A Comprehensive Guide to Cannabidiol
Although CBD (cannabidiol) was legalized in Virginia last March and has since become a staple in many households, it can be difficult to discern fact from fiction when deciding if CBD is right for you and your particular health needs. In an effort to help you make an informed decision, we spoke to three local experts about what CBD is, its benefits and risks, and how to decide which form of CBD is best for you.
What is CBD?
CBD is one of the many cannabinoids found in hemp plants. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that help connect cannabinoid receptors of the body and brain, thereby stimulating the body’s endocannabinoid system. Stimulation of the endocannabinoid system promotes homeostasis in the body and inhibits inflammation.
It is extremely important to note that CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is also a cannabinoid, are not the same thing. THC is psychoactive, or mind-altering, whereas CBD is not. “CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in hemp that is revolutionizing the health and wellness industry,” says Dr. Kimberly Combs, a Family Practice Physician at Central Virginia Family Physicians. “CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant, then diluting it with a carrier oil like coconut or hemp seed oil.”
“[Scientists] discovered the endocannabinoid system around 1992,” says Vicki Tipton, owner of The Victorian Hempy, a “CBD Hemp Boutique” on Rivermont Avenue. “We found that the endocannabinoid system was not functioning properly, so we took a look at the DNA in the bone marrow of our ancestors from 200 years ago for insight. It turns out that our ancestors were unknowingly consuming cannabidiol.”
Specifically, according to Tipton, our ancestors grew hemp for rope, oil, paper, and clothing, and the leftover hemp was thrashed and turned into straw or hay. In turn, livestock consumed this CBD-rich straw and hay, and humans consumed the livestock, thus benefiting from the effects of CBD. The discovery of this fact was instrumental in the movement to reintroduce CBD for human consumption.
What are the benefits of taking CBD?
The endocannabinoid system is responsible for connecting receptors through the central nervous and digestive systems, and when this process runs smoothly, the body remains balanced. When this process falters, however, inflammation occurs. “Inflammation is usually the source of things that go wrong in our bodies,” Tipton says. “Some examples include migraines, intestinal issues, esophageal issues, and diverticulitis. One of the things that scientists know for sure is that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that help regulate the endocannabinoid system and restore homeostasis.”
In addition to reducing inflammation, CBD helps boost the immune system. “CBD is great for people who are recovering from chemotherapy or radiation,” Tipton notes. “Those treatments are specifically designed to bring down the immune system, and CBD taken as an herbal supplement can help boost the immune system and dramatically shorten recovery time for those treatments.”
According to Dr. Combs, CBD is also used to “treat anxiety and depression, alleviate cancer-related symptoms, reduce acne, improve neuroprotective properties, and benefit heart health.” Although more research is needed, other potential benefits of CBD include antipsychotic effects, substance abuse treatment, anti-tumor effects, and diabetes prevention.
Lynchburg resident Shea Gravely began noticing positive changes a couple of days after trying CBD oil for the first time. “I started noticing that a fog had lifted,” she says. “My stress and anxiety started to melt away. I felt like a better, healthier person.”
Gravely adds that after about a month of taking CBD, her severe back and knee pain had diminished significantly—something she had been struggling with since having three children. “I’ve been taking CBD since April, and it has been such a game-changer for me,” she says.
In fact, Shea was so changed by CBD, she started selling products for Green Compass, Inc., a company that specializes in the entire chain of CBD production.
What are the risks of taking CBD?
According to Dr. Combs, there are essentially no risks associated with taking CBD as long as you select a high-quality product. “There really are no risks in taking CBD because it is intended to stimulate your own cannabinoids into action,” Dr. Combs says. “Mild side effects may include diarrhea, fatigue, and changes in appetite, and you should check with your physician before taking CBD if you take medication that contains the cytochrome P450 for metabolism because a harmful interaction could occur.”
It is recommended that people with digestive issues take CBD oil with food to mitigate side effects.
Although CBD regulations are becoming more and more stringent, some products are still potentially risky. “You have to know the paper trail,” Tipton advises. “You have to know how it’s grown and what it’s tested for. Most companies are growing the hemp indoors to ensure quality control. Companies that grow outdoors are regulated by the Department of Agriculture to ensure that the product is certified organic.”
“You can research the company and it needs to have a third-party confirmation, quality assurance and control, and antimicrobial testing,” adds Dr. Combs. “Dr. Oz did a story and he went and purchased 13 random bottles of CBD and only three actually contained CBD. CBD is a little bit expensive and medical insurance isn’t paying, so it is worth looking into the company before spending any money. There are good companies out there like Green Compass, HempWorx, and Ananda Hemp that I know have been very helpful.
It’s extremely important to note there is little scientific research on the effects (both short and long term) of CBD products—but with their popularity, we could see more findings in the coming years.
They are also not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration—at least not yet. Because of this, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services sent a letter to all state industrial hemp processors in July, telling them their department would be treating all hemp-derived extracts as “approved food additives”—which means food safety inspections would be required.
What form of CBD is right for me?
CBD is available as ingestible oil, capsules, and topical cream, and your specific health needs will dictate which form is best for you. Overall, oil is the best fit for most people. “The oil is the most effective way to get CBD into your bloodstream,” Tipton says. “You can usually start feeling the effects of the oil in 15 to 30 minutes. I had a customer tell me the other day that it not only calmed her but also gave her a sense of focus and clarity. The oil is also the most cost-effective option because you can adjust the dosing.”
For those who have had knee or back surgery, those with nerve issues, and those with restless leg syndrome, topicals are usually the best option because they penetrate all seven layers of skin to reach and soothe the affected muscles and tissues.
Capsules are ideal for people who need a specific dose and want to administer just once a day. Because capsules have a slower time release, they help sustain homeostasis for a longer period of time.
The Bottom Line
Whether you decide to incorporate CBD into your health maintenance plan or not, it is undeniable that CBD is a rapidly growing and improving industry with a growing number of supporters. Of course, the most important thing to remember when making any decision that impacts your health is to be entirely informed about and comfortable with any product you decide to use. For Gravely, the decisions to both use and advocate for CBD have been transformative. “I had no intention of being a Green Compass CBD Advocate when I first heard about it, but then I quickly realized that this is such a great product, and people need to know about it,” she says. “It has truly changed my life.”