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CBD is short for cannabidiol, one of the 113 identified cannabinoids of the Cannabis sativa plant. CBD is the primary ingredient in CBD Oil, which has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties without causing behavioral alterations, hallucinations, and other psychoactive effects of its cousin Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
In this article, I will answer the question if CBD oil is safe and legal, we will explore its medical applications and the differences between the various cannabinoids of the Hemp plant. We will also look at why CBD Oil is becoming so popular, and I will explain the potential side effects of this non-intoxicating, new drug. Moreover, I’ll make recommendations of CBD oils that I have tested.
Before starting the research for this article, I knew little about CBD oil. The first time I heard about it was a few weeks ago when the owner of my CrossFit box asked me about it. He wanted to know if CBD oil could aid the recovery process after intense workouts and improve sleep. Coincidentally, only a few weeks later the owner of CannaBliss, a family-owned business out of South Carolina contacted me on Instagram and asked if I wanted to review their CBD oil.
That triggered me to do some more research and to learn what the scientific community had to say about CBD.
Marijuana and medical cannabis have always been a controversial topic. Recently, we have seen a new trend to use cannabis in creams, ointments and similar products, and it is becoming a practical way to treat severe pain associated with arthritis and musculoskeletal diseases.
Below is a list of some of the benefits and medical applications commonly associated with CBD.
In April of 2018, the FDA approved CBD medication to treat two rare forms of childhood epilepsy based on firm scientific evidence and the results of clinical trials.
CBD Oil can reduce anxiety and symptoms of depression. It can also help to treat physical and emotional stress because it works both in the hippocampus and the amygdala, two different structures in the brain that receive sensory data and cause emotional responses (8). CBD Oil also helps to prevent insomnia, especially in the event of post-traumatic stress. A recent case report showed that CBD oil not only reduced anxiety but also improved the quality of life in a 7-year-old girl with a history of sexual abuse. (9).
One of the most widespread applications of cannabis is the reduction of pain, especially when it comes to chronic pain and health conditions that would be difficult to treat with conventional drugs, such as fibromyalgia and others (3, 6, 7). There is also sufficient preclinical data about the use of medical cannabis for joint pain and many other types of chronic pain (9).
CBD oil has a potential application in certain inflammatory skin conditions. For example, cannabidiol can modulate the immune reaction in skin tissue, the underlying cause of diseases like eczema, contact dermatitis, and inflammatory rash. Also, CBD has recently shown positive results in an experimental model to treat allergic contact dermatitis (10).
In some cases, the application of cannabidiol worked not only to control pain but also to reduce the proliferation of cancer cells and the formation of new blood vessels in tumors. Thus, doctors sometimes use this CBD in acute cases of lymphoblastic leukemia, especially when there’s a positive Philadelphia mutation (11).
Manufacturers have flooded the market with various kinds of CBD oil and marketing terms. That makes it difficult to compare quality and prices, and the lack of regulation makes the current situation akin to the Wild West.
So let’s take a look at the various names you might see for CBD oil and what they mean, including:
The only difference between Cannabis and Hemp is how much Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) they contain.
Cannabis and Hemp are both different strains of the Cannabis sativa plant. The former has more THC, which is what gets you high, and the latter contains more CBD and has primarily medical applications. That’s why most brands market their products as “Hemp oil” or “CBD oil,” instead of “Cannabis oil.”
Unfortunately, that’s where the confusion starts because CBD oil and Hemp oil may or may not be the same thing, depending on the brand. CBD oil is a subtype of cannabis oil that only contains cannabidiol. CBD is extracted from the flowers and buds of hemp plants and processed along with coconut oil or any other carrier to create CBD oil.
Thus, when buying CBD oil, make sure that it doesn’t contain any traces of THC unless you want that. The bad news is that not all manufacturers make their CBD oils from 100% cannabidiol. Many brands also don’t advertise how pure their product is and you’ll have to ask and trust that they give you an honest answer.
You might also come across the term “CBD-dominant” oil, which is usually an indication that the oil does not contain 100% CBD but also traces of THC or related substances.
CBD oils are generally safe to consume, but avoid it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you use CBD during pregnancy, you increase the risk of congenital disabilities and low birth weight infants.
To reduce the chance of undesirable side effects you should look for 100% CBD oil without traces of THC. But even with pure CBD oil, there is a small risk of developing short-term memory problems, psychotic behavior, and other behavioral problems (12). There have also been reports of liver damage, suicidal thoughts, and depression, but these are uncommon side effects, that are usually the result of excessive dosage or drug interactions.
Most consumers tolerate CBD oil pretty well but don’t be surprised if you exhibit minor side effects, such as diarrhea, tiredness and sleep pattern changes, appetite changes, and either weight loss or weight gain.
Many patients who use CBD for pain relief report that the side-effects are tolerable and don’t outweigh its benefits (13).
However, I always recommend asking your doctor before consuming CBD oil, especially if you’re currently taking any kind of psychoactive medication. If so, you might need an adjustment to your meds, and sometimes CBD oil can cause dangerous drug interactions.
I mentioned before that CBD can reduce inflammation, which is often the desired effect. But keep in mind that inflammation is a relevant and useful process in the human body, as long as it doesn’t become chronic and systematic.
Some studies have shown a reduction in the immunity in the lung tissue as a result of the exaggerated anti-inflammatory activity of CBD. In other words, CBD might reduce inflammation too much, by inhibiting the normal response your body has against pathogens in your airways. So, if you suffer from frequent respiratory infections, you might want to stay away from CBD oil (14).
There are many types of CBD oil, but if you are after its medical applications, the best choice is to stick with products that don’t contain traces of THC.
When comparing CBD oils, here are some quality parameters you want to look for:
The two brands that I have tested are:
CannaBliss focuses on high-quality products, advanced manufacturing practices and oils that are free of THC. For example, the water-soluble nano-emulsion technology they use during the manufacturing process results in products that are much more bio-available and effective. Additionally, CannaBliss grows their cannabis plants organically, and their CBD products are 100% free of THC.
If you decide to give CannaBliss a try and aren’t happy with their products, they refund you your money, no questions asked. CannaBliss charges $99.95 for a 30ml bottle of pharmaceutical-grade CBD oil. If you sign up for automatic refills, the price drops to $89.96.
Charlotte’s Web is the brand our CrossFit box sells. The company offers two lines of CBD oils with different levels of purity.
For example, they test their more-expensive CBD Isolate using high-performance liquid chromatography to ensure it contains no more than 13 parts per million tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
In contrast, the company doesn’t guarantee such purity for their other products, including their full-spectrum CBD oil.
However, you can look up and download the test report for each batch of oil. For example, the review sample I got has batch # A00640, and you can see the corresponding test report here. Based on the report, my batch doesn’t contain any THC.
While Charlotte’s Web doesn’t rule out the use of pesticides and other chemicals, they claim only to use organic products to grow their Hemp plants.
THC is one of the essential psychoactive substances in cannabis. It is basically what triggers the euphoria, the behavioral changes, and other psychotic symptoms after smoking weed. THC often increases your appetite, and it makes you feel sleepy. In other words, it is what gets you high. You can find THC in a series of glands in the Cannabis sativa plant, called trichomes, and it is the primary substance of recreational cannabis, and the one causing impulsive behavior and other adverse effects (5).
In the short-term, marijuana can cause severe memory problems, paranoia, fear, anxiety, psychosis (seeing or hearing things that are not real), and it may even increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and sexually transmitted diseases.
In the long run, marijuana can cause addiction, and researchers have associated it with poor school performance, a decline in IQ, an impaired capacity of thinking, behavioral problems and domestic violence (1).
However, many countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, and the Netherlands allow the medical, and in some cases even recreational use of this herb (2).
From a medical perspective, marijuana is effective in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and to alleviate chronic pain in cancer and peripheral neuropathy patients. Doctors also prescribe medical cannabis when there are no better treatment options left, or for some conditions that are especially difficult to treat, such as fibromyalgia, a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas (3).
On the other hand, CBD is a cannabinoid that has mostly medical applications. Different from THC, CBD does not cause noticeable behavioral changes. It will not create hallucinations, cause memory problems, or trigger aggressive behavior. Instead, CBD’s primary purpose is the reduction of pain through an anti-inflammatory effect in the peripheral tissue (6) and by inhibiting pain in various levels of the nervous system (6, 7).
Moreover, CBD has been found to neutralize some adverse effects caused by THC, such as anxiety and aggressive behavior.
The short answer is yes. Depending on the purity and potential cross-reactions, the consumption of certain hemp products may lead to a positive THC test.
Many manufacturers claim that the legal limit of THC in hemp is 0.3%. The truth is that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has only recently placed FDA-approved drugs that contain CBD on the Schedule 5 list as long as those drugs contain less than 0.1% THC. For other products, the situation is a bit murky, but according to a recent Forbes article, the DEA won’t go after individuals who possess or consume products containing CBD.
Also keep in mind that there are plenty of other substances, besides hemp products, that can lead to a positive test for THC. When I was in the Austrian Army, I got twice tested positive for THC because of a cross-reaction with the 2,400mg of Ibuprofen I was taking for an injury. The person who administered the urine kit test didn’t know that, and I had to get a higher-quality lab test to prove my innocence.
While there is growing scientific evidence that cannabidiol reduces pain, anxiety, depression, and sleep problems, we need additional studies and more data to know how CBD oil affects the hormonal profile and specific metabolic pathways in the body. We also need to perform more clinical trials to assess the safety of cannabidiol as a long-term treatment (13).
Given the currently available data, it appears as if CBD oil is safe to use in regular doses for healthy individuals. Side-effects are usually rare and minor, especially when compared to the reduction in symptoms CBD oil offers for affected users. However, you should talk to your doctor before using CBD oil if you are currently on other medication, and stay away from it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
I was born and raised in Austria. I speak German, English, and Spanish. Since moving to the U.S., I have lived and worked in Alpharetta, GA. In my twenties, I was a professional 100m sprinter. These days I do mostly CrossFit. I'm a technologist and Apple fan. I love science and don't believe anything unless there is proof. I follow the Paleo diet and intermittently fast every day. I'm married and have two trilingual kids. My goal with this blog is to share what I learn so that you can spend time on something else.