The Science Behind CBD
In the 1930s, extensive research was being done on cannabis in the United States, but it came to a halt at the start of World War II. Research became largely obsolete in the years that followed because of the "war on drugs." Consequently, laws were enacted that classified the cannabis plant as a drug or controlled substance, meaning the plant could not have any medical value. This led us to the cannabis research paradox: Skeptics and medical professionals would assert, "There is not enough research that indicates medical cannabis works. We cannot prescribe it;" meanwhile, the federal government insists that cannabis is a schedule I controlled substance and therefore has no medical benefits—it was illegal to research it.
While the US was busy waging war on drugs, cannabis research was quietly being undertaken in Israel by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. Mechoulam, an Israeli organic chemist and professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, pioneered cannabis research in the 1960s and was the first scientist to isolate Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Dr. Mechoulam has been conducting research on cannabis for more than 40 years.
According to Dr. Mechoulam, one can look throughout history to find evidence of cannabis being used for medicinal purposes. For example, the Assyrians used cannabis 3,000 years ago, apparently for the treatment of neurological diseases. Furthermore, the Chinese have made extensive use of cannabis medicinally throughout their nation's history.
In 1992, while working to understand the effects of cannabinoid molecules, Dr. Mechoulam identified the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS). The endocannabinoid system, named after the plant that led to its discovery, is a crucial physiological system involved in establishing and maintaining human health. In fact, all living species have an endocannabinoid system.
The body produces its own "endogenous" cannabinoids or endocannabinoids, for example, Anandamide. Anandamide levels in our bodies can be linked to feelings of well-being and happiness. Studies show that CBD significantly increases anandamide levels in the body, making CBD a possible therapeutic agent for depression and other related conditions.
Endocannabinoids and their receptors (CB1 and CB2) are found everywhere throughout the body: in our brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, digestive system, muscular system, and immune system. Therefore, the ECS plays an important role in regulating our mood, memory, appetite, and the sensation of pain. Since the purpose of the ECS is to maintain homeostasis in our body, your overall health could be negatively effected if your ECS is compromised.
An endocannabinoid deficiency in our bodies, caused by poor diet, lack of sleep, and stress, among other things, may lead to pain, inflammation, migraines, sleeplessness, and other diseases. The ECS can be brought back to balance by absorbing and regulating plant-based cannabinoid compounds like THC, CBD, Cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabinol (CBN), and Cannabichromene (CBC).
The Legality of CBD
Should cannabis be illegal in the first place? We are of the opinion that U.S. prohibition and criminalization of cannabis is an unjust law. However, let's explore the legality of CBD in the U.S. as it currently stands.
Most recently, the DEA de-scheduled an FDA-approved drug called Epidiolex, which contains CBD. This decision only re-scheduled this particular drug and not CBD altogether as some headlines claim. What does this mean for CBD?
The FDA has advised the DEA to de-schedule CBD altogether, citing that:
- “There is little indication that CBD has abuse potential or presents a significant risk to the public health.”
- “No evidence for a classic drug withdrawal syndrome for CBD, and no evidence that CBD causes physical or psychic dependence.”
- “CBD does not appear to have abuse potential under the CSA.”
- “There is no signal for the development of substance use disorder in individuals consuming CBD-containing products.”
- “It is unlikely that CBD would act as an immediate precursor to THC for abuse purposes.”
In other words, CBD, according to the FDA, is completely safe. This aligns with the World Health Organization's findings on CBD, which concluded that CBD has a good safety profile and there is no evidence to date of any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.
Assuming that hemp-derived CBD is currently a schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substance Act, how can CBD be "USA's coolest food and drink ingredient" or "the turmeric of 2018" or "the trendiest food ingredient you never heard of"? This is partly due to the same reason that states can institute "legal" cannabis programs while cannabis remains federally illegal - duality of the law, combined with the federal government's decision not to enforce the federal ban on cannabis.
The Agricultural Farm Act of 2014 created somewhat of a loophole. Hemp (less than 0.3% THC) is defined as distinct from recreational and medical cannabis (more than 0.3% THC), and the act does not treat hemp as a controlled substance. Therefore, CBD extracted from hemp grown legally under the 2014 Farm Act cannot be illegal.
Lastly, CBD is a naturally occurring compound found in the cannabis plant. If hemp, a cannabis variety with close to zero THC, is made legal via the 2018 Farm Bill, then CBD derived from hemp cannot be illegal.
It may be unexpected to hear from a cannabis company focused on CBD products, but we are a little concerned/bothered with seeing CBD everywhere. Although many are making an honest effort to provide consumers with a high-quality, natural supplement or natural alternative to prescription drugs, many are using CBD as a buzzword or marketing gimmick to sell "cannabis-infused" products. Often times these products are inherently unhealthy, and combining CBD, a health supplement with potential therapeutic properties, does not make them more healthy. It's rather counter-intuitive. Examples of counter-intuitiveness are CBD cocktails, CBD candy, and CBD cola. Even CBD coffee is questionable — how much CBD actually passes through the coffee filter?
One thing to consider is bioavailability or the degree to which a substance is absorbed into the body's bloodstream. For example, if a substance is administered intravenously, or injected directly into the bloodstream, its bioavailability is 100%. If you drink CBD, it has to pass through your stomach (acid), liver, and finally your small intestine where it will then be absorbed into your bloodstream.
Hence, the bioavailability is much lower for oral consumption at approximately 10%. This is why some pharmaceutical drugs come in delayed release capsules to prevent the drug from being destroyed or inactivated by stomach acid. Sublingual consumption, or administering the substance under the tongue, is a much more effective and direct way of consumption.
If you are trying CBD for the first time, here are several things to consider:
1) A higher amount of CBD does not necessarily guarantee the product will be more effective. At a higher concentration, you will just need to use less of the product—than one with a lower concentration—to achieve the same dosage.
2) If you are seeking to treat severe pain, CBD alone is not likely to provide ample, long-lasting relief. Look for products with at least some trace of THC ("full spectrum" if derived from hemp) or purchase products from a cannabis dispensary that contain higher amounts of THC.
3) Don't expect your experience with CBD to be like your experience with THC—CBD is more subtle. You will not feel "high", and you may not feel the effects immediately. Give CBD at least two weeks to one month to work (as you would with any other supplement) while your body returns to homeostasis, or a more balanced state.
4) In addition to taking CBD, make sure you are eating clean, getting at least 30 minutes of light exercise every day, and cutting back on unhealthy habits. CBD is not a miracle supplement but can help regulate your endocannabinoid system over time.