it would be less effective than if you were to take a B-complex then supplement with additional B-12 if you happen to be deficient. It is much the same with cannabinoids. Taking a whole plant, full spectrum product is going to be much more effective than taking only CBD itself.
Cannabis is a complex plant with over 500 chemical entities of which more than 100 of them are cannabinoid compounds. Although the main psychoactive constituent of Cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the plant is known to contain more than 500 other compounds, among them at least 113 are helpful cannabinoids; however, most of these "minor" cannabinoids are only produced in trace amounts. Besides THC, another cannabinoid produced in high concentrations by some plants is cannabidiol (CBD), which is not psychoactive but has recently been shown to block the effect of THC in the nervous system.
As we learned in my last segment, there is a big difference between Marijuana and Hemp. Marijuana plants are specifically bred to increase the THC content, and Hemp plants are bred for higher CBD content. Legally speaking, Hemp Extract products must contain less than 0.03% of THC in order to be legitimately sold anywhere in the U.S. Therefore, you would have to go to a Marijuana dispensary to obtain a CBD product with higher concentrations of THC in it (and in some states that have not passed recreational use laws, you would need your Medical Marijuana card in order to purchase it).
Another important factor in choosing your CBD products is understanding the extraction process. I will get more in depth with how CBD products are made in my next segment, but for now just be aware that how the CBD is extracted can effect it's potency and integrity. For instance, a variety of solvents can be used to extract the plant's essence. Some of these solvents are highly toxic and even poisonous substances that should not be ingested! These solvents include Acetone, Ethanol, Isopropyl Alcohol, Lighter Fluid and Gasoline. I have a client in the Medical Marijuana industry who makes CBD products professionally and is very knowledgeable on the subject. In one conversation, he stated that they have to refine their "gas" a minimum of eight times to remove as much heavy metals as possible before using it in the extraction process. So not only are you getting the remnants of toxic solvents in your finished product, but now you have to consider heavy metal toxicity!
Then there is CO2 Extraction. This method does not require any solvents at all, and renders the most pure product available as an end result. I will get more into specifics on this method later, so be sure to read my next segment on "How It's Made." Many Essential Oil companies are now using this extraction method to produce more pure oils, but it is still mostly an uncommon practice. I believe it is still incredibly costly to invest in this method, and therefore most Cannabis companies cannot afford it. Other companies chose the good old fashioned method of infusion in a medium such as Coconut Oil, but some novice producers may not be aware of the levels of heat needed to manufacture a therapeutic value. For example, some chemical components such as THC can be "cooked off" at a certain temperature but other compounds like CBD will remain intact.
Also keep in mind that Standardized Testing will prove the potency and purity of a good quality product. You can rest assured, that less scrupulous companies who use cheaper, more toxic solvents to create their products are probably not investing in third party testing either. There are many more people in this industry who are out to make a profit than actually help people, so just because a tincture costs an arm and a leg does not mean it is of good quality.
The many Benefits of CBD
To date, there have been more than 1,500 studies investigating cannabinoids and their effect on the body. Among them were studies carried out in California to determine why patients used cannabis for medicinal purposes. They reported that it: relieved pain, muscle spasms, headaches, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, depression, cramps, panic attacks, diarrhea, and itching. Others reported that it improved sleep, relaxation, appetite, concentration, and energy. Many patients use it to prevent or counteract side effects of medications or to treat involuntary muscle movements and seizures.
*Please note that there are clinical Case Studies for each and every one of the conditions listed above.
Contraindications and Side Effects
In all of my research, there are no known side effects to taking CBD as a medicinal supplement or prescription. There are however some minor, uncomfortable side effects from THC- the psychoactive component that creates the "high" feeling in marijuana. In large doses, this may result in mental weakness or impotence, vertigo, headache, confusion, ravenous appetite, and sedative effects. There are also no recorded instances of overdose ever in history, but on the occasion that one has consumed too much THC it is not uncommon to experience: rapid heartbeat, overwhelming feeling of anxiety, panic or paranoia, dry mouth, or dizziness. In which case, the only cure for too much cannabis is time to allow your body to metabolize it. Sleep and an increase in blood glucose levels by eating something can help. Stay hydrated and if you can't sleep, find other calming activities to do until it is processed out of your system. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and other drugs while using Cannabis.
This concludes our segment on the Science behind CBD, up next is "How it's Made" and where to find quality CBD supplements. This post is by no means a replacement for medical care, and I am not personally nor professionally endorsing Cannabis or CBD as a replacement for health care. Please consult your doctor before deciding to take any CBD products.
Please continue to follow along in this informative Series, and I welcome any questions or concerns you may have!
Cannabis Therapeutics, A Manual for Cannabis Practitioners by Jamie Lynn Thomas
The Medical Cannabis Guidebook by Jeff Ditchfield and Mel Thomas
Hale Hemp Oil Distributor Resources
Other CBD manufacturers