What is Cannabidiol and How Do CBD Effects Work?
There are thousands of different questions online today regarding the health benefits of cannabidiol, or CBD. Derived from the cannabis sativa plant, CBD has many health benefits and is legal in most States in the US, as it doesn’t contain the psychoactive elements typically associated with recreational cannabis use and THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol.
Determining exactly how CBD can boost your health, however, can be complicated. There are many different ways in which cannabidiol interacts with the human body and its endocannabinoid system (ECS), which can deliver hundreds of different health benefits. There is also a big difference in understanding the difference between CBD oil and hemp oil, as well as the full-spectrum, broad-spectrum and pure cannabidiol isolate varieties available.
Not all of the information available online regarding the use of CBD for health is entirely accurate, however. When assessing the beneficial effects of cannabidiol, it’s essential to ensure that the sources providing advise use only peer-reviewed clinical evidence to support their claims. Otherwise, it is littered with egregious gimmicks and unsubstantiated rhetoric.
What is CBD and Where Does it Come From?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a naturally occurring compound that is extracted from the cannabis plant (which constitutes both hemp and marijuana). CBD itself is found in the resin, or ‘essential oils' of the cannabis sativa plant, in both male and female specimens. The history of CBD is lengthy – it was first isolated in the 1940’s, but the way that CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system of the human body was not understood until the early 1960’s.
Modern science has a far greater understanding of cannabidiol today than it ever has, but is largely understudied due to all of the regulatory roadblocks surrounding the greater marijuana industry. However, scientists have discovered cannabidiol is present in all types of cannabis and is an extremely powerful phytocannabinoid, or plant-derived cannabinoid.
There are a number of important facts about cannabidiol: firstly, CBD is non-intoxicating. The psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant that is associated with recreational cannabis use — THC — is not present in CBD, so it doesn’t make users feel intoxicated, or “high.” Secondly, CBD is one of just 113 different cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It is widely shared that due to its non-toxic nature, the body has an extremely high tolerance for CBD and does not have any glaring side effects assuming the product is free of impurities.
The wide range of cannabinoids found in cannabis sativa plants have made it an important healing tool for thousands of years. Modern medical science is just now beginning to explore the plethora of benefits this unique cannabis oil compound can deliver to the human body.
Which Health Conditions Can CBD Help With?
1. CBD for Chronic Pain
CBD has been demonstrated to alleviate the symptoms of chronic pain by working with the immune system. Cannabidiol has also been found to modulate specific receptors that are associated with pain, helping individuals diagnosed with chronic pain in managing their condition.
2. CBD for Inflammation
The anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD are widely documented. By lowering inflammatory responses in the body, CBD is able to assist with a broad range of health conditions from Alzheimer's, to arthritis, and even some conditions that can lead to cancer.
3. CBD for Seizures & Epilepsy
CBD has been proven in multiple clinical trials to assist with the management of epilepsy. Just one single small dose of CBD at the onset of a grand mal seizure, for example, can stop it from occurring entirely.
4. CBD for Insomia
5. CBD for Multiple Sclerosis
6. CBD as an Antipsychotic
Interestingly, CBD has powerful anti-psychotic effects. Clinical trials assessing the efficacy of CBD in treating multiple mental health conditions demonstrated that in some cases is can replace antipsychotic medication entirely.
7. CBD for Anxiety
CBD is able to deliver potent anxiolytic, or anti-anxiety health benefits. Individuals that suffer from mild to extreme anxiety are able to manage their condition with CBD.
These are the seven most popular medicinal benefits of CBD. While there is a bunch more evidence supporting each of these, there are also dozens of other therapeutic effects CBD can help on a host of conditions such as;
- Acne (here and here and here and here)
- ADD and ADHD (here and here)
- Addiction (opioids) (here and here)
- AIDS (here and here and here)
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sceloris (ALS) (here and here)
- Alzheimer's (here and here and here)
- Anorexia (here and here)
- Antibiotic resistance (here)
- Atherosclerosis (here and here and here)
- Arthritis (here and here)
- Asthma (here and here and here)
- Autism (here and here and here)
- Bipolar (here and here and here)
- Cancer (here and here)
- Digestive Issues (here and here and here and here)
- Depression (here and here and here)
- Diabetes (here and here and here and here)
- Endocrine Disorders (here and here and here)
- Fibromyalgia (here)
- Glaucoma (here and here)
- Heart Disease (here and here and here and here)
- Huntington's disease (here and here and here)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS) (here)
- Kidney Disease (here and here)
- Liver Disease (here and here and here and here)
- Metabolic Syndrome (here and here and here)
- Migraines and headaches (here)
- Mood Disorders (here and here and here)
- Motion Sickness (here and here)
- Nausea (here and here)
- Neurodegeneration (here and here and here)
- Obesity (here and here)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) (here and here and here)
- Osteoporosis (here)
- Parkinson's Disease (here)
- Mad Cow Disease (Prion) (here and here)
- PTSD (here)
- Rheumatism (here and here)
- Schizophrenia (here and here)
- Sickle Cell Anemia (here and here)
- Skin Conditions (here and here)
- Spinal Cord Injury (here)
- Stress (here and here)
- Stroke and TBI (here)
There is so much more to write about each one of these but it is hard to ignore the total aggregate of hemp-derived cannabidiol extract's benefit to the body's health conditions. And as mentioned in the introduction, the most staggering attribute to all of the CBD health benefits is the fact that the body tolerates cannabidiol very well and is hard to ‘overdose' to where it becomes toxic.
Is CBD Legal?
Although the cannabis sativa plant may be illegal for recreational use in most countries around the world — excluding the US — the use of CBD is extremely widespread and, in most cases, completely legal. CBD is regulated in several countries, however. Interestingly, CBD products were recently removed from the World Anti-Doping Association’s list of banned substances, allowing sports players and professional athletes around the world to access the health benefits it offers.
CBD Legality in America
In the US, CBD products designed strictly for health use are completely legal. The limit is set at 0.3% THC content for health products, so any CBD product that contains less than a third of a percentage of THC can be sold and purchased with no legal trouble.
The legality of CBD was made clear by Barack Obama’s 2014 Agricultural Act, which clearly defines the legal and non-legal uses of the cannabis plant based almost entirely on the THC content of products being sold.
In the US, any product that contains more than 0.3% THC is considered to be a medical marijuana product, and thus is covered by specific state laws regarding the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis.
CBD Legality in Canada
CBD regulation and legislation is far stricter than in the US. Regulators in Canada have defined CBD as a Schedule II substance, which means that CBD products in Canada can be purchased strictly for medical uses only.
In order to qualify to be able to purchase CBD products in Canada, individuals must become authorized by petitioning and registering with Health Canada. Subsequent to approval and registration, individuals seeking to access the health benefits offered by CBD must then purchase CBD products only from a licensed provider that is able to deliver the CBD product to the user’s doorstep.
Overall, CBD is part of a developing field that is actively exploring the medical uses of cannabis, and is thus in a “grey area” of legislation in many countries. There are many countries, however, in which CBD is legal in varying degrees:
Countries Where CBD is Legal:
- The Netherlands
- The UK
How to Check CBD Quality
Assessing the quality of a CBD product can be difficult. The internet makes it possible to access a very broad range of different CBD health products, tinctures, supplements, and more, but determining whether or not a provider is delivering quality, tested, reliable, and safe CBD products is critical.
Most CBD oils that are available on the internet today are derived from industrial hemp. The quality of industrial hemp-sourced CBD products, however, can be questionable at times.
A survey published by the American Medical Association assessing the accuracy of cannabidiol products sold online found that over 70% of all online CBD product tested — which covered around 85 different products from around the world — were mislabeled or labeled incorreclty, with labeled ingredients not corresponding to the actual contents of a product.
While the fact that 30% of almost all CBD products do provide accurate labeled ingredients shows that the industry is far more honest than say, the fitness supplement industry, there are a number of things to look for when selecting a CBD product to ensure you are getting a quality product:
1. Buy CBD Products Manufactured in the United States
As a rule, it’s best to select a CBD product that is manufactured in the United States. Colorado, Kentucky, and Oregon are all places that grow a significant amount of high-quality hemp, which is actually marijuana that is harvested early due to the textile applications it offers.
There is, however, just enough CBD in the early-harvested cannabis grown in these states to make CBD extraction worthwhile. CBD products made in these states, however, still contain below 0.3% THC, which makes them legal for sale as CBD products in the United States.
2. Ensure That Your CBD Comes from the Right Part of the Plant
There are many CBD product advertisers stating that the products they offer contain CBD derived from the seed or the stem of the cannabis sativa plant. It’s impossible to extract CBD from these parts of the plant in any meaningful amount — avoid these manufacturers.
3. Avoid Chemical Additives
Avoiding chemical food additives is a common practice when ti comes to dietary health, but it’s also important to consider when selecting CBD products. Some chemicals commonly found in CBD products include propylene glycol and ethylene glycol, both of which are potentially extremely dangerous to the health. It’s critical to avoid these chemicals in any products that are designed to be vaporized.
4. Avoid CBD Products Manufactured in Europe
While Europe is known for high-quality pharmaceuticals, CBD products manufactured in European states are not the highest quality. This is because EU hemp is grown primarily for fiber and seed, not for CBD. The remaining biomass left over after fiber extraction is used to source CBD in these regions, making it lower in quality than plants specifically grown for high CBD yields.
Following the above rules will ensure that the products you are considering will be of the best quality available, with accurate labeling. The CBD industry is still growing, so unless manufacturers have access to analytical lab equipment, it’s difficult for them to determine the CBD percentage of the products they offer.
Typically, CBD products manufactured within Colorado and Kentucky are of the best quality, and deliver full-spectrum CBD. It’s important to look for full-spectrum plant extracts rather than isolates alone, as full-spectrum delivers greater net health benefits.
In the near future, increasing regulation will see CBD products more closely scrutinized, thus providing consumers with more reliable, higher quality products.
How CBD Works
In order to understand the health benefits CBD offers, it’s important to understand how it interacts with the human body. Cannabidiol is classified as a pleiotropic substance, which means that it is able to deliver healing effects by interacting with different molecular passages in the body.
Cannabidiol interacts with the endocannabinoid system of the human body. The wide range of pharmacological actions provided by cannabidiol include anxiolytic, antiemetic, antipsychotic, and anti-inflammatory health benefits.
At low doses, CBD has been demonstrated to be more effective than commonly used health supplements such as vitamin C and vitamin E, and can help to provide relief from the symptoms of arthritis, joint pain, migraine headaches, acne, and neurodegenerative conditions.
The science behind CBD can be quite complex, but once translated into simple english, becomes easy to understand. When CBD enters the human body, it begins by inhibiting the production of a specific enzyme called FAAH.
This enzyme degrades an “endogenous” cannabinoid that is produced inside the human body called anandamide. By preventing the FAAH enzyme from breaking down endogenous cannabinoids, CBD prolongs and enhances the positive health effects they provide.
Anandamide is an important neurotransmitter that binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the human endocannabinoid system. When it binds to these receptors, anandamide provides a range of health benefits that include increased appetite and the promotion of neurogenesis, or the growth of new brain cells.
Anandamide is also able to modulate the human immune system, and has even been demonstrated in some clinical trails to kill cancer cells or desensitize the TRPV 1 receptors that control pain perception.
The secondary health benefits provided by CBD occur when it activates 5-HT1A receptors and a number of ion channels that are responsible for a range of functions such as the production of serotonin, pain perception, body temperature, and inflammation.
By interacting with the way the body produces serotonin, CBD is able to play an important role in the release of dopamine in the body. By modulating dopamine secretion, CBD has been demonstrated to assist individuals diagnosed with mental health conditions such as schizophrenia in managing their symptoms and avoiding the use of powerful, side-effect causing psychiatric medications.
This same effect also helps individuals with Alzheimer’s disease in managing their condition. Interestingly, CBD has also been associated with the release of oxytocin, an important anti-aggressive and calming hormone.
Cannabidiol has another interesting property — it is able to interact with the endocannabinoid system of the human body in order to block GPR55 receptor signalling. Preliminary research into this ability shows that CBD holds the potential to slow the growth of certain cancers.
While this may sound complex, GPR55 is a receptor that is found in multiple areas of the body, including the brain, the spleen, the adrenal glands, and the gastrointestinal tract. This receptor is closely associated with the creation, growth, and migration of cancer cells within the body.
Modulating the GPR55 receptor is also able to deliver a profound impact on the inflammatory reaction of the immune system, assisting in the prevention of cancers that are caused by inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease.
Quickly summarized, CBD is able to:
- Prevent the breakdown of anandamide, providing anti-anxiety benefits, alleviating depression, and assisting with the management of pain
- Activate 5HT1A receptors, causing the body to increase the amount of positive hormones that assist with mood balance such as serotonin, ocytocin, and endorphin
- Block GPR55 signalling, which shows a great deal of promise in slowing the growth and migration of specific cancers around the body.
How Long Does it Take for CBD to Work?
CBD is generally highly bioavailable, which means it’s easy for the body to absorb. Most CBD products typically take between 30 to 60 minutes to take effect. The cumulative anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD deliver long-term benefits with sustained use, however.
The time it takes for CBD products to take effect differs depending on a variety of factors that include body weight, metabolism, and more, so determining how long CBD products take to work may require a small amount of experimentation on an individual basis.
It’s also important to take into account the differences between individual products and the delivery method they use.
Sublingual dosing is one of the most common ways to deliver CBD to the body. In this method, a drop of CBD-rich oil is placed under the tongue. This method generally takes between 10 to 20 minutes to take effect, and is one of the easiest methods of application.
Vaping CBD products take effect far faster, but the potential health impact of vaping is currently poorly understood. Although there is a significant body of evidence to support vaping as a healthy delivery method, it’s important to “do your own research” and determine if vaping is the right choice for you.
CBD edibles are a very easy method of dosing CBD, but are somewhat slower to take action as the CBD must pass through the digestive system.
Determining the right dosage of CBD depends greatly on the goal of dosage, the health issue being treated, and the delivery method. The impact of CBD on the human body is widely investigated, and has been demonstrated in multiple clinical trials to be well-tolerated by the human body in doses up to 1500 mg.
Best practice for determining CBD dosage is to begin with the absolute minimum dose, gradually increasing doses until the optimum balance between dose size and benefits is achieved. Once the ideal dose is achieved, then it’s possible to retain the same dose for 90 days or longer.
A suitable starting dose for most people is roughly 12 mg per day, applied three times daily.
Individuals suffering from extreme symptoms such as chronic pain or inflammation may consider a starting dose of between 22 mg and 30 mg per day.
CBD offers a wide range of benefits that can assist individuals with epilepsy or other seizure conditions, but these health conditions typically require a higher dosage. 3mg per kilogram is the standardized dosage used in clinical trials investigating the health benefits of CBD for epilepsy.
There is, however, a significant obstacle that must be overcome in CBD dosing — many patients are unable to calculate the exact dosage of CBD and exactly how many sublingual drops it translates to.
Determining CBD dosage follows a relatively simple formula. CBD products should provide an exact amount of how much CBD is contained within them. CBD oil, for example, should provide an analysis of how much CBD is contained in each milliliter, or gram. If one milliliter is equal to roughly 20 drops, it’s possible to work out the dosage with this data.
- Individual A purchases a bottle of CBD oil from a US-based manufacturer
- The product is labeled as a 45 ml bottle that contains a 26mg/ml dose
- Individual A is a first-time user that suffers from mild anxiety and thus decides to start CBD therapy at a dose of 12mg of CBD per day
How many drops does that work out to, though?
- There are 20 drops in 1 ml
- 1 ml of oil contains 26mg of CBD
- 20 drops of CBD oil therefore provides 26mg of CBD
- Dividing the CBD content per ml provides the answer — a single drop, in this case, is worked out as 26/20=1.3
- The oil in this example therefore works out to 1.3mg of CBD per drop
In our example, individual A aims to begin dosage at 12 mg per day. In this case, 9-10 drops of the CBD oil in the example should suffice. Individual A should aim for 3 to 4 drops, three times per day, to meet their dose goal.It’s important to remember that it can take up to hours for CBD to take effect, so it’s important to wait patiently while assessing dose.
Best CBD Dose for Beginners
The best CBD dose for beginners can be difficult to determine due to the potential impact of CBD versus THC, which is the psychoactive element of the cannabis plant. While THC is psychoactive, it can have a complementary effect when combined with CBD.
The ratio between THC and CBD is important. This ratio can vary depending on the type of plant used to harvest the CBD from and the method used in manufacturing and extraction. In California, for example, CBD products are commonly found in the form of tinctures, which are sublingual CBD products that can be found in a wide range of ratios.
Some tinctures are very high in CBD and low in THC. Others offer equal amount of THC. The concept that drives the use of tinctures is the “entourage effect,” which is the synergy between the different compounds derived from the cannabis plant and the way in which it potentiates their effects.
The cannabis plant contains many bioactive compounds that deliver a wide range of potential medical benefits. Scientists have isolated these compounds and analyzed their effects, then interpereted the value they offer. When you combine all of the different compounds that can be found in the cannabis plant together, however, they deliver an ensemble effect.
The therapeutic impact of the whole cannabis plant is therefore greater than the individual components of the cannabis plant. In terms of dosing, this means two things:
- The ratio of CBD to THC is extremely important. The more CBD in a product versus THC, the less intoxicating the product will be. Low THC products don’t cause an intoxicating effect and are therefore suited to individuals seeking a “high-free” medicinal effect. Individuals living in regions with favourable medical marijuana laws, however, may be able to access a broader range of choices with differing CBD and THC ratios.
- There is a broad spectrum of different ratios and dosage that are effective. Low doses, for example, have been demonstrated to offer a significant health benefit with no drawbacks. As little as 2.5mg of CBD, for example, can provide a powerful health boost.
In some cases, a very high dose may actually deliver the exact same health benefits as a low dose. As trials and investigations into the health benefits of CBD continue, the amount of knowledge available regarding dosage and impact is expanding.
Generally, it’s best to begin with an extremely low dose of 2.5mg, with a maximum of 10mg, depending on the method of delivery — low doses are best to begin with, regardless of whether the CBD deliver method is sublingual, via vaping, or transdermal through a topical tincture.
Newcomers to CBD should begin with a low dose and increase it incrementally. After waiting a few hours and assessing the effects, newcomers may seek to increase the CBD to THC ratio or increase the overall CBD dosage, depending on the overall effect.
CBD Side Effects & CBD Safety
Extensive research has been conducted into the health benefits of CBD and the interactions of CBD with both humans and animals.
Studies assessing the oral administration of CBD, as well as the administration of inhaled CBD, have corresponded fairly evenly with the reported results published by the general public, supporting the claims of health benefits delivered by CBD.
In 2011, a comprehensive clinical trial assessing the health impact of CBD across 132 different clinical investigations and studies found interesting results. The study analyzed both the effects and side effects of CBD.
The review concluded that CBD is completely non-toxic in non-transformed cells, and does not have any impact on food intake, doesn’t cause catalepsy, doesn’t alter physiological parameters such as heart rate, blood pressure, or body temperature, and does not impact gastrointestinal function or physiological functions.
Interestingly, the study also concluded that “chronic” use of up to 1,500 mg/day has no negative health impact and is reportedly well-tolerated in humans.
CBD has essentially been proven to function as a safe compound and is, in most cases, far safer than the pharmaceutical alternative it replaces. There are, however, a number of side effects that have been identified in clinical trials.
The side effects caused by CBD have primarily been identified in in vitro or animal studies. There have been no clinical trials in which CBD side effects have been identified in humans.
A number of in-vitro and animal trials have found a small selection of side effects, most of which are associated with the alteration of cell viability, reduced fertilization capability, and the inhibition of specific hepatic drug mechanisms and drug transporters.
Generalized side effects of CBD are mild, and typically include low blood pressure, light headedness, a dry mouth, sedation, and slight drowsiness. It is always recommended to consult with a licensed professional before starting any CBD-based health plan. Do not always take the “internet's word for it” as we have alluded to early about Dr Oz CBD claims circulating online.
How Safe is CBD & CBD Interaction With Other Pharmaceuticals
Some clinical trials and investigations indicate that mixing CBD with some pharmaceuticals may produce side effects. CBD does interact with a number of enzymes that are associated with the metabolism of specific drugs, such as enzymes that belong to the cytochrome P450 family.
The specifics of this interaction are relatively complex, but at a basic level this means that CBD is metabolized through an enzyme that used by some drugs, which could potentially cause an increased CBD dose. Other pharmaceuticals use this enzyme, which would mean less available CBD.
It’s always important to check with your physician before beginning any CBD dosage or mixing CBD with pharmaceutical drugs or medicine.
Overall, however, CBD has no negative side effects in humans that have been identified yet. CBD is generally very safe, so experimentation is possible and not risky. When taking CBD with pharmaceuticals, it’s essential to keep your doctor informed and updated.
If an individual is taking high doses of specific CBD isolates, however, there may be an issue with drug interactions. These isolates are generally sold on the internet as a single-molecule CBD extract on the assumption that targeted CBD compounds may work better than full-spectrum products.
The CBD product market is huge. There are thousands of different CBD products available on the market today, catalyzed by the publishing of hundreds of different in-depth clinical investigations proving the health benefits of cannabidiol.
CBD is typically administered via oral dosing, transdermal application, or through inhalation. Some popular CBD products include:
- CBD hemp oil
- CBD hemp powders
- CBD capsules (softgels, pills)
- CBD skin care (serums, creams, balms, salves, pain rubs)
- CBD-infused beauty products
- CBD isolates
- CBD tinctures
- CBD transdermal patches
- CBD body washes (shampoo, conditioner, lotions)
- CBD edibles (gummies and food infusions)
- CBD drinks and beverages (water, teas and seltzers)
- CBD pets (dogs and cats are the most common animals)
- CBD vapes (vape pens, juices, e-liquids)
- CBD personal care (lip balms, sunscreens, roll-ons)
- CBD sprays
Does CBD Really Work?
With such a broad spectrum of health benefits, CBD can often seem to be “too good to be true.” Assessing the clinical evidence that supports the use of cannabidiol for the wide range of health conditions it can treat, however, provides a compelling argument in favor of cannabinoids as a powerful health tool.
Ultimately, CBD is a real, proven method of treating medical conditions naturally and effectively. When trying CBD products, always consult your physician for advice.