“Cannabidiol” (CBD), or “hemp oil” may seem like a new discovery, but it has actually been cultivated for thousands of years. Many cultures, including the ancient Egyptians, used the cannabis plant and its derivatives for healing, and cannabis was most likely one of the first plants cultivated for the purpose of making cloth.
Often there is confusion about CBD and whether it is marijuana or if it has “tetrahydrocannabinol” (THC), the psychoactive component that creates a “high.” The easiest way to understand the difference is to think of cannabis sativa as the “mother” plant, and then hemp and marijuana as her two different children. Basically, CBD products are extracted from either hemp plants that contain hardly any THC— or from marijuana plants that are high in THC.
What is CBD?
CBD is a “phytocannabinoid” found naturally in cannabis plants (again, both hemp and marijuana). When cannabinoids are consumed, they interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system to produce a range of effects. Endocannabinoid receptors occur naturally throughout the entire body, and help to control pain, inflammation, mood, memory and more. At room temperature, cannabidiol is a colorless crystalline solid.
CBD can be found in almost every type of cannabis plant, but below are the three major categories:
- Marijuana plants typically high in THC and low in CBD
- Industrial hemp plants high in CBD, containing no THC with no psychoactive effects
- Varieties of cannabis plants specifically bred to contain high-CBD/low-THC components
CBD has the same chemical formula as THC; 30 hydrogen atoms, 21 carbon atoms, and two oxygen atoms, but the atoms are in a different arrangement. THC has the psychoactive component that creates a high or euphoria, while CBD does not have this active ingredient. CBD can in fact interfere with THC and dampen the psychoactive effect.
How Does CBD Work and What is it Used For?
Cannibinoids work in the body by binding to certain receptors, either CB1 or CB2. CBD is thought to bind to CB2 receptors, which are more common throughout the immune system versus CB1 receptors, which are more specific to the central and peripheral nervous system. THC activates the CB1 receptors.
CBD has been touted for a wide variety of health issues. Researchers of an animal study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that it significantly suppressed chronic neuropathic and inflammatory pain. The strongest evidence for its effectiveness is in treating medical conditions including epilepsy. Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to anti-seizure medications, have been found to respond to CBD. It was found to not only reduce the number of seizures, but in some cases stopped them entirely.
Inhaling CBD has been shown to reduce the number of cigarettes smokers use. A study published in Addictive Behaviors showed that it could be a potent treatment option for nicotine addiction. CBD is also indicated for anxiety and insomnia.
The amount of time CBD stays in the system depends on multiple factors that have to be taken into consideration. This includes weight, method of ingestion, individual endocannabinoid system and body system. CBD’s effects are typically felt for about 3-4 hours, but it can take as long as 3-5 days for CBD to leave the body entirely.
Is CBD Legal?
The most important thing to consider when determining if CBD is legal is whether it was derived from hemp or marijuana. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers CBD derived from cannabis a Schedule 1 drug. But recently the DEA reclassified specifically Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CBD with THC content below 0.1% from a schedule 1 drug to a schedule 5 drug. A Schedule 5 drug is considered the least harmful.
CBD derived from hemp is considered a lawful substance; and, with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, it is now legal by the federal government to grow commercialized hemp in the United States. It still carries with it a stigma due to it’s association with marijuana and THC. While there is still more research to be done into long-term effects, it is important that we consider it separately from the side effects of marijuana and its reputation.
How is CBD Taken?
There are many CBD products on the market and thus a variety of ways in which CBD is taken:
- Sublingual (under the tongue) – CBD oil, tinctures or sprays are dropped under the tongue and are absorbed through the mucous membranes. Taking CBD sublingually has a faster rate of absorption compared to oral consumption.
- Inhalation – i.e. CBD vape – typically considered the fastest and easiest way to consume CBD, but not all vape products are the same quality so it is important to know what is in the CBD vape product you are using.
- Topical cream – available in balm, ointment or cream which can be directly applied to painful joints or skin irritations like eczema or rashes
- Orally in pill form – CBD capsules are available, this method is preferred by those who don’t like the taste of the oil
- Ingestibles – CBD gummies or cookies, brownies or other food can be infused with it
Side Effects of CBD and Contraindications
While generally considered safe to use, like any substance CBD does have some side effects as well as contraindications. Side effects can include:
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in mood
- Dry mouth
- Increased tremor in certain groups
- Inhibition of hepatic drug metabolism/decreased activities of p-glycoprotein and other drug transporters
- Light headedness
- Low blood pressure
A contraindication to be aware of when taking CBD is its effect on the group of liver enzymes called cytrochrome P450 enzymes. Many medications are metabolized by the liver. Taking CBD at high dosages deactivates the P450 enzymes, altering how the body metabolizes many compounds, including THC.
Is CBD Addictive?
Most addiction-causing drugs specifically target the brain’s dopamine reward system. CBD does not stimulate the brain’s dopamine-based reward system. Because CBD oil, or hemp oil, is made from high-CBD, low-THC hemp, it is non-addictive and has no addictive qualities. Any product, regardless of dependency-creating qualities, can be used in a process addiction relationship, but CBD appears to have no effects in encouraging addiction.
On the other hand, CBD oil can be derived from the cannabis plants contains high levels of THC and low levels of CBD. In these mixtures of CBD that contain more than 0.3 percent THC, they may create a “high” feeling that could potentially become addictive.