What is CBD?

Ancient panacea rediscovered?

The medicinal benefits of Cannabis have been known throughout human history, spanning centuries on the end. Cannabis, an umbrella term, refers to both the Hemp and Marijuana plant, two different varieties belonging to the Cannabis Sativa species. Though both can be referred to as Cannabis, it must be noted that they are two distinct and separate plants. While Marijuana continues to be illegal in several parts of the world, regulated hemp cultivation is prevalent worldwide, including India. The two plants are classified based on the THC content present in them. While marijuana is not regulated, hemp plants contain not more than 0.3% THC- a negligible amount. 

More than 80 different compounds can be found in the Cannabis Sativa species. The two main Cannabinoids (compounds present in the species) found in the plant are CBD (Cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). Since CBD and consequently, CBD Oil is associated with Cannabis, some negative inferences have been unjustly made. In this article we'll take a deep dive into understanding more about CBD

CBD: Industry Overview

Since CBD is being used as a product for a wide range of health problems such as pain, inflammation, anxiety, depression, migraines, seizures, psychosis, mental disorders, and nausea, the industry has rapidly grown at an unprecedented rate. According to the Grand View Research, the legal Cannabis market in the US is set to hit USD $73.6 billion by 2027, and India is not far behind. As recently as 2018, the Indian government has taken the initiative to conduct a considerable amount of research, looking into all the possible health benefits of Cannabis. The government is also poised to look at relaxing laws restricting the production and sale of cannabis related products such as CBD oil, CBD-infused chewable gummies etc.

How does CBD work?

CBD interacts with the human body in multiple ways, one of the ways is by augmenting and imitating the effects of compounds known as Endocannabinoids. There are two types of Cannabinoids: Phyto cannabinoids (Phyto is the Greek word for plant), which are found in the cannabis plant; and Endocannabinoids, Cannabinoids that are produced by our body internally. 

Our internal system, called the Endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex network of receptors that enables communication and interaction between different areas of the body. Several medical studies indicate that an imbalance in the production of Endocannabinoids could potentially lead to many chronic, autoimmune and otherwise incurable diseases. By attuning the Endocannabinoid system, CBD ensures a state of balance in the body. Consuming it in the form of CBD oil is the most popular and highly bioavailable way that helps the body achieve homeostasis.

CBD: Safety and Adverse effects

Safety and Adverse effects of CBD

Medical research suggests that CBD does not demonstrate a negative impact on blood pressure, heart function, body temperature or digestion. Additionally, the levels of vital vitamins and minerals in the body are not adversely influenced by CBD. All these positive reviews were adequately confirmed by a December 2017 review by World Health Organization which stated 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.”

In recent years, CBD oil has been extensively covered by the media in the West, promoting it as an add-in to a post-workout smoothie, an active ingredient in your morning coffee, an essential element in beauty products, and the perfect solution for a range of health issues.

CBD vs. THC: The difference

THC is the main psychoactive compound in Marijuana that produces the ‘high’. CBD on the other hand, is non-intoxicating and non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t produce a ‘high’ when consumed. While both compounds interact with the  body’s endocannabinoid system, there are several differences between the two, ranging from the effects they produce, to their chemical structure.

While both CBD and THC have medical benefits, one of the most noteworthy CBD benefits is that it doesn’t cause the euphoric effects that occur with THC.

Quality of CBD: Nurturing and Extracting

Hemp as a plant has a plethora of uses- it can be grown as a renewable source for raw materials that are incorporated into thousands of products. Its seeds and flowers may be used in health foods, organic body care, as well as supplements. The fibres and stalks are used in hemp clothing, construction materials, paper, biofuel and plastic composites, to name a few.

The unique quality of the hemp plant, setting it apart from other crops is its ability to clean and purify soil through the process of bioaccumulation. Bioaccumulation is the gradual accumulation of substances, such as pesticides, or other chemicals in an organism. Additionally, Hemp plants are one of the fastest growing plants in the world, and are a carbon negative raw material.

How hemp plants are grown can have a significant effect on the purity and quality of the CBD. Organically cultivated industrial hemp plants produce CBD which is free from harmful chemicals present in fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides. Hemp grown indoors or in greenhouses is an assured chemical-free hemp source, where very little intervention against pests is needed. 

The extraction of CBD from the hemp stalk and stems can also play an important role which affects the purity of CBD. There are various methods of extraction, but the CO2 extraction process may be the best way to produce the purest CBD. It is the most modern form of oil extraction and is proven to eliminate other substances such as chlorophyll and other contaminants. Indeed, CBD that has gone through this kind of extraction method is purer and safer.

The different forms of CBD:

While CBD promises advantages in every form, it is pertinent to carefully examine whether products use the full spectrum, isolate or broad-spectrum varieties of CBD oil. The full spectrum CBD formula incorporates all cannabinoids found in the plant, while the isolate is created by isolating the CBD from all the other plant extracts. The broad spectrum CBD oil contains CBD and retains all the other compounds within the plant, except the THC, which is completely removed after the initial extraction, making it the ideal mix between the full-spectrum and isolate.

Types of CBD Products: 

Another important choice that customers must make, while taking into consideration factors like age, body type and the concentration of the product, is the form which is most effective and convenient for them. CBD is best when ingested, yielding the best results. Consumers who are hesitant to ingest the product can opt for a topical cream or ointment, while those who prefer edibles can choose from capsules, gummies, baked goods, or tinctures that can be sprayed under the tongue. The biggest differences between tinctures and edibles, are speed of delivery and how long the effects last.

Types of CBD Products

When choosing to buy CBD oil, customers and consumers are advised that it is best to start with a small dosage and gradually increase it until desired results are experienced. And as is statutory with any health supplements, consultation with physicians and personal doctors is the wisest way forward. 

The benefits of CBD oil 

The huge number of CBD oil benefits have proven that there is a reason for its present reputation and wide acceptance. Being a natural extract from the hemp plant, it scores over medications which are primarily chemicals and synthetics with a minimal amount of natural ingredients. Some of the notable CBD benefits are that it’s also relatively easier to access from licensed CBD retailers, is priced more affordably and does not require a prescription, which medications do. 

Medical research has also observed the effectiveness of CBD benefits in rare, complicated and often terminal conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and muscle spasms. Several CBD benefits for the heart and circulatory system have also been discovered, including the ability to lower high blood pressure, therefore linking it to benefits in health hazards like stroke, heart attack and metabolic syndrome. 

Studies have indicated that CBD is effective in pain reduction including musculoskeletal pain resulting from exercising and stiff joints. Many people have been consuming over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for decades, but they have never been safe and have side effects. They are now turning to CBD to reduce or even eliminate exercise related pain with minimal side effects. CBD is particularly effective against neuropathic pain, making it a great alternative to powerful painkillers with side-effects or addictive properties(opioids).

According to the Centre for Disease Control, in 2016 opioids were involved in more than 42,000 deaths in the US. Though opioid medications like morphine, codeine, and OxyContin are very effective in pain management they are also highly addictive and can lead death by overdose. CBD though not as effective as opioids in alleviating acute high intensity pain, is more effective and preferred for long term pain management. CBD can be taken by itself or along with other medications and poses no risk of dependence or accidental death.

Perhaps one of CBD’s most acclaimed impacts has been in helping to reduce inflammation, especially when applied topically in the form of CBD oil. Too much inflammation in the body impairs recovery and reduces normal body performance. There are two main CBD receptors in the nervous system - CB1 and CB2. CB1 controls perception, mood, sleep, memory, and appetite, while CB2 interacts with the immune system. Since inflammation is an “immune response”, CBD is able to target inflammation anywhere in the body through CB2 receptors to reduce chronic inflammation.

Many of those suffering from insomnia have testified to how CBD benefits their sleep cycles and lets them rest deeply. CBD has been known to modulate sleep by helping to change dopamine levels and exerts effects on the sleep-wake cycle in the body’s cannabinoid system. People with conditions like insomnia, anxiety, sleep-disorders and depression have reported a considerable and definitive improvement with the usage of CBD, giving them a more relaxed sleep. CBD has also been known to effectively treat illnesses which don’t necessarily have a complete cure ( neurological conditions such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome which don’t respond to conventional anti-seizure medications)

The neuroprotective properties in CBD are reported to be effective in conditions like neurodegeneration, neurotoxicity, neuroinflammation, and oxidative damage, which are the range of conditions associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Perhaps the most significant impact of CBD has been on Epilepsy. Early evidence from laboratory studies, anecdotal reports, and small clinical studies over a number of years suggest that CBD could help control seizures, especially in those who have not responded to traditional therapies. 

CBD has also been widely used in various cosmetic products for its anti-inflammatory effects on skin conditions. Its calming advantages lead to skin looking and more importantly, feeling better. Being a plant extract, CBD comes loaded with antioxidant properties, which are the main ingredients of anti-aging and wrinkle therapies. Skin dullness, and skin tone issues are increasingly finding remedies in CBD-rich anti-aging creams, lotions and other similar products.  

CBD is effective for handling acne because it arrests the onset of conditions that cause acne, by constraining oil production, resulting in an anti-inflammatory effect on oil-producing glands. Excessive oil build-up is usually the reason that leads skin to break out into acne. It is clear that excess oil, dirt, and dead skin cells clog the pores and cause angry red blemishes. CBD has also been known to help treat acne scars. These scars are usually caused by enlarged pimples and picking at the skin. CBD ointments improve the skin’s appearance in categories like elasticity and hydration when applied twice daily for three months. 

It is inconceivable that CBD benefits are so abundant already, however, due to the sophisticated nature of the endo-cannabinoid system, there are still several that haven’t even been discovered yet!

References:

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476
  2. https://edoa.eu/en/the-endocannabinoid-system/
  3. https://www.health.com/condition/pain/what-is-cbd
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317221#how-to-use-cbd
  5. https://medium.com/@nowsourcing/the-science-behind-cbd-oil-220fad4ed915
  6. https://royalcbd.com/cbd-isolate-vs-full-spectrum-broad-spectrum
  7. https://thewire.in/government/centre-allows-cannabis-research 
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html#:~:text=In%202018%2C%2067%2C367%20drug%20overdose,driver%20of%20drug%20overdose%20deaths.
Mallika Lahiry is a designer and a writer. She has had a long yet convoluted relationship with both the spoken and written word (that could rival a Shakespearean play, no lie) and has received accreditations for her efforts. You’ll often find her with her nose in a book, knee-deep in digging up facts, or drawing up her plans for her next passion project.
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