Is CBD Oil Legit? Here Are 7 Things to Know Before You Try It
CBD oil has been splashed across the internet as a miracle cure for everything from anxiety to insomnia, but is it really all it’s made out to be? We investigate.
First things first: cannabidiol (aka CBD) is not an oil.
“Though in certain circumstances it may have actual oil added, CBD is a goopy extract that’s chemically closer to a wax,” explains Dr. Jordan Tishler, a Harvard College and Harvard Medical graduate who runs InhaleMD, a practice that focuses on using cannabis to improve patients’ lives. “CBD is a medicine derived from cannabis or hemp.”
Which brings us to another important point to clear up: hemp and marijuana are part of the same plant species, Cannabis sativa L., and share many similar traits. “The biggest (and the legal) distinction between the two plants is that hemp contains less than 0.3 percent THC (the compound responsible for the psychoactive or ‘high’ feeling), whereas marijuana contains more than 0.3 percent THC,” says Kerrigan Behrens of Sagely Naturals, a wellness/beauty brand that makes CBD-infused products.
If you’re looking to avoid a high, hemp-derived CBD is the safest bet. “Most marijuana-derived CBD products contain enough THC to give you the high [unlike hemp]. Hemp-derived CBD is a lot easier to access since it’s legal in all 50 states and can be found online or in your local natural food and supplement store. If you’re looking for a product that contains THC and you live in a state where marijuana is now medically or recreationally legal, you can also find CBD in marijuana dispensaries.”
What are the benefits of using CBD?
According to Brandon Nolte, owner of Healthy Hemp Oil, CBD is used to help people with sleep, stress and inflammation. “The amazing thing about CBD is that it actually works with current pathways that exist in your body; it works by binding to receptor sites within the brain and then activates a calming effect that can spread throughout the body. Effects can be felt as quick as 10 to 15 minutes for tinctures or as long as one hour for CBD dog treats/edibles.”
In what forms is CBD available?
“The most common form is suspended in oil — e.g., a tincture — which has an oil dropper that you either put under your tongue or a sprayer that sprays directly into your mouth,” says Behrens. “Some people don’t love the taste of CBD or the feeling of oil in their mouths, so they prefer to take CBD capsules.” Like with all supplements, there’s a lot of marketing and fluff, so make your purchases carefully.
According to Behrens, the best way to ensure you’re getting the most CBD absorbed into your body (i.e., the highest bioavailability) is to look for capsules that are water-soluble. If you’re using CBD for symptoms like anxiety or sleep, oral applications are usually your best bet but speak with an expert about dosage. “Typically, capsules come in at least 5, 10 or 20 mg of CBD,” says Nolte, who adds that since the CBD is absorbed in your stomach first, it takes an hour or more for you to feel the effects, but then it lasts for several hours (which makes it great for sleep).
If you don’t have access to an expert and are concerned about dosage, Behrens recommends starting with a small amount every day and seeing how you feel. “If, after a week or two, you’re not getting the desired effects, you can begin taking more. As far as time of day, some of our users tell us that the CBD helps to relax them and so they take it before bed, while others prefer to take it in the mornings so they can feel the effects during the day.”
Another common form and the one that is said to have the fastest effect is a vaporizer. “Using a vaporizer allows you to feel the effects of CBD within a few minutes, but it doesn’t last as long as the other forms. There are also lots of fun flavors to try in this category,” says Nolte. Another option is concentrates, which are the highest serving size of all the product types.
“It’s basically pure hemp oil with CBD and not a lot else. For that reason, they can be economical, but they also have a stronger hemp taste to them. Similar to the capsules, the concentrates last a long time, but since they are absorbed sublingually at first, they can kick in a little quicker than capsules.”
Lastly, you can find CBD in creams, lotions and salves. “These products are often infused with complementary ingredients that can help CBD’s natural ability to fight pain and inflammation (think essential peppermint oil and menthol),” says Behrens.
Is there an overdose danger?
Don’t worry, CBD cannot be lethally overdosed. It is, however, important to note that it can interact with conventional medications and potentially cause serious harm. “If you’re on a blood thinner, antiepileptic or immunosuppressant, for example, you should consult a knowledgeable cannabis specialist before taking CBD,” cautions Tishler. Ditto if you’re pregnant or nursing. You can get more information from the Association of Cannabis Specialists.
Is it even legal?
Regulation of CBD is complicated. As far as CBD oil made from marijuana, it’s confined to those states that approved marijuana for medical or recreational use. CBD oil made from industrial hemp is generally treated as a food supplement. That said, Tishler is quick to remind that it’s important to be careful with your money.
“The FDA did go after four companies who were selling CBD oil that contained no CBD, thus they were making false claims. Beyond that, however, the FDA has not moved to regulate it more closely. Many packages make all sorts of medical or wellness claims that just aren’t proven,” Tishler says. He adds that states may additionally regulate CBD via their state medical cannabis laws, but most people are buying CBD via the web, so that means no local control and no safety information.
CBD’s efficacy is often contested.
Before you get too excited about adding CBD to your daily wellness regimen, according to Tishler, CBD at present is mostly snake oil. “CBD can be used in children with rare genetic seizure disorders to control the seizures and at very high doses it can be an anti-inflammatory (not a pain reliever) and anti-anxiety. However, these doses are so high they are unobtainable and unaffordable outside the lab. All the people running around putting 10 mg to 40 mg of CBD tincture under their tongues and extolling its vast benefits are simply getting placebo effect.”
That placebo effect seems to be working for a lot of people, however.
Ayumi Hanaoka, founder and creative director of 2WNTY3, told us there are many extreme claims about what CBD can do and, according to him, miraculously, they are mostly true. He cites things like relieving pain, reducing inflammation and treating mood disorders.
“For the recreational marijuana user, CBD can also act as an antidote to THC and can bring you balance when you feel like you’re a little too stoned. I think the most common myth is that CBD is completely non-psychoactive. Sure, you do not feel ‘stoned’ from CBD, but there is a psychological effect — it’s just subtle and positive.”
Meanwhile, Nolte says that “CBD oil can help with sleep, inflammation/pain and stress/anxiety,” but he’s quick to add that the scientific studies of CBD are still getting started. “Currently, the evidence is extremely positive that it helps with many health concerns, but these tests need to be verified by the scientific community over a long term before we can confidently label CBD as helpful for specific ailments. For me, the anecdotal evidence was enough to try it and see for myself.”
So what’s the conclusion?
There’s no denying the anecdotal evidence. CBD oil is helping a lot of people (even athletes). That said, don’t believe any claims that sound too good to be true and if you have a serious ailment or disease, talk to a medical professional before trying CBD oil.
5 Things CBD Can Do For You
Wonder-drug or snake oil? It depends on what you use it for.
Posted June 26, 2020
Cannabidiol (CBD) was first isolated from Minnesota wild hemp in 1940. It was not until 1963 that the exact structure was discovered by Raphael Mechoulam, the father of cannabis research. Much less research was initially done on CBD than THC because of its relative lack of psychoactive properties compared to THC’s dominant role in producing marijuana’s psychoactive powers.
THC and CBD are the two most abundant cannabinoid molecules in marijuana. Both come from the same nonpsychoactive precursor cannabigerol (CBG). The amounts of THC and CBD produced by any given cannabis strain are inversely related. High THC means low CBD, and vice versa. The ratio of THC and CBD depends on the relative abundance of enzymes any strain has for synthesizing each from the limited pool of CBG. Horticulturists have bred strains with high proportions of THC (Skunk) for maximum psychoactive effect and high CBD (Charlotte’s Web) for treating rare forms of childhood epilepsy.
It is unfortunate that many, if not most, studies of medical marijuana have not reported the ratio of THC and CBD. It was only after recognizing different samples of marijuana produce varying results for different research laboratories despite containing equal amounts of THC that attention turned to CBD as a modifier of THC’s effects. Research on CBD now shows that CBD’s activation of the natural cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors is almost negligible. So, how does CBD work? What does CBD do? What is it good for?
1. Smoothing THC’s High
CBD modifies the impact of THC and the brain’s natural THC-like chemistry. When THC is balanced with CBD, many of its potentially negative effects are reduced. CBD combats the anxiety that THC alone can produce. Balancing THC with CBD creates a “softer” experience with less likelihood of paranoia. Very high THC strains such as Skunk, with its very low CBD, are known to trigger psychotic reactions more often. Consuming marijuana with a balanced THC/CBD ratio is safer.
2. Reducing Anxiety and Stress Response
CBD ineracts with a subset of serotonin receptors to provide a mild anti-anxiety effect and to reduce our autonomic nervous system’s stress response. At lower doses, CBD is calming without producing a sense of being drug-affected or intoxicated. Some research indicates CBD is best at relieving “excess” anxiety, such as that experienced before giving a speech. Functional MRIs show that administering CBD before being exposed to anxiety-producing facial expressions reduces activation in the amygdala’s “fight or flight” centers.
Although some people swear by CBD as an effective sleep aid, controlled research has found mixed results and its sleep benefits may be more related to reductions in anxiety.
3. Relieving Inflammation and Pain
CBD interacts with other lesser-known receptors such as TRPV, located in peripheral nerves and causing heat, inflammation, and pain with injury or infection. CBD desensitizes these transient receptors, thereby reducing inflammatory and neuropathic pain. This may be why many athletes believe taking CBD after a strenuous workout speeds physical recovery. These anecdotal reports have not been scientifically proven yet and deserve to be rigorously tested.
4. 2 FDA-Approved CBD Medications
In 2018, the FDA approved the first CBD preparation, Epidiolex (>99% CBD) for the treatment of rare forms of severe pediatric epilepsy—Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes. The vast majority of studies confirm that adding CBD to current anticonvulsant medications significantly reduces the frequency of catastrophic seizures and increases the quality of life for children suffering from these rare forms of pediatric epilepsy.
The FDA also gave the green light to a second CBD preparation in 2018 for use specifically with organs being transported for transplantation. CBD reduces damage from low oxygen, thereby decreasing the rate of organ rejection. These benefits to transplant organs mirror the protection against ischemic damage CBD provides in animal experiments that temporarily block blood flow to the brain and heart. I would not be surprised if CBD-like medication became front line treatment for stroke and heart attack patients on the way to the hospital.
5. Making Money
Large segments of the public are gravitating toward CBD’s use, both for good reasons and in response to overpromising anecdotes circulating on the Internet and promoted by industry marketing. CBD is a fad and I almost expect unscrupulous entrepreneurs to declare CBD an essential vitamin.
It is strange when the same cannabinoid molecule is marketed as both legitimate medication and snake oil medicine. CBD is useful, but there are limits to its benefits. But, for the time being there seem to be no limits to the financial benefits being reaped by clever marketers. Buyer beware.
While the question of CBD’s safety can never be answered with a definitive guarantee (science can never prove a null hypothesis), reliable reviews of the medical literature are quite reassuring regarding CBD’s safety and side effects for adults. Safety for children, adolescents, and pregnant people, during which babies’ brains are still developing structurally, is an unanswered question and caution should be the rule. Very importantly, the World Health Organization has concluded CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential. This opinion is confirmed by Alan Budney, who delineated the criteria for THC dependence and withdrawal.