CBD or Cannabidiol is the non-psychoactive component of the Cannabis plant and it has been and is being explored for a whole host of benefits. In fact, there is a veritable explosion of interest in Cannabis products and their potential benefits but also a lot of confusion.
Do you know the difference between marijuana and hemp? Products that contain more than 0.3% THC (according to European Union rules), the psychoactive components of the Cannabis plant, are considered marijuana and products that contain less than 0.3% THC are considered hemp and they are derived from the Cannabis Sativa L plant which is the main source of CBD. The great interest in Cannabis products to treat a variety of conditions and the recent legalization in many states has let to other specially cultivated Cannabis Sativa L plants which produce as much as 10-29% THC or even more!! These products could produce profound psychoactive effects and should be used with caution.
If CBD has no psychoactive properties at all some find it difficult to explain its supposed effectiveness on a number of medical conditions. CBD has little effect on the brain’s Cannabinoid receptors but it does alter the brain’s serotonin receptors and other chemicals which are involved in thinking and feeling.
CBD is being tried on a long list of medical conditions including chronic pain, arthritis, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, nausea and vomiting that can accompany chemotherapy for cancer and also on cancer itself. Trials are underway using CBD to treat Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and menstrual cramps as well as sleep disorders and certain skin conditions associated with inflammation such as acne and eczema. In addition to the treatment of specific diseases or conditions, CBD can help in certain anxiety-producing situations of daily living such as public speaking or meeting a new prospective mate! Also, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder may be treated with CBD. CBD has also been found to reduce the pancreatic inflammation associated with Diabetes and may prevent the onset of Type 1 Diabetes.
So if one is considering a trial of CBD to treat one of the above conditions, how does one take it, how much does one take and how long does it take to notice the effects? First, how does one take CBD? There are now a whole variety of ways to take CBD including applying it to the skin in the form of a cream, placing one or more drops beneath the tongue, swallowing it in various forms such as cookies, brownies, suckers, edible gummies, lip balm, soft gel capsules, whole plant waxes, water-soluble liquids and alcohol-based tinctures. Cannabis infused tea is another source of CBD. Recently CBD products for pets including dogs and cats have become available.
An important aspect of CBD use is how much to use. The basic recommendation is to start low and go slowly and be very aware that CBD products are not regulated by the FDA and therefore the exact amount of CBD in any one product is open to question even though the label may state a specific amount. Microdosing using amounts as little as one milligram has been suggested as a good starting point if one has never used CBD products before but the general recommendation is to start with no more than 5-10 milligrams until one knows how one’s body will respond.
And that leads us to the next question, how long does it take for one to notice the effect of CBD? The answer depends on several factors such as how the substance is administered. If it is swallowed, is it taken on an empty stomach or after eating and most importantly the unknown response of an individual who has never used CBD before must be taken into account?
In general, CBD taken under the tongue should produce effects in about 10-15 minutes or less and lasts for 1-3 hours. Larger doses will produce more rapid onset of effects and the effects will last longer as well. CBD taken orally will produce effects in 30-60 minutes with a peak effect in 2.5 to 3.5 hours. CBD taken on an empty stomach will have a much quicker onset of action than if it is taken with a full stomach. Topically applied CBD cream or lotion applied for joint pain, muscle pain or local injury or inflammation should have a rapid onset of effect within a few minutes of application.
Although some side effects of CBD such as a feeling of drowsiness or sleepiness may occur with CBD, severe side effects are almost unheard of and all side effects gradually will fade away. Researchers have noted no significant effects of CBD on the central nervous system or on vital signs even at very high doses. There has never been a death due to overdose with CBD so one should feel quite confident if one is using CBD for the first time. A recent FDA study concluded that there is a negligible abuse potential with CBD.
There are only two FDA approved Cannabis products: Marinol or dronabinol for the treatment of nausea and vomiting which may accompany chemotherapy used to treat cancer and Epidiolex which is approved for the treatment of difficult to control epileptic seizures in two unusual forms of childhood epilepsy. Both products are only available for use with a doctor’s prescription and under medical supervision according to FDA requirements.
Given the explosion of interest in CBD, some people have proven skeptical of its benefits. A recent op-ed article in the New York Times suggested that “CBD may not be a miracle cure for anything!!” The difficulty has been that there are few careful clinical studies of the benefits of CBD but that is a sort of “catch 22” because the federal laws which categorize products which contain even minute amounts of THC as Schedule 1 drugs prevent more studies being done. That situation is changing however as legislators begin to liberalize laws governing the study of CBD products. In the near future we should expect lots of new studies of the benefits of CBD but in the meantime, CBD products are easily available in most states and one can carry out one’s own evaluation of its benefits.