The Ultimate Guide to CBD (Facts, Research, Pros & Cons)
Below, we shed light on what CBD is. If you are already familiar with the subject, we will try to surprise you with some unusual but interesting facts. If you just started exploring the CBD world, it’s time to dive deep under its hood, destroying various prejudices and unveiling the true nature of cannabidiol. If your conservative views don’t even let you think about CBD, we will provide you with the pros and cons of using it to let you create your own opinion regarding the subject.
What is CBD
CBD products are now widely available in the US. Europe is scaling up as the next one. That’s why we’d like to explain what cannabidiol is and what it isn’t. CVS, gas stations, pet stores, and supermarkets are possible places where you can get CBD products. It means that there are lots of them, but before going any further, let’s find out what CBD is.
Under CBD, scientists mean a chemical compound from the cannabinoid family that naturally occurs in the cannabis plant. It is also called cannabidiol — one of 108 different types of cannabinoids in cannabis. In its turn, 108 is a sacred number in Hinduism and yoga. Coincidence? We don’t think so. But let’s leave conspiracies to conspiracy theorists — we are here to explore some serious things.
If you think that CBD is that thing that makes people high, you are mistaken. Not all 108 cannabinoids have psychedelic effects. The problem is that people often subconsciously think about THC when they see CBD products, but there is a vast difference between the two. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, owns psychoactive properties that get you “high.” In its turn, CBD provides only therapeutic benefits.
So, let’s summarize what we already know about cannabidiol. CBD is a chemical compound that provides a therapeutical effect and doesn’t make anyone high. How does cannabidiol work?
How CBD works
CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system of the body. It impacts the regulatory mechanism, which is made up of naturally occurring cannabis-like molecules — endocannabinoids. They act like neurotransmitters: transfer signals all over the body to help maintain homeostasis. Although both CBD and THC interact with the endocannabinoid system via CB1 and CB2 receptors, their impact differs a lot.
Initially, scientists thought that both substances interact with the body in the same way. However, they no longer think so.
While THC attaches itself to CB1 receptors, which are mainly present in the brain and are involved with cognition, memory, motor skills, and pain, it inhibits the release of neurotransmitters and increases the release of other compounds, altering normal functioning. As for CBD, scientists thought that it did the same thing, but with CB2 receptors. The exact way CBD affects our bodies is still to be explored. However, scientists believe CBD encourages the body to produce more endocannabinoids. This process results in reduced anxiety, pain, and inflammation.
According to another version, CBD interacts with the human body using the endocannabinoid system mentioned above, resulting in different effects on the mind and body. It activates adenosine receptors, decreasing levels of stress and anxiety.
Another CBD benefit is its ability to bind to the neural receptors which control temperature and inflammation. Thus, the cannabidiol may produce an anti-inflammatory effect.
CBD vs. THC
Now, we have to explore the difference between CBD and THC to illustrate all the nuances of cannabidiol in comparison to tetrahydrocannabinol.
Although CBD and THC have the exact molecular structure, their atoms are arranged differently. 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms are composed into different orders, providing a totally different impact on the body. Take a look at the following image for clarity:
What lets CBD and THC interact with your cannabinoid receptors is their similarity to the body’s own endocannabinoids. The interaction results in the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. These chemicals relay messages between cells playing essential roles in how we feel pain, sleep, suffer stress, or our immune system functions, etc.
Despite their similar chemical structures, CBD and THC have different psychoactive effects. As we’ve already mentioned, CBD is a nonpsychoactive compound. While THC makes you high, CBD reduces pain, anxiety, and insomnia.
Furthermore, while THC binds with CB1 receptors of your body to produce a sense of euphoria, CBD interferes with the binding of THC, reducing its psychoactive effects.
Despite the different psychoactive impact, CBD and THC offer similar therapeutic benefits, providing relief from several conditions. With the zero euphoric effects that occur with THC, CBD is a perfect solution for solving various issues with minimum side effects, including:
- Epilepsy and seizures;
- Different kind of pain;
- Psychosis or mental disorders;
- Nausea and migraines;
- Depression and anxiety.
It provides impact on the following organs to achieve such results:
As for THC, it is used to help with conditions such as:
- Pain and muscle spasticity;
- Low appetite and nausea;
Since we’ve mentioned the state of being high as one of the main side effects of using THC, let’s see what other pitfalls are associated with the use of both THC and CBD.
While you can use too much THC, CBD is well-tolerated, even in large doses. Any side effects that occur with its use are often caused by other medications you may be taking.
As for THC, it causes lots of temporary side effects. For instance, its use may cause:
- Slower reaction and memory loss;
- Increased heart rate and coordination problems;
- Red eyes and dry mouth.
Frequent THC use in large amounts may cause long-term negative psychiatric effects, especially in the case of adolescents. Besides, the compound increases the risk for schizophrenia and other mental disorders.
Note that THC and CBD are stored in the body’s fat and can show up on drug tests for weeks after you use them. If you’ve heard a myth that tests can not detect CBD, don’t believe it. To clear the situation with drug testing for THC vs. CBD, we should draw your attention to the following two facts.
Firstly, most drug tests are THC-sensitive, so they won’t detect any drugs if you use pure CBD. However, there are some tests aimed at CBD.
Secondly, hemp can produce some THC in addition to CBD, so you might be surprised by THC-positive test results even if you didn’t use it.
If you are still skeptical regarding CBD, we’d like to draw your attention to several medical surveys that prove the high efficiency of cannabidiol.
Harvard Health Publishing won’t post any uncertain facts and conspiracy theories, and CBD is not an exception. In a small article, Peter Grinspoon discusses what CBD is, how it differs from THC, whether it is safe and legal. For further information, hit this link: Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t.
The Lancet Psychiatry is another reliable source of information. An article on the website discusses the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of mental disorders and their symptoms. To read the material, you need to be subscribed to The Lancet Psychiatry or purchase one-time access. The article has eight authors and refers to more than one hundred sources. You can check its summary here: Cannabinoids for the treatment of mental disorders and symptoms of mental disorders.
If you don’t want to explore substantial scientific work, you can read the following material that highlights the core nuances of the article: Research Review by Time.
An article by Depression Alliance seeks to summarize the latest scientific findings on CBD clarifying some misconceptions. It sheds light on CBD oil effects (high, addiction, safety, and side effects) and CBD clinical trails (epilepsy, anxiety, autism, psychosis and schizophrenia, addiction, Parkinson’s disease, etc.). You can read the full material here: CBD Clinical Trials.
After a portion of criticism, let’s concentrate on CBD benefits.
While marijuana has been used to treat pain for centuries, CBD introduces a new way to achieve the same result. Being responsible for marijuana’s pain-relieving effects, cannabidiol doesn’t have its side effects.
According to various studies, CBD may help reduce chronic pain by impacting endocannabinoid receptor activity, reducing inflammation, and interacting with neurotransmitters. You can also find research that reveals that CBD, combined with other cannabinoids, is effective in treating pain caused by sclerosis and arthritis.
Anxiety and depression treatment
There is no need to tell how devastating anxiety and depression are. Although both are usually treated with pharmaceutical drugs with tons of side effects, including addiction, CBD oil looks like a less harmful alternative. It has been used to treat such issues as insomnia and anxiety among a more complicated group of patients — children with PTSD. Besides, CBD had antidepressant-like effects in several animal studies.
Cancer-related symptoms alleviation
Another significant CBD benefit is the ability to alleviate symptoms related to cancer. Furthermore, cannabidiol can reduce side effects related to cancer treatment, including nausea, vomiting, and pain. Even when standard medication doesn’t provide relief from pain, CBD may be useful.
According to some test-tube and animal studies, CBD may have anticancer properties, but more studies are necessary to prove this CBD benefit.
Acne is a common issue that more than 9% of people face. Although numerous factors cause it, CBD oil may help treat the problem due to its anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to reduce sebum production.
The ability to impact the endocannabinoid system of the body may provide CBD with benefits in the sphere of neurological disorders. Unfortunately, research in this area is relatively new, and scientists still have to study the properties of CBD more precisely.
At the same time, there is evidence that CBD is quite successful in treating epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. Furthermore, a study reveals that CBD oil significantly reduces seizure activity in children with Dravet syndrome. It is also necessary to mention that CBD improves the quality of life and sleep for people with Parkinson’s disease. And cannabidiol may decrease inflammation and prevent the neurodegeneration caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
But some people experience unwanted side effects. Adverse reactions associated with CBD treatment may include convulsions, fever, and fatigue.
Heart health benefits
According to some recent research, CBD may also positively impact the heart and circulatory system. Since cannabidiol lowers blood pressure, it may decrease risks of some health conditions: stroke, heart attack, metabolic syndrome, etc. Researchers have suggested the core reason for this CBD benefit is its stress- and anxiety-reducing properties.
It is also necessary to mention that cannabidiol may help reduce the inflammation and cell death associated with various heart diseases. CBD’s antioxidant and stress-reducing properties are responsible for this behavior. However, more human studies are needed.
People with schizophrenia may also rely on CBD. According to recent studies, it reduces psychotic symptoms. Of course, there is still lots of work to be done in this direction, but right now, it looks like a benefit that is worth mentioning here.
Substance abuse treatment
CBD may also help drug-addicted people. One of its properties modifies circuits in the brain related to substance abuse. Studies unveiled that CBD can reduce morphine dependence and heroin-seeking behavior. However, no human studies have been conducted.
CBD may also substantially reduce the risk of diabetes. Studies in mice showed that CBD treatment reduced the incidence of diabetes by 56%.
Oxidative stress reduction
When the body suffers from an extra amount of free radicals and antioxidants aren’t able to neutralize all of them, CBD comes in handy. With antioxidant and neuroprotective qualities, it may help in reducing neurological damage associated with free radicals.
CBD, along with other cannabinoids, destroy drug-resistant strains of bacteria. According to a 2011 study, CBD slows down the progression of tuberculosis. However, scientists tested this property on rats only. Although nobody knows how cannabidiol affects humans from the perspective of its antibacterial abilities, researchers concluded that it is responsible for inhibiting T-cell proliferation.
Better sleep quality
CBD makes the way you sleep more efficient. It may help you drift away faster, eliminate awakening in the middle of the night, and feel rested in the morning. According to various studies, you may restore healthy sleep cycles with the help of CBD.
If you want to know why CBD looks more like an expensive placebo than a panacea in the US, check this article: Is CBD Helpful, or Just Hype? Although the material is quite small, it illustrates the current state of things. The report sheds light on the past condition of the CBD market and its products in the US.
Thus, a 2017 study reported that only 26 of 84 samples (31%) of CBD oils, tinctures, and liquids contained the amount of CBD claimed on their labels. Furthermore, eighteen of them, which is 21%, contained THC. At the same time, a quarter had less CBD than advertised.
So, the problem is not in CBD and its properties — it is in unfair manufacturers. However, the provided data covers only online purchases for 2017. It is still necessary to explore how things are going right now.
You can find the most common myths about CBD here: 5 Harmful Things CBD Articles Get Wrong. To make the long story short, here is our summary:
- “CBD hasn’t been scientifically proven to help any health conditions.” Actually, it has been proven, and there is CBD-based medication for seizure disorders;
- “It’s a Schedule 1 narcotic, so no research has been done on the compound.” And CBD studies have been done, and everyone can see their results;
- “CBD is a marketing scam.” Nowadays, everything can become a marketing scam. The desire to sell and earn forces people to act unfairly. That’s why you can find lots of CBD-based products that have no effect or work as a placebo. The problem is not in cannabidiol itself, but in people trying to leverage it for their business needs;
- “I took CBD for 7 days, and nothing happened, so it doesn’t work.” Most people, who try to use CBD products, have no symptoms that CBD can treat, that’s why they feel no effect;
- “The CBD industry is sketchy, which makes CBD sketchy.” CBD itself is not sketchy. However, some products can be characterized as such. Therefore, do your research before ordering any CBD products.
Several more CBD benefits and product reviews are gathered in this article: An Honest Review About The Benefits of CBD Products. You won’t find anything surprisingly new there, but it is another opinion that we cannot ignore.
Steven Petrow shares his own experience of taking CBD on The Washington Post. Although the author writes about significantly elevated and stable mood, he also points readers to the idea that his experience proves nothing due to a possible placebo effect. Despite the positive influence of CBD, Steven thinks that such a big market “should be based on more than hype and hope.” Read the full article here: Is the hype about CBD, or cannabidiol, real?
The Guardian is another reliable source of information, and we’ve dug up an article about CBD there. It discusses whether cannabidiol is an innovative way to treat numerous issues or scum. Check it here: CBD: a marijuana miracle or just another health fad?
How to use CBD
Since the market offers lots of different CBD products, you can choose one or several ways of how to use cannabidiol. Let’s explore each one.
You can find lots of so-called edibles that are nonpsychoactive CBD on the Internet. It is something that you can eat, so edible cannabidiol covers what you ingest. Such products pass your throat and get into the stomach and intestines. Next, they are soaked into the bloodstream.
Usually, it takes from 45 minutes to 2 hours to feel the effect. Depending on what you eat, CBD needs different intervals to become active. The Edible CBD group includes:
- Sweet treats;
- Tinctures & oils;
Another way to use CBD is based on mouth properties. With thinner and more delicate tissues, it absorbs liquid substances faster than your stomach. And there is no need to eat or drink anything to get the desired effect.
However, CBD beverages and some sweets provide a combined effect since some amount of cannabidiol enters through your mouth, while the rest goes via the stomach.
The same situation is typical for tinctures. They’re quick-acting and highly controllable since you can constrain the amount of CBD directly drop by drop.
Thus, the most popular oral cannabidiol products include CBD oils and CBD mouth sprays. Nibbles represent another category of oral CBD products: mints, gum, oral strips, etc. But you have to allow them to dissolve on schedule instead of eating. Thus, you reduce the time necessary for CBD to take effect to 15 minutes. Your sublingual glands get most of the cannabidiol.
Furthermore, vapes, dabs, and smoking flowers may be considered partly-oral CBD products. Due to fragile oral tissues, they penetrate the blood-brain barrier quickly. But their core consumption method is the following.
If you don’t want to eat anything or wait until CBD goes into effect in your mouth, there is another reliable way to use cannabidiol — inhalation. CBD passes the mouth, windpipe, and lungs, finding multiple ways to creep in. It takes advantage of both your oral tissues and lungs. A vape heats cannabis extract providing you with a potent and fast-acting effect.
Since CBD provides robust pain relief options, it is possible to use it as a treatment strategy. For instance, cannabidiol-based period pain suppositories are used anally or vaginally.
Another group of internal CBD products is aimed at sex and wellness. They not only act as a pain relief but also increase positive experiences.
Сannabinoid receptors are presented not only within your body but also on the skin. It opens endless possibilities fo CBD-based skin creams, rubs, oils, salves, etc. People with acne, psoriasis, eczema, and other skin issues can benefit from addressing pain, inflammation, and skin’s ways of manifesting problems. You only have to choose a cream base that suits your needs. For instance, thick salves are more useful for pain rub. As for light oil blends, they are great for delicate facial skin.
CBD for pets
Another group of CBD products is aimed at pets. Although they are not so popular, you can discover their powerful impact on the anxiety of your dog or cat. If your pet is frightened and stressed, cannabidiol is here to save your favorite creature. Usually, CBD products for pets are available in the form of edibles so that they are consumed via the digestive system.
What do we know about CBD? It is trendy. It works (even if it is a placebo). It is not a drug (you won’t get high). It has minimum side effects. It is still necessary to conduct numerous researches to explore the properties of cannabidiol, its impact on the body, and efficiency in treatment. However, many people already leverage the CBD benefits and feel the results (even if the placebo effect causes them).
Verified by a Healthcare Professional
Anastasiia Myronenko is a Medical Physicist actively practicing in one of the leading cancer centers in Kyiv, Ukraine. She received her master’s degree in Medical Physics at Karazin Kharkiv National University and completed Biological Physics internship at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Germany. Anastasiia Myronenko specializes in radiation therapy and is a fellow of Ukrainian Association of Medical Physicists.
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