What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant. CBD will not give you the “high” feeling often associated with cannabis. Varieties of cannabis that have a high concentration of CBD and a low concentration of THC (another compound found in cannabis that is psychoactive) are generally referred to as hemp.
CBD and the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a system of receptors and signaling chemicals found in all animals. A 2013 issue of the journal Cerebrum identified the endocannabinoid system as “one of the most important physiological systems involved in establishing and maintaining human health” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3997295/). This system has been increasingly shown to impact many major bodily functions, and “may be involved in regulating physiological and cognitive processes, including fertility, pregnancy, during pre- and post-natal development, various activity of the immune system, appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory” (https://globalcannabinoidrc.com/).
Your body produces chemicals called endocannabinoids, which are used to regulate all of these different operations in the body and brain. The ECS is affected by many different factors, including stress, diet, sleep, and exercise. When the ECS becomes overworked due to environmental or physical stress, the body can’t produce enough of its own endocannabinoids, and the effects of this poor function impact other bodily systems.
The cannabis plant contains chemical compounds known as phytocannabinoids, which replicate the activity of your missing endocannabinoids and help to modulate the ECS. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine states that “modulating the activity of this system may offer tremendous therapeutic promise for a diverse scope of diseases, ranging from mental health disorders, neurological and movement disorders, pain, autoimmune disease, spinal cord injury, cancer, cardiometabolic disease, stroke, TBI, osteoporosis, and others” (https://search.proquest.com/docview/2261140321?pq-origsite=gscholar&fromopenview=true).
What has CBD been used for?
People have a lot of different reasons for using CBD. A 2018 study of CBD users found that nearly 62% of users reported using CBD for a medical condition, with the top three conditions being pain, anxiety, and depression. Other conditions reported included sleep disorders, headaches, PTSD, nausea, and epilepsy (https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/can.2018.0006).
According to the World Health Organization’s Critical Review Report from 2018, “CBD has been demonstrated as an effective treatment of epilepsy in several clinical trials, with one pure CBD product (Epidiolex®) with completed Phase III trials and under current review for approval in the U.S. There is also preliminary evidence that CBD may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions” (https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf).
Currently, CBD is sold both in retail settings, and as a prescription pharmaceutical medication. You can learn about CBD’s pharmaceutical application at https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-drug/def/cannabidiol. For a great overview of the documented pharmacological effects that CBD has demonstrated on various conditions, visit https://www.cannamed.fr/Files/125379/172561623726868.pdf.
Is CBD safe?
The 2018 WHO review states that “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile. Reported adverse effects may be as a result of drug-drug interactions between CBD and patients’ existing medications.” Additionally, the report states that there has been no indication for potential abuse of CBD, no evidence that it is used as a recreational drug, and no public health related problems have been associated with its use (https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf).
Is CBD legal?
Yes. Even though CBD is derived from the cannabis plant, the 2018 Farm Bill “removed hemp, defined as cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) and derivatives of cannabis with extremely low concentrations of the psychoactive compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis), from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)” (https://www.fda.gov/news-events/congressional-testimony/hemp-production-and-2018-farm-bill-07252019). There are restrictions on purchasing CBD in some states, so check your local laws when purchasing CBD for the first time.
How do I get started on CBD?
Current FDA guidelines do not allow recommendations on product use methods or amount to use, and in reality, there is not one simple answer to how to use CBD. However, there are some drugs that are contra-indicated with CBD (meaning they should not be used together), so it’s best to do your homework, talk to a medical professional, and make an informed decision whether CBD is right for you. For more information on CBD drug interactions, check out this Journal of Clinical medicine article from 2019: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6678684/.
Another great resource is the 2017 book CBD: A Patient’s Guide to Medical Cannabis – Healing without the High. This book offers a history of cannabis, and explores the chemistry of CBD and the endocannabinoid systems, as well as examining CBD in different product forms. Find it online at https://www.helmpublishing.com/cbd-a-patient-s-guide-to-medicinal-cannabis.