To CBD or not to CBD?

That is the question that many of my friends are asking these days.  

Without a doubt, the interest in Cannabis for medicinal use has changed dramatically in recent years!  There is even a sisterhood of nuns growing Hemp and making CBD products with their crops in the Cannabis legal state of California.  Traditional use, modern anecdotes, and the Sisters of CBD would indicate that yes, you just might want to give CBDs a try! 

Here, I attempt to give an overview of why there is so much fear and concern around Hemp and CBDs while there also appears to be a monsoon of interest and anecdotes about good results from taking CBDs.  I hope to make the case that CBDs can be helpful to many people and that might include you.  

Recent years have seen tremendous gains in our understanding around Cannabis, including a newly discovered endogenous biochemical communication pathway, known as the endocannabinoid system.  We make cannabinoids internally that bind with this system for improved regulation in physiology and mood.  Cannabis compounds also bind with these receptors and improve regulation of physiology and mood.

The Cannabis plant and all its parts have been used throughout the ages. The history of medicine gives a clear picture of how our ancestors used plants for medicine. Cannabis is no exception and for centuries the plants have been used as fiber, food, and medicine. Cannabis fiber was widely used for cloth, rope, and other goods.  The seed for food and oil.  The flower for medicine.

So, what exactly is CBD and how is it different than Marijuana?

CBD is short for cannabidiol.  It’s one of a number of chemical constituents known as cannabinoids that are found in Cannabis sativa. 

Cannabinoids are present in both the Marijuana varieties and the Hemp varieties of Cannabis sativa.  However, these are 2 very different varieties, each with many sub-varieties, and each containing different ratios of cannabinoids.  The different ratios result in different effects.

The Marijuana varieties contain higher amounts of the euphorigenic cannabinoid known as THC and lower amounts of the non-euphorigenic cannabinoid known as CBD.  Modern Marijuana plants are typically bred to contain higher levels of THC.  

Hemp is the tamer, more conservative sister of Marijuana with higher levels of CBD (also typically being bred this way) and only a trace level of THC.  Legally the hemp plant is defined as containing less than 0.3% THC.  CBD products that use the whole plant extraction are also required to contain less than 0.3% THC.  In other words, the CBD-rich Hemp plants are not psychoactive.

 Is CBD legal? 

CBD products from Hemp are not illegal to use and recently gained an added level of protection from the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.  However, Marijuana is currently still classified as a Class 1 drug on the DEA's drug schedule. Since both plants belong to the Cannabis sativa plant, there is confusion.

The legitimacy of this Class 1 classification is coming under fire in recent years for a number of reasons.  For one, the history of this legal status is muddled with both prohibitionist ideology and racial bias.  There is a growing awareness of these biases in how the laws came to be.  Also, growing scientific evidence shows usefulness and safety of using Cannabis and is further impacting the push for legalization of all Cannabis products.  

These factors have helped to generate a dramatic push back on the federal laws around Cannabis.   States across the US have been legalizing medical use and sometimes even recreational use of Marijuana in their states.

This changing environment creates some grey area in the law because now several state laws are not in line with federal law regarding Marijuana and/or the newly updated CBD law.  Another grey area is that CBDs are not illegal and yet not distinctly defined as legal either. 

Until Dec of 2018, growing Hemp was regulated under a trial phase established by the 2014 Farm Bill Act.  Select growers were allowed to grow limited amounts and strict oversight was given. Passage of the Dec 12, 2018 Farm Bill, and within it the “Hemp Farm Act,” is a first step toward creating more scientifically and economically conducive laws, and toward correcting past legislation which appears to be steeped in bias. 

As of this writing in March 2019, more than half the US states have already legalized medical use of Marijuana and a handful have also passed legalization for recreational use. With a few exceptions, CBD use is legal across the US.  Check your local laws to be certain of the details with CBDs in your area. 

I hesitate to post numbers here because numbers change with every election.  Needless to say, the trend is toward legalization and access to all Cannabis.  

How the legal situation has impacted research

Cannabis hasn’t been part of the mainstream social fabric for over 8 decades, and the current resurgence of interest around Marijuana and Hemp understandably creates a great deal of confusion, emotions, and debate. 

The sordid history of legal struggles for Cannabis means we do not fully understand this ancient healing plant.  Legal challenges of the last 8 decades resulted in a gap of any sound scientific research on CBDs during those years.  

Without a doubt, the recent legalization of industrial hemp farming will change future discourse.   Experts expect to see even more Hemp products flooding the market.  Research continues. 

There is an explosion of research happening now!  In addition to promising science and a much greater understanding of how Cannabis works through the newly discovered endocannabinoid system, we also have growing anecdotal evidence indicating the vast potential this controversial plant holds for human health.

Why is CBD everywhere?

CBDs are definitely on fire in 2019!  

Hemp products have been available in all states in recent years.  This availability has resulted in success stories that are helping to create a buzz around using CBDs for a variety of reasons such as sleep, anxiety, depression, pain and even more serious chronic conditions. 

The fact that such good results are gained from the non-psychoactive CBDs is lending to the popularity of this option. 

Even Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell is on board with Hemp. The recently passed 2018 Farm Bill is a personal project of McConnell’s, who tweeted “industrial hemp is a bright spot of agriculture’s future.”  Bipartisan support for the 2018 Farm Bill and it's Hemp Farm Act indicates exactly how strong the public mood is to have more access to products made from hemp, including CBDs for health support.   

What about side effects or contraindications? 

Any time you add a new food, drink, or herbal into your body, there is a chance you will have a negative reaction.   Always use common sense!  Stop using anything that doesn't feel right to you.  Never take a product that smells "off" or has a sign of contamination.  Look for products with high-quality standards like 3rd party testing and label transparency.  I strongly recommend full-spectrum or whole Hemp supercritical extract.  This is a clean solvent, low heat method to extract the oils from the "compliant" plant.  Isolated CBD has been extracted with more harsh methods and does not contain synergistic phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and fatty acids as the whole plant does. 

Start with a small dose to check your reaction.  If you do have a poor reaction (such as headache, stomach ache, rash, or any unwanted symptom) stop using the product right away!  You might wait 2-4 days then try a much smaller dose (1 drop of oil). If you have no negative reactions to the small dose, gradually increase the dosage until you find your personal best response. You might rather need to try other options to manage your stress and inflammation, such as removing sugar and processed foods (also surprisingly effective). 

If you are subject to drug testing or in recovery you may wish to avoid CBDs.  It is possible to use an extract which is isolated CBD for drug testing.  The THC is removed when the label states "100% isolate" but the matter will depend on what your employer looks for so best avoid to be completely safe.

For addiction recovery, there is not enough information to know for sure if CBDs help or hurt an addict.  Most recovery programs do not allow CBD use. I will note the early research indicates the Endocannabinoid system may be a key to helping with cravings of all sorts and has been shown to decrease Opioid addiction in states where medical marijuana is legally available.  Other new research shows promise in this area. Remember to use common sense! And listen to your support network, your medical practitioner and your own inner guidance on this one. 

Seek advice from your medical practitioner if you have any conditions or prescriptions that might have contraindications. 


In Conclusion

Much of the fear surrounding Cannabis in both Marijuana and Hemp strains, is based on false information and corrupt political motives.  Science is beginning to untangle many of the potential benefits.  Research on Cannabis has led to a newly discovered an important endogenous cannabinoid system, which appears to be a key to encouraging the healthful state of homeostasis or balance.

Testimonials abound for both positive results and low side effects from trying out CBD oils. Even though science is just beginning to understand Cannabis and the endocannabinoid system, Hemp and full-spectrum CBD oils are an age-old “food as medicine” approach that helps many people with common health challenges that are associated with stress and inflammation. 

Bonus Tip

For information on the important differences between Full-Spectrum CBD and Isolated CBD, check out the informative (non-profit) Project CBD site.


References and Links for more info:

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