CBD has been around for years but is now more popular than ever. With celebrities like Kim Kardashian hosting CBD-themed baby showers and coffee shops offering CBD-infused lattes, the cannabis plant extract has become a hot commodity. It’s found primarily in extractions from the hemp plant but also in cannabis plants, and can be consumed in the form of gels, gummies, oils, supplements, extracts, and even flower.
There are endless benefits of using CBD and the best part is its legality in many states. For new users, the compound can be perplexing. Many people confuse CBD with THC, the compound in marijuana that causes psychoactive effects. We spoke with five different leaders in the cannabis industry to give you the most detailed and educational guide on all things CBD.
CBD, also known as Cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring compound found in the hemp and cannabis plant’s stalks, stems, flowers and leaves. It’s more commonly derived from hemp—cannabis bred for high CBD and low THC. “Really, genetically speaking, marijuana and hemp are the same plants, and they call it weed for a reason. It’ll grow just about anywhere,” Vince Mathias, Director of Market Development at SUM Microdose told us.
Hemp is legal to grow anywhere in the United States and is the reason you might find CBD-infused products available in a state that has not legalized cannabis.
CBD and THC have the exact same chemical makeup: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen and 2 oxygen. The only difference between the two extracts is the location of a single hydrogen atom. CBD is prominently found in the hemp plant and is known to have soothing, anti-inflammatory properties that target cannabinoid receptors throughout the body.
Plants at harvest containing <.3% THC are considered hemp and plants containing >.3% THC is cannabis. THC is the cannabinoid best known for providing a “high” feeling while CBD does not because it is non-psychoactive. As a result, CBD can actually reduce the psychoactive effects of THC. CBD works with the serotonergic system to keep your own naturally produced cannabinoids working for a longer period of time, resulting in lower stress levels and lower pain perception: The exact reason why people of all ages are raving about its results.
While more studies need to be done, there is still a lot of information out there about the benefits of CBD, most of which relate to inflammation or oxidation. In the wellness space, CBD has gained a lot of attention for its potential as ant-inflammatory that may aid in post-workout recovery. Because CBD is not intoxicating, it is being used both in medicine, but also as a wellness product in everything from protein-rich smoothies to recovery muscle balms and cosmetics.
- day-to-day stress and anxiety
- general aches and pains
- chronic pain, particularly if it’s associated with inflammation
- pain from auto-immune conditions such as fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, and arthritis
- improved sleep
- mild depression
- nausea and lack of appetite
- blood glucose control
CBD works on three levels: First it helps balance and enhance mood by reducing anxiety, second it reduces inflammation, and third, it reduces oxidation. “When you step back and realize how many issues in life are caused by stress, inflammation, or oxidation it makes a lot more sense why CBD seem to be such a cure-all because it affects the root of those issues,” says Mattias.
Dr. Landolt of SummerTree Clinic Toronto found that her patients with chronic pain felt more relieved after introducing CBD into their regimen. Others reported low levels of anxiety and improved ability to cope with stress. Patients of Dan Sulton, CEP at Tantalus Labs, reported feelings of reduced anxiety, calm, relief of physiological pain symptoms, and enhanced recovery time after athletic strain.
Gabe Kennedy, Co-Founder of Plant People, feels the important part about consuming any plant medicine is to make sure that you take it every day. “Consistency is key. It’s just like any other practice, yoga or meditation. You can do it every once in a while and feel good, but the profound shift happens when one commits to the practice.”
Taking CBD has been described to make people feel less anxious and less in pain. It’s also been associated with getting a better night’s sleep because of its calming effects. “The feeling you get on vacation when you realize you don’t have to go to work in the morning. It’s a sense of wellbeing, without an artificial euphoria,” Mattias described. But before getting excited about the benefits, it’s helpful to know what you’re getting into.
People should do their research and ask questions regarding where the CBD is sourced, quality of the distillation process, where the cultivation and processing of the hemp are done, and any further information. There are many products that only contain hemp seed oil which does not actually contain CBD. This is because CBD is mostly found in the stalks, stems, leaves and flowers of the plant, and not from the seeds. Dan Sutton, CEO at Tantalus Labs, recommends that first time users should look for Broad Spectrum CBD Extract in favor of Hemp-based CBD whenever possible.
Sutton also notes that it’s also important to know that CBD extracted from industrial hemp is what is federally legal, whereas CBD extracted from the cannabis plant is only legal in states that have legalized the sale of recreational cannabis. CBD that is extracted from hemp plants contains lower amounts of THC than CBD pulled from cannabis. When it comes to extraction, oil extraction is most popular. It involves using alcohol to separate and collect the active compounds. The solvent takes the cannabinoids out of the plant and the liquid is evaporated which leaves the chemical compound in the oil form.
Because CBD affects everyone differently, it is recommended to experiment with different dosages and products to find the perfect fit. For someone who has experienced the effects of cannabis, they can start off with relatively higher doses because they’ve already experienced the effects of CBD. It is also recommended to consult with a doctor if using CBD for a specific medical reason. CBD brands that make specific claims about treating any type of disease or illness should be avoided, as there is no proof that CBD can heal any medical issue completely. According to Mattias, chronic pain usually requires a sustained high dose, at least 100mg a day while anxiety and mood issues can normally be resolved in the neighborhood of 10-50mg. “A normal dose would be between 3-15mg and about 10-100mg a day. It really depends on what symptoms the individual Is targeting.”
Products infused with the isolated compound of CBD are usually the cheapest. This basically means that the products are isolated with just the CBD compound. The preferred option is full-spectrum CBD, which includes the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes that work together to maximize effects, known as the entourage effect. However, because full-spectrum CBD also includes the cannabinoid THC, this makes it less accessible to people who are concerned with the compound showing up on a drug test. Broad-spectrum CBD is the alternative, that contains the same spectrum of terpenes and cannabinoids without the THC.
The cost can also vary due to location and popularity of the specific brand. Cheaper CBD options are usually found at bodegas and mini-marts. But Matt C. Potion CBD Founder, warns against the quality of these cheaper options. Most of the products that are found in bodegas or smoke shops contain only hemp seed oil without any mention of CBD or cannabidiol in the ingredient list at all. What most of these oils and edibles contain are extracts of the hemp seed. CBD oil can be made from either the hemp or cannabis plant, but only through the stem, leaves, stalks, or flower of the plant. These are the parts of the plant where CBD can actually be found. Additionally, many of the products that you would find in bodegas mislabel their packages with inaccurate CBD doses, no information about the brand itself, or any type of third-party lab results.
Edibles are processed through the digestive tract and the liver, so effect onset is slower and longer-lasting. CBD is degraded as it moves through the body, resulting in only a small fraction finally getting absorbed into the bloodstream. Tinctures held under the tongue hasten the onset, and topicals or salves localize the effect on the area of the body applied. Smokable hemp flower is also growing in popularity, with onset being almost immediate but lasting a shorter period of time.
According to Matthias, we are only just now uncovering the benefits of the other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. The ones people refer to the most are the “Big Six”: THC, CBD, CBN, CBC, CBG and THCV. Each of those cannabinoids has a host of medical benefits all on their own, as well as a completely different list of benefits when combined with other cannabinoids. CBN has been shown to be a powerful sleep aid, CBG shows promise as a treatment for IBS, CBC is thought to restrict appetite and helps reduce acne. Dr. Landolt agrees that the benefits are endless. “The trick here is either breeding strains that preferentially make some of these compounds or finding methods to isolate these compounds from existing strains. Exploring the potential effects of this new cannabinoids is the new frontier in medical cannabis. We could envision that in future we would see specific combinations of cannabinoids aimed at specific conditions.”
Special thanks to Matt C., Potion CBD Founder, Vince Mathias Director of Market Development at SUM Microdose, Dan Sutton, CEO at Tantalus Labs, Dr. Carolina Landolt of SummerTree Clinic Toronto and Gabe Kennedy, Co-Founder of Plant People, for providing meaningful information about CBD.