What is CBD?
Recent years have seen an unexpected surge in the popularity of hemp and CBD products. And for good reason. Pre-clinical studies show CBD as a promising treatment for common ailments such as chronic pain, inflammation, arthritis, epilepsy, insomnia and more. But what exactly is CBD, how much do we know about it, and does it actually work?
The Basics: CBD, Hemp, and Marijuana
- Photo: Daisy Warren
Cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid, is a compound found within the Cannabis genus of plants. Unlike its cousin THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD does not produce the high associated with marijuana use. Instead, CBD interacts with the body’s built-in receptor system (the endocannabinoid system, or ECS) to reduce pain response and inflammation, soothe the nervous system, and promote balance within the body.
CBD is not the only exciting compound in the cannabis plant. Many medicinal compounds are found concentrated in cannabis flowers. This amazingly complex plant boasts:
- Dozens of trace cannabinoids, such as CBD, THC, CBG, CBN, and others
- Terpenes, which are a family of aromatic compounds with medicinal qualities
- Flavonoids which are similar to antioxidants and offer numerous health benefits.
Contrary to popular belief, the word cannabis encompasses both high-THC strains, known as marijuana, and low-THC strains, which are known as hemp. Consider the many varieties of roses. Some are naturally tall and thorny, while others are quite small and dainty, and flower traits vary widely between strains. They are all roses.
This is also true of different types of Cannabis (which include Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis). Some strains are intoxicating, others have medicinal qualities, and still others are a promising source for fiber, fuel, and building materials.
Traditional hemp strains were tall and straight, mostly stalk, with very little branching. These tall, fibrous plants were grown for centuries for fabric, rope, and seeds, which are a popular protein-rich food source. Modern hemp strains are commonly grown to produce big, oily flowers for maximum yields of CBD.
Benefits of CBD Oil
Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to recognize the many benefits of medical marijuana, the number of known benefits associated with CBD is growing. These encompass both physical benefits like pain relief and lowered inflammation, and mental health benefits like reduced anxiety and better sleep.
The following are the most common benefits of CBD:
- Pain management: CBD interacts with the body’s CB1 receptors which are found in the brain and spinal cord, and responsible for regulating the perception of pain.
- Seizure relief: The FDA recently approved the first cannabis-derived drug, Epidiolex, as a treatment option for epilepsy.
- Sleep Aid: CBD may indirectly help sleep by calming anxious thoughts and reducing pain.
- Arthritis: CBD applied to the skin interacts with the endocannabinoid receptors in the skin and hair follicles, which then act on the surrounding soft tissues and joints. CBD impacts fluid pressure within joints, alleviating stiffness, and helps reduce the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
- Anti-Anxiety/Antidepressant: It is thought that CBD alters serotonin signaling. Low serotonin levels are linked to anxiety and depression.
- Anti-inflammatory: CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound, due to its interaction with CB2 receptors responsible for immune response and inflammation.
- Bone repair: Preliminary studies suggest that cannabidiol can strengthen bones affected by osteoporosis and stimulate new bone growth.1
- Antioxidant: CBD can fight cellular damage from free radicals, which in turn protects the brain from degenerative disease.
Due to recent legalization, research into CBD for humans is in its early stages. More clinical trials are needed, and not all studies clearly demonstrate benefits for CBD.
The jury is still out on whether, and how, CBD works to manage anxiety. The mechanisms by which CBD works in the body are not fully understood. However, studies in the last 20 years have reported that CBD can reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures in animals. 2 3
Specifically, seizures caused by drug-resistant epilepsy may benefit from CBD, based on a 2017 human study which found that 40% of participants saw a decrease in frequency, and 27% saw a complete halt in seizures. Interestingly, this same study found that 100% of participants noted their mood improved with ongoing CBD use. 4
For pain, multiple studies suggest that cannabinoids like cannabidiol and opioids reduce pain by different mechanisms, and possibly increase benefits when used in combination therapy. 5
Another 2017 study found that CBD reduces brain damage and improves functional recovery after stroke. Anti-tumor activity has been observed with CBD in animal models, but further research is needed. 6These are just a few examples of the numerous studies which highlight CBD as a real contender in natural, low-side-effect drug alternatives.
Is CBD Oil Safe?
There is no known overdose level for CBD. While CBD is generally regarded as safe, there are a few noted side effects, which include:
- gastrointestinal discomfort
- sleeping difficulties
- mood changes
- dry mouth
It’s a good idea to let your medical provider know you’re interested in using CBD. If you are pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription medications, consult with your healthcare provider to discuss possible interactions and special considerations.
CBD is a potentiator, which means it affects the absorption of certain drugs. Do not use CBD if you are taking a medication that advises against eating grapefruit, another potentiator. Additionally, it is important to work with your healthcare provider when making any adjustments to anti-anxiety or anti-depression medications. Never attempt to wean off prescription medications without the assistance of your healthcare provider.
Getting the Most From Your CBD
Some forms of CBD are more effective than others. Methods of use include ingestion, inhalation, and topical application. Ingestible forms of CBD include tinctures, capsules, and edibles. Inhalation includes vaporizing and smoking, while topical application includes creams, gels, and patches.
It’s important to understand how CBD absorption works, as different delivery methods offer different pros and cons. Bioavailability (how much the body can use) varies widely between forms of CBD. When cannabidiol is swallowed, the digestive process can destroy a significant portion of it, meaning there is less for the body to use. The CBD that survives follows the hepatic portal system to the liver. This is also known as first pass metabolism. Some studies have shown that consuming CBD with fatty acids can help bypass the liver and pass more CBD on to the body to be used.7
Ingestible CBD tends to be slower acting and longer-lasting, and is a popular option for people managing chronic conditions like pain, inflammation, arthritis, anxiety, and sleep issues. Most are used once or twice a day, morning and/or night. Inhalable CBD products seem to have the fastest effects and are used on-demand, while topicals are location-specific and applied to the skin as needed for fast-acting, localized relief.
The most studied form of CBD consumption is as a tincture. CBD tinctures are bottled extracts comprised of CBD (either full-spectrum CBD oil or CBD isolate powder) which is diluted into a liquid solution such as a carrier oil, alcohol or glycerin. Some tinctures have added flavorings and herbal extracts. Tinctures for sublingual use are held in the mouth where they can absorb into the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat, enabling rapid absorption into the bloodstream.
CBD capsules offer the benefit of convenience and mess-free portability. Some gel caps are double enteric-coated to enable the capsule to pass through the stomach, bypass the liver and reach the small intestine to be more readily absorbed. Capsules usually contain between 10-50 milligrams of CBD each.
The bonus of edibles is the fun of consuming them. The market is replete with CBD-enriched foods and snacks. These include gummies, chocolates, popcorn, almonds, ice cream, flavored waters and kombucha. Their novelty factor makes edibles a popular choice for people using CBD for general health and wellness. Those looking for therapeutic effects to manage chronic conditions, however, generally opt for more consistent, readily bioavailable forms for daily use, like tinctures.
Some people choose to smoke high-CBD hemp flower. This is a personal choice. Because of the health implications of inhaling burning plant matter, it is not recommended to make this a regular method of consumption.
Vaporizing is a controlled, low-temperature method of heating oils and extracts to turn them into vapors. Due to its rapid absorption, those who use vaporizers generally do so throughout the day or as needed. Vaping of cannabis likely has similar health concerns to those of E-cigarettes, most commonly lung and heart disease.8 9
Creams, Gels & Rubs
Topical ointments can be applied as needed directly to the area needing relief. These interact with local endocannabinoid receptors in the skin and hair follicles, rather than entering the bloodstream and circulating throughout the whole body. Quality CBD topicals can offer several hours of relief from pain and inflammation. These can be used throughout the day or as needed.
Generally, topical CBD does not enter the bloodstream; however, topical (or transdermal) patches are an exception to this rule. Patches are formulated with special physical or chemical means to penetrate the skin and allow deeper CBD absorption, where it can enter the bloodstream. Adhesive patches are applied to the skin directly where relief is needed, and tend to last 8-12 hours or longer.
How Much CBD Should I Take?
When using CBD, a good plan of action is “start low, go slow”. Consistency is key.
Some people require 7-10 days of regular use before noticing clear benefits. An average starting dose would be 10 milligrams, once or twice a day. After a week, if no results are noticed, increase by 5mg, do this each week until the desired effects are achieved.
Some people use 50-100 milligrams or more per day. There is no known overdose level for CBD. Still, higher doses may result in drowsiness, and the aforementioned side effects, which are rare and generally mild.
Dosage depends largely on body size, sensitivity, and an individual’s endocannabinoid system. Until more is known about CBD absorption and metabolism, it is up to individual users to experiment and find what works for them. Journaling your experience is a great way to understand your perfect dosage.
The enthusiasm around CBD is merited. Thousands of people have found an improved quality of life by incorporating this natural, low side effect plant compound into their wellness routines.
At Frogsong Farm, we hear these stories every day. It is important to choose a dose and consumption method suited for the conditions being treated. Tinctures are the most reliable all-around option for physical and mental benefits, edibles are a fun novelty, and topicals offer location-specific pain relief.
Frogsong Farm offers affordable, pure, lab-tested CBD products made from hemp grown on our certified organic farm in Woodburn, Oregon. These handcrafted, full-spectrum CBD products are used around the USA to manage arthritis, chronic pain, epilepsy and more, plus offer athletic recovery support for both everyday and elite athletes.
Drops and Drops Plus CBD tinctures provide two strengths of CBD tincture to suit a variety of needs. A CBD topical like Rubbit Salve moisturizes with nourishing oils like Shea, Argan, and Almond. Body Balm provides a lighter topical option, with an Aloe Vera base and bright Lemon Verbena essential oil.
Visit the Frogsong Farm Online Store to dive into the promising world of CBD today.
Becca Recker is Director of Communications for Frogsong Farm. With a background in organic farming and permaculture design, Rebecca has been writing about soil health and local food access for nine years. The author of several blogs, she has contributed to articles for Oregon Leaf and Green Living PDX magazines, as well as the following websites: Civilized, Splimm, Miss Grass, and Flowertown. She has been a featured guest on the Periodic Effects and Your Highness podcasts.
- Jones et al. Cannabidiol exerts anti-convulsant effects in animal models of temporal lobe and partial seizures. Seizure. 2012 Jun;21(5):344-52.
- Consroe P and Wolkin A. Cannabidiol–antiepileptic drug comparisons and interactions in experimentally induced seizures in rats. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1977 Apr;201(1):26-32.
- Neelakantan et al. Distinct interactions of cannabidiol and morphine in three nociceptive behavioral models in mice. Behav Pharmacol. 26(3):304-14. (2015).