CBD oil, or a cannabidiol oil that is derived from the cannabis plant, has seen a large surge in popularity over the last several years. Once considered a controversial product due to its proximity to an illegal drug, CBD has now been embraced as a potential treatment for everything from seizures to anxiety.
Most cure-all oils, like the wildly popular essential oils sold at whole foods stores and via multi-level marketing schemes, are assumed to be pleasant smelling but largely worthless, but from a scientific perspective, this is not the case with CBD oil. With the ability to affect the functioning of the central nervous system, CBD can induce true changes in the body – not psychosomatic ones.
What Is CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol is a naturally occuring substance in the leaves of the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, the substance in marijuana that leads to intoxication, cannabidiol doesn’t cause a high of any kind. However, due to the similar source, these two substances are frequently confused, tainting the public perception of CBD oil. In reality, cannabidiol is safe, non-addictive, and carries with it no risk of getting high.
CBD oil uses chemical compounds extracted from a cannabis plant and diluted with what is known as a carrier oil, most commonly coconut or hemp seed oil. CBD can be ingested orally, rubbed onto the skin, or even vaped, leading to numerous avenues for use.
The Rising Popularity of CBD Oil
The presence of CBD in cannabis isn’t a new discovery; it was first identified in 1940 as one of the 113 phytocannabinoids that make up a standard cannabis plant. In nature, it can make up as much as 40% of the plant, but some scientists and hobby growers are now experimenting with genetic modifications that result in higher or lower concentrations proportional to THC.
CBD was first successfully extracted by Harvard graduate Roger Adams. At the time, the significance of his discovery was unknown, but over time and with more research, Adams realized the potential uses of CBD products. In 1946, Dr. Walter S. Loewe conducted the first CBD tests on animal subjects, yielding the knowledge that CBD does not lead to an altered mental state. Further research was conducted by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the scientist credited with first identifying the three-dimensional structure of CBD.
The first therapeutic use oil was released in the 1960s by British Pharmacopoeia, and further research in the 1980s indicated the potential efficacy of CBD oil in treating symptoms of epilepsy. However, due to the illegality of marijuana in the United States, CBD has managed to carry with it a negative stigma, even in spite of the positive research regarding its properties. Only recently, with numerous states taking strides toward the legalization of marijuana, has CBD oil become far more popular in mainstream culture. Today, CBD oil is embraced by individuals of all ages and for all purposes.
The Legality of CBD Oil
The legality of CBD oil has been a serious concern for those who utilize CBD for treatment purposes.
Prior to 2018, CBD products were still considered controlled substances. However, an aspect of the 2018 Farm Bill has made CBD products that contain less than 0.3 percent THC federally legal. However, some stats are slow to catch up, leading to confusing contradictions law enforcement officers are stuck navigating. In some cases, this has led to raids on tobacco stores where owners were selling approved CBD products, not realizing the state-level laws still in use. Some states have passed laws that make CBD products legal to sell, but not legal to include in food. New York State bans the use of CBD in cooking, which led to the seizure of CBD-filled cookies from a Manhattan bakery. Missouri, on the other hand, allows CBD to be sold in alcohol.
This state by state approach has led to ongoing confusion that has yet to settle; in Texas, for example, policies differ from city to city. In Austin, the police treat all CBD products conforming to federal law as legal, but the DA in nearby Fort Worth is dedicated to trying cases involving any kind of CBD, regardless of THC content.
In spite of this confusion, many jurisdictions nationwide widely permit the sale and use of CBD oil. While standard oils cannot legally be prescribed by doctors, it is often recommended by those familiar with the potential benefits.
The Effects of CBD
As CBD oil is not intended to get users high, it is primarily appreciated for its effects on the body and, most notably, the central nervous system.
CB1 and CB2 receptors exist throughout the nervous system. When smoking marijuana, THC binds to these receptors, creating the euphoric sensation the drug is known for. However, this is not the case for CBD. Instead, it may act within the body in other ways, many of which are currently being studied.
Alzheimer’s-related research indicates that CBD may play a role in safeguarding neurons from degeneration, offering great potential in neuroprotective applications. It may also be effective as a pain reliever; preliminary studies indicate that CBD may be able to bind to other receptors in the brain, interrupting neuronal transmission in a safer way than standard pain medications. CBD is also heavily used by cancer patients due to its potential antitumor properties, but this use is still contested by oncologists and other researchers.
One of the main uses of CBD involves the treatment of anxiety. One study even found that CBD dramatically reduced anxiety symptoms in a random group of subjects by suppressing the normal reactions of the central nervous system. Further, CBD has been studied and demonstrated to be effective in some cases of epilepsy. The only FDA-approved medication containing CBD, Epidiolex, is currently on the market and is approved for the treatment of seizures.
CBD is thought to respond to numerous receptors throughout the brain and CNS, including serotonin 1A receptors, which control the release of cortisol, TRPV1 receptors, which play a role in thermoregulation, and GPR55, a receptor that plays a role in controlling blood pressure.
The Unknowns of CBD Oil
Despite the growing prevalence of use, CBD oils are not all made equal and as testing is still ongoing, there may be concerns regarding safety or efficacy that are thus far unknown. Both research and anecdotal evidence indicate that CBD use may cause side effects, including nausea, drowsiness, and dry mouth. It may also interfere with the use of other medications, like blood thinners. As such, significant research is likely required before doctors are permitted to prescribe CBD in conjunction with other medical therapies.
While the research and public support in favor of CBD are in the early stages, the popularity of this multi-use oil is unlikely to slow. Largely safe and easy to use with minimal known risks, for many users, the advantages are well worth it.