Whether you've smoked it or been around friends who have, you know cannabis is something that gets you high. Even medical marijuana can get you high, right? And you might know that it's due to tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC. That's the compound found on cannabis plants with psychoactive effects, but it's not the most frequent compound found in it.
Come the end of this year, it may not even be the most well-known compound. That is how quickly cannabidiol, aka CBD, is rising through the ranks and establishing itself as a common cultural term.
CBD has had a renaissance in the past few years. As more states make the push to fully legalize marijuana, dispensaries continue to pop up containing a dizzying (not literally, though) array of CBD products for people to take in various forms. It's proven to be a versatile compound.
It hasn't been able to prove much else, though. That's because notoriously anti-weed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in addition to insisting authorities pursue marijuana cases, classified cannabis as a schedule 1 drug, a classification the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) uses for drugs they say have "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." There's minimal actual proof of the abuse potential, but this classification has made it much harder to research the benefits of CBD.
Still, with some studies out there suggesting medical benefits, and others trying to get off the ground, CBD is here to stay for now. So... what is it?
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol is found on both marijuana plants and hemp plants, one of over 100 cannabinoids that have been found on cannabis plants to date. Unlike what THC does due to its psychoactive nature, CBD doesn't get you high.
What it does have in common with THC, though, is that because they are both cannabinoids they impact our bodies and minds using cannabinoid receptors. These are a part of the endocannabinoid system inside the human body, which affects a number of different physiological processes. These receptors, to date found primarily in the nervous and immune systems, are what the CBD interacts with to give you the effects.
Not only does CBD not give users the high THC does, some studies suggest it may work to counteract some of the more negative THC effects, like paranoia and heightened anxiety. For this reason, often people that are looking for legal weed with THC will look for a strain with a solid THC to CBD ratio, chasing an ideal, centered high.
CBD has a lot of effects you wouldn't necessarily associate with marijuana at first glance, but there's actually medical basis for it. For example, studies have shown that cannabidiol can actually have anti-inflammatory effects, which can have impacts on several different conditions. Other studies have focused on CBD having antipsychotic effects on the brain. CBD is said to have neuroprotective properties as well, beneficial to the nervous system and the brain.
Encouragingly, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report in November 2017 that said that despite the classification as a Schedule 1 drug, so far "there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD." The report suggested certain side effects like vomiting and fatigue, but determined it was likely due to other drugs it interacted with during medical studies.
Ultimately, the report suggested that although there are not a large number of studies that could provide more definitive results, what tests have been done found a lot of medical benefits with little harm.
What Are CBD's Medical Benefits?
CBD's rapid ascension in popularity is predominately due to the fact that it has the potential to provide a variety of medical benefits for a surprisingly diverse array of problems. Many of these deal with pain relief, but there are plenty of other uses.
Remember the anti-inflammatory properties CBD has? That may be able to help people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Studies that have posited this have similarly suggested that the anti-inflammatory nature can help in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, as well as inflammation that flares up as a result of hepatitis and bowel disorders like Crohn's disease and colitis.
WHO's report also suggests that CBD's neuroprotective effects could potentially provide therapeutic treatment not just to multiple sclerosis, but perhaps Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease as well. It's certainly possible and what little studies have been done on it suggests beneficial components, but unfortunately there has not been much official research done.
As some foundations and universities attempt to put more effort and money into what studies can be done considering federal laws, other disorders are getting studied as well - a number of clinical trials were recently announced to try to determine whether CBD is safe and effective for treating symptoms for children with severe autism.
The most prominent diseases and disorders CBD has been said to help, though, are epilepsy, anxiety disorders, and cancer.
CBD and Epilepsy
Cannabidiol's medical benefits for epilepsy are likely the most notably studied ones - probably cause it has shown itself to be so effective for rare and severe epileptic disorders.
In 2017, the New England Journal of Medicine published the findings of a study focusing on CBD's effects on Dravet syndrome, a rare and particularly dangerous epilepsy disorder found in children. Scientists found CBD to be exceptionally effective at lowering the frequency of seizures in patients - remarkable considering the genetic mutation of Dravet syndrome makes the seizures difficult to treat with medication.
Recently, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) made waves by approving Epidiolex, a CBD medication meant to treat rare and severe forms of epilepsy.
CBD and Anxiety
Not content to be physically therapeutic, CBD has shown itself to have many mentally therapeutic benefits, none more so than it's relief for those suffering from anxiety. Anti-anxiety drugs are known as anxiolytics, and studies done regarding CBD and a number of anxiety-related disorder have found that it has some anxiolytic capabilities as well.
The anti-anxiety benefits aren't just relegated to general anxiety disorders - though if you're searching for studies relating to them, there are plenty. Other studies have examined its effects on those suffering from depression. Others focused on anxiety relief for children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One study, published in 2015, found positive effects not only for the aforementioned disorder, but panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder as well.
CBD and Cancer
There have been many studies suggesting that marijuana and cannabidiol can be helpful in relieving problems arising from cancer treatment, such as nausea, vomiting, and pain caused by chemotherapy. But the potential CBD has for cancer treatment may be far greater than that. Some studies examined CBD use in breast cancer patients and found that it was actually inhibiting breast cancer cells from proliferating.
Should CBD ever get taken off the list of Schedule 1 drugs, further examining its role in helping cancer treatment may be what scientists will be most interested in studying.
How is CBD Used?
CBD offers quite a few benefits, so it's only fitting that there are as many, if not more ways to get it into your system. Here are just a few of the ways you can take CBD.
Vape. It's not 2014 anymore, you're not gonna get made fun of for having a vape. CBD oils or wax concentrates can be used to vape CBD.
Tinctures. You can also use CBD oil by itself, often with tinctures taken by putting two droplets under your tongue.
Food. Chocolates, cookies, gummies, brownies - CBD enthusiasts are always looking for a new edible to try.
Drinks. A few coffee shops in states where cannabis is legal or decriminalized have been known to offer CBD coffee and tea. Some breweries on the west coast have CBD beer available, with cocktails available in select bars.
Dog treats. Well, you shouldn't be eating them. But some dispensaries sell dog treats made from CBD-rich hemp meant to help pets with anxiety and/or pain.
Skin care products. These can be surprisingly practical. Skin care products that have CBD can be used for pain relief, acne treatment, wrinkles, or just relaxing therapeutic purposes.
Beauty products. Similarly, there is CBD shampoo, makeup, deodorant, and bath bombs designed to keep you clean and keep you relaxed.
These are, of course, available in states with some form of legal CBD. The only states where CBD is entirely illegal Idaho, South Dakota, Kansas, and Nebraska. If you live in any of the other states, research state-specific CBD laws first. It can vary.