Cannabidiol (CBD) is no doubt one of the latest trends. It’s popping up in gift shops; sold in soaps, tinctures, soft gels, and salves. Coffee shops are offering CBD shots for their java while local juice and smoothie joints will add a few CBD drops as a smoothie or juice booster. You can also find CBD pet chews!
Let’s start with the basics: What is CBD? What are the potential health benefits? Is CBD legal?
CBD, what is it?
CBD is a natural remedy and active ingredient derived from the hemp plant, a variety of the cannabis plant. Marijuana is another variety of the cannabis plant.
What differs between the marijuana plant and hemp plant is the amount of compounds that predominate in the plant. Marijuana plants have high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive ingredient that is known to produce the marijuana ‘high’. Hemp, on the other hand, has little THC but is a great source of CBD.
CBD is not a psychoactive ingredient–you will not get ‘high’ on CBD.
CBD is a cannabinoid, a group of compounds found in cannabis that interact with numerous receptors in your brain and body.
What are the Potential Health Benefits of CBD?
CBD has been associated with a wide range of health benefits, in fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the cannabis-derived medication for severe seizure conditions called Epidiolex ( a component of this drug is CBD).
Most studies looking at the benefits of CBD have utilized large amounts of CBD (300-600 mg), far more than the CBD contained in most commercial brands. There have been some noted benefits:
- Improved sleep. (Case study of 10 year old girl, 25 mg CBT improved her sleep disorder.)
- Parkinson’s disease accompanied REM sleep disorder (small case series study shows benefit.)
- Reduction in anxiety. Study here. Study here. Study here.
- Lower pain and inflammation associated with arthritis (animal study; using transdermal CBD).
- This animal based study in Ulcerative Colitis showed improvement in inflammation with CBD.
- Cannabinoids may reduce gastrointestinal motility, article here. This may be helpful for patients with IBS-D.
- Cannabinoids may help with traumatic brain injury such as concussion but more research is needed. Review here.
Side effects and safety of CBD
CBD may cause nausea and fatigue in some individuals.
Is CBD Legal?
It depends on who you ask. The laws vary a bit state to state and the lines regarding legality appear a bit fuzzy from what I read. Here are two different commentaries on this topic: An article in The Wall Street Journal here. And another one in the Food Navigator here.
This article in The Wall Street Journal notes, “As of October , 46 states have passed some kind of CBD legalization; the use and sale of the compound is not explicitly allowed under federal law, but the law is not often enforced.” Additionally, “Now, with support from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the 2018 farm bill might legalize every cannabinoid except the psychoactive compound THC”. So CBD buyers, stay tuned.
CBD products are unregulated in the US. The FDA did a study and found that 70% of CBD products on the market are mislabeled, some containing no CBD. Buyer beware!
How to Select a Reputable Product
You can purchase a subscription to ConsumerLab.com to read about their 3rd party testing of CBD products. ConsumerLab.com is a great resource to learn more about the research regarding supplements and what they have found in particular products in regard to contaminants and the amount of active ingredients in products.
I asked cannabis expert and my registered dietitian colleague, Janice Bissex, MS, RDN and owner of jannasbiswellness.com, a site for CBD products, to share her thoughts about selecting the best CBD product. She suggests, “”select a product that has been organically grown, as the cannabis plant is a bioaccumulator and will uptake toxins from the soil in which it is grown. Choose a full spectrum CBD product not a CBD isolate”.
This is because the hemp plant has other components that may work synergistically with the CBD to offer health benefits. Janice also suggests, you do a little homework, “buy from a reputable source that has professional staff to answer any questions you might have and the the product you select has been independently lab tested so you know the exact amount of CBD and other cannabinoids and terpenes in the product.”
What the heck is a terpene?
Shown below are different types of terpenes in plants and their benefits. Terpenes are flavoring compounds found in many common plants. CBD has a variety of terpenes and the health benefits of terpenes in CBD contribute to what is called, “the entourage effect of cannabis based extracts”. This scientific paper explain more about the ‘entourage effect” of terpenes. Black pepper contains beta-caryophyllene, which is a terpene, and the terpene, linalool is found in both hemp and lavender.
When terpenes are combined with CBD in oral products it creates a product that is both beneficial and flavorful.
Can taking CBD oil cause you to fail a drug test? It’s possible but low risk. But CBD is an unregulated supplement, and that means it is possible. This article in Forbes talks more about this topic.
Here is a quote from the Forbes piece linked above, “It is not common for CBD users to turn out a positive drug test for THC. Yet, sometimes when patients are consuming in upwards of 1,000 milligrams per day, it can trigger a false positive. The average CBD user typically only consumes between 120 to 160 milligrams daily. Still, Consumerlab president Tod Cooperman, whose company tests natural supplements like hemp-based CBD, says around 10 percent of those people who use CBD can test positive for THC.”
Bear in mind, many commercial CBD products contain just 25-50 milligrams per dose.
Of course, I want to learn more, so here below you will find more of my Q + A with cannibis expert, Janice Bissex:
Kate: Can you describe the mechanism in layman’s terms —how does CBD work?
- CBD has anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-spasmodic, and pain-relief effects.
- CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system to help create homeostasis within the body.
- CBD influences receptors that may increase serotonin levels, block the transmission of pain signals, and quell inflammation.
- CBD is also neurocalming and neuroprotective so it can be used to treat seizures, traumatic brain injury, concussions, and anxiety.
Kate: And from you clinical observation, what types of clients have really seemed to benefit from CBD?
- Those suffering from anxiety, IBS, pain, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, tendonitis, arthritis in the knee, and insomnia.
Kate: Do you recommend certain amount of milligrams for a starting point—or is the amount based per diagnosis or issue you are trying to improve?
- I always advise people to start low and go slow.
- If they are experiencing severe pain, we may start at 25mg. But for anxiety, 5mg may be a good starting dose.
- Dosing varies among individuals, depending on the condition and the individual’s endocannabinoid system.
Kate: I have tried the CBD tincture (see my personal experience below), what other forms are there?
Janice: There are many ways to take CBD – tinctures, softgels, topical salves, edibles. You do not need a medical marijuana card to buy CBD.
My personal experience
To be honest, I really wasn’t following the science about CBD…until I had a tough fall and ended up with post concussion syndrome recently. When I mentioned my concussion to colleagues, I had a few health professionals say, “Have your tried CBD?” I was a bit skeptical. I am the girl that barely takes an aspirin. Well, guess what? I gave CBD a whirl.
About a month out from my fall, I found a local store owner that sells a CBD oil she swears by…still skeptical, I decided to buy a bottle. I had no idea the price point–and was surprised to find out it was $100! Yikes.
I had the bottle in my home for at least 2 weeks before I opened it. And then one evening while suffering still with post concussion syndrome, I opened it up, took out one quarter of a dropper full of CBD, put it under my tongue for a minute… and then did a quick swallow. And here is what happened?
I slept really well that night. I tried it again the next night, I fell promptly asleep and slept very soundly again. The next night, I had another great night sleep and felt so energized for the first time since my fall. Could my experience with CBD simply be the placebo effect? Absolutely. My experience is not a scientific study! So, yes, please bear that in mind.
Now, I am about 90% back to normal, I use CBD tincture about 3 times per week. And there’s my story.
After reaching out to Janice Bissex, I decided to reach out to another registered dietitian colleague who has had a positive experience with CBD and other adaptogens, Carlene Thomas, RD. I have followed Carlene’s entertaining and beautiful Instagram feed for a while now. Carlene and her husband, Chris work as a duo creating exquisite content, on Instagram @ohcarlene. or via her website here.
Carlene has shared her experience with CBD through her blog, check out her informative post here and via her Instagram feed.
Here is my interview with Carlene: