You may or may not have heard of cannabidiol. I would wager that you have, however, heard of marijuana. Marijuana is the common name for the drug, sold both for medicinal and recreational purposes, that is derived from the cannabis plant. How are CBD and marijuana related? They both are derived from the cannabis plant, and for this reason, both are known as cannabinoids.
What is the difference between marijuana and CBD?
Did you know that cannabis plants produce more than 400 chemical compounds? Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of those compounds. As aforementioned, CBD and marijuana both come from the cannabis plant. However, there is a major difference between CBD and marijuana. While marijuana is well-known for its ability to produce psychoactive effects – aka – “getting high”, CBD does not produce a “high”. Marijuana contains the compound THC, which is responsible for the euphoria one experiences after smoking or ingesting marijuana. CBD typically contains very low amounts of THC – often less than 1% and does not produce a psychoactive effect. This is an important distinction to make from both the legal and medical perspective.
Also, not to add to the confusion, but cannabidiol can also be derived from the hemp plant. Where does hemp fit into all of this? Simply put, hemp is another type of cannabis plant. CBD derived from the hemp plant contains very low amounts of THC.
Is CBD legal in all 50 United States?
This is where there are differing opinions, depending on whether you are working in the cannabis industry or working for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Growing hemp, because of its association with marijuana, has been outlawed in the US since the 1930’s. It is only legal in some states for industrial and research use.
Those in the cannabis industry claim that if CBD is derived from industrial hemp, it is legal under the 2014 Farm Bill. This legislation legalizes a very limited set of hemp cultivation processes. However, it is unlikely that all CBD manufacturers get their hemp from sources grown under these specifications. And this is where state laws on CBD and hemp growth are widely variable.
Soon hemp cultivation could be legal in all 50 states. In March 2018, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced he would be introducing legislation to legalize hemp.
How cannabinoids affect our bodies
To understand how intricately CBD can affect our bodies, we need to talk about the body’s endocannabinoid system.
Never heard of it? That’s no surprise – the endocannabinoid system has not yet been thoroughly studied, largely in part due to the US government’s prohibition of the cannabis plant in 1937.
However, since the 1990’s, scientists have been busy studying the endocannabinoid system and the effects of cannabinoids on this amazing, intricate body network. Part of this research was the discovery that our bodies produce cannabinoids (aka endocannabinoids), and this understanding spurred much of the research into the effects of these compounds on our bodies.
Our bodies’ cells have cannabinoid receptors in numerous body regions, such as our immune system, organs, glands, and tissues – most significantly, the brain. It has been found that cannabinoids play a role in the regulation of stress and anxiety, increasing appetite and decreasing nausea, immune system balance and tumor inhibition. Other cannabinoid receptors have mostly been found on immune system cells. The benefit of this appears to be inflammation reduction and a decrease in tissue damage.
Therefore, research shows that the endocannabinoid system overall ensures that the body’s central nervous and immune systems are working properly.
What are the potential health benefits of CBD?
Plant-derived cannabinoids such as CBD mimic endocannabinoids and boost the endocannabinoid system. It should be no surprise then that the potential health benefits of CBD use are numerous. Early research has shown several diseases and conditions can possibly be treated using CBD, including the following:
- Inflammation – CBD binds those endocannabinoid receptors to produce an anti-inflammatory effect.
- Pain – possibly making CBD and other cannabinoids a less dangerous alternative to opioids.
- Anxiety – studies have shown that CBD can support emotional balance and decrease the effects of anxiety.
- Epilepsy treatment – research done in 2012 supports CBD as a therapeutic agent to treat a wide range of human epilepsies.
- Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis – research from 2006 suggests that CBD has a neuroprotective effect, and may help prevent the breakdown of the protective coating surrounding nerve cells.
- Cancer – research from 2015 showed that CBD inhibited tumor growth in breast, lung, prostate, and colon cancers. CBD was also shown to enhance some first-line (the treatment used first for disease therapy) cancer treatments. For some cancers, CBD also prevented tumors from spreading.
At the very least, the research done thus far on CBD and its potential health benefits most definitely warrant further studies.
The future of CBD use in our health and wellness
So far, the research done on the health benefits of CBD use is promising. It appears that cannabidiol can be an effective way of treating a myriad of diseases and conditions without producing the psychoactive effects of its related compound, marijuana.
It seems as though the ability of CBD to combat some of our most debilitating health issues make this a most amazing natural compound!