CBD is everywhere: gas stations, shopping malls, health food stores—almost anywhere you can spend money. But the big question remains: can it really improve my health? Along with that comes a host of other questions: is it safe? Does it have psychoactive effects? In this article we delve into these questions and more to give you a solid overview of CBD oil. We will cover the benefits and what science is saying about this controversial supplement.
First off: What Is CBD Actually?
CBD stands for cannabidiol, one of over 100 chemical compounds found within the marijuana plant. CBD oil is created by extracting CBD from cannabis, and then diluting it with coconut oil or hemp seed oil (source.) CBD is not simply another form of marijuana; it is a byproduct of the plant that has some, but not all of the same effects.
Will CBD Make Me Feel High?
If you're already getting nervous about CBD, take note of this: it does not get you high. The main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is THC, which is a mind-altering compound. CBD oil may contain negligible or trace amounts of THC; however, it is not enough to get you 'high.'
Is CBD Safe? What Are The Side Effects?
Over the short-term in small amounts, CBD is probably fine (source.) Most people are aware of the side effects of marijuana use. These don’t apply to isolated strains of CBD. However, CBD oil still may create some unwanted side effects. According to Harvard Health, CBD may potentially cause fatigue, irritability, and nausea (source.) Most of the safety concerns for CBD lie not in the oil itself, but rather the fact that it is new and relatively untested. Also, ingredients and ingredient ratios may vary by product. Currently, we don’t know the effects of taking isolated CBD over the long term. This presents some question marks surrounding the safety of its regular use.
How CBD Works In The Body And Brain
So why is CBD oil getting so much hype? Is it just the mystique of it being recently decriminalized? That is surely a part of it. Marketers have capitalized on the craze and made wild claims about its effectiveness and benefits. But is there really some kind of science behind the CBD wave?
The answer is yes, and although it is still poorly understood, there has been some fascinating discoveries about how CBD interacts with the human body and brain.
The Importance of Cannabinoids
This conversation revolves around a chemical compound called cannabinoids. When you hear the term ‘cannabinoids,’ you likely associate it with ‘cannabis,’ and then ‘marijuana.’ While all of those things are in a sense related, cannabinoids are actually a broad spectrum of compounds produced naturally by your own body (source.) What’s interesting is that they’re not just located in your brain; they’re everywhere. Cannabinoid receptors are located in your organs, tissues, brain, glands and immune cells. In fact, the cannabinoid system is one of the most important physiological systems in the human body (source.) It plays a role in regulating sleep, appetite, pain and the immune response (source.) It’s also critical to homeostatic regulation, which is the process that brings your body back to normal after being disrupted (by injury for instance (source.))
So what’s all this got to do with CBD? As you might have guessed cannabinoids are also found in CBD. These are called phytocannabinoids (the ones inside us are endocannabinoids.) CBD is believed to raise the level of native cannabinoids in your body. Furthermore, it appears to bind with serotonin receptors and stimulate the receptors for GABA, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of relaxation (source.) A recent New York Times article stated that CBD “may provide a kind of full-body massage at a molecular level” due to its massive number of cellular targets (source.)
In terms of how this affects the brain, some believe that this shotgun effect of CBD may help resolve network-wide issues. According to neuroscientist Yasmin Hurd, “The brain is a symphony, (and CBD may) bring the entire symphony into harmony (source.)” Hurd also stated that CBD casts a wide net in its effect, and therefore falls outside of the realm of what is typically studied in neuroscience. She believes, however, that the cognitive benefits of CBD are promising.
The Trouble With CBD’s Claims
What does that mean in real terms? That’s where things get a little hazy. There are many hopeful theories about how CBD can interact with our cannabinoid system and boost our overall health. The reality, however, is that scientists still don’t understand a great deal of how and to what extent CBD actually benefits us. According to a Harvard Health article, there still is not enough research to fully understand how CBD works to alleviate symptoms (source.)
Further complicating matters is that there remains relatively few human studies to back up the multitude of claims about CBD’s actions on the body. While CBD may have benefits beyond what we currently know, as of now only a few of its purported benefits have been supported by science.
So, What Are the Proven Benefits of CBD Oil, Especially For The Brain?
Although marketers and manufacturers have created a lot of hype through unsubstantiated claims, there is a small but legitimate body of research supporting the health benefits of CBD. In fact, multiple studies have indicated that CBD may benefit specific brain-related issues. Here is a list of some of the most heavily-researched uses of CBD oil for the brain.
1. CBD May Help Reduce Anxious Thoughts — Although the mechanism may not be fully understood, there are some reliable, consistent studies that show that CBD may help to reduce anxiousness. It is believed that CBD oil does this by acting upon the body’s serotonin receptors, which help govern mood and social behavior (source.) In a study of 24 people with social anxiety, CBD was shown to help alleviate cognitive impairment and discomfort when delivering a speech (source.) Other studies have revealed similar results, demonstrating CBD’s calming properties for the average person.
2. CBD May Benefit Insomnia, Although More Research Is Needed — There is some evidence that CBD may benefit sleeplessness. This is partly related to CBD’s anxiety-reducing effect. Some studies suggest that CBD may help increase overall sleep time and reduce insomnia (source.) A recent trial involving 72 adults also suggested that CBD may benefit poor sleep, although the results fluctuated over time (source.) Currently, more research is needed to determine whether CBD may truly be a reliable sleep aid.
3. CBD May Offer Some Neuroprotective Benefits — Multiple studies have offered hopeful results for CBD’s neuroprotective properties. Some research has shown that CBD helps shield against certain types of neurotoxicity (source.) Other studies go so far as to claim that CBD has antioxidant properties beyond Vitamin C and E (source.) Proponents believe that CBD may combat free radicals and protect brain tissue death (source.) However, as with many of CBD’s other claims, there is little research to lean on. CBD offers some promise as a neuroprotective agent, but scientists are only beginning to test this theory.
4. Can CBD Cause Me To Fail A Drug Test? — Short answer: it is possible. While CBD does not contain enough THC to get you high or feel any psychoactive effects, it still may have trace amounts that trigger a positive drug test. Another thing to consider is that ingredients and ingredient ratios may differ, including THC amounts. While one product may not show up on a drug screen, another similar product might. Your best bet is to read the label and research the product before buying CBD. If you want to make sure your CBD contains no THC, you may need to purchase CBD isolate (more on that later.)
4 Things to Consider When Choosing A CBD Product
Gummies, candies, cookies, oil, tinctures, teas, sublingual drops--how do you know which one to choose? Even more importantly, which brands are really trustworthy? Because new CBD products are popping up every day, it can be difficult to know where to begin.
While we can’t recommend specific brands, there are some general considerations to remember when choosing a CBD product.
1. CBD Isolate vs. Full-Spectrum CBD — In general these are the two types of CBD oil you will find on the market. CBD isolate is pure CBD. In other words, there is nothing else in it, and CBD isolate should have zero THC. This is perfect for anyone sensitive to THC or concerned about a drug test (source.)
You might think, “Why wouldn’t everyone use CBD isolate?” As it turns out, CBD isolate may be less effective and contain less benefits than full-spectrum CBD. Full spectrum CBD contains a number of other compounds, such as terpenes, which actually work synergistically with the CBD. This is known as the entourage effect. Although each person responds differently, you may experience a more dramatic effect from full-spectrum CBD.
2. CBD-Infused Snacks vs. Oil Droppers — Consuming CBD gummies, candies, cookies, etc. can be an easy way to take the supplement. There are many options for this, and every product will vary with its dosages. While this may be an effective approach, the main advantage to using a CBD dropper is that you can know with more certainty how much CBD you’re actually taking. Oils are also the most pure and unprocessed form of the supplement (source.)
3. Creams And Topical Salves — In addition to edibles and oils, CBD is also available in the form of lotion or cream. This can also be an easy way to use the supplement, however it should be noted that topical CBD is more aimed at supporting skin, muscle, and joint health (source.)
4. Research As Much As Possible — The CBD industry has been referred to as the “wild west” because it is so new and unregulated. As much as possible, read about and research any CBD product before you use it. You may benefit from comparing ingredients with other manufacturers to make sure that you understand what is in your CBD formula.
Final Thoughts On CBD
From time to time in the past few decades certain supplements have burst onto the scene with a lot of fanfare and acclaim. The hype around CBD has been even greater, most likely because of its connection to marijuana. While researchers have made promising discoveries surrounding CBD, expectations should be tempered until there is more research to back up the multitude of claims.
Although scientists are still in the exploratory phase with CBD, there are many other brain health supplements that have a body of time-tested research behind them. In general, here is a brief list of ingredients that you can learn about that may have actions similar to CBD’s purported benefits.
Supplements for Anxiousness — The following supplements all may combat stress and/or help calm anxious thoughts: Ashwagandha (read more here,) Lavender, Rhodiola Rosea (read more here), American Ginseng (read more here), Kava kava, Chamomile, and Passionflower.
Supplements for Insomnia — There are many, many supplements for insomnia, some of which have been used for millennia. Here are a few that could help get your sleep back on track: melatonin (read more here,) Valerian Root, Magnesium, Lavender Oil, and 5htp. For even more ideas, check out this article.
Supplements for Neuroprotection — If you are serious about brain health, then it is important to find supplements that offer neuroprotection. Here are some ingredients that may help: Curcumin (more here,) L-Theanine, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and Magnesium.