What is CBD?

To understand CBD, you must first understand Cannabis. Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants. The number of species in the genus is disputed, but three species have become widely known: C. Sativa, C. Indica, and C. Ruderalis. Historically, the genus has been referred to as Hemp and has been grown by civilizations dating back to BC times for hemp fiberhemp seeds and their oils, hemp leaves for use as vegetables and as juicemedicinal purposes, and as a recreational drug.

The species that have been grown throughout history to produce fiber and seeds are referred to as Industrial Hemp. The other Cannabis strains are commonly referred to as Marijuana.

The Cannabis plants include chemical compounds called “Cannabinoids.” A cannabinoid is one of a class of diverse chemical compounds that acts on cannabinoid receptors in cells that alter neurotransmitter release in the brain. CBD is short for Cannabidiol, which is one of these approximately 120 chemical compounds in the plant.

CBD oil produced in the U.S. is typically produced from cannabis species known as CBD-rich hemp, or PCR hemp (phytocannabinoid rich hemp). This specie of Cannabis is nothing like Industrial Hemp and has been produced through the selective breeding of Marijuana to minimalize the presence of the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the cannabinoid that is responsible for the psychoactive “high” effect. The vast majority of “CBD” products originate from Industrial Hemp as they are not intended to be psychoactive.

The CBD-rich hemp looks like marijuana, smells like marijuana, and is grown using the same methods.

It is important to understand that “CBD oil” is not necessarily the same as Hemp Oil. Hemp Oil generally refers to Hemp Seed Oil, which has beneficial nutrients, such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, amino acids, fiber, and antioxidants. CBD is extracted in a concentrated form from the CBD-Rich Hemp Plant and then combined with the Hemp Seed Oil to produce the “CBD oil”.

More recently, CBD extract is combined with MCT (medium-chained-triglycerides) oil, sourced from coconuts. Coconut MCT Oil is all the rage in the health and beauty industry because of the body’s ability to easily metabolize this fat and convert it to energy. MCT provides an almost immediate source of natural fuel instead of being stored in tissue as saturated fat.

Hemp Seed oil and Coconut MCT oil (known as “carrier oils”) are the two most common oils for creating the “CBD oil,” however some manufacturers choose to use other oils.

Is CBD legal?

Yes, it is non “psychoactive” and therefore not classified as a drug, however how it is derived can be a legal concern even today. Thanks to the 2018 “Farm Bill,” CBD can be legally sold and consumed in every state in the U.S., however, must contain less than 0.3% of THC. Any plant or product with THC levels exceeding 0.3% is classified as Marijuana and is illegal without a prescription in most states.

Therefore, the majority of CBD on the market is extracted from CBD-Rich Hemp, as this specie of the Cannabis plant has been bred to produce higher levels of CBD and low levels of THC. This form of CBD will not cause you to fail a drug test or get you “high” and sellers are generally required to have lab tests validating that THC levels do not exceed 0.3%. In fact, some have proven that CBD can reduce the effects of the high caused by THC.

Has CBD been approved by the FDA?

CBD has not been approved as a food additive by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and falls under the dietary supplement category. However, the FDA has recognized CBD as a powerful counter measure to serious symptoms of ailments such as cancer (through approval of drugs Dronabinol and Nabilone) and in September 2018, the FDA actually approved a CBD formulate “drug,” produced by GW Pharmaceuticals, called Epidiolex to help young children with two rare forms of epilepsy.

Given that CBD is currently considered a dietary supplement, the FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. The manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements are responsible for making sure their products are safe before they go to market. This is evidenced in NYC’s “crackdown” on select restaurants that were infusing CBD into their food products. Dan Watkins, founder of SolCell, a NJ based international cannabis cultivation and processing company, and my local go-to expert, shared that “this is very concerning as it can be perceived as businesses putting undisclosed amounts of CBD into products and using it as an excuse to inflate product margins. Regulations pertaining to consumer education through product labeling and appropriate dosing levels must come before places of business can start putting CBD into people’s food.”

What does CBD help with?

This can get quite dicey, so I’ll keep this answer simple. Based on my reading of forums and product reviews, (which number in the tens of thousands) anxiety, depression, insomnia, and pain/inflammation alleviation stand out as ailments that people have had success treating with CBD. CBD products are touted for many more benefits, but, quite frankly, the research isn’t definitive, and the materials are typically written by marketers and activists, not doctors. Doctor’s have weighed in but only in a limited fashion pointing out all of the unknown factors that have yet to be verified through research, rather than publicly supporting Cannabis as medicine. Dan Watkins shared that a primacy concern of doctors is that they are unsure of how CBD will interact with other drugs that the patients are on. Dan recommends to speak with your physician before using CBD if you are currently on any medications.

One doctor worth mentioning is Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli organic chemist, who is touted as the Godfather of Cannabis. He has probably contributed the most medical evidence that cannabinoids have a direct role in fighting cancer and managing diabetes and arthritis. Thousands of doctors and the FDA agree much of this data is formidable, but enforcement is very difficult and expensive, so without the Drug Enforcement Authority’s approval, the FDA cannot move to legalize it outright.

What is an appropriate serving size?

A recommended serving size, according to Neuroscientist Nick Jikomes at Leafly, is to take 1-6mg of CBD for every 10lbs of body weight.

So for example, if I weigh 150 lbs, that is a range of 15mg to 90mg per day.

Using a 30ml bottle containing 1000mg of CBD, which yields 33.3mg of CBD per 1ml dropper, I would want to take anywhere from a ½ a dropper to 3 full droppers. The dose would depend on the severity of the ailment I am looking to address and how long I’ve been using CBD.

Recommended Further reading:

Nick Jikomes’ publications on Leafly, linked here.

A lengthy guide on CBD, linked here.

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