CBD oil is becoming popular for treating everything from anxiety to multiple sclerosis. Marijuana (technically a slang term for the cannabis plant) has a long history in America, dating back to King James’ decree to colonists to grow the hemp plant, one of George Washington’s main crops. It has been transformed through early pharmaceutical use, abused as a recreational psychedelic drug, and today is it’s finally back in vogue as a medical option with a variety of uses.

CBD oil is readily available online AND through medical dispensaries. But it also leaves us with a lot of questions. Is it legal? Will you get high if you use it? What should you look for? It’s way confusing. With this in mind, we’re here to shed some light and send you in the right direction.

 

What is CBD Anyway?

CBD is an acronym for Cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is a cannabinoid, which is one of the chemical compounds extracted from the cannabis plant’s flowers.  Cannabinoids act similarly to opiates, binding to neurotransmitters in our brain, depending on the amounts present and the desired result. Some cannabinoids have been synthesized and are prescribed for nausea relief from chemotherapy as well as other ailments.

Cannabidiol is non-habit-forming and is mainly found in sativa strains of the cannabis plant. It can make up almost 40 percent of the oil extracted from the hemp plant. In addition, its low psychoactivity and strong therapeutic and medical benefits can be used to help with many ailments and conditions.

Most people are familiar with THC, found in higher amounts in recreational marijuana products. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a psychoactive cannabinoid component of cannabis (also known as marijuana, mary jane, pot, weed… you get the point). A higher THC level is desired in recreational marijuana consumption, as well as in conjunction with treating certain disorders. The indica strain of cannabis is more popular for recreational use.

 

What Conditions Benefit from CBD?

Thorough research on the use of cannabidiol and other cannabinoids is hindered due to cannabis still being labeled as a Schedule 1 drug federally, the list of ways cannabinoids can improve different ailments is growing exponentially. Cannabidiol can alleviate pain from multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic pain conditions while reducing inflammation. CBD’s use in reducing inflammation can also reduce the risk of diabetes by reducing inflammation of the pancreas, increasing insulin production and regulating the immune system.

There is good news for smokers. Those suffering from a nicotine addiction can benefit from CBD as well. In a 2016 study, those using CBD in an inhaler smoked 40% less cigarettes. Cannabidiol can also be used to treat cancer and alleviate side effects from cancer treatment. It is showing to inhibits the growth of systemic malignant tumors,  breast cancer, lung cancer and more.  It also alleviates pain from cancer drugs like paclitaxel. And if you have trouble sleeping there is good news there as well. CBD may alleviate sleep disorders by increasing the release of dopamine, used to regulate the circadian rhythm in humans.

Those suffering from epilepsy and reoccurring seizures  are starting to look to CBD as a treatment. A 2015 study showed that patients who had been dealing with treatment-resisted epilepsy showed improvement with CBD oil, including two percent who went seizure free. The use of CBD oil for epilepsy was popularized after it was reported medical marijuana completely stopped a child’s grand mal seizures.

Cannabidiol acts like an anti-anxiety agent and also has antidepressant qualities beneficial in treating depression, anxiety and stress disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder.  Many states who have legalized medical marijuana allow for use with PTSD. It also has shown to work as an antipysychotic in patients with schizophrenia (unlike THC which can actually increase risk of psychotic disorders in those who have a risk of developing them). Some of these conditions may be best treated with a mix of CBD and THC, including treatment of cancer.  The best treatment options  may only be available in a state that has legalized medical marijuana.

 

So Wait, Is CBD Oil Legal?

Hemp cultivation is legal in all of the US states due to the Agricultural Act of 2014. This act allows for industrial hemp cultivation if there is research on it being provided by the state or university programs.  Some states are using hemp production to help struggling farmers. For instance, Kentucky created a program to help with struggling tobacco farmers. As Americans quits smoking due to health concerns, hemp can become an viable option. Hemp stalks can be used to produce CBD oil, though it takes a lot of plant matter to do so. CBD oil can be made from medical marijuana crops using the flower or from industrial hemp crops, but the amount of CBD oil and how it is made varies greatly from state to state, depending on medical marijuana regulation and industrialized hemp production.

However, CBD oil with more than .3 THC dry weight is only protected in states that have legalized medical marijuana. 16 states have laws on CBD oil alone, and 28 states have legalized medical marijuana.  So it does get a bit complicated when you start looking into it. But CBD oil is available as a dietary supplement and is regulated as such in states that have not legalized medical marijuana.

And of course, it remains political. An amendment allowing veterans to use cannabidoil for treating PTSD passed the Congress and Senate before being removed from the final spending budget.

Hemp Seed Oil Is Not CBD Oil

Hemp oil used for treatment is not the same as hemp seed oil, which is made by pressing hemp seeds only. The seeds have little or no CBD or THC content. CBD oil and other products use the flowers or stalks of the plant. Hemp seed oil has a nutty flavor and contains all of the essential amino acids, as well as healthy omega fatty acids. Many people use it for cooking and skin care. But it is sometimes used in making CBD oil.

Choose With Care

Pesticides are a concern even for medical marijuana, with 93 percent of samples in a study containing pesticides or chemicals.  Using large quantities of plant matter to make a concentrate in the way that whole plant CBD oil is made also brings in a concern of accumulation of contaminants from soil and pesticides. Extraction methods are also affecting the end product. Cannabinoids are extracted through several methods. Oil extraction is similar to making a flavored oil whereas the plant is soaked in a carrier oil such as hemp or olive oil before extraction. Marijuana can also be distilled (similar to making essential oils) or be extracted through a pressurization process.

But watch out for more dangerous chemicals in the process. Solvents such as butane or alcohol can also be used for extraction. If you are vaping or heating up the product, be sure to avoid propylene glycol, which can convert into carcinogens like formaldehyde. Airborne propylene glycol can also irritate lung tissue and induce or affect asthma and allergic reactions.  Vape pens that use 3.3 volts or less were found not to produce formaldehyde.

 

Image via Flickr

 

How To Pick a Good CBD Oil

Using CBD oil to treat a condition can require sticking to a certain ratio of THC to CBD in your product. Finding the best ratio may take some trial and error, but you should definitely involve professionals in this process. In states that have legalized medical marijuana, CBD oil made from the flowers of the cannabis plant can be found in medical marijuana dispensaries. Those options have higher amounts of the cannabinoid THC, which can work in conjunction with other cannabinoids to alleviate certain conditions. One way to find a source is searching at projectcbd.org.

CBD oil made from the entire hemp plant is readily available online and is legal in all 50 states, as long as the THC level is less than .3 THC on a dry weight basis, thanks to the Agricultural Act of 2014, AKA the “Farm Bill”.

How to Buy CBD Oil

The market for hemp oil and CBD hemp oil is complicated. First off, there are a variety of CBD oils available. They differ depending on the strains used and processing methods employed. Secondly, because there is no federal regulation on these nutraceuticals, claims can be varied as to their health benefits. (FYI, a nutraceutical is a pharmaceutical grade, standardized nutrient that is regulated as a dietary supplement.)

The FDA does, however, work to ensure that companies are not making medical claims that are not currently allowed, since the FDA has not approved these products for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of any disease.  The FDA also cracked down on several companies in 2015 and 2016 for promoting CBD oil that had a low amount or no cannabidiol present in their product.

However, any hemp oil or DBD oil with .3 THC dry weight is legal in all 50 states. This includes options found online. Organizations like Realm of Caring have their own stamp of approval for products, which can help when choosing a CBD oil. We investigated a few “over the counter” brands to find some products we could stand behind. The list below contains vape oil that is propylene glycol-free and contains no artificial fragrance or flavors. Remember, the amount of CBD in your dose depends on what you want it for, so we did not include CBD amounts as part of this investigation.

CBD Plus

Herbal Renewals

Charlotte’s Web

Bio CBD Plus

Elixinol

Endoca

CBD Pure

Have you ever tried CBD oil before? Are you willing to try it one day? Tell us your experience and let us know about anything else you would like us to look into!

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Megan McClain

Megan McClain

Megan is a former journalist that is now freelances while raising her two sons and a sun-worshipping chihuahua in Southern California. Her personal blog, Sunshine Wonderland, chronicles her life and shares ideas on doing One Small Thing to change the world and your health.