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CBD Therapy: Just The Facts

March 1, 2020

CBD stands for ‘Cannabidiol’ which is a compound extracted from hemp. Hemp contains CBD as well as hundreds of other plant compounds, including CBN, CBG, terpenes, resins, and even trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp/CBD products do not cause the psychological changes associated with a marijuana ‘high’.

Hemp Plants
Hemp plants are non-flowering male cannabis plants. Hemp plants are used in many ways such as fabrics, paper, construction, and food. Hemp oil and hemp seeds (usually seen marketed as ’hemp hearts’) have been a popular health food for decades, rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats and a healthy addition to a smoothie or salad. These food products have never been marketed to contain CBD or THC in the past, as the hemp seed only contains the slightest trace amounts of these compounds.

Cannabis
The female cannabis plant is usually referred to as marijuana, ‘weed’, or cannabis. The female plant will bud and flower and this is the combustible matter people smoke to get ‘high’. The combustible bud has high levels of THC, which is responsible for the psychological changes, and small amounts of CBD. The female plant contains hundreds of other plant compounds just like the male plant; however different ratios. THC is considered an illegal drug at the federal level, however, THC is a prescription medication for several diagnoses in most states. Some states have passed recreational cannabis laws allowing stores to sell marijuana, such as Massachusetts and Colorado.

CBD and THC have been touted as medicinal compounds. When isolated with modern chemical extraction techniques and then studied, the two compounds have many overlapping effects but are certainly unique. The remainder of this article will focus on CBD and a few of its therapeutic values.

CBD Therapy
CBD’s many uses stem from the endocannabinoid system and the effect this has on the central nervous system. The endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors that bind just a few distinct endocannabinoid molecules. Yes, our nervous system has a ‘lock and key’ mechanism specific for hemp and cannabis molecules. This system, once activated, is an important regulator in homeostasis. Think of it as keeping the nervous system balanced, not too excited or too depressed. In fact, there is evidence of a new diagnosis: Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome, with the principal symptoms being Irritable Bowel Syndrome, migraines, headaches, and chronic fatigue. All of these health concerns have shown benefit with the use of CBD and/or THC. The human body makes two endocannabinoid compounds which fit the endocannabinoid receptors, so one is not mandated to consume cannabinoid compounds. However, depending on a person’s genetics, they may make less endocannabinoids and may experience benefits from exogenous supplementation.

The research in endocannabinoids has recently blossomed. Pubmed research for ‘endocannabinoid’ finds 19 articles prior to 1990, and currently in January, 2020 there are 9,928 article results. Recent studies have shown CBD is beneficial for teenage social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder in adults, and public speaking anxiety. It seems like it is best taken with fat containing meals and taken in the morning if targeting anxiety.

CBD has been shown to improve sleep and reduce insomnia survey scores. This would be better taken in the evening with a meal. Anxiety and insomnia are two conditions that may respond poorly to THC, some report feeling more anxious or more trouble falling asleep when using THC. It is important to discuss your particular case with a qualified physician that is educated in CBD, this is how serving size and safety can be determined.

One of the most researched and significant benefits CBD has to offer is its reduction in seizure activity. Pharmaceutical CBD has been proven to treat various seizure disorders. At the very least it offers a possibility to reduce other anti-seizure medicines when used synergistically. This can significantly improve one’s quality of life.

Consumer Updates
CBD has been a popular discussion in the media, therefore products are flooding the market. Companies are selling CBD drinks, candies, oils, creams, and whatever else one can imagine. Kids, pets, elderly, and everyone else is trying CBD. CBD is being sold online, in vape stores, gas stations, and CBD stores. The quality is a spectrum. Like any health fad, there are going to be capitalistic companies looking to maximize their profit which leads to an inferior product. A 2017 consumer report showed CBD products were, more often than not, to be under-labeled, over-labeled, or incorrectly labelled. This illustrates a deficiency of product testing across the board. The most dangerous scenario is when someone thinks they are taking just CBD but they are getting some THC in the mix as well. This is dangerous because THC has more side-effects than CBD, but also can cause someone to fail a drug test. Some CBD products are marketed correctly as ‘full-spectrum’, which means they contain the full spectrum of medical compounds in the hemp plant, including trace amounts of THC. These products may not have enough THC in them to cause someone to feel psychological changes, but it may be enough to test positive on a drug test.

Also, many CBD products may not be clean. Traditionally, herbalists used alcohol as a solvent to extract medicinal compounds from a plant. Today companies use strong solvents such as hexane and ethyl acetate (nail polish remover) to extract higher percentages, which creates a dirtier but more profitable product. There must be a certificate of analysis proving the purity of any product for consideration.

CBD legality in America is currently not clear. It had been considered a food product (not a supplement or medication), that was generally regarded as safe. However, a pharmaceutical company that has a patent on a synthetic CBD under the prescription name ‘Epidiolex’ backed by the FDA, found in a study that their product may increase liver enzymes. As of 11/25/19, the FDA is warning consumers CBD is not generally regarded as safe. This needs to be investigated and questioned appropriately for a few reasons. First off, Epidiolex is not a natural CBD, it is a synthetic analog which costs $400+ for 1 fluid ounce. Secondly, there are many published studies involving human volunteers, primates, or mice that showed no changes in blood biomarkers. Some of these studies were single high doses, other studies were over several months. To date, there are no CBD-related overdoses or deaths. Hopefully, CBD will be further studied with humans in a clinical setting to better standardize CBD products.

In conclusion, good quality CBD products have a balancing effect on the nervous system with many potential benefits. They are considered safe when used appropriately under the guidance of a physician. CBD is different than medicinal cannabis and THC, it should not cause one to feel ‘high’. If you are considering CBD therapy, please contact us or a qualified healthcare practitioner.

Dr. Nick Edgerton is a Naturopathic Doctor and Licensed Acupuncturist practicing with Collaborative Natural Health Partners with an interest in functional cardiology, nutrigenomics, and gastrointestinal disharmonies. Dr. Edgerton is accepting new patients at the Manchester, West Hartford, and Columbia office locations.

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