If you’re first learning about medical marijuana, there are a lot of acronyms, terms, and compounds to digest. Focusing specifically on the compounds in medical marijuana, the most popular you’ll hear about is THC. But, as research progresses and interest continues to build, CBD is beginning to step out of THC’s shadow. To begin with, we have to know what exactly CBD is.
To answer the question, CBD is one of approximately 80 discovered compounds found in marijuana. What’s interesting and exciting about CBD is that it does not induce the psychoactive effects of THC. So to step back a bit, marijuana is made up of several structural compounds called cannabinoids. The most common is THC (tetrahydracannabinol), followed by CBD (cannabidiol). Speaking in percentages, CBD is significantly less present than THC (sometimes 4% for CBD vs over 20% for THC) in most strains. Even in high CBD strains the numbers aren’t as impressive at face value until you learn about what CBD is actually good for.
Think of it like this; when we were kids before medical marijuana was a conversation topic and you’d smoke “the devil’s lettuce”, that stoney baloney feeling was THC doing its thing. Which is fine, THC has its own place at the table, but that’s not what we’re talking about. There are a lot of benefits to be had from complex medical marijuana strains that have both THC and CBD in them. The two often work together in what’s known as the “entourage effect” though it may make more sense to call them an ensemble rather than an entourage. The two together are more effective than either is alone. Ensemble! Or maybe think of them as your entourage. Either way, they’re friends and partners. Extracted CBD alone doesn’t give you that “high” feeling where you’re floating and can’t hold a conversation and might get a little paranoid about the fact that you can’t remember what you were about to say or exactly what we’re all even talking about.
Have I lost you yet? If so, that’s okay. It can seem complicated, but I’m here to simplify.
CBD = Non-psychoactive.
Now, we know what CBD is a compound in cannabis, but why should we care about CBD? It’s not just about it being popular among researchers (side note: it is insanely popular; there are an incredible amount of studies going on about CBD, to be discussed later) but it’s the fact that it is both beneficial and accessible for patients. CBD as an oil (also called hemp oil, not to be confused with hemp seed oil) is extracted from cannabis and is considered a food product, so it is not restricted in the same way that cannabis with high THC content is. Companies like CleanMedCBD.com extract the CBD from the cannabis with no more than 0.2% THC remaining in the finished product which means the oil does not have the opportunity to cause the psychoactive effects or high that regular cannabis can cause and it is accessible to patients regardless of whether they’re registered in the Medical Marijuana Program.
About that accessibility, it’s important to note the legality of CBD as it stands now can sometimes be difficult to understand. A large part of what it comes down to is language in the law and how that language is interpreted, specifically how it is determined whether a plant is being used for industrial purposes (like hemp based products) or for recreational or (depending on the state) medicinal use. For example, if you’ve been to the store and seen hemp lotion, that was from industrial hemp. Or, maybe you bought hemp bracelets at a boutique or pop up shop at a festival, that was also industrial hemp. There are tons of products made from hemp, but they’re totally legal products because the hemp plant they were taken from was “industrial” and therefore legal. The laws and language surrounding legal/not-legal hemp plants have shifted and been rephrased, but for CBD the same applies. It ultimately depends on the source it’s extracted from. Of course, there is a leagl aspect which comes in the form of the Farm Bill and whether the growers adhere to the requirements therein, but the most distinct determination of whether a plant is “industrial hemp” or not is in the THC content of the plant itself. So if CBD oil is extracted from an industrial hemp plant, which is in the same family but has lower THC levels, it is from a legal source and therefore legal as well. If it’s extracted from a plant that has higher THC levels, the plant is not in compliance for industrial uses and the product received from it is also considered illegal. We’ll follow a similar, highly complicated formula as before:
Low THC level (industrial) hemp + CBD extraction = legal! 🙂
High THC level (non-industrial) hemp + CBD extraction = illegal! 🙁
Now that we have a better understanding of exactly how CBD is accessible, some supporting evidence seems to be in order. A few specific stories have made headlines detailing the benefits of CBD, in particular on children with the seizure disorder Dravet’s Syndrome. Among the more well-known of these is the story of Charlotte, a young girl from Colorado who was diagnosed with the rare seizure disorder. The child had over 1,000 seizures per week, which was severely debilitating to her development. After trying everything they could think of, her parents eventually turned to medical marijuana, specifically CBD. The result was that she went down to approximately 3 seizures per month and is learning and re-developing nearly everything she had missed out on. I think that’s worth reiterating, from 1,000 seizures per week to three per month. Because of the efforts of researchers on CBD she now has the chance to have a normal childhood, and without the general population assuming that she’s getting high to do so.
But Dravet’s Syndrome is quite rare. So for the rest of us facing different struggles, what is it good for? The short answer is, a lot.
The long answer is:
- Analgesic/Chronic pain
- Cancer/anti-tumoral agent
- Quitting smoking
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Head trauma
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Are you still with me? Good. That’s a lot to dig through. And as I said before, there are still tons of studies going on surrounding CBD and other potential benefits. Among the more prominent of these is the possibility of CBD as an agent to assist with those battling painkiller and/or opioid addiction. Other studies include the treatment of Huntington’s Disease, OCD, peripheral neuropathy, schizophrenia, arthritis management, and as an anxiolytic, or anti-anxiety aid. Suffice it to say, CBD is making a name for itself in its ability to assist with both psychological and physiological symptom management and treatment.
The last question is one you’ll have to ask yourself. How can CBD help you? Maybe it will be effective on its own, maybe it will help your other medical marijuana treatments to be more effective. Either way, the evidence is mounting that it will be able to help, and let’s be real, everyone needs help sometimes.