woman with CBD dropper

CBD photo courtesy of Charlotte’s Web

The Basics of CBD Oil and the Cannabinoids

In recent years, there is an entirely new supplement section that has taken over shelf space in groceries and health food stories. CBD is the latest and some say the greatest addition to the marketplace. Product lines have sprouted up. These include everything from lines selected and branded by medical professionals, multi-level marketing companies, supplement innovators, and product activists seeking to raise the profile of the plant to benefit both farmers and the general public.

While it seems like CBD exploded onto the scene just yesterday, the medicinal benefits of the various phytochemicals of the hemp plant have a long history. The current popularity of CBD for anything and everything can be attributed to a number of factors converging at this point in time. From the perspective of modern biomedical research, one of the factors at play is the identification of the body’s endocannabinoid system in the early 1990s. Another is the growing activism supporting legislature allowing the American farmer to legally grow hemp, including the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalizes the growing of non-psychoactive hemp on US soil.

In addition, we’re seeing a rapidly growing body of research studies published in peer-reviewed journals documenting the medicinal benefits of the phytochemicals found in the hemp plant. State-specific legalization of medical and recreational marijuana use has also contributed to an expansion of the conversations surrounding the different aspects of just what exactly is found in these different strains of what’s become a famous plant species. The economic factors, legal issues, scientific and medical research are all at play in the proliferation of CBD.

Okay—so what is CBD?

CBD is a Cannabinoid. What’s important to note is that there are a lot of cannabinoids. In plants. And even in the human body. First let’s start with Cannabis. This plant genus Cannabis has a number of different species. The most famous are Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa. They’re native to Central Asia and India where they have a long history of use including as food, fiber, medicine, and a psychoactive.

That slang name – ganja – is the Sanskrit word for the plant. Hemp is a member of the Cannabis sativa plant while marijuana can be either Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica. A trained eye can distinguish the differences between the plants in a line-up, but what really makes them unique is, you guessed it, THC.

How THC Factors into the Discussion

The full name of THC is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. (It’s why we most often see it abbreviated as THC.) THC is what gives marijuana its psychoactive effects. THC is what gets you high and it is what makes marijuana, well, marijuana.

The body’s receptors that are docking sites for THC were discovered in 1988. This led to the search for the similar chemical compound produced by the human body itself that fits the same receptors.

In 1992, that endocannabinoid was discovered, and fittingly named “anandamide.” We may recognize within that name, the Sanskrit word for bliss, ananda. Anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamine) is a fatty acid neurotransmitter.

What are the Endocannabinoids

To put the prefix “endo” in front of the word cannabinoid means that it is made inside the body. The naming of the first endocannabinoid with a bit of bliss was not accidental. After all, these molecules can affect our state of mind, but they also affect multiple physiological pathways and states of body. They’re active regulators for everything from the immune system and our inflammatory responses to sensations of pain, our ability to fall asleep, and a number of other systems. In general, the endocannabinoid system is involved in many of the big-picture, internal communications structures within the body.

Psychiatrist Hyla Cass MD (cassmd.com) says that the endocannabinoid system is involved in establishing and maintaining health, homeostasis, and balance throughout the body/brain. She goes on to explain that this system is important for facilitating communication between different cell types and is involved in the immune, neurological, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems. THC is merely one type of cannabinoid made by plants. But it’s not the only one.

That brings us to the CBD that we see on the labels of all of those products. And it brings us to one of the mastermind molecules that influences our endocannabinoid sytems. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a phytocannabinoid. That means that it is made by plants. The hemp plant. The cannabinoids is the name of a group of chemicals. It’s important to point out that we have different receptors in the body for these chemicals. And they have slightly different effects. Some promote sleep, some don’t, and so on.

CBD is Not THC

Unlike THC, the classes of other CBD/phytocannabinoids are not psychoactive. You can buy them without a prescription. They’re not subject to the laws surrounding recreational marijuana use. And the different CBDs actually have the opposite effect of THC when it comes to psychoactive effects. This is where that distinction of marijuana vs hemp becomes significant.

And in fact, over the counter CBD products sold on shelves must have less than .3% THC. What’s also significant is that many CBD-rich products are labeled hemp oil, or full spectrum hemp oil. This is because what we call CBD or full spectrum hemp oil actually derives its potent effects from a variety of different active cannabinoids that work together synergistically.

The medicinal effects are also influenced by some of the other phytochemicals, such as pharmacologically active terpenes. Terpenes are another group of organic compounds, which are found in many essential oils and provide the familiar aromas we associate with not only cannabis but other foods, herbs, and plants.

Health Benefits of CBD

Now, literally thousands of research studies investigating the array of health benefits of CBD oils have been published. And while people may be treating themselves with CBD, some medical professionals like Dr Cass are actively using CBD in their practice. Dr Cass even sells her proprietary brand. She says, “They’re master modulators that help make neurotransmitters work better, provide a brain boost, address hard-to-treat issues, can be helpful in working with healing trauma, and are powerful in helping us to relax and protect us from overload.” They’re known to have a wide range of anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and anxiety- and stress-reducing effects. And these are only a few of the documented benefits that continue to be collected.

How to Take CBD

While Dr Cass says that at low doses, CBD is generally safe with not many contraindications, it is important to note that each one of us possesses our own individual biochemistry. This means if you choose to use CBD in your life, it is important to start with small doses and titrate up slowly as you pay attention to your personal response. When it comes to the dosage on the body, many tinctures will identify the dosage in the whole bottle. So each dropper-full is a titrated amount of that dosage. These days, you can find CBD in dropper bottles, capsules, sprays, lotions and salves, transdermal patches, vape delivery systems, in pharmaceuticals, infused in foods and drinks, and formulated for pets.

Reading Labels and Selecting A Brand

Joel Stanley, Co-Founder of CBD market innovator Charlotte’s Web (cwhemp.com) offers the following advice when looking to purchase CBD. “I recommend a little research to find the right brand for you. First, find brands that are working for others and have an established track record. Second, ask a few simple questions of the companies: Does the company control the source supply from the farm to the final product? Does the company use third-party testing to ensure their product is free from the possible contaminants that can come from poor manufacturing and agricultural practices? Do they supply customers with batch records?”

“Verifying the answers to these questions is even more important for CBD because hemp is a bioremediator, or soil cleaner,” Stanley continues. “That’s great for some purposes and why it’s been grown at Chernobyl. This is why testing the soil before planting must become a common practice in this industry. Third-party testing of final product for metals, pesticides, solvents, and microbiologicals is an absolute must!”

Massage, Skin Care, and CBD

The active compounds of CBD are oil-soluble. Theypass through the lipid layers of our cell membranes, including our skin. CBD is being used in a number of skin-care lines since it has both nourishing and anti-inflammatory effects. When used for massage, the cannabinoids can enhance muscle and full-body relaxation and restoration. Vanessa Marquez, CEO and Founder of CBD Care Garden (cbdcaregarden.com), has developed a wellness and beauty skincare line designed to deliver a premium massage and self-care experience. Glen Ivy Hot Springs (glenivy.com) is one of the California spas to launch this healing enhancement to their massage services.

CBD: Here to Stay?

CBD has quickly gained a reputation in the wellness industry. It is infused in a variety of food and drinks and it is even being suggested for use by anxious dogs. Statistics reveal that hemp-based CBD industry sales reached $190 million in 2017. These days, millions of people are using CBD regularly. But just remember that even though CBD may seem to be everywhere, a person’s reaction to any natural substance is unique. Be conscientious with your choices as you learn to tap into your own inner bliss.

Felicia M. Tomasko
Felicia Tomasko has spent more of her life practicing Yoga and Ayurveda than not. She first became introduced to the teachings through the writings of the Transcendentalists, through meditation, and using asana to cross-train for her practice of cross-country running. Between beginning her commitment to Yoga and Ayurveda and today, she earned degrees in environmental biology and anthropology and nursing, and certifications in the practice and teaching of yoga, yoga therapy, and Ayurveda while working in fields including cognitive neuroscience and plant biochemistry. Her commitment to writing is at least as long as her commitment to yoga. Working on everything related to the written word from newspapers to magazines to websites to books, Felicia has been writing and editing professionally since college. In order to feel like a teenager again, Felicia has pulled out her running shoes for regular interval sessions throughout Southern California. Since the very first issue of LA YOGA, Felicia has been part of the team and the growth and development of the Bliss Network.