Cannabidiol, also well known as CBD oil, is oil that is extracted from the cannabis plant of industrial hemp (the hemp plant). CBD oil is a chemical compound found in the cannabis and hemp plants. These chemicals are known as cannabiniods. In fact, CBD accounts for over 40% of the cannabis plants extract. There are in fact, over 100 different types of cannabiniods within the cannabis plant, and two of these cannabiniods have shown to contain therapeutic and medical properties. Studies show that CBD can aid in the healing of skin that has been burned, but what is CBD Oil?
Most people know the classic children’s story Charlotte’s Web, the tale of a plucky pig, his misfit farmyard friends and his human, Charlotte. More recently, Charlotte’s Web has made headlines as a strain of high CBD/low THC oil, which was a successful “miracle cure” for a five-year-old girl named
Charlotte Figi. Charlotte had Dravet Syndrome which meant she had upwards of 300 seizures a day. This condition caused her extensive brain damage and delayed her physical development. Charlotte was unable to walk or feed herself for instance, and her parents had given the doctors a “do not resuscitate order” for their daughter.
Traditional medicine did not help Charlotte and after exhausting their resources and most of their hope in a future for her, the Figis stumbled across naturally derived CBD oil. They began feeding Charlotte daily doses of CBD oil, allowing her to ingest it with her food, and after following a strict regimen for a year, Charlotte was riding a bicycle (1). So what is CBD oil? Why isn’t it more widely known? What is it used for?
You can make CBD oil from plants that contain cannabidiol (CBD). This is a cannabinoid (chemical compound) found in the cannabis family of plants such as the cannabis plant itself with its different strains and the hemp plant. In relation to the hemp plant is also has a number of other uses most notably, seeds with useful and healthy fatty acids. Each plant will naturally produce more CBD than the other but some manipulated plants can be altered to create more of a certain cannabinoid based on what the grower wants from it. For example, in the old days cannabis plants where produced which created more THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) so they could sell more cannabis that would get people high leading to a better return on investment (ROI). As similar process could be carried out here but for CBD.
The extraction process for cannabidiol from the cannabis/hemp plants to create CBD oil is similar to that of any essential oil extraction process. These two process refer to distillation and expression. Distillation refers to the heating and cooling of a liquid to make it more pure. Expression refers to a squeezing process for the sake of gaining a highly concentrated oil.
Before CNN broke the story of Charlotte Figi in 2013, obtaining CBD oil from either marijuana or industrial hemp was very difficult. There are still many myths surrounding its safety, efficacy, and application. CBD oil extracted from industrial hemp is legal because the presence of THC is below illegal levels which are around .03%. This is most likely because this amount of THC would have little to no effect on peoples brains i.e. it won’t get them high. This allows suppliers to get around tricky legislation. It is similar to “Tic-Tacs” being considered as sugar free even though they are primarily made of sugar. However, they can be called sugar free because each tic tac is less than .5 grams of sugar. Pure CBD oil should of course be considered, “an all-natural dietary supplement,” but without being tested for its concentrations or ratios of CBD oil in certain formulations, consumers could instead be purchasing “snake oil.” However, this is where things get even trickier. If a distributor or manufacturer of CBD oil wants to tout CBDs many medicinal benefits, and has used stringent and ethical extraction and production methods, that distributor may not make claims that CBD can be used for curing any specific ailments. CBD is currently under scrutiny by the FDA and is considered a “new drug.”
Sourcing CBD from the marijuana plant has been more difficult from a legislative perspective, in terms of its being able to cross state lines where medical use of marijuana is still unlawful, but some evidence suggests that the potency and quality of CBD oil extracted from the marijuana plant is more promising. This is possibly due to the fact that medicinal marijuana growers have a vested interest in marijuana and CBD because of the theory of “whole plant” medicine.
Medicinal marijuana is already considered a drug by the FDA, and these growers are already producing CBD as if it is a drug, even though it has virtually no psychoactive properties. Medicinal marijuana growers also have very strict legislation monitoring the sourcing of the plant, its various plant strains, and its various methods of distribution and dispensing.
This is great news for states where medical marijuana is legal, because the quality of CBD oil is being continually improved upon. The integrity and quality control of CBD oil as an “all natural dietary supplement”–when sourced from industrial hemp–was frequently called into question and problems were arising surrounding its availability and quality. When sourced from medicinal marijuana growers, problems arise about its legality.
Therefore, CBD oil seems to remain sort of an enigma to the wider population, and certainly its many therapeutic benefits are not generally known. When the cannabis plant began to be prized more for its recreational use, the natural CBD content began to be crossbred out of those particular plant strains. The goal of some cannabis growers is to breed the plant back to a more natural, heirloom “whole plant.”
Whole plant medicine involves–just what it sounds like–the use of the whole plant as a therapeutic remedy to various ailments. This of course piques the interests of medicinal marijuana growers and their consumers. THC is a psychoactive compound, and as such, is scrutinized under stricter legislation, and CBD has been implicated in reducing the side effects of this psychoactivity. Has this fact been given enough attention? Likely, the answer is no. The concept of using THC and CBD together as two complementing, synergistic therapeutic compounds is called the “entourage effect.” In the British Journal of Pharmacology, this synergism between THC and CBD is explained, “in some cases, plants are better drugs than the natural products isolated from them (7).” The UK being a very developed CBD Market with UK CBD shops being able to sell nationwide with no restriction.
In fact, this same study highlights the synergistic, whole-plant, entourage effect which has a lengthy list of potential therapeutic benefits, including but not limited to:
Muscle-Relaxant – As a muscle relaxant CBD oil is understood to be a potentially positive natural alternative. By acting as a mild neuromuscular blocking agent it can cause the muscles to relax when the patient requires it. This can also lead to further pain relief as well.
Analgesia (Pain-Relief) – As briefly mentioned before it is understood that CBD can also be used for pain relief but not necessarily as directly like normal opioid pill painkillers. At least until this treatment is developed. CBD can be useful in stopping the body from gaining anandamide which is what causes human to feel pain. If this can be done CBD could stop us feeling pain but it should be noted that CBD is not targeting the source of the pain but merely stopping us from feeling it. This could be useful for types of pain we exprience which never go away such as chronic pain, Multiple sclerosis and even arthritis based pain.
Antispasmodic – As mentioned before CBD oil does have potential benefits for our muscles but one of the more specific recorded benefits is its ability to suppress muscle spasms. Due to its mineral benefits and anti-inflammatory properties this shows it can target some of the causes of muscle spasms i.e. lack of magnesium and inflammation.
Neuroprotective Antioxidant – Some studies are showing that CBD oil can protect neurons within our nervous system due to its anti-oxidative properties. Both temporary and permanent neural damage can be caused by oxidative stress which antioxidants are known to treat very well. In certain studies its has been recorded as being able to prevent and repair damage. This would make it a good alternative or supportive treatment for strokes, brain injuries as well as spinal cord injuries/diseases.
Bronchodilator (Inhalers) – To continue, CBD oil has also been found to decrease the resistance felt within the respiratory system. It was also capable of dilating the bronchi and bronchioles too. This in turn would increase airflow making the oil act in a similar way to an inhaler.
Anti-Anxiolytic(anti-anxiety/anti-panic) – A study conducted in 2010 found CBD oil to have a calming affect on participants through regulation of their blood flow. This was found to help people deal with social anxiety disorders both while they whee happening and when they began. This shows CBD oil could be used to treat current conditions and as a form of treatment for patients going forward.
Anti-Inflammatory – As many of the examples have already pointed out. CBD oil has anti-inflammatory properties but this found in conjunction with the beneficial processes of our own endocannabinoid system. Combined these two work to regulate our bodies/brains to ensure there is a balance therefore helping treat inflammation based conditions (lowering defenses) and helping treat tougher conditions (increasing defenses). This also means CBD oil can act as an anticonvulsant, antibiotic and even cytotoxic (cancer fighting properties).
The history of cannabis was likely began with the domestication of the plant in Central or East Asia, from there, its notoriety most likely spread via Caucasian nomads traveling the eastern Eurasian steppes. The wild plant was not as useful for making cords and thread as the domesticated plant. It is not known whether the psychoactive or medicinal uses of cannabis were discovered first, but some archaeologists think humans used cannabis for medicines and spiritual rituals as far back as the neolithic or even late paleolithic eras (5).
The cultivation and domestication of the original plant led to different types of cannabis strains. Researchers of the origins of the cannabis plant have used archaeological digs to assess the use of hemp seeds or cannabis pollen among human remains. The hypothetical original parental plant of all modern cannabis plants is believed to have had its origins in ancient China, and is called the “proto-indica putative drug ancestor” or PDA.
From PDA, the broad-leaf variety of cannabis emerged and spread to central Asia–places like Afghanistan. The infamous Genghis Khan founded the Mongolian capital city Karakorum in the early thirteenth century, and archaeobotanists have found evidence of hemp oil–pressed from the seeds of the cannabis plant–being used for nearly two hundred years in this region (5). The broad-leaf variety is lower in CBD and THC than the newer European variety of cannabis–the Cannabis sativa–or narrow-leaf variety, which is predominantly farmed today (5).
In ancient Chinese Taoist tradition, the yin-yang is a teaching that describes the wholeness of a thing that is unchanging and complete. When the whole is split in two halves–the darkness and the lightness–they are locked in an unending search for the other, in order to achieve an equilibrium (7).
It seems fitting then that the cannabis plant has its “roots” in China. One researcher who dedicated much of his time to the study of the origins of the cannabis plant has said, “[Cannabis] has been extolled as one of man’s greatest benefactors–and cursed as one of its greatest scourges…it is undoubtedly an herb that has been many things to many people(5).”
Although many people, around the world had used cannabis in the past for medical purposes, Cannabiniold (CBD) wasn’t discovered until 1940.
CBD oil has many “virtues” that can be extolled for its healing properties, and its usefulness seems to be quietly gaining more ground. Emerging science seems to be merely supporting the millennia of anecdotal evidence of its efficacy in healing the human body. Most Americans still attach a stigma to the cannabis plant because it was often illegally farmed for its recreational use. Perhaps we can begin to see this plant in a “new light.”
To read more extensively on CBD oil and how it is being used for Arthritis, read Everything you need to know about CBD and Arthritis.