What Is CBD & How Does It Work?
If you’ve taken a stroll through your local grocery store lately (or a scroll through social media), you’ve probably noticed a surge of products that either contain or are infused with “CBD.” You may also be wondering what CBD is and why it’s suddenly getting cameo appearances in coffee, bakery items, lotions, vitamins, pet treats, and all kinds of everyday goods.
Whether you’ve only recently heard about CBD or you’re interested in learning if CBD could potentially improve your overall health, we’ll help you understand what it is, what it does, and why it could be worth adding to your regular health and wellness regimen.
CBD Stands for “Cannabidiol”
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a safe, non-addictive, and naturally occurring compound found in cannabis—a plant with documented medical applications dating back thousands of years. However, it wasn’t until relatively recently that growing segments of the health and medical communities began to advocate for CBD as a potential treatment option for a wide range of medical conditions.
CBD Is Not a Drug
Don’t let the name fool you: CBD is not cannabis. CBD is simply a chemical compound found within the cannabis plant. In fact, CBD is just one of over 100 chemical compounds found in cannabis. “Tetrahydrocannabinol” (THC) is the compound responsible for producing psychoactive effects in users and causing the intoxicating “high” which leads to cannabis’s classification as a controlled substance in a shrinking number of states and countries.
A 2017 report produced by the World Health Organization found that “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential… To date, there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
In some studies, CBD has actually been shown to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC, essentially limiting the severity of the patient’s intoxication from THC.
What Is CBD Made From?
The CBD compound can be extracted from either cannabis (a.k.a marijuana) or hemp (a type of cannabis with a much lower percentage of THC). CBD is exactly the same in cannabis and hemp. The only difference between the two sources is that hemp contains a higher percentage of CBD than cannabis, so any CBD product you purchase will be more likely to come from hemp since it yields more CBD by volume.
How Is CBD Extracted?
There are two methods for extracting CBD from either cannabis or hemp: The Ethanol Bath and the CO2 Chamber.
The Ethanol Bath Method
The first method involves soaking the cannabis/hemp in an ethanol alcohol solution. The ethanol draws out the CBD and other cannabinoids from the plant. The ethanol solution is then heated to evaporate the water and because heat does not evaporate the cannabinoids, all that remains is pure CBD oil.
The CO2 Chamber Method
The second method involves placing the cannabis/hemp plant in a sealed chamber, filling the chamber with CO2, then pressurizing the chamber and trapping the cannabidiol compounds within the CO2 gas. The gas is then distilled down into CBD oil.
How Does CBD Work?
CBD interacts with a system in our bodies called the “endocannabinoid system.” The system was discovered by researchers hoping to identify the impacts of cannabis on humans. What they learned, however, was that many of the compounds found in cannabis were also naturally occurring compounds within the human body.
The endocannabinoid system is responsible for regulating and balancing processes in the body such as immune response, communication between cells, appetite and metabolism, memory, and more. When this system detects a chemical imbalance within our bodies, it will attempt to synthesize endocannabinoid proteins that interact with cannabinoid receptors in our brain and restore balance.
CBD interacts with our bodies by mimicking the compounds we produce naturally, which stimulates and supplements the endocannabinoid system.
What Can CBD Be Used for?
As more state governments loosen their classifications of cannabis as a controlled substance, the medical and scientific communities have been able to expand their research into the effects of CBD on our physical and mental wellbeing.
Isolated studies and overwhelming anecdotal evidence currently suggest that CBD can be an effective treatment for numerous conditions including:
● Stress and anxiety
● Panic disorders and PTSD
● Obsessive-compulsive disorder
● Sleep disorders, such as insomnia
● Pain management, as an opioid alternative
● Rheumatoid arthritis
However, the most definitive research to date has demonstrated CBD’s effectiveness for treating the symptoms of epilepsy, especially in rarer syndromes that don’t respond well to anti-seizure medications. In most studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures a patient experienced, while a few cases eliminated seizures completely. These studies played a crucial role in leading the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve Epidolex, the first-ever cannabis-derived epilepsy medication.
Do I Need a Prescription to Use CBD?
No. CBD products can be purchased without a prescription. We recommend that you research any products you intend to purchase to ensure that the seller has a reliable and trustworthy reputation.
While we’re still learning about CBD and what role it plays as a health supplement or even as a widely recognized medical treatment, there is a growing body of evidence to support the belief that CBD can have a positive impact on your mental and physical wellbeing.