Cannabis is a well-recognized plant having around 400 different active compounds which makes it what it is, a magical preparation
Amongst these, one is terpenes; responsible for aroma and flavour and the other is cannabinoid.
Cannabinoids are the most important active component which contributes to the plant’s medicinal properties.
Characteristic of it, Cannabinoids are also responsible for inducing a sense of euphoria, thus imparting the plant’s recreational properties.
There are reported to be around 60 cannabinoids. Cannabinoids contain a range of different chemical compounds; each contributing varying levels of potency, such as THC, CBD, etc.
Cannabinoids work by interacting with cannabinoid receptors located in our brain, thereby, bringing about its effects.
Moving further, let’s focus more on CBD: What is it? What does it do? Where do we get it? Etc.
What is CBD?
CBD (Cannabidiol) was the second active cannabinoid compound to be discovered, first was THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), by an Israeli scientist Raphael Macheoulam in Cannabis sativa.
The chemical formula of CBD is C(21)H(30)O(2).
CBD (Cannabidiols), is a subclass of cannabinoid, it is less potent than other active compounds found in cannabis, such as THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the major compound responsible for inducing psychoactive experiences, that of being ‘high’ or ‘stoned’.
As such, CBD is categorized as a non-psychoactive compound, which implies that it does not interfere with the normal balance of the brain, does not affect/distort the mood, behaviour or consciousness of an individual.
What differentiates CBD and THC and makes CBD a non-psychoactive compound is the fact that CBD interacts with different receptors and not on the same receptors as THC does.
THC interacting receptors result in the mind-altering occurrences (hallucination, elation, euphoria, etc.), whereas CBD interacting receptors help in relieving pain.
One major value that can be derived from CBD is that it seems to counteract the negative effects; anxiety, stress, drowsiness, confusion, etc. caused by THC.
CBD is not a synthetic cannabinoid, said to be a phytocannabinoid (cannabinoids which occur naturally in the plant /synthesized by the plant itself naturally).
CBD is reported to be the most abundant of all the cannabinoids, making up to 40% of the total cannabis plant extract.
Owing to its non-psychoactive property, several latest studies have reported CBD to show positive results when used as a therapeutic agent against a wide range of disorders: psychiatric, inflammation, seizures, diabetes, arthritis, anti-cancer etc.
For quite a while, the benefits of CBD were overlooked as researchers focused primarily on THC due to its psychoactive nature.
Let’s focus more on how CBD actually works.
How does CBD work?
As mentioned, CBD is one of the many types/ subclasses of the active chemical compounds known as Cannabinoids.
CBD (Cannabinoids) are agonists or ligands (chemical compounds which associate with receptors to bring about a chemical reaction).
These agonists work by interacting with the receptors present in the brain; known as cannabinoid receptors.
Most of these cannabinoid receptors are reported to be located in the central nervous system.
Simply put, an agonist can be considered to be a key and the cannabinoid receptor can be assumed to be a lock, the simple fitting of a key into a lock is very specific (as no other key can open a lock). This lock-key mechanism is how the ligand-receptor reaction functions.
A large network of the Cannabinoid ligand-Cannabinoid receptor makes up the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
The primary role of ECS is involved not only in regulating the effects of cannabis but is involved in a variety of other physiological functions, such as: regulating our body’s immune response, pregnancy, stress, body’s internal temperature (homeostasis/thermoregulation) , psychiatric disorders etc.
Now that we are aware of how CBD functions, let’s move on its health benefits.
Key Health Benefits of CBD
Many recent studies have established positive results of using CBD against various disorders.
1. CBD can treat Anxiety
Anxiety is an emotion, a feeling generally associated with restlessness, sleep deprivation, fatigue, etc.
Experiencing anxiety occasionally on a normal basis is healthy, however, when one is unable to overcome such feelings and it tends to stay persistently, it can lead to the development of anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders are a group of several disorders associated with inducing feelings of stress, fear, worry, inner turmoil, etc.
Social Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are all anxiety disorders.
According to a study, low doses of CBD indicated to stimulate an anxiolytic effect (reducing effects of anxiety) on animal models of and can thus be used as a potential anxiolytic drug to suppress its severity.
According to a Royal Society publishing, low doses of CBD have also been reported to show a positive result on animal models to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and panic attacks.
2. CBD can help treat Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder arising due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain usually resulting in recurring seizures (fits), loss of consciousness, abnormal bodily functions and mental behaviour.
American Epilepsy Society reported a study outlining the potential effectiveness of CBD as an anticonvulsant (to treat seizures) when administered on animal models.
Although sufficient data on human trials are not available to support the effectiveness of CBD, its use for epilepsy can be suggested.
3. CBD can help in Depression
Depression is classified as a mood disorder, wherein a person experiences a range of emotions such as sadness, remorse, hopelessness, lack of motivation, etc. it can lead to severe consequences and affects an individual’s day to day activities.
A study published in the Royal Society outlines the possibility of anti-depressant like properties of CBD. Although sufficient clinical study evidence are not abundant, CBD can be proposed as a possible treatment.
4. CBD can help in Arthritis
Arthritis is an umbrella term for all those conditions which cause inflammation/swelling and pain in various joints of the body.
According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), administering a calculated dosage of CBD to a lab mouse reported protecting the joints against severe damages.
5. CBD can help Diabetes patients
Diabetes is a lifelong, usually genetic disorder that affects the body’s ability to utilize sugar; consequently, diabetic patients have high levels of blood sugar.
According to a study, treating animal models with CBD retarded the severity of the disorder, and presented CBD as a potential agent for treating type 1 diabetes.
6. CBD helps in Psychosis
Psychosis is a severe mental/mood disorder wherein, an individual loses touch with reality due to extreme disturbance of emotions and thoughts.
Studies suggest that CBD possess anti-psychotic activities. Clinical trials conducted on schizophrenic patients with CBD showed positive results by reducing the psychotic episodes.
7. CBD can welp with Inflammatory Disorders
CBD can be used as a potential agent to treat neuro-inflammatory disorders (such as Multiple Sclerosis).
In a study published, CBD was shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties, when its oral administration in lab animals showed to retard the effects of inflammation.
8. CBD has anti-cancer properties
With there being many different types of cancers, cancer affects many people.
Cancer involves the uncontrolled growth of cells in the body; this uncontrollable growth is known as a tumour.
Research is still being conducted to find a cure for cancer.
One area where research is being conducted is the possibility of CBD as a potential anti-cancer drug.
In a study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, CBD was reported to possess anti-proliferative (which stops the tumour formation by prohibiting the uncontrollable cell division) properties.
According to a study published, researchers found that CBD did not affect the normal (non-cancer) body cells of a lab mouse but was successful in inhibiting the breast cancer tissue, retarding its progression.
This provided evidence to support the possibility of CBD as a therapeutic drug to retard the growth and escalation (metastasis) of cancer.
9. CBD can Combat Nausea and Vomiting
Anti-emetic drugs are those which are effective against nausea and vomiting.
In a preclinical study conducted, CBD treatment was used on lab animals, to estimate its effectiveness in treating nausea and/or vomiting, the study outlined a positive result in suppressing vomiting.
10. CBD for Neuroprotection
Neurodegenerative disorders (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, etc.) are genetically inherited disorders which are incurable and have severe effects on the patient.
Reports have suggested CBD as a possible neuroprotectant (to restore and preserve brain structure and function) in reducing the severity of such disorders.
According to a study in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, a CBD based drug was successful in slowing down the progression of Huntington’s disorder.
In another study, CBD was reported to possess antioxidant properties, which was responsible for slowing down the induced Parkinson’s disorder in lab rats. It was concluded that due to such antioxidant properties CBD can be proposed as an effective neuroprotective agent.
A study published in the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET), revealed the possibility of CBD as a neuroprotectant for Alzheimer’s disorder.
The study proved that CBD hinders the activity of free radicals and prevents neurodegeneration (brain cell death) in animal models.
11. CBD affects Sleep Cycle
Different dosages of CBD can affect the sleep cycle, depending upon the dosage.
For instance, in a study published, it was revealed that administering a group of people with about 160mg of CBD, slept for a longer period of time than normal.
An animal study published, also suggested that administering a higher dose of CBD (10-40mg/kg) induced a longer sleeping pattern.
CBD can, therefore, be suggested as a potential treatment for insomnia and as a potential respite from nightmares.
On the contrary, a study suggested that lower doses of CBD (in micrograms) induced wakefulness in lab rats.
In another clinical study, subjects were given lower CBD doses and appeared to be alert, and quick.
Thus, it can be established that CBD at higher doses induces sleep (sedative), whereas CBD at lower doses increases wakefulness, and alertness (stimulant).
Where is CBD extracted from?
As the name might give a hint, CBD is primarily present in the Cannabis plant.
However, there are different species of Cannabis plant retaining varying concentrations of CBD and THC.
Amongst the different species, Cannabis sativa (also known as Hemp) and Cannabis indica are the most common.
Cannabis indica is reported to have higher concentrations of THC (principal compound responsible for inducing the euphoric, elated, intoxicated effects) than CBD, whereas, Cannabis sativa is reported to have a higher concentration of CBD than THC.
Through selective breeding, CBD- rich plant species have been grown by plant breeders.
For example, one CBD- rich strain is Charlotte’s web also known as ‘Hippie’s Disappointment’ (as it contains low THC content and higher CBD) which has been used to treat epileptic seizures.
However, it is imperative to understand that although CBD provides a possible solution against many disorders; its use is still considered to be illegal in many countries, with extremely stringent laws on its usage.
Cannabis is a well-known, controversial plant, with its cultivation being banned in many countries, such as New Zealand, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, etc.
Some countries, such as Canada has established an optimum THC concentration (0.3%) which ensures Cannabis sativa cultivation to be legal, a concentration above this is considered to be the illegal marijuana.
Consequently, Cannabis sativa is used as the major source for CBD extraction.
In the USA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers CBD to be a cannabis extract, is therefore classified as a drug, and is thus banned in most states unless medically prescribed.
In Canada, CBD is classified as a Schedule II drug, those drugs which can be potentially abused and lead to severe dependence and addiction and is only obtainable with a prescription.
Australia classifies CBD as a Schedule IV drug (drugs with low abuse potential) and is legal to use only when prescribed by a physician for medical use.
Similarly, United Kingdom also recognizes CBD to be a legal drug when prescribed for medical purposes by a registered physician.
How can CBD be used?
CBD can be used in a variety of forms, such as oils, gummies, topical, vapes, etc.
CBD Oil is one of the most common forms in which CBD can be consumed.
CBD is extracted from Cannabis plant, either from Hemp (Cannabis sativa) or Marijuana (Cannabis indica) in the form of highly concentrated oils.
The oil may be used as a concentrated extract by itself or it may be packaged with a carrier oil (such as olive oil, coconut oil) or extract to make it commercially viable and easy to use.
CBD oil is ingested as drops through the mouth.
The dosage varies for a type of disorder being treated; it is advised to start out with lower dosages and then gradually increase it accordingly.
However, it should only be used as directed by a physician when starting a new treatment.
One of the most popular CBD oil is Charlotte’s Web, a CBD rich strain, originally created to treat Epileptic seizures.
Presently, efforts are being made to extract CBD oil from CBD rich (strains having either the equal content of CBD and THC or higher and CBD than THC) and CBD dominant strains (strains which have dominatingly higher content of CBD and very little THC content).
CBD oil can be used for treating anxiety and insomnia.
CBD oil may also be consumed in the form of edibles.
The edibles are CBD oil extract derivate infused, which are hardened to make gummies and/or candies.
CBD gummies have lower CBD concentration and contain artificial sweetening and flavouring.
These CBD gummies come in various flavours; chocolate, lemon, vanilla, orange etc.
CBD gummies are not as highly concentrated as the pure oil extracts, consequently are less expensive than oil extracts.
CBD gummies are easier to consume.
Vaporizing/vaping provides is a popular method and provides an alternative to smoking.
CBD can be inhaled through a battery operated vaping apparatus.
CBD extract along with other compounds such as glycerol (even flavourings can be added) make up the e-liquid or e-juice, which is heated in a cartridge container, converting them
CBD liquid into a vapour/aerosol which is inhaled, giving the popular term ‘vaping’.
However, there are not many studies documenting the success of a CBD vaporizer.
As the vapour inhaled enters directly into the bloodstream the effects of CBD begin faster than gummies.
Many different brands of CBD vape oil (e-juice/ e-liquid) with different concentrations of CBD are marketed.
Topicals are like ointments, lotions, creams, etc. which are applied externally on the affected area of our body.
Like most externally applied creams, the CBD formulated topical only affects the area of application.
As topicals are applied on the body, they are easy to use and can be incorporated in daily routine.
Most of the cannabis topicals are not psychoactive, resemble normal balms and is not meant for internal consumption.
According to a senior member of International Cannabinoid Research Society, the applied topically is absorbed by the skin and helps in reducing the pain and inflammation by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors.
CBD topicals are available in the form of gels, salves, balms, tinctures, lotions, etc.
Dosages and Possible Side Effects of CBD
It should be understood that CBD will not affect everyone in a similar manner. Everyone will react differently depending upon the dosage and persisting conditions (if any).
IT IS BEST TO Always consult a physician before starting with a CBD treatment for any disorder.
Furthermore, CBD should not be used as a substitute for Cannabis (THC dominant) as it will not stimulate the same effects (euphoria, elation, etc.).
It is advisable to start out with lower dosages (few drops or fewer milligrams) and then gradually increase it accordingly until the desired effect; use according to judgement.
A study also revealed that a dose of upto 600mg given orally reduced anxiety.
CBD dose of upto 15-60mg/kg was found to be a better antipsychotic drug than normally prescribed ones.
A study highlighted that CBD was found to be safe for humans at high doses. In a clinical trial conducted, it was revealed that about 1500mg/day was found to be safe for humans.
However, it should be noted that the above study was conducted on a group of adults in a controlled hospital environment.
According to a study, CBD did not appear to have any negative effects, with a relatively safe side effect profile. It does not appear to affect blood pressure, body temperature, liver profile and heart rate.
While sufficient trials documenting the side effects of CBD on humans are not available, there appeared to be no side effects on animal models at low doses of CBD.
Although most studies show a positive result on using CBD, a study published highlighted side effects of tiredness, change in body weight, a decrease of reproduction ability, impairment of specific receptors, and diarrhoea in lab animals.
However, there is not sufficient data to support the long-term usage and any severe consequences of CBD. CBD treatment in children has also not been well researched to establish its safety and accuracy.
Due to lack of research, it is not advisable for pregnant, breastfeeding woman and children to start CBD treatment.
Things to consider while buying CBD Products
Following points should be considered while purchasing a CBD product:
Ensure that CBD products are from an authorized dispensary/company before purchasing, as there are several small-scale privately owned setups which sell CBD products at a relatively lower price, having altered CBD concentrations, this can cause more harm than good.
Ensure that the company is reputable with a positive and consistent track record.
Ensure that the company is not making any unsubstantiated claims regarding its benefits.
Only buy CBD products which have a clear label describing the CBD content.
It might be possible that the product does not have any CBD content, ensure that the product is approved by a regulatory authority, such as FDA.
The need to consult a physician cannot be stressed enough, always consult a physician before starting a treatment.
CBD is a non- psychoactive cannabinoid compound found in Cannabis plant mainly extracted from Hemp.
It appears to be useful in treating many disorders such as anxiety, epilepsy, depression, psychosis, diabetes, arthritis, vomiting and nausea, etc. It also seems to have anti-cancer properties and antioxidant properties.
CBD can be proposed as a novel therapeutic agent for many disorders; however further research is required to certify and establish its stability.