A guide to CBD and its benefits
  • March 31, 2020
  • 403
  • CBD

Beginner's Guide to CBD

In many countries, CBD products can be found in high street shops, online stores and even local coffee houses. Despite their popularity, you may still be wondering, what is it and how can it benefit me? 

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a versatile substance that is extracted from hemp plants and added to many items, including oils, food, drink, balms and capsules. There’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that it has beneficial properties and may be useful to improve the symptoms of some chronic conditions.  

What is CBD? 

What is CBD?

CBD is one of over a hundred cannabinoids found in the plants of the Cannabis Sativa family. They are natural chemicals present in the leaves and flowers of cannabis. You can find some forms of cannabinoids in humans, animals and specific plants like the cacao tree.

Cannabinoids from cannabis are so like our own human cannabinoids that they can interact with signaling molecules and receptors in our nervous system. This interaction is how CBD can produce a positive effect on our health and wellbeing.

The receptors are part of our endocannabinoid system, which researchers believe play a crucial role in restoring health and balance to many of our body’s systems. By allowing the ECS to work more efficiently, CBD supports your body to heal itself.

Another well-known cannabinoid is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In many countries, it is still a controlled substance and is notorious for its psychoactive high. CBD won’t get you high and is non-intoxicating. Most companies make legal CBD products from hemp with low levels of THC. 

More and more governments have recognized the benefits of CBD and legally categorized it as distinct from THC-rich cannabis. As a result, in much of the world, it is fully legal and readily available for purchase. Millions of people globally report a wide range of beneficial effects and use it regularly. 

The Difference Between CBD Oil and Hemp Seed Oil 

Buying CBD oil can be tricky, especially when you find different products with similar names. Hemp seeds oil and CBD oil are often confused.

Hemp Seed Oil

Health food companies make hemp seed oil from the seed of the hemp plant. It is rich in fatty acids but contains little or no cannabinoids or plant material.

Often used in cooking or as a dressing on salads, it is a rich earthy oil with a smooth nutty flavor. A good-quality bottle of hemp seed oil costs approximately $7 for 250mls. 

CBD Oil

CBD oil contains cannabidiol extracted from hemp or cannabis plants. Manufacturers make the extract from the cannabinoid-rich flowers and leaves. They make the best CBD oils with a beneficial blend of CBD, other cannabinoids and plant nutrients. 

The CBD extract is suspended in a carrier oil to make it easier to use. This could be olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, or even hemp seed oil. The carrier brings other benefits, including fatty acids, which can speed up the absorption of the CBD.

Most CBD oils can be quickly identified by looking at the label for the amount of CBD it contains. This will be an amount in milligrams like this, ‘1000mg CBD’. Some countries encourage CBD retailers to produce certificates of analysis conducted by third-party labs to verify the CBD content. 

CBD From Hemp

CBD Oil

Most CBD producers make their products from cannabinoids that they extract from hemp plants. ‘Hemp’ is the name given to strains of cannabis that are naturally low in THC. In many countries, governments officially designate hemp as cannabis strains with less than 0.3% THC making up its dry weight. 

While most brands make their products with CBD sourced from hemp, some make them from high THC cannabis strains. As a result, the oil itself may have higher levels of THC.

In areas where authorities have legalized cannabis, CBD oil made from THC-rich cannabis is legal, but it could be intoxicating. However, most countries view CBD oil made from THC-rich strains of cannabis as equal to marijuana itself and have declared it illegal.

Many countries restrict ‘legal CBD’ to being a term that refers only to products made from specific strains of legal hemp. There is often a legal limit for how much THC is found in hemp oil. 

Isolate vs Broad-spectrum vs Full-spectrum

Since CBD was first isolated from cannabis in 1940, understanding of it has grown. Research indicates that it has the most beneficial effect on humans when taken alongside the other natural substances and cannabinoids found in hemp. The impact of these substances together is known as the entourage effect.  

Some CBD products provide the entourage effect by using extracts, which include many of the compounds found in hemp. The phrases isolate, broad-spectrum and full-spectrum are often used to indicate how many cannabinoids a product contains.

CBD Isolate 

Products made with CBD isolate contain a pure form of CBD with no other cannabinoids. When producers extract CBD, they discard all other plant substances, leaving the CBD in crystal form. These crystals are ground into a fine powder and dissolved onto oils and balms. 

CBD isolate products are cheaper, easier to make, and less effective than other types. Because they cost less to produce, some scammers label isolate products as broad or full-spectrum to bump up the price. Third-party lab certificates are a great way to verify that the product contains more than one cannabinoid. 

Full-spectrum 

Full-spectrum CBD contains an extract that holds all of hemp’s natural cannabinoids. CBD is the most abundant, but there are tiny traces of each, including THC. Because they are present in such minute amounts, the third-party analysis will probably only detect 4 of 5.

Manufacturers sometimes include other beneficial plant substances like terpenes, flavonoids and fatty acids in full-spectrum products. These super-rich extracts are often labeled as ‘whole-plant extract’ and usually contain all of the substances found in the plant. 

Broad-spectrum 

Broad-spectrum refers to CBD products that contain CBD and at least one other cannabinoid but are free from THC. As with many botanical extracts, it is nearly impossible to remove THC from hemp altogether. Phrases like ‘Broad-spectrum’ and’ THC-free’ often mean that the THC-level is very low or undetectable in a lab. 

The Benefits of CBD 

People from all over the world report the incredible effects of CBD. Scientists have researched some of its effects, but others are still in their early stages. There are still various studies that have been completed.

What we know so far indicates that CBD may be useful for: 

Soothing Chronic Pain 

Researchers found that CBD reduces some forms of chronic pain, particularly when linked to arthritis, inflammation or nerve disorders. In 2007 a study conducted with rats found that CBD reduced inflammation and pain in the sciatic nerve

Studies with Sativex, a medicine containing CBD and THC, also showed significant improvements in pain suffered by those with arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis

Treating Some Mental Health Conditions 

Several studies found that CBD could reduce the effect of stress, anxiety and depression. In some cases, the impact was direct; a Brazilian study found that 300mg of CBD lowered the level of anxiety felt when speaking in public. Others, including a 2019 case series, found that the reduced anxiety was a knock-on effect from other effects of the CBD, such as better quality sleep. 

Easing Side Effects of Cancer Treatment 

Cancer treatment comes with a range of side effects, including pain and nausea. There are currently very few ways to manage them safely alongside cancer treatment. 

In 2009, research conducted in a hospice in Shrewsbury, UK, found that a combination of CBD and THC was an effective way of managing the pain. CBD was also linked to a useful reduction in the nausea symptoms caused by cancer treatments. 

Reducing the Frequency Seizures 

Epidyolex is a CBD only medicine that regulators have approved to treat seizures caused by types of epilepsy known as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Early studies showed that it could effectively reduce seizures by up to 30% more than existing medicines. 

Improving Skin Health 

Studies have found that CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects can reduce the production of excess oil by your skin’s sebaceous glands. When these glands overproduce sebum, it creates the perfect environment for acne and skin infections to develop. As a result, consumers often use CBD skin creams to soothe irritated skin, balance oily patches, and prevent acne breakouts. 

Slowing Some Degenerative Brain Disorders 

CBD may be able to provide comfort to sufferers of neurodegenerative disorders by delaying and reducing some of its effects. Studies involving people with Parkinson’s disease were able to show improvements in sleep and quality of life. Also, a 2014 study on mice found that long term treatment with CBD significantly reduced the cognitive decline caused by Alzheimer’s. 

Reducing High Blood Pressure 

Researchers in two UK hospitals found that even a single measure of CBD reduced blood pressure in healthy adults. This has implications for several conditions, including stroke and heart failure

Improving Sleep Quality 

CBD is biphasic, which means that it has two distinct effects depending on the amount used. Smaller amounts are stimulating, and larger amounts can be sedating. This provides a two-pronged effect to improve sleep quality. 

If you are awake and alert during the day, it supports your natural rhythm and readies your body for better sleep. A study of people suffering from Parkinson’s also found that CBD improved the quality of REM sleep and consequently reduced incidents of some sleep disorders. 

Different Forms of CBD Product

The different types of CBD product

CBD products come in many shapes and sizes. Some are great for any occasion, but others are best for more specific use: 

Oils 

Oils are the most common form of CBD. They are a simple combination of CBD extract and carrier oil. Good oils come in leakproof bottles that you can easily carry with you in a bag or pocket.  

They can be dropped under your tongue and held there to absorb into the sublingual blood vessel. The bottles usually come equipped with a dropper, which can be tricky, so you are best off doing it in front of a mirror. 

If you prefer, you can swallow the drops of oil, although many have an intensely bitter flavor. CBD oil can also be added to food or used to make other products like edibles or balms. 

Capsules 

Capsules are discreet and easy to take with you wherever you go. Each one has a precisely measured amount of CBD, making it simple to take a regular amount each time. They can be swallowed with a glass of water or bitten open so that the oil can rest under your tongue for greater bioavailability

Edibles 

Edibles can be anything from CBD gummies to croissants made with CBD butter. They are tasty and convenient, but always involve swallowing the CBD. Because this means that it must pass through your digestive system, a large percentage of each amount is broken down by your liver and won’t reach your bloodstream. 

Vape Liquid 

Vaping CBD e-liquid is one of the most efficient ways to get CBD to your bloodstream, giving you the most significant effect from the smallest amount of CBD. Vape oil comes in a range of different flavors and strengths to suit your preference. 

This is one of the most efficient and cost-effective methods to take CBD. Still, some people prefer not to try it because of the initial cost of a vape and the stigma sometimes attached to using them.

Creams and Balms 

These are ideal to apply CBD directly to irritated skin or sore muscles. There are many types of CBD creams and balms available for all sorts of situations. 

Balms usually combine CBD with other natural substances to create a broader range of useful features and pleasant scents. Occasionally they have a musty hemp smell, but most take on the scent of the other ingredients. 

Hemp Tea 

Manufacturers make hemp tea from the shredded leaves or flowers of the hemp plant. It can be steeped in hot water to create a warming drink packed with hemp’s beneficial plant nutrients. 

They are great to use alongside other CBD products to add extra cannabinoids but don’t provide much CBD on their own. Most contain CBDa, which is a precursor to CBD and provides its own benefits. Hemp teas have a pleasant savory flavor, but consumers often described it as an acquired taste. 

Suppositories 

Suppositories are one of the most effective ways to take CBD. This method allows a high percentage of it to be absorbed directly into the blood vessels surrounding your rectum. However, with other less invasive products available most people prefer to avoid them unless absolutely necessary. 

How Much CBD Should I Take? 

There is no standard daily amount for CBD because it affects each person differently. What works for you depends on how you take it, why you are taking it, general health and fitness, body weight, metabolism, body composition and several other factors. 

Studies have reported safe use on daily amounts between 20mg and 1500mg. In the EU, where the Food Standards Agency only licenses CBD for sale as a food supplement, they recommend taking no more than 130mg per day. In the UK, recent guidelines from the Food Standards Agency suggest a daily maximum of 70mg, but they have produced no evidence to indicate if this increases safety levels. 

To choose how much you will take, start by reading the directions that come with the product. They will recommend a low, regular amount to get you used to it. If you are new to CBD, take the small regular amount for one or two weeks, noting its effects. 

Then, if you want to increase the amount, make a small increase every two or three days until you achieve the desired effect. Stay aware of how you feel and look out for any side effects.  

Are There Any Side Effects? 

The World Health Organization has stated that they consider CBD to have a high safety level and little or no potential for abuse. Side effects that have been noted during research have been infrequent and mild. They include diarrhea, weight fluctuation and prolonged periods of fatigue. 

If you are considering taking CBD and are currently using any prescribed medicines, you should consult your doctor. Recently, researchers have predicted that CBD may well interact with most medications that you take orally. 

When you swallow a medicine, it enters your digestion system and your liver metabolizes it. This breaks down much of the active ingredient reducing it to a safe level. 

When you take CBD, it goes through the same process and is broken down by the same enzymes as most medicines. During this metabolization, CBD temporarily blocks these enzymes meaning that you may not break down medicines as effectively. As a result, the effect and side effects of the medication may be more potent. 

Doctors first noticed this enzyme blocking effect when they found that grapefruit appeared to enhance the effect of some medicines. Consequently, it is now known as the grapefruit effect. 

Conclusion 

With evidence of its benefits growing month by month, CBD has plenty of surprises still in store. Its versatility has made it one of the most well-known food supplements of recent years. And it continues to grow in popularity.

Despite its association with marijuana, CBD is non-intoxicating, and maybe just what you need for specific symptoms, a general health boost or a good night’s sleep.

About Tim W. Shaw

Tim W. Shaw is a freelance writer with a joint honours degree in English Literature and History. He writes on a wide range of subjects but specialises in Education, Health and Complementary Medicine.

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