Pot, weed, grass, call it what you will, ‘cannabis’ is having a moment, and with good reason: it’s an amazing plant that is, at last, gaining respect within the medical establishment as a powerful medicine whose health benefits extend far beyond anything hippie culture ever envisioned. Add to that a low likelihood of overdose or physical addiction – the plant’s relative safety makes it an excellent alternative to potentially lethal opioids for pain relief, as well for a myriad of other conditions.

You’ll be hearing a lot about CDB in the years to come, so to get started on this particular healing journey, here are some basics about this powerful medicine.

What is CBD?

CBD is one of over 100 compounds, known as cannabinoids, found in the cannabis or marijuana plant. Another prevalent compound in the cannabis plant is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the one that induces a ‘high,’ or altered mental state. Unlike THC, however, CBD doesn’t generate psychoactive effects and seems to act as a natural buffer against the marijuana high – CBD use doesn’t change one’s state of mind. What CBD does appear to do, however. is produce significant chemical changes in the body and confer a number of medical benefits. It is believed it does this by indirectly stimulating the endocannabinoid system, which regulates the body’s internal balance and allows the body to heal.

What is the endocannabinoid system and what are endocannabinoids?

The endocannabinoid system is group of cell receptors and corresponding molecules, endocannabinoids, which physiologically help maintain health and balance throughout the body. The system was recently discovered as researchers were studying the effects of cannabis on the body.

In the late 1980s, scientists observed that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the principal psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, fit perfectly into special receptors in the brain and central nervous system. The thinking was, that if our bodies house this complex network of receptors, then we must also produce the chemicals that work with these receptors. They named these chemical messengers found in our bodies, which attach to these receptors, endocannabinoids. In fact, our mood, happiness, fear, anxiety, and ability to endure stress are all regulated by this endocannabinoid system.

Familiar with the sought-after ‘runner’s high?’ Studies found that endocannabinoids are in large part responsible for that naturally-induced high. An example of an endocannabinoid produced by our bodies, is Anandamide, which basically is  the body’s own version of cannabis. Beyond the feel-good aspects of endocannabinoids, they’re also essential for helping to regulate day-to-day functions like digestion, appetite, mood, immunity, reproduction and fertility.

What’s the difference between CBD and THC?

There are hundreds of compounds within the cannabis plant, but the two most active and most studied compounds are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). Of the two, THC is the part of cannabis weed that gets you high (and why it’s illegal in many countries), versus CBD which won’t. CBD works indirectly with your endocannabinoid system, while THC works directly with it and immediately gives you the psychoactive experience.

An easy comparison of the two is that THC gives you a “mind-high” while CBD gives you more of a “body-high”. While THC has a lot of similar therapeutic benefits (pain reduction, anti-anxiety, etc.), it alters the mind which makes it less useful for daily life. CBD can be used daily to help treat common ailments while enabling you to go about your business without being impaired.

While each compound has its merits, CBD and THC do best as a team, working together, boosting their respective curative powers. For example, CBD’s can enhance THC’s painkilling and anticancer abilities, while taming its mind-altering qualities. CBD can reduce effects like the anxiety and rapid heartbeat than can come with too much THC. CBD will also keep highs on the lower end of the spectrum enabling patients to have a longer lasting, relaxing, yet non-intoxicating experience.

What are the benefits of CBD Oil?

As CBD works via many mechanisms, it seems to have many diverse health benefits. But it is perhaps best known for its ability to ease pain, stress and anxiety, and to aid relaxation and sleep, although it’s healing wheelhouse is ever-expanding. Many are calling it a natural wonder and studies seem to be confirming that. You might call it an ‘anti-drug’ of choice, in that it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, antispasmodic, antioxidant, anticonvulsant, anti-depressant, anti-psychotic, anti-tumoral, and anti-anxiety!

CBD is also being used as a natural relief option for those suffering with chronic health problems like Crohn’s, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, PTSD and schizophrenia – who are also looking for ways to minimize their pharmaceutical load. Numerous studies also point to CBD’s ability to combat and improve metabolic disorders by taming inflammation which, by the way, can help keep diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer in check. But perhaps the most encouraging news of all is that CBD can possibly help remove plaque from the brain that’s associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

What are the potential drug interactions and side-effects?

Many small-scale studies have found CBD to be safe and well-tolerated at a range of doses.  But, if you’re on a regular regimen of prescription or over-the-counter meds, it’s best to clear CBD with your doctor first, as CBD products can interfere with your body’s ability to metabolize some medications, in the same way that the well-known culprit, grapefruit juice does. Both are inhibitors of the cytochrome P450 enzymes, which we all need to help the body metabolize medications and potentially toxic compounds.

When it comes to side-effects, they are minimal and manageable, with some reports of minor fatigue; changes in weight or appetite; and/or diarrhea. For most of those who use it, whatever the dose, CBD has no significant impact on the central nervous system, vital signs or mood.

As with any medication, there is still some trial and error involved, so working with a health-care professional who is well versed in CBD is recommended, particularly to help avoid interactions with any other meds you might be taking. Also keep in mind that every body reacts differently, so less is more. Start low, and go slow, because what may be perfect for one patient may be too much, or not enough, for another.

Is it legal?

When CBD is extracted from non-psychoactive hemp, it is legal in all 50 states in the U.S. To make sure yours is a legal brew, make sure it contains a concentration of no more than 0.3% THC, which is the limit in the U.S. for CBD oil products. If you are traveling abroad, check with the appropriate authorities first to be sure your CBD oil complies with local regulations.

What to look for in a CBD oil?

There are thousands of CBD products on the market now and the quality and concentration of products can vary widely, so buying from reputable sources is always the preferred route. Experts also suggest looking for manufacturers  who:

  • source their products from preferably organic plants or as free of pesticides and chemicals as possible
  • extract the oil using solvent-free processes
  • submit their products for 3rd party testing and publish the results

Also, remember that CBD and THC work best together, so THC will also be present in most CBD products, in small, legal proportions. This will help boost medicinal effects without inducing a high – though some feeling of increased relaxation may be a pleasant side-effect.

Medical cannabis today is less about ‘getting high’ and more about getting well – and cannabidiol, or CBD, is the new, yet ancient, ingredient that’s helping to make that happen. And what excites me most about this natural wonder, is that it is unlikely to destroy the lives of those who use it therapeutically, versus the dangerous and addictive substances Big Pharma’s pushing these days.

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