Products containing CBD, or Cannabidiol, are becoming more and more mainstream across the United States, from oils to gummies to soft gels to skincare to patches to vape oil. The challenge for consumers is education – understanding not only what CBD is, but how to take it, how much to take, how to understand the quality of the products, etc. The challenge comes arises because CBD is new to consumers and consumers are barraged with unsubstantiated marketing claims / misinformation.
It’s CRITICAL to do your research before deciding on which CBD brand to use. Not all CBD products are the same. CBD is a category which is full of many types of products.
CBD is a cannabinoid within cannabis and is only one element of the over 450 known compounds of the plant. Cannabis is typically broken down into two main categories: hemp and marijuana. Many consumer's connect THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, to marijuana, however CBD is typically linked to hemp, and CBD does not contain any psychoactive properties. CBD can be derived from both hemp and marijuana.
Hemp products typically contain less than 0.3% THC, with some products containing zero THC (e.g., CBD Isolate or Broad Spectrum). Additionally, hemp has thousands of years of history as being used for industrial purposes, capable of producing hundreds of crucial resources such as paper, clothing, building materials, biofuel, food products, oils and more.
THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that gives users the feeling of being “high.”
On its own, CBD has some benefits, however full spectrum cannabis oil containing naturally occurring CBD is more beneficial. Whole plant benefits are also known to deliver the entourage effect. The entourage effect results when the many components within the cannabis plant interact with the human body to produce a stronger influence than any one of those components alone – it’s a synergistic effect.
Will CBD get me high? The answer is no. CBD is one of many naturally occurring cannabinoids within hemp and it does not possess any psychoactive properties. THC is the only element in the hemp plant which causes the high however to achieve a “high” a process called decarboxylation must occur. In full spectrum, phytocannabinoid rich oils, the THC level is below .3%.
How does CBD work? Inside your body is an essential system called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), which includes cell receptors throughout your body. The overarching purpose of this system is to create homeostasis or balance. If your ECS is deficient you can manifest into a variety of ailments. You can support your ECS with healthy living choices such as minimizing stress, exercise, eating a healthy diet and supplementing it with a full spectrum phytocannabinoid rich CBD oil. Full spectrum hemp oils contain all the beneficial elements of the plant. When properly managed, your ECS can help support healthy sleep cycles, help manage stress, bring about a sense of calmness and help address discomfort.
When focusing on legality, it’s important to understand if the extract is derived from hemp or marijuana. And the THC concentration is important in determining whether or not it is legal. If CBD comes from the hemp plant with less than 0.3% THC, then it is legal under federal law. If CBD has more than 0.3% THC, it is considered marijuana and is illegal on a federal level.
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the sale of hemp (with less than 0.3% THC by dried weight) and its extracts, meaning that this is no longer regulated on a federal level. Because CBD with less than 0.3% of THC is not regulated, manufacturers do not have to prove that their products are safe or effective before they sell them, as long as they do not make claims about the possible benefits.
When doing your research, look for brands who post their product testing results online. Some of the typical lab testing which is completed on CBD products are: Cannabinoid Potency Testing, Micro Testing, Pesticide Testing, Residual Solvent Testing and Heavy Metal Testing.
Why so many tests, you ask? Well, cannabis is a plant known as a phytoremediator. Meaning, it cleans the soil when it grows so it pulls impurities out of the soil and into the plant. So, if the CBD you are ingesting comes from bad farming practices and toxic soil, some of those toxic elements can find their way into your products and then, into your body. You may think you are taking a high-quality product to help your body get into homeostasis, not knowing that you are ingesting some unhealthy elements as a result.
The FDA has concluded that CBD has benefits that outweigh risks for the epilepsy drug Epidiolex. This is based on studies of patients with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). These two childhood epilepsy syndromes don’t always respond well to anti-seizure medications. The FDA approved Epidiolex based on 4 double-blind placebo-controlled trials showing that CBD oil could significantly reduce the number of seizures that participants were having.
There are continued studies suggesting that CBD may help a variety of issues. However, there is not enough research at this point in humans to support certain claims. The FDA has allowed researchers to study CBD in humans since 2015, but much of the information currently available is mostly limited to animal trials.
To fully understand the current landscape of CBD testing, you can also look outside of the United States. There are many countries around the world which have been researching CBD, cannabis, marijuana and hemp derivatives in a variety of potency levels. One country leading a lot of research is Israel.
The clinical benefits of CBD are still being researched and studied. Reported side effects of CBD products may include fatigue, drowsiness, reduced appetite, dry mouth, and diarrhea. It’s challenging to know whether these reported side effects are caused from the CBD oil itself or a carrier oil, the quality of the product, the other ingredients being used in the product, etc.
For those taking medications, not enough is known about how CBD products may interact with those medications. Some experts warn not to consume CBD products if you are on medications such as blood thinners, however, ALWAYS speak to a health professional prior to using CBD products especially if you are taking medications for other conditions.
Another major concern is unreliable labeling by brands, especially brands who are marketing unsubstantiated medical claims. A 2018 study of CBD products sold online revealed that more than a quarter of the products examined contained less CBD than labeled, and some of these products also contained more THC than advertised. Another study found that 9 out of 14 samples of CBD products had “notably different” concentrations than the amount on their label. The uncertainty of the actual content of CBD products may increase risks. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent several warning letters to some of the biggest CBD manufacturers, some of whom had incorrectly labeled the amount of CBD in their products and/or had falsely claimed that their products could cure diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.
There are many different types of CBD products, with a varying quality and safety levels. Do your research! Be aware that the advertising claims for most CBD products are unproven by the brand making those claims. Before deciding whether to take a CBD product, it’s best to speak to your doctor to determine how CBD may affect you. When you do try CBD products, “start low and go slow” is a great strategy. Be informed. Be well.