CBD oil 101: a user’s guide
A quick search on the health benefits of CBD oil will bring up over 1,000 peer-reviewed research articles. There is absolutely no doubt that cannabidiol (CBD) is a truly amazing plant substance with many health benefits. But if you are considering using CBD for health, how do you know what to choose for your health needs? Here is a primer on where to start.
The Endocannabinoid System
According to the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative (UCLS-CRI), the endocannabinoid system’s main job is to maintain biological homeostasis in response to changes in the environment. This system has developed over the last 500 million years in all invertebrates, including birds, reptiles, fish, and mammals.
There are close to 500 chemical compounds in a typical cannabis plant. Of all of these healing phytochemicals, a little over 50 are found only in cannabis. These substances are known as cannabinoids.
In the 1980s, specific cellular receptors for Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC (the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant), as well as other cannabinoids were discovered within the body. These are known as cannabinoid receptors, and the main ones are CB1, which is connected to brain health and CB2, which supports the immune system.
At around the same time, endogenously produced endocannabinoids, substances that help bind and synthesize THC from the cannabis plant to these receptors, were also discovered. Two of the main endocannabinoids found in the body are Anandamide and 2-Arachidonoyl Glycerol (2-AG).
Specific key enzymes help to round out the endocannabinoid system. There are two main ones– acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MGL). These enzymes help to synthesize and break down endocannabinoids in the body.
At first, the endocannabinoid system was thought to exist only in the nervous system and the brain. Later research, however, confirmed its existence throughout the body. Some areas where it has been detected include the skin, immune cells, bone, fat tissue, liver, pancreas, skeletal muscle, heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidney, and gastrointestinal tract. According to pioneer cannabis researcher, Dr. Christine Sanchez of the Complutense University of Madrid, this system is involved in dozens of healthy mechanisms and processes throughout the body.
But if THC has a special place to “go” within the body (cannabinoid receptors), what about Cannabidiol, or non-psychoactive CBD?
In fact, there are no cellular receptor sites specifically designed for CBD. That does not mean that CBD doesn’t still play an absolutely vital role in maintaining your health, however. The main purpose of CBD is to help mold and shape each receptor’s ability to bind to vital cannabinoids. Without CBD, the endocannabinoid connections – which can lead to lower inflammation, a healthier immune system, and overall better health – would not be possible.
Why Full-Spectrum Cannabis Is Best
In the 1990s, based in large part on the groundbreaking research of natural chemistry professor Dr. Raphael Mechoulam of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, much more was learned about how all of the phytonutrients in cannabis work together to form what we now call the “entourage effect.”
As you read on, you may be just as much in awe as I am about how many amazing phytonutrients exist within each cannabis plant. It is a true gift from God that healing plants such as cannabis, and so many others exist in our natural world.
Among the 500 or so phytonutrients inside the cannabis plant are immune-boosting and cancer-busting terpenes such as limonene and pinene, antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins, minerals, and detoxification agents like chlorophyll, along with cannabis-specific cannabinoids such as various forms of CBD and THC.
The entourage effect states that all of these substances are needed to work together in order for the healing properties of the plant to truly be expressed. When a cannabis product manufacturer leaves in all of the components of the plant, whether it be low-THC hemp CBD oil or a higher-THC marijuana product, it is called a full-spectrum cannabis product.
On the other hand, when a manufacturer purposely extracts only one or two components from a plant, such as the case in “CBD only” products, this is called “broad spectrum.” Because a plant is always at its potent best when it can employ all of its natural, God-given components together synergistically, experts agree that “full-spectrum” products should almost always be the choice for healing.
In this same vein, the body’s endocannabinoid system needs both THC and CBD in some form to work together. That is why all cannabis strains, including hemp, contain some amount of THC. Legally, a cannabis plant is labeled as “hemp” if it contains less than .3% THC. While THC can provide certain therapeutic benefits to the immune system, the brain and more, according to a 2008 report in the British Journal of Pharmacology, the presence of CBD can also change how THC affects the body. It can preserve THC’s unique healing benefits while lowering its psychoactive effects at the same time.
What About CBD Oil and the Immune System?
Two examples of how THC and CBD can work together for healing is by looking at its effect on cancer as well as HIV/AIDS. CBD has been shown to help mediate the health effects of both of these disease conditions most effectively when it is derived from a marijuana plant that contains higher levels of THC.
A 2017 study conducted at UCLA found that full-spectrum cannabis-derived from higher-THC marijuana can have the most beneficial effects. It does this through mechanisms in the plant which prevent HIV from developing into full-blown AIDS, through anti-viral activity and by rebalancing the immune system in general.
Cannabinoids also have a long history of assisting those with cancer. A 2007 report published by the California Pacific Medical Center demonstrated that CBD in itself can inhibit the Id-1 gene, which is responsible for cancer cell growth. In addition, we have written extensively about the benefits of full-spectrum cannabis for cancer healing, including what research says non-psychoactive CBD oil can do for pancreatic cancer and what higher-THC marijuana cannabis can do for breast cancer.
Still, research has been mixed concerning CBD and immune function. Much research has concluded that CBD can lower T cell function and be slightly immune-suppressive. However, this may actually be a good thing, especially those with autoimmune conditions.
An autoimmune disease, such as lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even diabetes, is characterized by the overstimulation of various mechanisms within the immune system. CBD alone, as a potential immune suppressor, may be able to calm overactive immune responses in these individuals. In fact, a recent study indicated that cannabinoid oil improved the overall mobility of patients suffering from MS as well as helped to reduce their pain.
Finally, all cannabis plants contain fatty acids, terpenes, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients which can support immune system function overall. In addition to quality, mercury-free tested omega 3s obtained from fish, CBD can be a great supplemental source of this anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy, and brain-healthy fatty acid.
CBD and Brain Health
Both CBD and THC have long been known to help with dozens of brain-related issues, including anxiety/depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and recovery from opioid addiction.
CBD’s beneficial effects for preventing age-related neurological conditions is an exciting area of increased research. Studies conducted by researchers at Western Sydney University on Alzheimer’s patients found that “CBD and possibly CBD-THC combinations are valid candidates for novel AD therapies.”
In addition, CBD oil supplementation may help some individuals overcome anxiety and depression naturally. This is due in large part to CBD as a neuroprotectant. According to a 2012 study conducted at the Universidad Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil, CBD acts as an “anti-compulsive” agent partly because of its ability to regulate the hippocampus and anandamide neurotransmission.
Although there have been no large-scale double-blind studies to date which analyze cannabis’ effect on depression, smaller studies have provided insight and hope. Research conducted at the University of Buffalo in New York state found that medical marijuana may help individuals suffering from chronic stress as well. Chronic stress can suppress endocannabinoid production. Supplementing with CBD oil derived from medical marijuana in particular (i.e., oil or leaf that has a more balanced ratio of CBD and THC) may help to resupply a system that has been depleted of endocannabinoids for months or even years.
In addition, a 2017 animal study conducted by the University of Bonn in Germany found that cannabis reversed the overall state of adult mice to a juvenile state of health, indicating that CBD, in particular, may have an “age-reversing” effect on neurology.
Finally, high-CBD products have been shown to help significantly with epilepsy. In this condition, nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, leading to seizure. The evidence is overwhelming that CBD can significantly help patients who suffer from this potentially devastating condition. One of the most comprehensive bodies of work is being conducted by Dr. Margaret Gedde. Gedde studies the effects of CBD on various forms of epilepsy, including Dravet syndrome, Doose syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, metachromatic leukodystrophy, cortical dysplasia, and idiopathic epilepsy. The majority of the patients in one of her studies had a reduction in seizures by 98 to 100% using high-CBD cannabis oil.
5 Major Benefits of CBD
The following are just some other benefits of CBD:
1 | Inflammation
One of the biggest benefits you can gain from CBD supplementation is the lowering of inflammation. According to Harvard University, chronic inflammation may be THE common factor in the development of chronic disease.
Treatment of diabetic mice with low-THC CBD supplementation reduced the incidence of diabetes by over 50% in the survey population, in large part due to how it was able to reduce inflammation in the body as a whole. A 2019 Polish study also found that CBD can exert an anti-inflammatory effect caused by its antioxidant properties. Other investigations have found that other substances in both marijuana and hemp, such as beta-caryophyllene and myrcene terpenes, also have powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
2 | Pain
Dozens of studies over the years have proven that CBD can help reduce pain in a variety of chronic conditions through its relationship with neurotransmitters, through reducing inflammation and through interacting with endocannabinoid cellular receptors.
A 2018 Finnish study found that the endocannabinoids that CBD protects have an effect on mechanisms involved in migraine headache pain. Another report published in the European Journal of Pharmacology found that orally administered CBD was able to reduce sciatic nerve inflammation and pain. Yet another study done discovered that CBD injections lowered pain responses after surgical incision in rats.
3 | Gut Health
Full-spectrum CBD oil can help gut health in a variety of ways. Again, its anti-inflammatory components come into play for conditions such as IBS. Other substances in both hemp and cannabis known to help the gut include terpenes such as limonene and Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s are the foundational substances for cell membrane growth and also help cellular receptor site function in the gut. A 2017 study conducted at the University of Nottingham made the correlation between high amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids and gut microbiome diversity.
4 | Eye Health
CBD oil from either hemp or cannabis can also help individuals with age-related glaucoma and macular degeneration since there are cannabinoid receptors in the eyes themselves. A 2004 study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology found that THC helps to reduce intraocular pressure.
Macular degeneration happens when the cells in the macular part of the eye begin to deteriorate, resulting in images that are not able to be received correctly. Two of the ways in which CBD can help is through its anti-inflammatory properties and also because of its ability to inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is often overexpressed in MD patients.
5 | Sleep
Studies going back at least thirty years have shown that cannabidiol (CBD) can help individuals who suffer from insomnia to get a good night’s sleep. One study found that for those with acute insomnia, a nighttime dose of 160/mg induced deep sleep. The effects have to do with CBD’s ability to reduce pain and inflammation, among other factors.
The key is to find the right dose, as some sensitive individuals may experience too much sleepiness during the waking hours if they take too much CBD. In a clinical trial from 1981 published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, CBD doses of 10 to 600 mg did not induce sleepiness. Doses of 10 mg/day for one month did induce “somnolence” (i.e., sleepiness) in some participants.
The 2018 Farm Bill (i.e., the Agricultural Improvement Act) states that farmers in the United States can now grow hemp once again. This means that hemp-derived products (i.e., cannabis products which contain less than 0.3% THC) can now be shipped in domestic mail, taken on airplanes traveling domestically, and sold just about everywhere in the country.
As you probably already know, in many states, higher-THC medical (and even recreational) marijuana is now legal as well. All this is great news for those who wish to have more access to cannabis in all forms for their own health and the health of their family. The increasingly open atmosphere is also creating some challenges too.
As part of the backlash against marijuana legalization, some states have passed “CBD only” laws. This may seem like a good thing, but it is also creating opportunities for unscrupulous entrepreneurs to create inferior, potentially dangerous, “broad spectrum” products which they make cheaply by extracting CBD using harsh chemicals.
Needless to say, the situation can lead to confusion, and even danger, for health-conscious consumers like you. This is why we recommend, if at all possible, that you work with a well-trained natural health professional if you are considering any kind of cannabinoid therapy.
No matter which routes you choose, be sure to educate yourself about all your options when it comes to CBD. Once you have narrowed down all your options, make sure you choose only the safest and most effective products on the market.
Start out slow, and we think you will be pleasantly surprised at how CBD oil can take your health to the next level naturally!
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