Hemp extracts containing cannabidiol (CBD) are increasingly used to reduce anxiety and stress and to promote general well-being. With over 250,000 users in the UK alone – a number that is growing at the rate of around 1,000 new users per month – cannabidiol is currently the fastest growing herbal trend. But what is cannabidiol CBD oil, how does it differ from cannabis or marijuana and why is it legal?
Cannabinoids: tetrahydrocannabinol versus cannabidiol
Cannabis plants contain unique, neuroactive substances known as cannabinoids. Over a hundred different cannabinoids have been identified of which cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the most important. These cannabinoids interact with brain receptors to produced different emotional effects.
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a mood-altering (psychoactive) cannabinoid that produces feelings of euphoria and elation (known as a high). THC intensifies and distorts sensory perceptions, can produce hallucinations, and can cause tolerance (so you need more and more to produce the same effects) and withdrawal symptoms. Cannabis extracts that contain high levels of THC are classed as a controlled drug whose use is legally regulated.
- Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid that is not psychoactive nor addictive. In fact, it blocks the effects of THC within the brain, protects brain cells from damage (neuroprotective) and is increasingly used as an herbal supplement to reduce anxiety and stress and to promote general well-being. Cannabidiol is not classed as a drug and its use is not legally regulated in the UK. However, if a CBD product makes a medical claim, it would be considered a medicine and would require a medical license.
Cannabis versus hemp
Cannabis plants are a fast-growing, flowering annuals which have been used as a source of fibre, medicines and oil for at least 10,000 years. There are two main Cannabis species:
- Cannabis indica plants are short and bushy with broad, dark green leaves
- Cannabis sativa are tall plants and have long, pale green leaves with long, thin blades.
Different strains of Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica plants contain different levels of THC and CBD. In general, indica-dominant strains have a higher cannabidiol content than sativa plants in which the THC content is higher.
Cannabis plants with high levels of THC are legally regulated as a controlled drug. Marijuana (also known as weed, herb, pot, grass, dope, ganja) is made from the dried flowers and leaves of high THC cannabis plants and is the most commonly used illegal drug world-wide.
Hashish and hash oil are made from the dried resin of high THC cannabis plants.
Cannabis plants with very low levels of THC (less than 0.3%) are commonly known as hemp, or industrial hemp, and are not legally regulated in Europe.
Hemp plants are used to produce hemp seed oil, hemp flour and hemp protein powder.
Hemp seed oil is considered a healthy oil and has an optimal omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of 1:3. Hemp seed oil is used in the kitchen, as a fuel, and to make soap, salves and other skin treatments.
Hemp fibre is used to make rope, paper, textiles and clothing.
Some hemp strains are specifically bred to have high levels of beneficial cannabidiol (CBD). As cannabidiol is poorly soluble in water, cannabidiol extracted from these hemp plants is generally mixed with hemp seed oil, olive oil or sesame oil to produce so-called cannabidiol oil.
These cannabidiol hemp extracts are increasingly popular for their ability to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation and general feelings of well-being. They do this by tapping into your body’s own cannabinoid system.
Your own natural cannabinoids
The brain produces its own marijuana-like peptides within its own endocannabinoid system. These cannabinoids help to protect brain cells from inflammation, reduce pain perception and damp down over-stimulation of other brain neurotransmitters to help regulate mood.
The most important nerve receptors within your endocannabinoid system are called CB1 and CB2 receptors. The cannabinoids in cannabis can also interact with these receptors, which is how they produce their medicinal effects.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) activates both CB1 and CB2 receptors. Cannabidiol CBD does not interact with the brain’s CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors, but does appear to enhance the action of an endogenous cannabinoid called anandamide. Cannabidiol also interacts with other brain receptors to enhance the effects of serotonin.
In general, the effects of cannabidiol are opposite to those of THC and can block some of the psychoactive effects of THC.
Cannabidiol CBD oil benefits
Cannabidiol CBD products help to:
- lift mood
- reduce anxiety and stress
- improve sleep
- reduce inflammation and pain
- reduce food cravings
- enhance memory.
As a polyphenol, CBD is also a potent antioxidant, which may account for some of its neuroprotective effects against epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis.
Cannabidiol also has activity against the MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) super bug.
Cannabidiol extracts are available as gummies, drops and oral sprays. I particularly like the LOVEHEMP range of products as they provide a guaranteed level of cannabidiol, are made to pharmaceutical standards, GMO free, organic and are quality tested to ensure they are legal.
|LOVEHEMP’s CBD infused Gummy Bears provide 10mg CBD and are sugar-free. The recommended dose is 1 to 4 gummies per day, as needed, to feel cool and calm. Do not exceed 10 gummies daily. Fruit flavoured, they leave a slight tingle on the tongue, and definitely helped me to concentrate on work better. The smalles pack size of 10 bears means you can trial them to see how they suit you. Other pack sizes are 25 bears, 50 bears, 100 bears, 200 bears, or for those who use them regularly, 500 bears.|
|LOVEHEMP’s 400mg CBD Oil atomiser spray is slightly sweet as the CBD is infused into coconut oil. It is available in Natural, Peppermint, Orange and Lemon flavours. I trialled the lemon flavour and it is by far the best flavoured CBD product I have found. It is also easy to use – just spritz the spray under your tongue, and hold in your mouth for a minute or so before swallowing. The dose is 2 to 4 sprays, two to four times per day. A 2 spray dose provides 4mg cannabinoids. This is a great ‘beginner’s product if you haven’t tried cannabidiol extracts before.|
|LOVEHEMP’s 800mg 8% CBD Oil is available in two flavours – natural, or Peppermint for those who prefer to hide the natural flavour. I like the taste, however, which is grassy, herbal and slightly bitter. The CBD is dissolved in raw, organic hempseed oil, and provided in a dark dropper bottle. The dose is 6 to 12 drops, taken two or three times a day. Simply place the drops under the tongue, and hold in your mouth for a minute or two before swallowing so the CBD is absorbed straight into the circulation. The dose of 6 drops provides 20mg active cannabinoids (CBD).
You can also mix the drops with olive or coconut oil and apply topically to the skin.
Cannabidiol for anxiety
Cannabidiol can reduce muscle tension, restlessness and fatigue, while improving concentration and anxiety. A study involving 24 people with social anxiety who had not previously received any treatments were asked to take either CBD (600 mg) or placebo 90 minutes before undergoing a simulated public speaking test. These results were then compared against those of 12 healthy controls who were tested without any medication. Pre-treatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, muddled thoughts, social discomfort and anticipatory anxiety compared with placebo. As a result, those taking cannabidiol extracts performed as well as the health controls who did not have generalised social anxiety.
Cannabidiol for inflammation and pain
Cannabidiol has an anti-inflammatory analgesic action via a number of distinct mechanisms, including inhibition of TNF-alpha. CBD has shown analgesic effects in patients with neuropathic pain resistant to other treatments.
Cannabidiol for smoking cessation
Cannabidiol has been used to support smoking cessation. A study involving 24 smokers who wished to quit found that using cannabidiol reduced the number of cigarettes smoked by around 40%, compared with no change in those using placebo.
Cannabidiol for cannabis withdrawal symptoms
People using the psychoactive THC form of cannabis can experience withdrawal symptoms which include anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, migraine, irritability and restlessness. This is believed to result from the desensitization of CB1 receptors by THC. A case report describes the successful treatment of cannabis withdrawal syndrome by using cannabidiol (CBD) for 10 days which rapidly reduced anxiety and other symptoms.
Cannabidiol for epilepsy
An estimated 30% of people with epilepsy are resistant to drug treatment, and the search for new and improved treatments has recently focussed on cannabinoids. A pure CBD product (Epidiolex) has undergone successful clinical trials and an application submitted for a drug license in the US, based on clinical data involving 1,500 patients. These support the effectiveness of CBD in treating Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut epilepsy syndromes. In a 3-month study involving 137 children and young adults, for example, almost half experienced a reduction in seizure frequency with cannabidiol.
Cannabidiol for Parkinson’s disease
A study involving 21 people with Parkinson’s disease found that taking cannabidiol (300mg per day) for 6 weeks significantly improved quality of life compared with a lower dose (75mg CBD per day) or placebo. However, some research suggests that high doses of cannabidiol might make muscle symptoms worse in people with Parkinson’s.
Cannabidiol for skin
Cannabidiol has antibiotic and antioxidant actions, and products containing CBD have beneficial effects on the skin, improving conditions such as acne.
Cannabidiol for heart attack
Preliminary studies suggest that CBD may have protective effects on the heart, and might reduce infarct size (number of heart muscle cells that die during a heart attack) through anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.
For general well-being the recommended dose is 10mg to 200mg per day as a food supplement.
Products typically supply 6mg to 25mg CBD per serving.
The Cannabis Trades Association UK recommend that cannabidiol should not be sold to anyone under the age of 18 years.
Is cannabidiol safe?
Cannabidiol CBD oil is neuroactive without being psychoactive, and does not produce a ‘high’ feeling. A recent World Health Organisation report on cannabidiol confirms that controlled human studies have not found any potential for physical dependence, withdrawal or tolerance, and that it is not associated with abuse potential.
Multiple small studies suggest that cannabidiol (CBD) is well tolerated with no significant side effects at usual doses. High doses of cannabidiol may reduce the metabolism of certain drugs within the liver, however.
In clinical trials (using higher doses) the most commonly reported side effects with cannabidiol are sleepiness, diarrhoea, and changes in appetite.
Medical marijuana for ms
In the UK, a prescription medicine that contains extracts from cannabis leaf and flower is available to treat muscle spasm due to multiple sclerosis. Each spray of Sativex Oromucosal Spray provides 2.7mg tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) plus 2.5mg cannabidiol (CBD). The CBD helps to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC and improves its tolerability.
Have you tried cannabidiol products? How did you get on? Please share your experience below.