What is CBD and How Can It Help Me?

What is CBD and where does it come from?

Close up of trichomes on a cannabis plant that contain CBD medicine

CBD, or Cannabidiol, is a cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. Some people might be confused by thinking the CBD they bought came from hemp and so therefore isn’t from cannabis. The truth is that the legal definition of hemp is simply cannabis (Cannabis sativa L. to be exact) with less than 0.3% concentration of THC, the cannabinoid that causes the “high” that so many know about with cannabis.

Most common strains of cannabis for purchase at dispensaries or in illegal states have been bred to have high amounts of THC present. Since CBD can counteract some of the effects of THC by binding to and deactivating the brains CB1 receptors, most strains in the retail market are also bred to remove as much CBD as they can over time. At least this used to be true.

With the gaining popularity of CBD, many growers have been doing the opposite of what has been “mainstream” for a while now. They’ve been breeding for high CBD content with little to no THC. What this often means is that cannabis plants that have typically been high producing THC crops with large, dense, resinous buds still have the same structure and yields, but those yields now contain CBD instead.

What does CBD do?

There’s 2 main ways this can be answered: what does CBD do as approved by the FDA, and what can CBD do according to sources outside of the FDA. Officially, nobody besides GW Pharmaceuticals is allowed to claim any sort of medicinal benefit for CBD. That is because they paid for and did a lot of research for their “drug” made from CBD called Epidiolex marketed to treat seizures at a cost of $23,000 a year. According to the FDA, they’ve basically said that nobody gets to claim any medicinal benefits in any product containing CBD because they haven’t gone through the FDA’s official process to prove medical efficacy.
However, due to the fact that cannabis is a plant and has been legalized in some form or fashion in the majority of U.S. states, many people have seen first hand benefits from using CBD. There are many studies to back up these claims as well, with these being just a few from the first page of 113 PAGES of results at the time of writing (yes, you read that right, there are 113 pages with 20 results per page, meaning there are over 2,200 peer reviewed/reviewable medical papers researching the benefits of cannabidiol. when searching pubmed for information):

Aptosis (death) of colorectal cancer cells

Treatment of Dravet syndrome

Sleep and Anxiety disorders

How do I take it?

Most people probably think of massive bongs and tightly rolled joints when they hear the words “cannabis” or “marijuana”. Since CBD is a compound in cannabis, smoking joints with high CBD content is certainly one way to consume it. However, there are a multitude of other options for those wary of having smoke enter their lungs.

One good alternative is to vaporize the CBD product by doing either a “dab” of CBD concentrate on a heated dish or by using a “vape pen” with cartridges that come preloaded with a certain quantity of CBD, often mixed with a carrier like glycol or terpenes. This is a good choice for many as it avoids the harsh effects of smoke, but delivers a near instant effect of CBD.

Full spectrum CBD concentrate extracted from a cannabis plant

There are many other alternatives that don’t rely on inhaling CBD too. There are CBD tinctures, oils, rubs, edibles, patches, gel caps, and even sodas. The key thing about products consumed in this fashion is dosing. When inhaling, it is easy to judge the effectiveness of the medicine as it is delivered to your body almost instantly. When products are eaten, it can often take some time for the effects to kick in. This is where some of the bad press with THC has come in to play; people have taken high THC edibles, and when they didn’t feel the effects, they ate more and then regretted it when the effects from the initial consumption overtake them. When THC is metabolized by your body, it becomes more potent, hence leading to many feeling nauseous and over-medicated. CBD doesn’t have the same “over medicated” feeling that THC does, but it’s worth taking note and waiting for any initial doses to take affect before consuming more.

Homemade CBD edibles

Is it safe?

Nine times out of ten, the answer is absolutely. Unlike alcohol with alcohol poisoning, there is no known “lethal dose” for cannabis products, especially CBD. CBD is also not “psychotropic”, or better stated, people don’t feel “high” from it. Most people say that CBD helps them relieve anxiety and stress, and myself personally, have found great benefit in helping to treat pain from migraines.

With that said, there is one thing to keep in mind with CBD. If you are currently taking any medications that provide warnings on the label or instructions from your doctor or pharmacist about not consuming grapefruit juice, then those same warnings should be heeded about CBD. The reason is because CBD taken at high enough dosages can deactivate cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes which play a role in the rate at which certain medications are metabolized. You can learn more about the details of this interaction here. The summary though is that if you are taking any antibiotics currently, it is worth checking whether or not that medication is succeptable to interactions with CYP and grapefruit juice / CBD.

CBD is an incredibly safe and effective medicine that people have been using for thousands of years. Modern science is finally catching up after years of ludicrous and asinine prohibition efforts that have suppressed these plant based medicines. It is encouraging to see the tides changing, and the hope is that further education and sharing can push the days of prohibitionist lore to rest for good.

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