cbd oil
CBD and its benefits continue to surprise us.

Over the past decade, CBD oil has become more popular than ever. The cannabis-derived compound can now be purchased online and is available in many pet stores and specialty health shops.

Yet, while hemp oil is now widely accessible for the first time, is the supplement actually safe?

Fortunately, while long-term research on the overall health impacts of CBD has yet to be published, the evidence supporting both the safety and therapeutic potential of the botanical extract is positive and full of surprises.

Here is everything you need to know before folding CBD oil into your routine.

What is CBD oil?

All plants produce essential oils. For the plant, these essential oils serve a variety of functions. Filled with potent phytochemicals, the aromatic compounds found in plant resins act as both communication molecules and an external immune system for the plant.

For example, through resin glands on the surface of leaves, flowers, and stems, plants can secrete fragrance molecules that attract pollinators. Bitter flavor molecules abundant in stems and in the lower leaves of plants deter herbivores and help the plant survive.

CBD Oil is the essential oil of one type of a specific type of cannabis plant. Sometimes referred to as hemp oil, this potent form of cannabis essential oil is rich in the natural compound cannabidiol (CBD).

Unlike more traditional cannabis oil, CBD oil is non-intoxicating.

While the cannabis plant is famous for inspiring a psychoactive “high”, only one molecule is responsible for the herb’s euphoric effects. That molecule is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

CBD oil does NOT contain any intoxicating THC. The plants used to make the oil are often classified as hemp, unique cannabis cultivars that contain large quantities of CBD. In the United States, plants must produce less than 0.3 percent THC to be classified as hemp and used to make CBD oil.

Low to nonexistent levels of THC found in hemp oil allow consumers to enjoy the medicinal and nutritional benefits of cannabis without worrying about becoming intoxicated or failing a workplace drug test, with a few caveats (see section on drug testing below).

How is CBD oil made?

cbd oil
A good CBD manufacturer will be transparent about their processes and how they make CBD oil.

To make CBD oil, essential oils are extracted from the cannabis plant using a solvent. The end result is a highly concentrated essential oil that contains large quantities of cannabidiol and other plant compounds.

CBD oil can be extracted using a variety of solvents. The simplest extraction method is alcohol, which is the method most commonly used by people hoping to extract their own CBD at home.

Professional extractors, however, often rely on more advanced methods. When purchasing CBD supplements online or in dispensaries, hemp oil is typically extracted using CO2 as a solvent.

However, butane can also be used to create some forms of CBD oil, perhaps most often consumed by recreational consumers.

How does CBD oil work?

There’s a reason why the cannabis plant is making headlines.

The herb produces a class of phytochemicals that are unlike any other discovered thus far.

These compounds are called cannabinoids, and CBD is among the most promising.

The plant can produce over 100 cannabinoids in total, and each of them may produce different effects in the human body. Yet, it’s why these compounds have an effect on the body that is perhaps the most amazing.

Cannabinoids like CBD engage a neurotransmitter system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). One of the largest cell signaling systems in the body, the ECS is responsible for maintaining homeostasis.

Simply stated, the ECS helps maintain optimum internal balance. Sometimes described as a “bridge between body and mind”, the ECS is a large system of chemical messengers that help the brain and body communicate with each other in response to environmental changes.

Receptor sites for the ECS can be found throughout the nervous system, immune system, endocrine system, and in organ tissue. Pervasive and all-encompassing, the ECS lends a hand in many major functions, including:

  • Mood and emotion
  • Immune support
  • Cognition
  • Memory and learning
  • Pain
  • Movement
  • Digestion
  • Temperature

The active component in CBD oil, cannabidiol, works because it interacts with this system. Specifically, early evidence suggests that the compound boosts the circulation of natural molecules that trigger the activation of the ECS, producing therapeutic effects.

These triggering molecules are called endocannabinoids, and they are the human version of the chemicals found in the cannabis plant.

Yet, that’s not all CBD does. Early research also suggests that the molecule interacts with the same receptor system targeted by many antidepressant drugs, the serotonin system.

The molecule can also engage with capsaicin receptors, named after the compound that provides the spicy kick to hot peppers. Capsaicin receptors play important roles in the inflammatory response.

What are the benefits of CBD oil?

Given that CBD taps into such a wide-spanning signaling system, it’s not surprising that the plant compound can have far-reaching effects in the human body.

And potent effects, no less.

Recently, the compound made history as the first natural, cannabis-derived medicine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The reason for its approval? As it turns out, the molecule can stop an epileptic seizure in its tracks. Well, at least in certain instances. A pharmaceutical drug containing CBD, called Epidiolex, was approved for the use of Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut Syndromes, which are both rare and intractable forms of epilepsy.

However, while research on CBD has increased exponentially over the past decade, there is still much to learn about the phytochemical.

Apart from epilepsy, the compound may have many other benefits as a medicine and as a general-purpose nutritional supplement and wellness aid.

Here are the top seven benefits of CBD oil:

1. Analgesic

cbd oil
For pain control, you may want to add a little THC to the equation.

Apart from epilepsy, one of the most promising uses for CBD oil is as a natural pain reliever. Unfortunately, though, no substantial clinical trials have been conducted on the topic.

Still, several early rodent experiments suggest that the compound might be effective for the relief of chronic neuropathic pain.

Neuropathic pain is caused by damage to the nervous system and can be particularly difficult to treat. Yet, emerging evidence suggests that cannabis medicines may be able to help.

For example, one 2017 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that the cannabis compound successfully eased neuropathic pain caused by chemotherapy in mouse models.  

When it comes to pain, however, many studies suggest that CBD works best when used in tandem with low doses of THC.

2. Anti-anxiety

Anxiety is touted as one of the most promising uses of hemp oil.

Already, phase 2 clinical trials in human parties have found that CBD eases symptoms of anxiety, depression, and psychosis in patients with treatment-resistant schizophrenia.

The cannabis compound has also relieved the same symptoms in patients considered at high risk for psychosis.

Those with social anxiety may also be able to benefit. In an experiment of 24 total participants published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, those treated with 600 milligrams of CBD experienced fewer anxiety symptoms during a mock public speaking event than those given a placebo.

Rodent studies also provide early evidence for these claims, showing that hemp may have a strong future as a stress-fighting antianxiety aid.  

3. Anti-inflammatory

relaxed woman
Getting that chronic inflammation under control will help you feel like yourself again.

Apart from relieving pain, halting seizures, and easing anxiety, the ability to ease inflammation is perhaps the most promising use of CBD.

Over the past decade, experimental research has discovered that the endocannabinoid system plays a significant role in regulating the body’s inflammatory response.

Cannabinoid receptors have even been found on mast cells, which regulate inflammation in bodily tissues.

As a potent endocannabinoid regulator, CBD may prove useful as a natural anti-inflammatory aid.

In some respects, the molecule has already flexed its strength as an anti-inflammatory molecule.

In a 2011 review published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine, the authors suggest that CBD is a “promising prototype” as an anti-inflammatory aid.

They also suggest that the compound may be useful for easing stress-related tissue damage caused by inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 and 2 diabetes, and atherosclerosis.

4. Antioxidant

Antioxidant compounds that protect cells and DNA from damage caused by environmental stress.

As a patent held by the U.S. Government suggests, CBD may be a more powerful antioxidant than vitamins C and E.

This suggests that the cannabis compound has strong preventative potential, combatting stress-related damage that contributes to aging and disease over time.

5. Antiemetic

cbd oil
It turns out a good CBD product can help ease the stomach.

Have an upset stomach? CBD may be able to help.

The active components in hemp oil have already shown strong potential in easing nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

In addition, CBD has eased nausea and vomiting behaviors in rodent experiments. So, the next time you are feeling queasy, a mug of CBD-infused tea might just hit the spot.

6. Neuroprotective

There is something unique about the antioxidant properties of cannabinoids.

Compounds like CBD act primarily on the nervous and immune systems, easing inflammation and promoting neurological health.

While research is in experiential phases, the molecules have demonstrated potential to protect against neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and traumatic brain injury.

In fact, the preclinical evidence regarding the neuroprotective nature of CBD has inspired several biopharmaceutical companies to investigate the molecule.

7. Anti-tumoral

CBD alone may not be able to stop a tumor in its tracks, but the compound does seem to exert some anti-cancer properties in early laboratory and animals trials, particularly in breast cancer.

However, CBD has exhibited anti-tumoral and anti-cancer effects in other cancers as well.

In a recent 2018 rodent study published in the journal Oncogene, researchers found that mice with pancreatic cancer survived three times longer when given chemotherapy combined with CBD.  

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers to develop.

The different types of CBD oil

types of cbd oil
Prepare yourself to make informed choices when purchasing CBD products.

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing CBD oil. Not all CBD oils are the same. Hemp is extracted into two primary types of oil, broad-spectrum and isolate.

As it turns out, both types may offer different benefits to consumers. Here are the primary differences:

1. Broad-spectrum CBD oil

Broad-spectrum hemp oil refers to CBD oil that also includes synergistic phytochemicals and terpenes.

Terpenes are the aroma molecules found in many plants but are especially abundant in cannabis.

Current theory suggests that these molecules work in tandem with cannabinoids like CBD, amplifying the therapeutic effects of the oil.

For this reason, broad-spectrum hemp oil is expected to be more potent than pure CBD alone. This is a true essential oil of the cannabis plant.

2. CBD Isolate

CBD isolate is purified CBD. This is the isolated cannabinoid on its own, chemically separated from all other nutrients and phytochemicals found naturally in the cannabis plant.

Many CBD oil products currently on the market include isolates infused into a carrier oil, like hempseed oil or olive oil.

While these isolates are extremely easy to dose and have a long-lasting shelf life, consumers reliant on CBD isolate can miss out on the added nutritional benefits that come along with a broad-spectrum extraction.

How do you use CBD oil?

Pick your pleasure! There are many different ways to use CBD oil, some more fast-acting than others.

Many consumers find a combination of multiple methods works best for managing medical conditions.

However, wellness consumers may enjoy just popping a low-dose CBD capsule or soaking in a tub enhanced by an infused bath bomb or two.

1. Inhalation

cannabis oil vaporizer
CBD pen anyone? It won't get you high, but it'll likely make you feel good.

One of the easiest ways to consume CBD oil is via inhalation. Many consumers use CBD oil as an e-liquid alternative in portable vaporizers.

Yet, some types of oil can also be smoked via methods like dabbing, depending on the consistency of the product.

Inhalation provides the most immediate relief. However, the active effects will likely only last two to three hours.  

Thanks to the rapid-acting effects of inhalation, many consumers prefer to use an inhaled product to manage breakthrough symptoms throughout the day.

2. Sublingual

Perhaps the second fastest method of relief, CBD oil can be supplied sublingually, meaning underneath the tongue.

Sublingual CBD works its way into the bloodstream via cannabinoid receptors found on salivary glands.

With sublingual application, the active effects of CBD can take a few minutes longer to present than with inhalation. Yet, it is still considered one of the fastest acting delivery methods and is often highly effective.

3. Oral

Whether it’s via edibles or capsules, CBD can also be taken orally. However, expect to wait a while for your medicine to take hold.

Oral CBD must be metabolized and absorbed into the bloodstream through the digestive tract. This type of metabolism takes time, and consumers may not feel the full effects of their CBD supplement for up to one to two hours after consumption.

However, while there is a delay in activation time, this method provides long-lasting relief. The effects of oral CBD can last between four and six hours, with plenty of variation from person to person.

4. Topical

cannabis cosmetics
A good CBD topical is a must for any medicine cabinet.

It’s not uncommon to find CBD oil infused into cosmetics, pain creams, and other skincare products.

The pain-fighting, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects of the cannabinoid make it a potent addition to topical creams and remedies.

Cannabinoids can be absorbed into the skin to relieve ailments in a localized area. However, the compounds cannot penetrate deeply enough to be efficiently absorbed into the bloodstream.

CBD topicals work best when used on joints that sit closer to the skin and to relieve aches and pains that are more superficial in nature.

5. Transdermal

Hemp pain patches, anyone?

Transdermal CBD application is a novel way to administer the friendly molecule into the bloodstream. However, this delivery method is still largely in development.

Transdermal delivery involves placing a medicated patch on the surface of the skin.

Unlike topical delivery, transdermal patches saturate a small area of the skin over an extended period of time.

Over the course of several hours, small and consistent doses of CBD work their way into the bloodstream for long-duration relief.

While some CBD pain patches are already on the market, researchers are currently developing potentially more effective patches that use microneedles to better deliver cannabis medicines.

6. Suppository

While sticking hemp where the sun doesn’t shine may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there is a growing interest in hemp oil suppositories.

Yet, out of all delivery methods, CBD suppositories have been researched the least.

Intended for use either vaginally or rectally, cannabis suppositories theoretically relieve pain and inflammation in a localized area.

Should this theory prove correct, CBD suppositories could be very beneficial for those who are suffering from severe gastrointestinal distress or perhaps even menstrual cramps.

However, it is important to note that nutrients are not absorbed well in the large intestine, where CBD suppositories are often inserted.

So, it is unlikely that significant levels of CBD pass into the bloodstream via the rectum without the use of advanced technologies or innovative combination medicines.

How do you find the right dosage of CBD oil?

Unfortunately, there is no one recommended dose of CBD for everyone. The amount of CBD that makes it into the bloodstream varies with each delivery method.

Further, every person has a unique internal chemistry. What works for one person may not work for a relative, friend, or hemp oil consumer.

While early research suggests that CBD and other cannabis products have a high margin of safety, there are a few tips and tricks for finding the safest and most effective dose for you as an individual.

Here are three things to keep in mind when trying to find the right dosage of CBD:

1. Talk to your doctor

cannabis doctor
Perhaps you'd like to help educate your doctor about CBD by showing them this article.

If you are hoping to use CBD oil to manage a medical condition, talking with your doctor is always recommended.

A doctor should be able to tell you whether or not the hemp supplement will interfere with any other medications, and may even be able to tell you what dosages are likely to be effective.

While not all doctors are CBD-savvy, it may be worthwhile to enlist the help of a medical professional who has prior experience with cannabis medicines and who can help you monitor any potential side effects.

2. Start low and go slow

As with any new supplement, it is always recommended to start with at most half of your desired dose while becoming acclimated to the new product.

Once you have established that the compound seems to work for you, it’s best to work up to your desired dose slowly over time.  

“Start low, go slow” is a wise saying to keep in mind when trying CBD or any cannabis product for the first time.

3. Follow package recommendations  

Every product and delivery method may call for slightly different dosages.

For example, while oral CBD is more potent and longer-lasting, much of the cannabinoid is excreted out in bowel movements and urine.

That is to say, oral CBD is not as bioavailable as other delivery methods. As such, it may be necessary to start with a higher beginning dose when eating an edible.

To get an appropriate sense for the strength of the product you are consuming, it’s always wise to refer to the package directions.

What are the side effects of CBD oil?

cannabis side effects
Like most other substances, CBD comes with its share of side effects.

Overall, even high doses of CBD have been generally reported as safe. However, no long-term trials to test the supplement’s safety in humans have been conducted.

Yet, with the best evidence thus far, doses of up to 300 milligrams have been safely used for up to six weeks.

However, while the natural plant compound is expected to be safe, some consumers may experience side effects from the hemp-derived supplement. These include:

1. Medication interactions

Potential drug interactions are among the most pressing side effects of hemp oil.

Research suggests that CBD may interact with enzymes in the liver that detoxify a great number of pharmaceutical drugs.

This may mean that some consumers may need to lower their dosages of certain medications should they want to continue taking CBD.

However, only a doctor can determine if this is necessary and safe. For this reason, it is always recommended to work with a medical professional when incorporating CBD into your routine.

2. Drowsiness

Taking CBD at night can interfere with sleep for some people.

Low to moderate doses of CBD may have a slight energizing effect. However, higher doses are known to promote drowsiness.

Many consumers find that CBD is calming enough to consume before bed, however, it may take trial and error to find the right dosage.

3. Other side effects

Other common side effects of hemp oil include lightheadedness, feelings of nausea, changes in appetite, and diarrhea.

However, the dosages and rates at which people experience these side effects have yet to be thoroughly evaluated.

All in all, CBD has the potential to be a high-impact natural remedy with seemingly high margins of safety.

While it is always recommended to talk to a medical professional before starting a new supplement, adding some CBD topicals or adding some low-dose CBD oil into your diet are excellent ways to boost your endocannabinoid system with this superfood plant supplement.

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