The world—or at least some parts of it—is in the middle of a cannabis revolution which is being led by a CBD-centric moment. With CBD-based products expanding their horizon every single day and scientific research backing its many benefits for the human body, increasing number of people are developing an interest in the substance. It is in-fact the new buzzword around town.
But, as happens with everything that suddenly rises to fame, there is a lack of solid understanding of CBD. Well, we are here to offer you just that.
What is CBD?
An abbreviation for cannabinoid, CBD is a compound found in the cannabis plant. That’s right, cannabis as in marijuana. However, it comes from another variety of the cannabis plant called hemp. Hemp is popularly known as non-psychotic marijuana because it contains low levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the component that causes the high when people smoke marijuana.
CBD typically constitutes about 40% of the hemp variety of cannabis. After THC, it is second-most abundant cannabinoid in the plant. It is a phytocannabinoid that works on the Endocannabinoid System of the human body to keep it in balance. Unlike THC, it has no psychoactive properties and has, in fact, been developed to provide natural medicinal relief to numerous ailments of the human body.
CBD vs. THC
The relationship between CBD and THC is complicated. CBD, seemingly so, curtails some of THC’s undesirable effects. These include paranoia, impaired thinking, and heart palpitations. Unlike THC, it is an inverse agonist. In simple language, that means that CBD is not intoxicating. At the molecular level, it does the exact opposite of THC.
Cannabis consumers prize the potency of the plant as a prominent factor in deciding the desirability of a particular strain. This is also a criterion that the government uses in determining the legality of a cannabis plant. With the times changing, many consumers now prefer less intense products. Consumers now favour products that have low amounts of THC and high amounts of CBD.
Understanding Cannabis Strains
Even though CBD is the second-most abundant cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, a cannabis plant can deliver CBD in the following ratios:
- High THC, low CBD (e.g. 10-30% THC and trace amounts of CBD)
- Balanced CBD:THC (e.g. 5-15% of THC and CBD)
- High CBD, low THC (e.g. 5-20% CBD and under 5% of THC)
High-CBD strains are more likely to deliver clear-headed, functional effects without causing the high associated with THC. These strains are a great choice for people who need to medicate throughout the day to control inflammation, pain, anxiety, and other chronic conditions.
Balanced CBD: THC strains are more euphoric in comparison to the high-CBD strains. They are, therefore, less likely to improve anxiety, paranoia, etc. These strains are, however, most efficate for pain relief.
High THC strains cause psychoactive and euphoric effects on the body causing an elated sense of activity, paranoia, dizziness, anxiety etc.
Pharmacological History of CBD
CBD was first discovered by Roger Adams in 1940. After the discovery, other scientists began testing isolated cannabinoids on animals. The trails on rabbits and mice with THC, CBD, and CBN showed no observable effects in the behaviour of animals. It was observed that THC caused a central excitant action in rabbits. However, the scientists were not aware of the chemical structure of the cannabinoid. So, research was slow.
In 1964, a scientist from Israel, Dr. Mechoulam, identified the structure of THC. This discovery made possible for them to understand the psychoactive nature of THC. In relation to this, they understood the non-intoxicating properties of CBD.
Dr. Mechoulam continued his research in 1980 w.r.t. cannabis and epilepsy. The study was done on 16 children each suffering from severe epilepsy. Every subject who received CBD showed improvement in the condition with minimal to no side-effects.
After this study registered the anticonvulsant properties of CBD, in 1993, scientists were able to establish its potent anti-anxiety and anxiolytic properties as well.
In spite of all these studies, the component’s progress towards its place in society was slow. Until 1996 when California became the first US state to legalise medical cannabis. This gave way to change in popular opinion and further research.
And the rest is present (not history).
What does CBD do?
CBD inherits many of the medicinal properties of the cannabis plant. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiolytic properties enable it to act as a reliever of pain, natural stress, and anxiety to name a few.
The cannabis plant that CBD is derived from—hemp—has been used as medicine since antiquity. With its extraction and research on its potential, it is now being developed as an organic medicine for a number of medical conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, movement disorders, cognitions, and chronic pain.
How does CBD work?
CBD is a cannabinoid which interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) of the human body and is thus able to heal it. However, that has not always been the case. The ECS in the human body has been studied since the 20th century where researchers found different cannabinoid receptors in different parts of the body.
Two of these receptors were named CB1 and CB2 and were thoroughly analysed. The analysis revealed a vital signalling system between these and cannabinoid receptors in the cannabis plant. The scientists decided to call it the endocannabinoids.
Further research revealed that the ECS is vital in maintaining an ideal balance between different independent systems of the body. That is to say, scientists discovered that there are systems in the body which are solely dependent on cannabinoid interaction for their proper functioning.
Cannabinoidol interacts directly with a number of proteins in the body—some of which are components of the ECS. For example, it binds with CB1 and CB2 to set off a reaction essentially opposite to that of THC. The ECS has multiple other receptors such as TRPV1, GPR3, GPR6 etc. Many of its therapeutic effects take place through these pathways.
CBD’s interaction with the human body, however, is not restricted to the ECS. Till date, scientists have discovered about 12 different mechanisms of action in which CBD affects the human body. It is highly likely that the therapeutic effects of CBD are a result of the activation of all of these mechanisms and not just a single one in particular. More research to understand this to the ground is in process.
Outside of the ECS, it is responsible for mildly activating one of the brain’s predominant receptors—5-HT1A. This activation can potentially explain CBD’s effects on depression and anxiety. CBD also acts as PPARs (peroxisome proliferator activated receptors) which stop the growth of cancer cells. Multiple scientific researches indicate that because of this it can be the next solution for ovarian cancer. Moreover, CBD interaction with a particular PPAR (gamma) can prove to be a promising solution for preventing Alzheimer’s disease and other related brain disorders.
Where does CBD help?
CBD’s gaining popularity has been because of its medical and nutritional benefits. At present, there are close to 100 clinical trials enrolling patients to study its efficacy in multiple diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, depression, substance use disorder, etc. The list of medical conditions that it can help with is ever-expanding. Some of the most common uses of CBD in medicine include:
The ECS in our body participates in pain processing by absorbing anandamide, a pain-regulating compound. Anandamide is one of our body’s natural cannabinoid molecule. When it interacts with the ECS, it stops the ECS from absorbing this compound. This inhibition jolts the excess quantity into the bloodstream that in turn reduces pain.
According to this scientific research, CBD targets the alpha-3 glycine receptors in the body to subdue chronic pain and inflammation caused by dysfunctional glycine receptors. This is an imperative target for pain processing in the spine.
A 2015 comprehensive review of 14 studies on CBD’s effect on substance addiction revealed that it may indeed have therapeutic properties on cocaine, opioid, and psychostimulant addiction. Other studies show us that it can help with the addiction to marijuana and tobacco.
Epilepsy and Seizures
Apart from its anti-inflammatory and anti-analgesic properties, what draws everybody’s attention to CBD is its anticonvulsant nature. A significant number of clinical trials have shown that it can effectively reduce seizures in children. While more extensive studies are needed in order to understand these relationships fully, one possible explanation is available. It is likely that CBD’s neuroprotective properties come from its interaction with NMDA receptors. These receptors are at the centre of overly active neuron activity which is a hallmark of conditions such as epilepsy.
Other potential uses
CBD’s medicinal properties are at the centre of an elevating number of scientific researches. In these studies, the component has shown a wide range of health effects in addition to the ones discussed above. According to studies, CBD has antipsychotic effects. This indicates that it can potentially help people with schizophrenia and other similar mental disorders by curtailing psychotic symptoms.
Research also points towards the anti-tumour effects of CBD. The conclusions of these studies suggest that CBD can assist in the prevention of brain, lung, colon, ovarian, prostate, and breast cancer.
CBD’s effects on people with diabetes are also backed by science. In a particular study, it reduced diabetic incidence by 56% while significantly reducing inflammation.
What are the side-effects of CBD?
CBD is a generally well-tolerated compound and is considered to be safe. It is a natural medicine with virtually zero fatal episodes associated with its use. Studies and researches have rated the herb as the least dangerous substance. This is in comparison to substances of the like of alcohol and nicotine with respect to toxicity.
However, at the bottom of it all, it is a chemical substance that is being introduced to the body’s biology. Therefore, it can bring with itself its own set of side effects. More often than not, these side-effects are not serious. But if you use, or plan to use it in the future, it will play to your advantage to know of these.
A wholesome document of the safety and side effects of CBD was published in the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research journal in 2017. The review begins by shedding light on the numerous clinical trials that the drug is a part of. Most of these trails are focused on conditions of epilepsy and psychotic disorders. The side effects highlighted in the document include:
- Change in Weight
- Change in Appetite
On the whole, these side effects are quite minor. According to the authors of the review, it has a better side effect profile than the other drugs used for the treatment of same conditions.
Some other side effects that have been noticed in different researches are:
- Dry Mouth
- Mood swings
Another review by Current Drug Safety shows that has no adverse effects on the physiological parameters. These include body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, gastrointestinal transit, food intake, and psychological and psychomotor functions.
Other side effects have been witnessed in interference with other medications. Therefore, it is always wise to consult with your physician before starting on CBD.
What are the different CBD products?
Through science and determination, CBD has worked its way into an entire host of products:
Combusting or vaporizing flowers allows users to experience the therapeutic benefits of almost immediately. It is the most popular form of cannabis because of its versatility. It offers multiple consumption methods such as smoking through a pipe or bong or rolling it into a joint.
Isolates are CBD in the purest form—a fine white powder. This is an incredibly distant form of CBD as it resembles other substances which look suspicious. Yet, this crystalline form is versatile and allows users to measure exactly the amount they are feeding themselves.
CBD concentrates include CBD oil, vape pens, cartridges, syringes etc. CBD concentrates are what bridge the gap between CBD flower and CBD isolate.
Research surrounding CBD has led to chefs and chemists joining hands to create a wide range of useful products such as edibles, sublingual sprays, capsules, and topicals. Each infusion supports specific combinations or isolations of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids. This allows users to pick and choose the products that can serve their exact needs.
For instance, topicals are highly effective on surface-level problems such as bruises, headaches, joint pains etc.
Is CBD legal?
There is no one-fits-all answer to this question. Over the last 5 decades, governments around the world banned cannabis for its psychoactive effects. This formed a pejorative perspective about the plant and anything associated with it. However, with time and scientific research, the popular opinion about cannabis is shifting. Science is revealing to us the many medical benefits of different varieties of the cannabis plant. Hemp is one such variety, the major component of which is CBD.
These discoveries are giving way to a lasting impact on the society inclusive of the governing laws. The legality of CBD varies from region to region. It is legal in some countries, such as the United States, while completely illegal in others such as India.
A lot of factors contribute to determining the legality of the component. For instance, in the United States, hemp-derived CBD is legal but the one derived from whole-plant marijuana is illegal in most countries.
Some states determine the legality of products based on the level of THC present. For example, products containing less than or equal to 0.3% THC is considered legal. Anything above that percentage is an illegal product.
Legal State of Hemp in India
Cannabis plants are illegal in India. The relationship of India with cannabis dates back to antiquity. However, it was scheduled as a hard drug in 1961. In 2015, the country saw the earliest organised efforts to re-legalise cannabis. The following years saw multiple requests about making medical marijuana and hemp legal. Many state governments are also moving towards getting hemp legalised.
A word from Its Hemp
CBD is on its journey to becoming the new alternative medicine. The Itshemp community is CBD-positive and promotes its use for a healthier lifestyle. But we also strongly recommend that before you start using CBD, you consult your doctor. It can interfere with some medications which is why it is important to know whether it is appropriate for you. Also, the legality of CBD varies from country to country and state to state. A 2017 study in the Journal of American Medical Association shows that about 60-70% of CBD-products sold online are incorrectly labelled. We advise that you be cautious of the platforms you buy CBD products from.