The acceptance of oils and extracts derived from cannabis plants among the general public has taken many by surprise. A few years ago, you could have told even the most die-hard worshipper of marijuana that in 2018 people would be giving cannabis extracts to their kids, their elderly parents, and even their pets, and they would laugh in your face.
So how has something that causes a high and is a Schedule 1 Drug in the United States become so mainstream? Well, that’s simple, cannabis can improve your health in a vast array of ways without getting you high.
Marijuana Without The High
You see, cannabis plants contain chemical molecules called phytocannabinoids that produce different therapeutic properties when they enter into a mammal’s systems. This is because all mammals have an internal regulatory system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS) which plays a critical role in homeostasis — any process that optimizes an organism on a cellular level for survival in their environment. In layman terms; this is things like your immune system protecting itself against germs, regulation of your wake/sleep cycle, and general self-maintenance.
You can imagine the ECS as the body’s communication and monitoring highway — the brain produces endocannabinoids, which are special neurotransmitters, to move along this highway where they check-up on various regions and functions throughout the body. When a physiological activity or a cognitive process become excessive — such as with “good” inflammation becoming “bad” or hypersensitivity to fear — the endocannabinoids will activate various receptors where they can put a halt on it by sending out signals in the region.
Clear communication amongst the cells and organs is key as many diseases happen when signals are lost and jumbled. Going back to our good/bad inflammation reference again; inflammation becomes “bad” when signals between specialized white blood cells, Macrophage 1 Macrophage 2, are lost or not send. M1 cells cause good inflammation by eating microbes, cancer cells, foreign threats, etc., but have to be eventually consumed by M2 cells or they start attacking good cells.
When a cannabinoid, regardless if it’s from the brain or from the cannabis plant, activates different therapeutic receptors we become relax, our blood pressure lowers, inflammation reduces, mutated cells are stifled, etc.
But this isn’t all cannabinoids do as a few cannabinoids can increase pleasure senses by attaching to CB1 receptors found predominantly in the brain. When these receptors are triggered, a person feels happier, their appetite increases as food smells and tastes better, and well, you get the picture.
Fun Facts About Endocannabinoids: The endocannabinoid, anandamide, has been found in breast milk and we believe this is because they help promote suckling.
Now, most phytocannabinoids in cannabis plants can’t activate or bind to CB1 receptors except for essentially one, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis and is the culprit for its notorious high. Now, If only there was a way to remove THC from cannabis so we could have the non-psychoactive cannabinoids that still provide us with a world of health benefits, but we won’t get high in the proces. Oh, wait we don’t even have to figure that!
There are several varieties or strains of cannabis plants, but for the most part, they exist in two groups: hemp and marijuana. This is their layman names because you open a can of worms when you use their correct Latin names.
Hemp varieties have low levels of THC, unlike marijuana varieties. When they grow in the wild, they barely produce any THC and combined with selective breeding to further reduce it, hemp grown by farmers contain near untraceable levels. Legally, hemp plants cannot have more than 0.03% THC, but many hemp products are under that.
Without THC, extractions and oils taken from the stalks and flowers will produce an oil typically called CBD oil. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid that leads the choir of the others phytocannabinoids — so to speak.
Hemp Seed Oil
Now there is another oil that comes from hemp plants, but this time it’s from the seeds. Hemp oil has been around longer than CBD oil. You’ve probably seen it when shopping as it’s in many aisles (hemp seed items include protein powder, moisturizers, and even just the seeds to add in foods).
Hemp seeds do not contain any phytocannabinoids, but they are still great for your health — they are rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, amino acids, and fiber. As well, you can find it in CBD products as its carrier oil. Phytocannabinoids are fat-soluble and absorb better when attached to fat molecules. This is why marijuana is often made with butter creating a product called cannabutter before it can be added to foods.
What’s in CBD Oil
CBD oil is derived from both hemp and marijuana, but when derived from the latter it takes on the name cannabis oil. Technically, they are both cannabis oils, but terminology is pretty faulty in the green world.
Special Note: If you’re looking for hemp oil or cannabis oil without getting high, make sure to check the label for the THC amount. Most cannabis products list THC content, and those without it will also label the CBD or phytocannabinoid concentration. You should always be able to find a Certificate of Analysis (COA) when buying CBD products online.
Ultra Special Note: Don’t buy a cannabis oil/extract that doesn’t have a label or a COA.
CBD oil name is another technically incorrect term because there are 113+ other phytocannabinoids that are providing their own benefits. As well, the essential oils that give cannabis its intoxicating ocean of aromas bring along their own benefits for our health.
Essential oils are well-known for their antibacterial, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and calming effects and cannabis potentially contains more of these terpenes than any other plant.
While the phytocannabinoids provide the most therapeutic benefits as you’re about to find out, don’t underestimate the terpenes. There are hundreds of different marijuana strains that all come with their own unique aromas and medical effects thanks to the terpenes. Some strains are known to relax you more, while others help more with pain — one study found that terpene essential oil from cannabis produced brainwave activity levels attune to that when meditating.
Now while essential oils are popular, they aren’t being hailed as the next best thing in medicine like CBD oil is, and this is due to the phytocannabinoids, especially CBD itself.
While CBD is top dog along with THC, the big reason CBD oil is a bad term is that when CBD is isolated, it’s ineffective for a large majority of people who take it. Its therapeutic range takes a hit, but the bigger issue is it’s incredibly hard to dose.
Some of the other phytocannabinoids like cannabichromene (CBC), make it easier for CBD to pass the blood-brain barrier and this makes dosing available across the board — from low amounts such as one milligram to high doses such as one-hundred milligrams per dose.
When isolated, CBD dosage is so annoying that you can not only undershoot it but overshoot it and see fewer benefits. The terpenes, as well, will promote CBD oil’s bioavailability in the body. As such, the term the entourage effect was created to explain this phenomenon of the phytocannabinoid and terpenes working together in harmony to create a more beneficial oil.
We didn’t understand this when the term CBD oil was coined, so it’s becoming more common for CBD products to have “full spectrum” or phytocannabinoid in the name such as PurCBD+ Full Spectrum PhytoCannaBinoiD Oil.
THC vs. CBD
While they often promote each other’s properties, phytocannabinoids don’t always get along. What’s funny and strange is this still benefits us in many ways.
For example, while marijuana relaxes many people, THC has pro-anxiety effects and is largely responsible for producing paranoia which plagues people’s highs far-and-wide. However, there is a really easy way they can avoid this from happening.
Just add some CBD as it will counteract many negative effects from THC such as memory loss, insatiable appetite, and of course paranoia.
But THC isn’t all bad. THC is without a doubt the best pain reliever of any phytocannabinoid. Many people will use CBD oil without THC to help manage their pain throughout their day but come night will switch over to marijuana which can really eliminate pain.
THC is a fantastic anticonvulsant as well — if CBD oil cannot reduce seizures effectively, adding even just a little THC can greatly improve the oil’s effectiveness in treatment. It is often recommended to cancer patients when they are struggling to eat. CBD will reduce nausea that may be preventing appetite, but it won’t greatly increase appetite directly like THC.
THC can still ease anxiety because it increases a large number of pleasure senses.
CBD Oils Effects
The easiest way to learn about the effects of taking CBD oil is by learning about the receptors it directly and indirectly influences.
The endocannabinoid system is composed of two cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2 — cannabinoids attach to other receptors but only cannabinoids can attach to cannabinoid receptors.
CB1 receptors, as you know, are found largely in the brain. CB2 receptors, instead, are mainly found outside the brain and in pretty much every region of the body — they are highly concentrated in the immune and nervous system, however.
CBD doesn’t actually attach to CB2 receptors but instead influences their activation by attaching to FAAH enzymes which break down and recycle endocannabinoids. There is little to no concern about CBD temporarily deactivating FAAH enzymes. In fact, most people who benefit from CBD are likely deficient in endocannabinoids and require a cannabinoid booster anyway.
CB2 receptors have been found to regulate the immune system reducing inflammation, prevent and repair neurodegeneration, reduce neuropathic pain, and may hold the key to treating opioid and many other addictions.
CBD directly attaches to 5-HT1A receptors which are directly involved in a number of biological functions: appetite, sleep, pain sensitivity, anxiety, and addiction. In fact, the phenomenon known as the runner’s high is thought to occur when the endocannabinoid, anandamide, is released during certain exercises like running.
Not to hate on exercising because it brings a world of benefits, but it’s nice to know we can still reap some of its benefits by simply taking CBD oil.
Vanilla beans contain antiseptic and analgesic properties and this due to them having eugenol, which acts on TRPV1 receptors. Chili peppers are also touted for these same properties, and again this is because they activate TRPV1 receptors — only this time with the chemical, capsaicin.
Last, many of the cannabinoids — both endo and phyto — will directly come in contact with these zesty receptors which besides helping with headaches may also unclog blood vessels.
CBD will deactivate overactive GPR55 receptors which influence the growth and spread of cancer cells and can promote osteoporosis.
By activating PPAR nuclear receptors, CBD can promote the tumor regression and help degrade amyloid-beta plaque which is directly connected to Alzheimer’s Disease.