A search of cannabidiol (CBD) on PubMed, the database maintained by The United States National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, will return nearly 2500 results. The majority of these papers conclude that CBD, one of more than 180 cannabinoids in hemp, is safe and effective enough to warrant further investigation as a treatment for a variety of conditions. This growing body of research was motivation for the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized hemp cultivation.

In May, the USDA stated that the shipment of CBD products was legal nationwide and could not be blocked by local governments, even where hemp production was still banned. The FDA is currently reviewing how to regulate CBD sales of food goods and claims made by CBD supplements. They will likely recommend a course of research and review that has been sorely needed for decades.

CBD just might be the next breakthrough in health, and you can now purchase a variety of high-quality formulas without a prescription. Consumers see advertisements for two primary types, CBD isolates, and full spectrum CBD oil. CBD isolate is, well, just that, cannabidiol, by itself. Full spectrum CBD oil, on the other hand, contains trace amounts of all cannabinoids found in hemp, as well as strongly scented molecules called terpenes.

Our Body Makes Its Own Cannabinoids

In the 80s, a scientist at St. Louis University Medical School named Allyn Howlett discovered that humans had their own cannabinoid system. We make five cannabinoids which bind to receptors lining the entire body. These endocannabinoid receptors help maintain homeostasis for memory, immunity, appetite, energy, and emotional development. Zou and Kumar in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences describe the system as a “circuit-breaker” in the brain.

The National Institute of Health states, “the endocannabinoid system [is] an important modulatory system in the function of the brain, endocrine, and immune tissues. It appears to play a very important regulatory role in the secretion of hormones related to reproductive functions and response to stress.”

CBD

Cannabidiol doesn’t bind directly to cell receptors the way other cannabinoids do. Instead, it regulates receptor activity. CBD can reduce excessive inflammation and stimulate lagging healing. Able to both quiet and arouse the mind by adjusting neurotransmitter activity, cannabidiol can potentially improve mood during depression, and work as an anxiolytic during stress. CBD makes us “more human.”

Other cannabinoids in hemp bind directly to the receptors. Some, like THC, mimic endocannabinoids, while others provide unique effects. Scientists believe cannabinoids perform best when bound together in their natural form, instead of isolated, allowing CBD to modulate their activity. This means full spectrum CBD oil may offer greater potential benefit than CBD isolates.

Terpenes

Produced by the same glands in hemp plants as cannabinoids, terpenes are oily aromatic compounds made of hydrogen and carbon. Combinations create not just hemp’s odors, but the scents of all plants. The familiar aromas of citrus, roses, and pine all come from terpenes.

Around 200 have been found in Cannabis sativa L., the species name for both hemp and marijuana. They allowed the herbaceous plant to continue to thrive throughout history in different parts of the world by repelling insects and animal grazers. There is a long list of effects these compounds offer to humans, including anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

For example, beta-caryophyllene is in black pepper, oregano, hemp, and leafy vegetables. This specific terpene is useful for treating ulcers and acts as an anti-inflammatory by binding directly to the peripheral endocannabinoid receptor known as “CB2,” which regulates immunity. Terpenes are responsible for the different “highs” the cannabinoid THC delivers. Myrcene makes the user feel drowsy and provides pain relief. Pinene, on the other hand, promotes alertness.

The Entourage Effect

In 2011, the British Journal of Pharmacology published an in-depth report by Dr. Ethan Russo discussing the wide-ranging therapeutic attributes of terpenes. Dr. Russo found that terpenes and cannabinoids together increase blood flow, enhance cortical activity, and kill respiratory pathogens, including MRSA. He felt the entourage effect of the two types of compounds “could produce synergy with respect to the treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections.”

Dr. Debra Rose Wilson adds, “There have been studies that showed how the whole plant was more effective than the single-molecule compounds of one CBD or another. This was true even when the whole plant had lower doses of the active components. [The] different parts of the plant work together to boost effectiveness, without increasing dose or side effects.”

CBD Benefits

The Best Use of Full Spectrum CBD

The federal government finally reclassified CBD from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 5 drug last year. To be specific, the DEA classified Epidiolex, a prescription CBD extract, as Schedule 5, meaning it has medicinal value and low potential for abuse. The decision opened the doors for research because colleges could now study CBD without endless government red tape or fear of losing federal funding on other research.

University teams spearheaded by MIT and Harvard have begun implementing programs geared towards the research of cannabinoids. Recent CBD studies have found it useful as an anxiolytic, sleep aid, anti-inflammatory, and anti-depressant. It also appears useful for a wide range of pain syndromes including, neuralgia, arthritis, and low back pain. The lack of hard evidence hasn’t stopped the health and wellness community from singing the praises of CBD as a focus, energy, mood enhancer.

Isolated CBD does have its place in the market too. Though less potent, isolates won’t fail a drug screening. Full spectrum hemp and CBD oils do actually run the risk of testing positive for marijuana on a drug test because of trace amounts of THC (not nearly enough to intoxicate a user). There is also a small population of users who are especially sensitive to cannabinoids and these individuals tend to prefer isolates.

The choices on the market mean there is a CBD product that is right for nearly everyone. I encourage you to explore the vitalizing bouquet of benefits the full-spectrum of terpenes and cannabinoids in CBD oil offer as we wait for researchers to fully understand CBD’s mechanisms of action.

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