What you need to know about the hottest thing in health
I’m going to be honest with you all: I don’t think I knew what CBD was two years ago. Cannabis was never really my thing, so there wasn’t ever an occasion for me to come across CBD or much of a reason to look into researching what this substance could do for me. Maybe I had heard the letters “CBD” before, but I couldn’t tell you a thing about it. It just wasn’t on my radar.
Fast forward to last week. My mother-in-law dropped by my house after visiting her doctor for chronic knee pain. Turns out, the doctor recommended that she look into CBD for pain management, and she wanted me to walk her through the ins and outs of CBD and its uses. When your mother-in-law is talking about CBD, that’s when you know it’s a big deal.
It’s amazing how much can change in a couple of years.
So, today I want to write up a beginner’s guide that answers some of the basic questions you might have about CBD. It’s a guide for all those like my mother-in-law (and past self!) who have heard about CBD but don’t quite know what all the fuss is about. A primer, if you will, that you could send to a friend or loved one who might be able to benefit from some of CBD’s potential benefits.
What is CBD?
Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start).
“CBD” stands for cannabidiol, a phytocannabinoid that interacts with our endocannabinoid system. Now, that might sound pretty technical, so let’s break it down.
Pretty much every living thing with a spine has receptors all throughout its body that interact with chemicals called “cannabinoids” that are naturally produced by the animal itself. Yup, that means your body, right now, is producing its very own cannabinoids. No cannabis required!
This process of producing and interacting with cannabinoids in the body is called the “endocannabinoid system,” from the Greek root “endo” meaning within. Phytocannabinoids, from the Greek root “phyto” meaning plant, are plant derived cannabinoids that, once ingested, can interact with our own endocannabinoid systems. And my mother told me it was a waste of time studying Ancient Greek…
In general, CBD is a chemical that comes from plants and can interact with an already present system of receptors in our bodies. Pretty simple, right?
Wait, if CBD is a cannabinoid, won’t it get me high?
People hear anything with the prefix “canna” and their minds instantly go to cannabis, and we usually associate cannabis with getting “high.” But here is the thing: not all cannabinoids are created equal.
Although THC and CBD are both cannabinoids and interact with our endocannabinoid system, they are structurally different and affect us in very different ways. Specifically, THC is particularly good at binding with and activating what we call the CB1 cannabinoid receptor, and that receptor is the site most responsible for the feeling of being high. CBD, on the other hand, stimulates the CB2 receptor.
The long and the short of it is that ingesting CBD alone will never get you high. That’s just not what it does. In fact, CBD actually inhibits binding at the CB1 receptor, so it can actually curtail some of the effects of THC! So don’t worry about CBD getting you high, CBD doesn’t want you to be high, either.
Will taking CBD make me test positive on a drug test?
Funny you should ask! I just wrote a post about this very topic, so head on over and read about that now if it is something you are worried about.
For those of you who don’t want to read a whole article on the topic, the short answer is: no, but you need to be careful where you get your CBD. CBD itself won’t make you test positive, but if your CBD oil has any THC in it, then it is a possibility.
Is CBD legal?
I have a post on this, too! Go check out my article on the 2018 Farm Bill and what it means for CBD!
For those of you still here, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp, which is where most CBD is derived from. Although the specifics of CBD regulation are still being worked out, products derived from industrial hemp that is grown in accordance with the 2018 Farm Bill are also legal. This includes CBD.
So, yes, it is legal, but the USDA and FDA are still trying to figure out how they want to regulate it. This is more of a problem for companies trying to figure out how to market their CBD products than for consumers who want to take it, so I wouldn’t worry at all.
Where does CBD come from?
A lot of people think that CBD only comes from cannabis, and it’s understandable why people think that. After all, CBD is a cannabinoid, and “cannabis” is practically contained inside the word “cannabinoid.”
However, the story is a little more complicated. Phytocannabinoids, again, cannabinoids found in plants, can be found in a number of plant species other than cannabis and hemp. Other plants in the Cannabaceae family, like hops and trees in the Celtis genus, also contain cannabinoids. That got complicated for a second, but the take home is that some other plants, not just cannabis, have cannabinoids, too!
Why call them cannabinoids and give all the glory to cannabis, then? Well, turns out it’s just a byproduct of how we usually go about naming things. When we first started researching cannabis and the impact it has on the body, we found this whole system in the body that cannabis seemed to interact with. So, we called it the endocannabinoid system. It’s really as simple as that.
How is CBD made?
There are a few ways you can take the raw plant material and end up with something that contains CBD.
First, you want to make sure whatever you are using has a high level of CBD. When it comes to hemp, this means farmers need to selectively breed their crops such that each plant has a high level of CBD and lower than 0.3% THC by weight. This makes sure there is less of a chance of THC getting into the mix.
Next, you need to get the CBD out of the plant, and you can do this in a number of ways. In general, you want to use some sort of solvent and push it through the plant at high pressure, essentially pulling out all the compounds contained within the plant. For this, you can use things like alcohol, C02, or oil. Each method has pluses and minuses.
At this point, the mixture extracted from the plant material is what we would call full-spectrum, meaning it contains everything that was in the plant. For example, a full-spectrum oil would have the CBD along with any THC, terpenes, other cannabinoids, and whatever else was int he plant as a whole.
From here you can distill this mixture down to create a more concentrated distillate, or even go through an isolation process to get rid of everything except the one compound you want. This is how some companies, like Grön, are able to make CBD isolates that are 100% pure. I’ll have more on this isolation process in a future post!
What are the health benefits of CBD?
The law is tricky, and I can’t (and I wouldn’t, anyway!) tell you that CBD will cure anything in particular. However, there is a lot of emerging research, and a lot of anecdotal reports, that seem to suggest that CBD can do a lot of really awesome things for your health. Here is a short list of some of the things CBD can reportedly help, with links to my past posts on the subject if available:
There are more out there, but these are the ones I see a lot of info on and feel comfortable listing. But don’t take my word for it! If you think CBD might help you out, I would do your own research, look for studies, and even talk to your doctor.
Personally, I use CBD primarily for anxiety, sleep, and recovery from strenuous physical training. It seems to work for me, but your mileage may vary.
Is CBD safe?
So long as you get your CBD from a reputable company who includes testing results upon request, it looks like CBD is pretty darn safe.
As far as I can tell, there is virtually zero risk of overdosing on CBD. Very large doses might make you feel sleepy and lethargic or give you some digestive issues, but as far as I can tell, CBD is safer than pretty much anything else you might consider taking.
There might be some concerns with it interacting with some prescription drugs, however, so be sure to run it by your doctor first if you want to give CBD a try.
How much CBD should I take?
Everyone is different, but the recommended approach is to always start with a low dose, see how you feel, and then work up if necessary.
If you are ingesting CBD in a food, drink, or tincture, I would start with around 5mg and go from there. I find that about 15mg is my sweet spot for workout recovery and pain, but you will want to start low and find what works for you.
As for topicals like balms and lotions, I would begin with a very small amount and then continue to apply as needed.
Can my pet take CBD?
It sure can! If your pet has a spine, then chances are it has an endocannabinoid system and can benefit from the same CBD that you take. Check out my post on CBD for pets here.
Just like with the CBD you take, start slow and work up, paying close attention to how your pet reacts.
Just don’t give CBD chocolate to your pet! Chocolate is toxic to many animals, especially dogs.
Have more questions? Leave a comment below and I will get back to you! Have something to add? Drop it below and lets help out others who are just getting into the exciting new world of CBD!