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The Most Comprehensive Guide to Cannabidiol (CBD)

Introduction to Cannabidiol (CBD)

The cannabis plant contains more than 60 natural active compounds called cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most popular cannabinoid – also the compound that gives marijuana a bad name because of its psychoactive effects.

Another cannabinoid that has been generating much interest in recent years is Cannabidiol (CBD). The most significant factor that sets it apart from THC is that CBD does not get you high. CBD can provide relief without the dysphoria and paranoia.

There are two forms of cannabis: hemp and marijuana. These two differ in their genetics, cultivation method, and cannabinoid ratios although they both come from the same Cannabis Sativa L species. Cannabidiol can be extracted from either hemp or marijuana.

History of Cannabidiol (CBD)

Dating back to ancient civilizations, the first inhabitants of our planet discovered and identified the different characteristics of hemp and marijuana. They began using cannabidiol for various purposes.

Archaeologists believe that Cannabis Sativa was among the first crops planted by early settlers, way back 10,000 years ago. The first variety of hemp was found on the island now known as Taiwan. Farmers initially sprinkled hemp seeds to condition the soil, and later used them as an invaluable source of protein, vitamins, and essential fatty amino acids.

Hemp appeared in the oldest pharmacopeia “Pen Ts’ao Ching” around 6,000 B.C. The published entry described the cannabis plant as either male or female – the first literature on the difference between hemp and marijuana.

Industrial hemp has tall and thin stalks that are cut before flowering. Marijuana, on the other hand, would sprout a flower after growing for an extended period. Hemp was considered male and marijuana was recognized as female. In ancient Chinese lore, the reproductive properties of cannabis complemented the Yin and Yan of Taoism which represent two halves completing a whole. Cannabis thus became a vital component of traditional Chinese medicine.

The first recorded use of hemp came in 2737 B.C. when it was administered to Emperor Shen-Nung as medicine. According to text published in Pen Ts’ao Ching, hemp oil was extracted from the seeds for pain treatment while topical hemp was applied to the skin for treatment of rashes and irritation.

When hemp made its way to Europe, it first landed in ancient Greece as an important part of burial rites, ushering the dead into the afterlife. Decades later, King Henry VIII ordered the cultivation of hemp in England to support the clothing and building material industries.

European travelers brought hemp to North America in 1616. Three years later, hemp was already a growing industry for various applications.

Hemp reached the African continent by 1700. It became popular among pregnant women who took hemp before giving birth.

The 1800s saw the rise of hemp as therapy for various ailments in the US and Europe. Queen Victoria was known to take CBD-rich cannabis to treat menstrual pain. Irish physician William Brooke O’Shaughnessy even published an assertion claiming that hemp can be used to treat rabies, epilepsy, rheumatism, and tetanus.

The Mexican Revolution of 1910 introduced the recreational use of cannabis, which led to the criminalization of the plant in the United States.

Roger Adams, an American organic chemist, was the first person to successfully isolate the cannabidiol compound in 1940.

Israeli organic chemist Raphael Mechoulam is credited with the isolation of THC in 1964. Mechoulam became known as the "father of cannabis" after he unraveled the entire cannabidiol structure.

By 1980 marijuana cultivators around the world were on a race to grow the most potent and most psychoactive cannabis on the market. Left out in the cold were plants that were rich in other cannabinoids like CBD – considered garbage crops because they did not have psychoactive effects.

President Ronald Reagan set aside tens of millions of dollars for a study that would prove the brain damage caused by marijuana. But in an ironic twist, the study actually led to the discovery of the human endocannabinoid system. This gave scientists a deeper understanding of how cannabinoids interact with the body.

Projections from the Hemp Business Journal show that the CBD market is estimated to grow by 700% in 2020. With independent studies coming to light and CBD advocates pushing for more benefit-oriented information, we now have a better appreciation of the therapeutic applications of cannabidiol products.

How is hemp grown?

Hemp or marijuana plants are grown either in the United States or overseas. Legal CBD products that contain less than .3% THC are sourced from industrial hemp.

California, Colorado, Kentucky, Oregon, and Tennessee are among 14 states that can legally grow and process industrial hemp and hemp seeds.

Although hemp is not a USDA certified organic product, reputable CBD companies tend to stick to hemp growers who practice organic farming. When buying CBD products, it is highly recommended that you choose non-GMO, pesticide-free, industrial hemp that is tested consistently for contamination. Make sure the company only uses safe solvents and a verified extraction method.

How are CBD products made?

Cannabidiol can be extracted from industrial hemp or marijuana plants. For CBD to be legal, it should be extracted from the stalks and stems of the hemp plant. Cannabis plants must contain less than .3% THC to qualify as industrial hemp.

There are two ways to extract cannabidiol: ethanol or carbon dioxide. These two are the cleanest ways to extract CBD for human consumption.

CO2 extraction is best used when working with a small amount of hemp. It involves filtering the plant through a series of chambers under controlled pressure and temperature. As different temperature and pressure levels are applied, the system is able to isolate cannabinoids at a 90% efficiency rate.

In ethanol extraction, cannabinoids are separated through the use of the solvent ethanol. This method is best for isolating high volumes of full spectrum extract. Ethanol is also able to filter dried hemp by removing unwanted components such as chlorophyll.

After extraction, the hemp goes through the chromatography process. This mechanism isolates the cannabinoid even further by removing unwanted plant phytochemicals. CBD is one cannabinoid that has strong interaction with chromatography media so it is able to travel slower than unwanted plant material such as chlorophyll. After the compounds are split, cannabidiol and other terpenes can be isolated. The rest of the plant material is discarded.

Some CBD oil products go through an additional step called decarboxylation. This involves heating the cannabinoids so it immediately interacts with the human endocannabinoid system. When the extracted oil is decarboxylated, it is converted from CBDA to CBD – increasing its bioavailability and making it more usable by the body.

After decarboxylation, the CBD oil can now be consumed directly or mixed into another form. CBD extracts are commonly blended with carrying oil such as hemp seed or coconut oil. They can also be formed into capsules or hardened into an isolate.

Hemp CBD vs. Marijuana CBD

Hemp and marijuana come from the same Cannabis Sativa L species but they are grown for different purposes.

The hemp plant is tall and thin, often cultivated to produce food, paper, oil and textiles. Today its most popular application are high-quality CBD extracts.

The marijuana plant, on the other hand, is grown for its psychotropic properties.

The legal distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana lies in the amount of THC in the compound. THC levels from 0.3% to 15% that are found in marijuana plants are considered illegal. Industrial hemp is a legal category given to cannabis plants that contain less than .3% THC.

Cannabinoid ratios also differ according to cannabis strain. The marijuana strain in Girl Scout Cookies has high levels of CBG but the Sativa strain Durban Poison has more THCV. The hemp cannabis strain contains high concentrations of CBD, CBG, CBC and sometimes THCV. Hemp will always have very low levels of THC.

The CBD isolate molecule is the same whether it was extracted from hemp or marijuana. Think of it as water coming from the faucet or filtered in a bottle – both contain the same H2O molecule.

According to Franjo Grotenhermen of the International Association of Cannabinoid Medicines, “CBD is CBD. The human body does not care where the molecule comes from.”

How CBD works with the Human Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a network of cell receptors and corresponding agonist molecules in the human body. The ECS helps regulate mood, appetite, sleep, memory, pleasure, pain, motor control, immune function, reproduction and fertility, and temperature regulation. Homeostasis is achieved when the ECS is balanced.

Endocannabinoids are molecules that act as chemical messengers. When they bind to cannabinoid cell receptors, they tell the body to do certain things. Fatty acids found in nuts and fish help the body produce its own endocannabinoids. The 60+ cannabinoid molecules found in cannabis can also bind to cannabinoid cell receptors.

Although different cannabinoids react differently, molecules found in cannabis work the same as naturally produced endocannabinoids. They all help the human ECS regulate vital functions.

Does CBD have any side effects?

Multiple studies have shown minimal side effects from taking CBD. It is considered generally safe for human consumption. Below are notable findings from different studies and reviews on the safety of CBD.

1980 Pharmacology

On January 3, 1980, Pharmacology published the findings of a study conducted on eight healthy participants and 15 epilepsy patients. Both groups took CBD daily for a month. The researchers noted that all participants – healthy and sick – tolerated CBD very well with no signs of toxicity or serious side effects detected upon examination.

1986 International Journal of Neuroscience

In 1986, the International Journal of Neuroscience described mild side effects of CBD on five patients with dystonic movement disorders. They took oral doses of CBD ranging from 100 to 600 mg daily. The side effects reported include dry mouth, hypotension, lightheadedness, psychomotor slowdown, and sedation. Two patients who took over 300 mg of CBD per day seemed to aggravate symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. However, another paper in 2014 contradicted this result and described how CBD significantly improved the lives of those who suffered from Parkinson’s.

2006 Argentina

A group of scientists hypothesized in 2006 that cannabinoid receptors may exist in the salivary glands. This is most likely the reason why dry mouth is one of the most common side effects of taking CBD. When cannabidiol interacts with the ECS, it blocks the secretion of saliva.

2011 Cytochrome P450 enzymes

A review of the safety and side effects of cannabidiol in 2011 found that CBD might interfere with the hepatic enzyme P450.

Doctors and pharmacists usually warn patients not to drink or eat grapefruit while taking a prescription drugs. Grapefruit and CBD have a similar effect on P450, an enzyme found in the liver which is responsible for the metabolism of medicinal drugs. If taken in large doses, CBD can temporarily deactivate the metabolizing properties of P450 and neutralize the effects of prescription medicine in the body. This side effect also enables cannabidiol to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC.

Can you take too much CBD?

There have been no reports of a fatal overdose from cannabidiol and other cannabinoids. Daily consumption of CBD in high doses up to 1,500 mg/day is reportedly well tolerated in humans. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, no signs of toxicity or serious side effects have been observed following chronic administration of cannabidiol to healthy volunteers (Cunha et al., Pharmacology 21:127185, 1980), even in large acute doses of 700 mg/day (Consroe et al., Pharmacol, Biochem, Behav. 40:701-708, 1991).

Does CBD have the same effect on everyone?

Shortly after Rafael Mechoulam isolated THC and broke down the entire cannabidiol structure, he experimented with how the THC molecule affected different individuals. He invited friends over for cake that they did not know was laced with 10mg of pure THC.

While some said they felt strange, others would not stop talking or giggling. It wasn’t until many years later that the whole mystery of varied reactions to the same compound would be revealed.

Genetics

Only around 20% of the population has naturally good endocannabinoids. They are born with a genetic mutation that increases the level of endocannabinoids and anandamide (often called the bliss molecule) in their bodies. When someone takes cannabis, the cannabinoids like CBD and THC replace the naturally occurring endocannabinoids. If you are among the lucky 20% who carry this genetic mutation, you most likely would not feel any effects of CBD because your body already has enough endocannabinoids. Meanwhile, individuals who have low endocannabinoid levels will most likely have a favorable experience with CBD products.

Sex

According to research, estrogen can make a woman more sensitive to cannabis. One study from Washington State University found that women strongly feel the impact of THC a day or two before ovulation when estrogen levels are at their peak.

Biochemistry

Biochemistry is the branch of science that explores the chemical processes in living organisms. It affects the way substances metabolize throughout our system. No two individuals have the exact same biochemistry. Things like diet, stress, and overall lifestyle can influence the way our body reacts to CBD.

Health status

Someone who is taking cannabis for therapeutic purposes is going to have a very different experience than an individual who takes cannabis recreationally. The biochemistry and endocannabinoid levels are altered when someone is afflicted with a disease. A healthy person taking the same CBD dosage will experience different effects compared to someone with Parkinson’s disease.

Tolerance

Prolonged exposure to THC can make your body build a tolerance against the compound. However, a study in 2011 seemed to suggest that an individual may not build a tolerance to CBD. It is a theory that warrants closer examination.

What are the different ways to administer CBD?

CBD products now come in many forms. Among the popular ways to take CBD is through smoking, vaping, topical creams, tinctures, suppositories, and sprays.

Sublingual drops

CBD extracts in oil form are the most popular cannabidiol products on the market today. CBD oils are the most effective, most accurate in dosing, easiest to consume, and best in quality.

CBD oils are taken orally through sublingual administration, which means placing drops under the tongue and holding it there for several seconds before swallowing. Next to vaping or dabbing, taking CBD sublingually is the second fastest way to consume cannabidiol.

Some can tolerate the taste of hemp while others do not like it. To make CBD oil more appealing to the palate, add CBD drops to food such as salad dressing or to beverage like orange juice, to mask the hemp taste. CBD oils can also be mixed with MCT coconut oil but this solution should NOT be vaped. Vaping MCT coconut oil can be dangerous.

CBD capsules

For those who are not fond of the taste of oil, CBD capsules are the next best alternative. CBD capsules are easy to swallow and contain accurate dosing.

CBD topical creams

CBD can also be applied directly to the skin. CBD is now available in topical creams that can be mixed with other essential nutrients such as aloe, tea tree, and lavender to enhance the benefits of cannabidiol. CBD topical creams deliver cannabidiol throughout your body and they smell great too!

CBD vapes

Smoking cannabis – even high strains of CBD – can cause irritation and inflammation in the lungs. If inhaling is your preferred method of taking CBD, then vaping is an excellent alternative for you. CBD oils that are specifically designed for vaping are now available in many vape shops. You can also create your own by heating a high concentrate CBD isolate to melting point and mix it with your favorite vape oil.

Dabbing CBD

The term dabbing refers to the flash vaporization of cannabidiol concentrates when applied to a hot surface and inhaled. Concentrates such as 99% pure CBD isolate are more potent than cannabis flowers. Just a small amount can go a long way. CBD isolates also contain less plant material so inhale more cannabidiol and less combusted resin. Dabbing is one of the best ways to achieve immediate and effective relief from CBD.

Infusing CBD into food or liquids

Adding cannabidiol to food and drinks that you already love is a great way of taking CBD. Mix CBD oil drops with orange juice, smoothies, coffee, tea, and other liquids. You can also add CBD isolates to baked goods such as cookies and brownies. CBD is great for cooking because it is tasteless, odorless, and highly soluble. Mix it with coconut oil, butter or honey to make pasta dishes, dips, and desserts.

How to choose the right CBD product

Not all herbal products are safe for you. While plants are generally good for your health, it is important to choose the right CBD product. Here are four things to consider when buying CBD supplements.

How the plant is grown

The first thing to consider when choosing CBD is where the plant came from. Cannabis plants grown in the United States and overseas may be safe for consumption but it is crucial to know how they were processed. Make sure that the CBD product you are buying is non-GMO and pesticide free.

How the oil is extracted from the plant

Not all extraction methods are safe. Most facilities extract cannabis through carbon dioxide or ethanol.

CO2 extraction uses high pressure and extremely low temperature to extract, preserve, and maintain the purity of the CBD oil. When done well, the end product is safe, potent, and chlorophyll-free.

When choosing a CBD product, make sure the manufacturer is using a safe solvent like ethanol and a verified extraction method.

Check the THC content

While cannabidiol from industrial hemp is guaranteed to be non-psychoactive, some CBD products are extracted from plants that contain high levels of THC. If getting high is not your desired effect, make sure you choose a CBD product with no psychoactive effects.

Company transparency

The FDA recently tested a few samples of CBD oils that were being sold online and found that many of these products contained little to no CBD at all.

The best CBD oils come from companies that are transparent – they tell you how much cannabidiol and other cannabinoids are in their formula, they publish third party test results, and they have verified testimonials from real people. Before you decide on a product, do some additional research on the company and its business practices.

What is the Entourage Effect of full spectrum products?

CBD oil products can be CBD isolates or full spectrum. When a product is advertised as full spectrum, it means that the extract contains CBD plus other cannabinoids such as CBN, CBC, and THCA.

According to research, a full cannabinoid spectrum produces an entourage effect – a phenomenon where cannabinoids deliver better therapeutic benefits when working together rather than acting as a single molecule. The interaction of more than one cannabinoid stimulates the human endocannabinoid system.

What is the recommended CBD dosage?

Since CBD has a different effect on different people, it is important to customize the dosage to a specific individual. Start with a small dose and slowly move up as necessary. Consult your physician or healthcare provider.

CBD tincture

  • One full dropper is approximately 3/4-1ml (20 drops per 1 ML)
  • 1000mg tincture has approximately 33.33mg of CBD per 1ml
  • 500mg tincture has approximately 16.6mg of CBD per 1ml
  • 250mg tincture has approximately 8.33mg of CBD per 1ml

CBD isolate

  • 1 gram of CBD isolate contains 998mg of CBD (499mg/.5g and 98mg/.1g)

Is CBD legal?

Cannabidiol companies do not publish legal advice on CBD. It is strongly recommended that consumers do their own research on local laws and seek legal advice if purchasing CBD across state lines.

CBD from industrial hemp is legal in all 50 states. Medical marijuana is legal in 28 states. In recent years, 16 states have passed CBD-only laws which legalize the possession and use of CBD products that do not contain THC. These CBD-only laws often limit possession and use to children with epilepsy and other nerve and muscle disorders. Although there are states that have legalized CBD, the substance is still considered illegal by the DEA.

Six states consider every part of the cannabis plant, including CBD, to be illegal. These are Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana, and West Virginia.

The existing Controlled Substance Act does not contain the terms “cannabidiol,” “cannabinoids” or “hemp.” It would take an act of Congress and the signature of the President to add these terms to the CSA.

The Farm Bill allows companies to source domestic hemp products under appropriate licensing from state departments of agriculture in Colorado and Kentucky.

According to the Appropriations Acts of 2016 and 2017, it is the expressed intent of Congress that hemp cultivated in compliance with the Farm Bill be intended for "transportation, processing and sale."

Will I fail a drug test if I take CBD?

Non-psychoactive cannabinoids such as CBD, CBG, and CBN typically do not have cross-reactivity in a drug screen with the psychoactive compound THC. However, there are rare cases where large doses of CBD in the 1000mg to 2000mg range create a false-positive result if taken over a long period of time. Full spectrum products like CBD capsules and tinctures contain less than .3% THC.

If you are concerned about drug screening, it is recommended that you do additional research before taking CBD. 

What are common applications of CBD?

In a recent survey among users of CBD products, where asked the most common reasons why they take CBD. Here is a breakdown of the responses.

  • 27% anxiety and depression
  • 19% pain
  • 12% focus and overall wellness
  • 11% joint pain, arthritis, inflammation
  • 10% sleep
  • 5% migraine and headaches
  • 4% nausea and stomach pain
  • 3% alternative to prescription medication
  • 2% MS symptoms
  • 2% epilepsy

CBD Uses Pie Chart

These are subjective customer testimonials. We are not in any way making any medical claims. The results of the survey have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor have they been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information presented here is not meant to replace or change information from licensed healthcare practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The United States Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.

Are CBD products safe for pets?

Just like humans, animals have their own endocannabinoid system with a network of cannabinoid receptors located primarily in the brain and central nervous system. The mammalian ECS partially controls pain, inflammation, appetite, skin condition, motor control, aggression, anxiety and neurological disorders. CBD as an agonist weakly binds to endocannabinoid receptors, creating long-lasting results with non-intoxicating effects.

THC, however, can be poisonous to pets so make sure that you choose a CBD product that is non-psychoactive. Always consult with your veterinarian before giving your pet CBD or other supplements.

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