CBD Hemp Oil: What Is It & What Does It Do?
CBD oil claims many benefits that seem to include every imaginable ailment. It’s a good idea to look a little deeper whenever something seems to be a cure-all… so I dug in.
The medical use of marijuana has brought some attention to the subject of using cannabis-derived products for health, but it’s important to understand how CBD oil differs. We’ll get into this more in a bit, but the key difference lies in the parts of the plant being used to make the product. For example, CBD oil is also different from hemp seed oil, since it is extracted not from the seed but from the flowers, leaves, and stalks of hemp.
Surprisingly, research shows that CBD products are actually helpful at reducing many ailments. Such diverse ailments that they seem to be unrelated, in fact… but they are not. Emerging research shows that each of these ailments may be related to dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system, or ECS for short.
Haven’t heard of it? You’re not alone! It’s not as familiar to us as the cardiovascular or immune system, but is a critical component of the human body.
Understanding the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system is possibly one of the most fascinating systems in the body. It was discovered through researching the effects of cannabis on the body. In fact, this amazing system that regulates the body’s internal balance got its name from the cannabis plant that made its discovery possible.
The endocannabinoid system is made up of endocannabinoids and their receptors. These are found everywhere in the body from the brain and other organs to glands and immune cells. The endocannabinoid system works differently in different parts of the body but the end goal is homeostasis (internal balance).
Cannabidiol (CBD oil) is another way to affect this powerful body system … but am I really saying “getting high” is a good thing?
It turns out there’s a very important distinction still to be made …
Does CBD Oil Create a High?
The short answer is: No. (Though oils with THC can also contain CBD).
There are two different types of CBD oil products — hemp-based CBD oil (the one I’m talking about in this article) and marijuana-based CBD (which is what someone would buy at the dispensary). Both contain CBD, and they’re both derived from the cannabis plant, but hemp and medical marijuana are are different varieties of the plant.
The variety that is typically (and legally) used to make CBD oil is hemp. How is hemp oil different? A plant can only be legally considered hemp if it contains .3% per dry unit (or less) of the compound THC.
In a nutshell, CBD oil or hemp oil contains the benefits of the cannabis plant without the potential drawbacks of psychoactive compounds typically found from inhalation or other methods of consumption.
Cannabidiol (CBD) Benefits & Uses for Pain, Inflammation, Epilepsy & More
CBD oil is a great remedy for a lot of different ailments. Here are some of the amazing uses people (and medical research) report for CBD oil:
1. Relief for Chronic Pain
Those suffering from chronic pain from diseases like fibromyalgia are finding relief with CBD. Taking CBD can offer pain relief and can even prevent nervous system degeneration. In fact, it has been approved in Canada for multiple sclerosis and cancer pain.
What’s really amazing is that CBD doesn’t cause dependence or tolerance, so it’s a great choice for those trying to stay away from opioids.
Other Remedies to Consider: Not into CBD? Research also shows that turmeric consumption and heat therapy (like sauna use) may be helpful as well. A low inflammation diet also seems to be helpful for some people.
2. Calms Childhood Epilepsy
CBD has anti-seizure properties that have been shown to successfully treat drug-resistant children who have neurological disorders like epilepsy (with no side effects!). In one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, CBD decreased frequency of seizures by 23 percentage points more than those taking a placebo.
While I much prefer a natural remedy as a first course of action, but even the Food and Drug Administration seems to agree that cannabis-derived drugs may have something to offer. In April 2018 FDA advisers cleared the very first cannabis-derived drug for approval, one that promises to help control seizures.
Other Remedies to Consider: Childhood epilepsy is a serious condition and it is important to work with a qualified practitioner with a specialty in this area. Emerging research also shows that a ketogenic diet can be very helpful for drug resistant epilepsy, especially in children.
3. Reduces Anxiety and Depression
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, depression affects 6% and anxiety affects 18% of the U.S. population each year. Research shows that CBD oil can help with both.
CBD has been shown to reduce levels of stress and anxiety in those suffering from conditions such as PTSD, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. CBD even reduced the stress and discomfort surrounding public speaking.
Though a B12 deficiency may also be to blame, CBD has been shown to reduce depression by enhancing both serotonergic and glutamate cortical signaling (both are lacking in those with depression).
Other Remedies to Consider: Dr Kelly Brogan provides a lot of helpful information for anxiety and depression in this podcast episode. Vitamin B12 is also linked to mental health and it may be helpful to work with someone experienced in optimizing levels of B12.
4. Fights Multi-Drug Resistant Bacteria
Researchers discovered that cannabinoids (including CBD) have an unusual ability to destroy bacteria (especially drug-resistant strains). More research is needed to find out how and why it works.
A 2011 study found that CBD can also slow the progression of tuberculosis in rats. Researchers concluded that CBD likely does this by inhibiting T-cell proliferation, rather than possessing antibacterial properties.
Whatever the mechanism is for destroying bacteria, CBD seems to be a potent weapon against the antibiotic resistant “superbugs” that are becoming more and more of a problem today.
Other Remedies to Consider: Don’t want to try cannabidiol? There is also research on using garlic, honey and oregano oil for drug resistant strains, but work with a practitioner experienced in infectious disease.
5. Reduces Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is a huge problem in our society that contributes to many non-infectious diseases including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune disease, and more, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Diet and lifestyle play a huge part in chronic inflammation but when folks are already eating a healthy, nutrient-dense diet and optimizing their lifestyle (getting enough sleep and exercise for example), CBD oil can help. Research also shows that CBD oil can reduce chronic inflammation that leads to disease.
Other Remedies to Consider: Research agrees that it is important to address gut health to manage inflammation. Removing refined sugar from the diet has also been shown to reduce inflammation in as little as a week.
6. Reduces Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress is responsible for many ailments today. Oxidative stress is when the body has too many free radicals and can’t keep up with neutralizing them (with antioxidants). This is more of a problem now than in the past because our environment is so much more toxic than it once was. A 2010 study shows that CBD oil acts as an antioxidant and another study found CBD has neuroprotective qualities. So CBD can reduce neurological damage caused by free radicals.
7. Help for Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a complicated and serious disease that is typically managed through therapy and pharmaceutical drugs (that carry hefty side effects). Anecdotally, many folks have found that CBD oil has helped reduce hallucinations. Research is beginning to catch up too. A March 2015 review of available research found that CBD was a safe, effective, and well tolerated treatment for psychosis. But more research is needed to bring CBD into clinical practice.
It should be mentioned that THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, may actually increase psychosis for those at risk. CBD oil, on the other hand, only helps reduce psychosis and may even counteract psychosis brought on by marijuana use.
8. Promotes Healthy Weight
Cannabidiol can help maintain healthy blood sugar, stimulates genes and proteins that helps break down fat, and increase mitochondria that helps burn calories.
CBD also encourages the body to convert white fat to brown fat. White fat is the kind of fat we typically think of when we think about body fat. Brown fat is fat that is in small deposits that behaves differently than white fat. Brown fat is said to improve health by enhancing the bodies ability to burn white fat, create heat, and even regulate blood sugar.
9. Improves Heart Health
Heart disease is a growing problem today. In fact, it’s the leading cause of death in the U.S. A healthy diet and lifestyle is a top priority for heart health, but CBD oil can also help. According to research cannabidiol reduces artery blockage, reduces stress induced cardiovascular response, and can reduce blood pressure. It may also reduce cholesterol.
As mentioned earlier, CBD oil is helpful in preventing oxidative stress and inflammation. Both of these are often precursors to heart disease.
10. Improves Skin Conditions
CBD oil can be used topically to treat skin conditions. Studies show CBD oil has a high potential for treating skin conditions like eczema by encouraging abnormal cell death. It can also help regulate the skin’s oil production, reducing acne. CBD also contains many nutrients like vitamin E that help improve and protect the skin.
Other Remedies to Consider: Diet is vitally important for skin health. Many people find that removing foods like sugar, dairy or grains (if sensitive) improves skin. I also personally use a skin probiotic spray that has made a huge difference for my acne prone skin.
11. Fights Cancer
CBD oil’s role in cancer treatment still needs more research, but what is available is looking promising. According to the American Cancer Society, CBD oil can slow growth and spread of some kinds of cancer (in animals). Because it fights oxidative stress and inflammation (and both are linked to cancer) it makes sense that CBD oil could help fight cancer cells.
CBD vs. Hemp Oil
This is a common question and misconception. As mentioned above, while they come from the same plant, they are different strains and CBD is harvested from the plants that contain no THC (or negligible levels). CBD is completely legal and is not considered a drug. Because of the often confused history of these plants, many manufacturers use “hemp oil” instead of the more controversial “CBD oil” in their marketing. CBD levels can vary drastically based on manufacturing, so it is important to find a high quality manufacturer with verified levels.
From a sustainability standpoint, it is a shame that hemp has gotten so much negative press because it comes from a similar strain of plant. Aside from the CBD benefits, hemp is one of the strongest, longest, and most durable natural fibers and it can be grown without any type of pesticides or herbicides! It also:
- makes up to four times as much fiber per acre as pine trees
- can be recycled many more times than pine-based pulp products
- is easy to grow without chemicals and is actually good for the soil
- produces a seed and seed oil rich in protein, essential fatty acids and amino acids
How to Use CBD Oil
CBD oil is most often used internally (through ingestion). Because CBD oil is a relatively new supplement, exact dosing isn’t well established. While more long-term studies are needed, there is no established CBD “overdose” and there are very few if any side effects at any dosage.
When trying to find the right dosage, consider these things:
- Start by purchasing a high quality oil from a reputable company. A higher quality oil will be more bioavailable, so a lower dose can be enough.
- Begin with the recommended dosage on the bottle (especially if using preventatively).
- Some notice a change immediately, while others don’t notice any improvement for several weeks. If after several weeks there is still no change, increase the dosage.
- As with most herbal supplements, a small dosage 3-4 times a day is usually more therapeutic than one large dose.
Important note: Though CBD oil on its own is very safe, it may interact with medications, particularly opioids. Speak with your doctor if you’re concerned about interactions or are unsure about using hemp oil for your conditions. I know it’s tough to find a primary care doctor who understands alternative practices, but there are options like this service that pair you with a doctor who fits your lifestyle.
CBD Oil for Pets
Sidenote for our furrier friends: All mammals have an endocannabinoid system, CBD oil can have some of the same benefits for pets as it does for humans.
For cats and dogs in particular, CBD oil may help with:
- excessive barking or crying
- pets getting along with other pets
- relaxing pets before a trip to the vet
- lack of appetite
- separation anxiety
How to Use CBD Oil for Pets
There may be some trial and error in finding the right dosage for pets. Start with a low dose of 1 milligrams per 10 pounds of body weight and go up to 5 milligrams per 10 pounds of body weight if needed. A higher dose may be necessary for some ailments. A low dose 3-4 times a day is usually more therapeutic than one large dose.
CBD: What I’ve Tried (& What I Will)
There are lots of benefits to using CBD oil as a supplement. A healthy diet and lifestyle should always be the first step to improved health, but CBD oil can help build on that foundation.
I have tried CBD oil supplements before and did notice a calming effect almost immediately. Since I have the MAO-A gene and am very type A, I’ve always struggled with sleep and getting my brain to turn off. I found CBD oil very helpful for this. I’ve also used it to reduce inflammation after injuries with good results.
- I don’t use CBD oil all the time but keep it around for injuries or nights when it’s difficult to sleep. It is important to use pure CBD oil from a reputable company. Personally, I like this brand.
- One way I do get the benefits of CBD regularly is a teaspoon of this hemp-infused honeyin my tea at night. It helps me wind down and get to sleep (and it’s not just my imagination… it has a whopping 20 milligrams of hemp oil and its relaxing effects in one teaspoon). These hemp honey sticks from the same company are also great for travel and on the go.
For more on CBD oil for health, hop over to this podcast interview to hear how a certified Bulletproof wellness coach uses it with life-transforming results.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
What are your thoughts on CBD oil? Would you try it or think it’s too controversial still? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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