What is CBD?
The humble cannabis plant is a treasure trove of chemical compounds. Some say as many as 400 compounds exist in the plant. Over 85 of these are known as phytocannabinoids, or more simply cannabinoids.
The two most common of these are THC and CBD. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the ingredient in cannabis that causes the “high” or euphoric feeling when consumed. Cannabidiol, or CBD, does not have any psychoactive properties but has been shown to have many therapeutic benefits. While there have been few actual clinical trials, there are thousands of research projects and even more anecdotal evidence that suggest CBD could indeed be a medical wonder. While the science tries to catch up, the number of CBD users has exploded in just the last couple of years, as consumers seek out natural remedies for a variety of conditions.
How does CBD work, and can it benefit you? We’ll get to that.
But First, a Little History…
Historical evidence suggests that cannabis-derived medicines were used as far back as 2737 BC. Apparently, the Chinese emperor, Sheng Nung, used tea infused with cannabis to treat ailments such as malaria, memory lapses, gout, and rheumatism. Also, it is thought Queen Victoria used cannabis to alleviate menstrual cramps.
Cannabis has been used throughout history as a therapeutic resource and the (relatively recent) long decades of prohibition account for the lack of information on the medicinal uses of the plant, leading people to believe that its therapeutic abilities are a recent discovery.
In 1964, Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam isolated THC and CBD as active substances in Cannabis. Over 20 years later in 1988, researchers identified the endocannabinoid system as a signaling system made up of a network of receptors which was found to interact with cannabinoids to produce desired effects on the body. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the central nervous system and react with THC to produce the cannabis “high.” CBD, however, does not bind as well to CB1 receptors and instead interacts primarily with CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system which mostly exist in the immune system and other parts of the body including the skin, bone, fat tissue, etc.
How Does CBD Work?
CBD helps the body regulate and maintain a homeostatic balance in our many systems by interacting with this extensive network of receptors, and may have an effect on pain, memory, mood, appetite, stress, sleep, metabolism, and immune functions. One of CBD’s great promises is the ability to reduce inflammation that is at the heart of chronic pain and so many other maladies. Typical pain medication, for example, blocks pain receptors to mask the body’s pain. But CBD works with receptors to produce more of the body’s chemicals needed to fight the inflammation that causes the pain.
Cannabis: The Difference between Hemp and Marijuana
Although hemp and marijuana are often referred to as species of cannabis sativa, the cannabis genus has only three primary species; cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis. The terms 'hemp' and 'marijuana' are merely broad classifications of cannabis that are used to identify the plants with low and high THC concentration.
“Hemp” is used to describe varieties of cannabis that contain 0.3% or less THC content, while “marijuana” is used to describe varieties of cannabis that contain over 0.3% THC levels.
Because they are merely varieties of the same plant species, hemp and marijuana are quite similar in appearance. But there are striking differences, too:
- Hemp contains 0.3% THC or less, but marijuana can contain up to 30% THC.
- Due to their different chemical compositions, hemp has been legalized at the federal level while marijuana still remains a controlled substance and is therefore illegal in the eyes of the federal government – this, despite the growing number of states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal use as well as recreational consumption.
- Although marijuana can be used as a recreational drug and for therapeutic purposes, hemp is used for medical, industrial, and culinary purposes. Industrial uses of hemp include clothing, rope, construction materials, biofuels, paper, spill absorbency, soap, biodegradable plastics and a host of others. As many as 25,000 products can be made from hemp, according to its proponents.
The Difference between CBD And THC
At the chemical level, CBD and THC are quite similar, and this similarity extends to the effect produced by the body, thus accounting for the ability of the compounds to interact with the body's cannabinoid receptors.
In spite of the similarities shared by the two cannabis molecules, a difference in the arrangement of atoms contributes to the different effects which they elicit.
THC is a psychotropic compound which binds with the CB1 receptors in the brain, thus enabling it to produce a euphoric feeling often referred to as a “high.”
CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive and binds weakly with CB1 receptors. It also has the ability to inhibit the binding of THC, helping to reduce its psychoactive effects. CBD does, however, bind easily with CB2 receptors that exist throughout the body that affect pain, inflammation, mood, appetite and other bodily functions.
Therapeutic Benefits of CBD
CBD may offer relief for a variety of issues, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Depression and anxiety
- Neurological disorders
- Insomnia and sleeping disorders
While CBD research is ongoing, not enough is being conducted by government scientists due to the legal limbo that accompanies the plant. Instead, it has been the private sector, foreign researchers and independent studies that continue to uncover the secrets of cannabis. In addition to CBD, the dozens of other cannabinoids in the plant hold promise for a wide range of human conditions and disease. We may have only scratched the surface of CBD’s therapeutic benefits.
What About Side Effects?
CBD use can come with some side effects, though none appear to be serious. Diarrhea, fatigue, and changes in appetite or weight may occur. CBD may also interact with certain medications, particularly those that also react adversely to grapefruit. If you take other medications or supplements, you should consult your doctor before starting a CBD regimen.
The Importance of Lab Tests – the Certificate of Analysis
With the flood of CBD products suddenly hitting the market – from online offerings to those in convenience stores, vape shops, mall kiosks, grocery stores and other retail establishments – how do you know you’re getting a quality product? Can you be sure what’s on the label is actually what’s in the bottle? Recent investigations have revealed that as many as half of samples tested contained less than the stated amount of CBD, or had other ingredients that could be harmful to your health, such as pesticides or lead.
Since CBD is currently unregulated, unscrupulous operators are bound to take advantage. Reputable brands are even seeing counterfeits of their products and labeling. While the FDA is still contemplating how to regulate the substance, eventually their input and guidance should weed out the bad operators. And that will be good news for the entire hemp and CBD industry.
But for now, the only way to be sure you’re getting the purity and concentration of CBD you expect is with independent laboratory testing. A Certificate of Analysis (COA) should be available for the specific batch of hemp extract that went into the product you are consuming. This COA will reveal how much CBD is in the product, how much THC (which must be less than .3%), and if any pesticides, heavy metals or other contaminants are in the batch.
The COA is an identification document which contains all the important details of a manufacturer’s product which cannot be included on the label. Reputable companies will offer ready access to these COAs, usually on their websites, where you can input the batch number from the label to see the specific COA for that batch.
All products offered by Kentucky Greenleaf on this website are shipped with a QR code that can be scanned to access that product’s specific Certificate of Analysis. It’s your assurance of quality and purity when purchasing CBD products from Kentucky Greenleaf.
Impact of the Recently Passed Farm Bill – What Happens Now?
The signing of the 2018 Farm Bill paved the way for more cannabis-related reforms and massive growth of the industry. The Bill legalized industrial hemp and hemp-derived products at the federal level, removing it from the control of the DEA. According to the new law, agricultural hemp refers to cannabis strains containing less than 0.3% THC, and as a federally legal substance, CBD can now be produced and distributed freely in all 50 states.
The Farm Bill gives states the freedom to make their own decisions and legislation concerning the regulation of hemp and hemp-derived products. As you’ve seen in the news, many states are doing just that, and some have had hemp programs in place for many years – like Kentucky, Oregon, Colorado and Washington. But there is still a lot of confusion as regulators and law enforcement grapple with a plant that looks like marijuana and smells like marijuana, but is legal hemp.
The Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing CBD and is expected to offer guidelines in the coming months. For now, though, this FDA disclaimer applies to all products shown on this website and all statements about these products:
“Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent and disease. Consult your physician before starting a new dietary supplement program.”