CBD: What it is, How it Works

If you’re like most of us, you’ve probably heard the term “CBD,” but don’t know much about it. You may know that it comes from the cannabis plant, or that some people use it as a supplement…

But these facts don’t tell you much of anything about what CBD is, how it works, and what, if anything, it can do to improve your health and quality of life.  

The short answer is this: CBD is a compound that comes from the Cannabis sativa plant. It’s one of the trendiest supplements out there, and for good reason.

Its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic, and anxiolytic effects suggest that CBD can help improve our overall health and wellbeing. Countless studies and first-hand experiences give reason to believe that CBD might help a diverse range of people, from athletes and students to those suffering from chronic health conditions.  

If you’re someone who’s looking for ways to enhance your mood and your health, read on to learn about how CBD may be able to help you.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical compound found in both the hemp and marijuana varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant. It belongs to a group of compounds known as phytocannabinoids, which are cannabinoids made by plants.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the most well-known phytocannabinoid. It’s the compound in marijuana that results in a “high” or “stoned” feeling.

Hemp plants have high levels of CBD and low levels of THC, while marijuana plants have the opposite. This is why marijuana is used for experiencing a “high” and hemp for CBD extraction.

We’re just beginning to understand the ways that phytocannabinoids can improve our health. This lack of knowledge is thanks to decades of legal restrictions on the use and study of these impressive plant compounds.

Fortunately, over the past 20 or so years, researchers have been given more flexibility. 

And with the recent passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, consumers and researchers alike have more freedom to experiment with the therapeutic potential of this revolutionary compound.

Does CBD Get You “High?”

Unlike THC, CBD does not result in an altered mental state. It’s about as psychoactive as ibuprofen...meaning that it isn’t very psychoactive at all.

What’s more, research suggests that CBD may counteract some of the side effects of THC. In particular, CBD may help to reduce the paranoia that often accompanies THC intoxication.

This interaction is especially beneficial for those who rely on the medicinal benefits of THC but struggle with the side effects.

How Does CBD Work?

So how, exactly, does CBD work? The answer is both complicated...and not yet fully understood.

As of 2015, there were over 65 known molecular targets of CBD. This means that CBD’s effects may be thanks to one or more of these targets...or a target that scientists have yet to find. As it stands, scientists cannot fully explain how CBD works.

What we do know is that CBD influences ion channels and receptors throughout the body. It even affects neurotransmitter levels, which are chemicals that regulate our mood, stress response, sleep, memory, appetite, and more.

Much of the benefits of CBD are believed to be thanks to how it influences a system integral to human health and homeostasis: the Endocannabinoid System.

CBD and The Endocannabinoid System

Research into Cannabis sativa’s effects led to the discovery of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) in the 1990s. This revolutionary discovery has revealed a lot that we did not understand about the human body.

The ECS is a complex system made up of endocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced inside our bodies) and the receptors and enzymes they interact with. It regulates much of our central and peripheral nervous systems.

Every year, more research is being done to discover exactly how the ECS works, what it does, and how ECS dysregulation might result in sickness and disease.

We know that it’s involved in:

  • A healthy stress response
  • Maintaining homeostasis (balance in the body)
  • The immune system
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Brain health and function
  • Mood and energy

CBD and other phytocannabinoids exert many of their therapeutic effects by interacting with the ECS. For example, THC creates a “high” thanks to its affinity for the CB1 receptors of the ECS, which are located in the brain.

Unlike THC, CBD does not have a strong affinity for the ECS receptors. Instead, CBD increases the levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide. By inhibiting anandamide’s breakdown, CBD appears to have a positive impact on many ECS functions.

This, in part, may explain the wide range of benefits that have been credited to CBD.

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CBD’s Potential Therapeutic Properties

Extensive pre-clinical research has found CBD to be an (R,R,R,R,R):

  • Anti-inflammatory: Chronic inflammation is linked to many chronic conditions of our time, as well as brain fog, low energy, and difficulties focusing.
  • Neuroprotectant: By helping to promote the growth of new neurons (brain cells) and promoting neuroplasticity (how well neurons communicate with one another), CBD may help to protect or even improve memory and cognitive function.
  • Anxiolytic: Anxiolytics are compounds that help our bodies cope with both mental and physical stress.
  • Antidepressant: Depression is a hard-to-treat and prolific disease. Natural antidepressants help to promote a positive mood more safely than most prescription drugs.
  • Antioxidant: Oxidative damage by free radicals is a problem for every part of our bodies. Excess oxidative damage may accelerate aging and age-related diseases. Antioxidants protect the body from this type of damage.
  • Analgesic: Pain can reduce our quality of life. It can get in the way of achieving our goals. Analgesic substances reduce our perception of pain.  
  • Anticonvulsant: Anticonvulsants reduce the frequency of seizures.
  • Antitumoral: Certain compounds have the ability to kill cancer cells or slow their growth, and CBD is one of them.
  • Blood Flow Enhancer: Blood is the body’s tool to deliver oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Blood flow to our muscles is critical for optimal performance and healing, and blood flow to our brains is important for memory and learning.

Who Might Benefit From CBD?

With all of the emerging research, it appears that most people could benefit from CBD. The reason? Many of us are experiencing high levels of inflammation and oxidative damage.

Did you know that nearly every chronic disease of our time is linked to chronic inflammation? Depression, anxiety, metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes cardiovascular disease, and more may be in part caused by an overactive inflammatory response.

Even if you’re otherwise healthy, fatigue, brain fog, trouble sleeping, and other, less severe symptoms may be thanks to damage caused by inflammation or oxidative damage that can result from mental or physical stress, pollution, processed foods, and more.

By reducing inflammation and fighting oxidative damage, CBD may help to reduce your risk of chronic disease while helping you feel better today.

Does CBD Have Side Effects?

CBD as a whole has a favorable safety profile. When taken in large doses, temporary side effects include:

  • Fatigue
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Diarrhea

CBD may interact with certain drugs. For example, when used to treat epilepsy, the dosage of other drugs may need to be changed for optimal results.

More research is needed on how CBD might interfere with medications, whether positively (by increasing efficacy) or negatively (reducing efficacy or increasing side effects). Most users report no negative side effects when taking CBD.

Is CBD Legal?

With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the availability of CBD and CBD supplements derived from the hemp plant has grown rapidly. This bill removed hemp, from which CBD is derived, from the list of controlled substances.

Yet there’s still a lot of confusion at the federal level as to what exactly is and is not “legal” when it comes to CBD. While this can be confusing for business owners, don’t let it worry you.

Hemp-derived CBD oil, capsules, and other products are legal to purchase online and in-person throughout the United States.

How to Take CBD

If you’re ready to add CBD to your supplement regimen, there are two factors that you should consider:

  1. What type of supplement should you use?
  2. How much should you take?

The Best Types of CBD Supplements

To get the biggest benefit from any CBD product, look for a product that is made from full-spectrum hemp oil that allows flexible and predictable dosage.

Full spectrum hemp oil contains all of the healthful cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds naturally found in hemp that work synergistically with CBD. Isolates, which only contain CBD, miss out on the added benefits that these phytonutrients provide.

As for supplement type, it’s best to stick to an oil or capsule and ignore the more gimmicky gummies, vape pens, chocolates, etc. Capsules and oils are the easiest to dose and contain the fewest filler ingredients.

CBD Dosage Guide

Because there have been few human clinical trials, the best dose of CBD remains unknown. While studies and anecdotal reports can help you narrow it down, the best thing to do is to start with a small dose and gradually work your way up.

A general guideline is to take 1-6 mg of CBD per 10lbs of body weight each day. Start at the lower end, and slowly increase your dosage every week until you find the best dose for you.

Take CBD daily, as many of its benefits can take days or weeks before they kick in.

Final Thoughts

CBD is a unique compound. It does more than help sick people get well...it appears to help healthy people reach their full potential.

To find out if CBD can help improve your mood, energy, and health, try a full spectrum hemp oil or supplement. Be sure to source a high-quality supplement and take it daily for noticeable results.

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