What is Cannabidiol?
Cannabidiol – or CBD as it is often called – is a chemical compound that forms naturally in cannabis plants. Cannabinoids are found in several plants, including the cannabis plant, which has many of them. In fact, cannabidiol is just one of over a hundred cannabinoids that have thus far been discovered in cannabis plants. Of course, people have been smoking and ingesting cannabis plants for centuries – and even longer in all likelihood – in the name of spirituality
and for recreational reasons. One of the best-known cannabinoids in cannabis plants is called THC, which is known to give a high as well as a psychoactive reaction in people. Like THC, CBD is just one of these chemical compounds. The difference with cannabidiol is that it accounts for a much larger proportion of the plant's extract and has no recognised psychoactive effect. However, THC and cannabidiol may interact with one another in ways that are not yet fully understood.
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When was CBD discovered?
Cannabidiol was first discovered as a cannabinoid in its own right as far back as 1940. It is, therefore, one of the most studied and best understood natural chemical compounds to have been found in cannabis plants to date. Scientists have been looking closely at its chemical structure for decades to try and work out how it interacts with the body when it is consumed. Like other hemp extracts, however, its use has been highly regulated around the world, and it remains a controlled substance in many countries. That said, it has some properties that have prompted medical science to investigate its usefulness. These days, some products containing CBD are now legal in certain jurisdictions, primarily for their medicinal rather than recreational use. Among the most widely used functions of medical cannabidiol is in the treatment of certain types of epilepsy.
Where does CBD come from?
In the main, CBD is derived from hemp plants. Hemp is a close relative of the cannabis plant but one that is grown for purposes other than recreational use. Hemp, for example, is used to making sisal ropes and even clothing thanks to its strong internal structures. Most commercial growers of cannabidiol will use Sativa cannabis plants which contain a good proportion of the compound in them, thereby helping to improve crop yields. However, it is possible to synthesise the compound, as well. This effectively means making it artificially in laboratory conditions. The reason for this is the so-called purity of the end product since no other cannabinoids could possibly make their way into the production process. That said, growing it naturally is cheaper and easier, and most commercial operators have stringent procedures in place to ensure the purity of their product is also maintained.
Is CBD legal?
As mentioned, CBD has been approved for certain medical uses, usually under license, for quite a few years in Western medicine
. In the United States, the 2018 Farm Bill made the cultivation and commercialisation of products derived from hemp legal for the first time. However, not all states operate with the same degree of legality. The Federal Cannabis Act of 2018 in Canada allowed approved sellers to supply CBD-based products from the following year, while similar legislation came into force in the European Union in 2019. This allowed for so-called novel foods, that is, gummies and so on, that contain the compound to be sold. As of 2020, such products a regulated under food safety legislation rather than being considered medications. Certain CBD-based spray formulations have been legal for medical use in the UK since 2017. Only CBD-based products that have been approved by the UK Food Standard Agency can be legally sold since March 2021.
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Will CBD show on a drug test?
Many people who take CBD-based products for recreational purposes rather than prescribed medical ones worry that they will fail a workplace drug test if they are subjected to one. The good news is that most of the tests that are mandated by employers will look for a wide variety of substances and, therefore, will not necessarily pick up on the presence of CBD. That said, some plant-derived cannabidiol extract will contain trace elements of THC. This is one of the reasons that most professional producers are looking for purity in their processes, of course. Theoretically, at least, consuming a CBD-based product might mean also taking on board some THC. Although unlikely, this could show up in a drug test, causing you to fail it. The only way to avoid this is to not consume it at all or purchase synthesised forms of the compound.
How is CBD oil manufactured?
Although cannabidiol comes in various forms, one of the most popular is in oil-based products. After the plants have been cultivated to contain as little THC as possible, they are harvested by simply cutting them down. The next part involves extracting the desirable compound while discarding the rest. Commercial extraction techniques will typically make use of solvents. These solvents dissolve the CBD quicker than other compounds that might be present. They are extremely efficient at separating individual cannabidiol molecules from the rest of the cannabis plant allowing for a high level of purity within the resulting solution. The next step is to allow the solvents to evaporate. This might be done in a variety of ways, including leaving the solution out in the sun. What is left behind should be pure CBD oil. It can then be sold as it is or put into other products.
How does CBD work?
Even after over 80 years of research into cannabinoid compounds, including both CBD and THC, the exact physiological mechanisms of how they affect people is still not fully understood. Whereas THC has a pronounced psychoactive effect, cannabidiol does not. When scientists have observed THC in the brain, they have found that it binds chemically to certain neural receptors. Cannabidiol does the same but does not seem to bind to the same types of receptors. Research is ongoing to work out which receptors CBD-based oils are compatible with. However, there seems to be a correlation between the receptors that function well with serotonin and the ones that work well with cannabidiol. Serotonin is a natural hormone
that helps to regulate mood, often making us feel more joyful. Cannabidiol seems to work like serotonin at a physiological level insofar as the same receptors are activated by it. That's possibly why it makes us feel an increase in happiness
when we consume it.
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Why is CBD so popular?
Marijuana has been used to treat pain for many years. Although the way the plant helped to alleviate the symptoms of pain was not understood historically, people found that it was effective. Only in the twentieth century, when scientists started to look for the active ingredients in cannabis plants, did they start to realise that there were many cannabinoids often working in concert with one another to produce effects on the body. CBD was identified early as one that would impact on the human body's endocannabinoid system or ECS. The ECS is known not just to help regulate the sensation of pain but to affect sleep, appetite and immune response. Cannabidiols have become increasingly popular for these effects, especially pain control, which take place without the psychoactive elements of the cannabis plant, such as THC, having an impact. In addition to their bodily effects, some studies suggest that cannabidiol can help to lower levels of anxiety
Can CBD cause headaches?
Some people find that they suffer from headaches when they consume CBD-based products. The reasons why this might be are unclear, however. It could just be that some people's physiologies are different and that they will get a headache whenever they consume them. Therefore, you should never consume too many CBD-based products, such as gummies, in one go, particularly if you are new to them and do not know how they will affect you. If you get a headache, then stop consuming them and drink plenty of water. Some people think that it is likely that poor quality cannabidiol products lead to headaches, but it could be that the dosing is wrong, something that can happen if you are measuring out a CBD oil by hand, for example. Equally, some people suggest that cannabidiol helps to kill off toxic brain cells, which, in turn, leads to temporary headaches as they have an overall beneficial effect.
Can CBD help with depression?
The misuse of marijuana is linked to depression
in many cases. For some, it is the psychoactive part of cannabis plants, in particular THC, that alters the brain's state and leads to depression. Therefore, you should be cautious about treating depression with any cannabinoid until the scientific research in this area becomes more concrete. Certainly, CBD-based products are no cure for depression or anxiety disorders. That said, some studies suggest they at least show promise. A Brazilian study, for example, showed that a specific 300-mg dose of cannabidiol helped to lower levels of anxiety in volunteers compared to both higher doses and placebos. When animals have been experimented on, effects that would be expected of anti-depressant pharmaceuticals have also been observed as a result of cannabidiol. However, large scale studies among humans have not yet been conducted to expand on this initial picture.
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Will CBD help with pain?
Yes, it will. The first uses of cannabidiol that were allowed under the law were prescribed treatments that aimed to either deal with epilepsy or chronic pain
. Many people take it to help them cope with ongoing pain without needing to rely on drugs which might make them more drowsy. Equally, CBD-based products are often sought out to deal with arthritis. When people are in pain from tumours or their cancer treatments, they are sometimes offered cannabidiol as an alternative medicine
method of pain management these days. In other words, it is becoming increasingly accepted as a normal part of medical healthcare today. Interestingly, some studies suggest it is not just the neural transmitters that react to cannabidiol that are blocking pain signals out of the brain. There also appears to be an effect whereby inflammation is lessened, something that can also cause fewer pain signals to be generated by the nervous system in the first place.
Could CBD affect medications?
Yes, it could. If you are already taking a course of pharmaceutical drugs, then the more natural alternative of cannabidiol may have unintended consequences. Again, this is an area in which research is ongoing. Indeed, how one drug interacts with another in the human body is something medical science only has a burgeoning grasp of. However, some anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD can cause the effects of other drugs to lessen or even not work at all. Some people get unwanted or more pronounced side effects from the prescribed drug treatment after taking cannabidiol supplements. In short, the picture is mixed so proceeding with caution is wise. If you have any doubts, then consult a medical professional about the likeliest outcomes in your case.
Which side effects are noted with CBD consumption?
To be clear, many people consume CBD-based products and oils with no detrimental side effects whatsoever. It is likely that if you do feel them that they will be light. However, like any powerful agent, this chemical compound should be treated with respect. For example, it might be that cannabidiol consumption affects the effectiveness of other drugs you might be taking or could cause headaches to occur. Other side effects that some people report include a dry mouth and a strong thirst. There again, some people will also feel light-headed for a time after consuming CBD, so it is best not to drive or operate machinery after taking it. In very strong doses, there have been reports of partial liver damage, too. For most people, however, the worst that they feel is mildly drowsy after consuming cannabidiol.
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Cannabidiol in summary
In recent times, the CBD industry has gone from strength to strength as more is understood about this cannabinoid. For years, the chemical compound was linked to the more psychoactive ones that are found in cannabis plants, and the truth is they may have more ways of interacting with one another than is, as yet, fully understood. That said, CBD was deemed to be a substance that needed to be controlled for decades because of the psychoactive effects of other related cannabinoids. What medical professionals have done is to isolate cannabidiol from other cannabis compounds so that its particular properties can be enjoyed without the psychoactive effects getting in the way. For many, this means being able to utilise the 'good' aspects of cannabis without the 'bad' ones, such as the ability to get high.
In terms of medical science, CBD is used to treat a raft of conditions, notably epilepsy and pain management for anything from postoperative care to arthritis. It is known to be effective and has proven itself in numerous field trials. As such, the use of cannabidiol has been largely liberalised in much of the West, notably in North America. Although it used to be that only doctors could prescribe it in medications, numerous food and even beauty products now include it as an active ingredient. Therefore, many people use it recreationally as well as to help keep on top of minor ailments, such as stiff joints or inflamed tendons, for example. Some studies also suggest it could benefit heart health and might also be effective at reducing acne. Consequently, cannabis plants with a high level of cannabidiol content are now being harvested on an industrial scale in places like Colorado and California, where the conditions are ideal for growing them.
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