What is CBD?
CBD (cannabidiol) is a chemical found in the Cannabis sativa plant. It is a 21-carbon terpenophenolic compound and one of more than 100 naturally occurring substances called cannabinoids that are found in cannabis. Cannabis plants also produce other chemicals called terpenes, which give the plants their distinctive aroma and enhance their effects.
There is currently much interest in the potential health benefits of CBD-based therapies and consumer products.
Cannabis, marijuana, hashish and hemp - what’s the difference?
Cannabis is a plant from the Cannabaceae family and it contains several hundred chemical substances, including 80 that are known to be biologically active. CBD and THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) are two of the most well-known biologically active compounds in cannabis.
Cannabis is also known by other names including marijuana (weed, pot, dope, skunk), hashish (hash) and hemp.
Marijuana consists of the dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant, whereas hashish comes from the compressed resin of the flowers of the plant. Both marijuana and hashish contain CBD, TCH and other compounds. THC is responsible for the psychoactive or mind-altering effects of these products, which gives people a ‘high’. CBD, on the other hand, does not give people a ‘high’.
Although THC levels in marijuana and hashish have been climbing over the years, they typically contain 10-20 percent and 20-60 percent THC, respectively.
Hemp is cannabis that is grown for the production of fibre and seeds. It differs from marijuana in that it contains very little THC. The 2018 Farm Bill (Agricultural Improvement Act 2018) specifies that hemp can contain no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis. This law change removed hemp from the definition of marijuana, which is a controlled substance in the US.
Is CBD legal in the US?
Federal law allows people to legally buy products containing CBD from hemp plants with less than 0.3 percent THC. Many states, however, also have their own laws covering CBD, which can be more or less restrictive than what is allowed under federal law. In some cases this can make a CBD product legal at a federal level, but illegal at a state level. Somewhat confusingly, in some states it can be legal to buy CBD products produced from plants containing more than 0.3 percent THC, but this is illegal at a federal level.
Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act, it is also legal to include CBD in cosmetic products, but these products must still adhere to other federal and state laws.
In addition, the US FDA has approved one prescription medication containing CBD, which is called Epidiolex. Epidiolex is an oral solution used for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Dravet syndrome or tuberous sclerosis complex in patients one year of age or older.
While CBD is legal in some instances, it is illegal to market CBD as a dietary supplement under the FD&C Act. It’s also illegal to sell foods that have had CDB added to them to buyers living in a different state. In addition, making therapeutic claims about a CBD product without FDA approval is also illegal. A number of companies have made unsubstantiated therapeutic claims about their CBD-containing products, leading to the FDA issuing several warning letters.
Before using CBD products, check what the laws are in the state you are in.
How is CBD taken?
CBD is available in products that may or may not include other chemical substances from the cannabis plant.
- CBD full spectrum products contain a wide range of cannabinoids and terpenes, including THC
- CBD broad spectrum products are purified to remove THC
- CBD isolate only contains CBD, unless otherwise stated
CBD can be prepared in a number of ways, including in the form of oil, tincture or kief for example.
CBD can be consumed in a number of ways including in:
- Edible products, including gummies, candy, cookies, cakes and more are available
- Under-the-tongue (sublingual) products, such as tinctures, sprays, oils and lozenges
- Skin (topical) products, such as creams, lotions and patches
- Vaping and smoking products, which can include CBD oil, CBD concentrate or actual plant material
How does CBD work?
The endocannabinoid system is a biological, cell signaling system, which cannabinoids including CBD act on. This system plays a role in the regulation of many factors including appetite, memory, mood, pain, inflammation, the immune system and more.
The endocannabinoid system is made up of:
- Endocannaboinoids. Endocannabinoids are natural molecules made by the body, which are similar to cannabinoids. Two key endocannabinoids are N-arachidonoyl-ethanolamine (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).
- Cannabinoid receptors. These are G protein-coupled receptors and include cannabinoid receptor 1 (CBR1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CBR2), which are located throughout the body.
- Enzymes. Enzymes make and break down endocannabinoids.
Cannabinoids are also thought to interact with other G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), ion channels and nuclear receptors.
CBD is a negative allosteric modulator of CBR1, which means that it alters the shape of cannabinoid receptor 1. This affects the ability of other cannabinoids to bind to the receptor, including THC and endocannabinoids. CBD may also bind to CBR1 and CBR2.
What is CBD used for?
So far, the FDA has only approved an oral solution containing CBD, called Epidiolex, for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Dravet syndrome or tuberous sclerosis complex in patients one year of age or older.
CBD has also been investigated for its potential in the treatment of many other conditions. Negative results or simply a lack of trial data mean that more research is required before it is known if CBD is beneficial for these conditions.
Some of the conditions that CBD has been investigated for include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Crohn’s disease
- Fragile-X syndrome
- Graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD)
- Huntington disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Drug addiction withdrawal
- Parkinson’s disease
- Smoking cessation
- Anxiety and depression
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Is CBD safe? What are the side effects of CBD?
CBD is reported to be generally well tolerated and have a good safety profile, according to a Critical Review Report published by the World Health Organization’s (WHOs) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence.
The FDA, however, warns that there is only limited data available regarding CBDs safety and that it does have the potential to harm you.
The FDA highlights its ability to cause liver injury and interact with alcohol and some medications. It also mentions that there is a risk that it may damage male fertility or cause male reproductive toxicity. The FDA also recommends that CBD be avoided while pregnant and breastfeeding.
Common side effects of CBD include:
- Drowsiness or sleepiness
- Decreased appetite
- Insomnia and other sleep issues
- Mood changes, including irritability and agitation
If you’re thinking about taking CBD…
Remember to check the laws in your state to see if CBD is legal. Plus, don’t forget to check with your healthcare provider to see if CBD is likely to be suitable for you. This is especially important if you take any medications or supplements or have any health conditions.
CBD is being investigated for its potential health benefits, but more research needs to be done to confirm whether it will actually be beneficial or not for many of the people who take it.
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