In a world seemingly obsessed with magical cure-alls, CBD has become all the rage. We’re now inundated with CBD-infused coffee, CBD extracts, and even CBD skin and hair care products. Unfortunately, most CBD products on the shelves don’t measure up to the hype. Some 70% of all CBD products are fraudulently or deceptively labeled.
As the cannabis industry matures, it’s imperative that consumers know the truth about the products they’re using. Thankfully with regards to CBD, the truth isn’t that complicated! However, before we get to CBD, there are few key myths to dispel in order to frame an honest discussion.
By the end of this article, you will know the basics of how CBD works. And questions you’ll need to ask your local pharmacist when procuring your next CBD product.
CBD, or cannabidiol, a molecule found primarily in the flower of the Cannabis sativa plant. It is uniquely qualified to act directly on the human physiology through the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Scientists have now isolated 113 different cannabinoids within the cannabis plant, with CBD and THC having the highest overall concentration. Before we dive any deeper into CBD and the ECS, let’s take a moment to dispel the first myth…
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The genus and species of Cannabis sativa has little to do with the stoner urban myth of “sativas producing an active head high, while indicas generating a more intense stoned sensation.” No, no, and a defining NO! All flowering varieties of the cannabis plant fall under the binomial name of Cannabis sativa – from the highly psychoactive Snoop Dogg variety, to the benign fibrous hemp variant used for rope and textiles.
Think of each sort of cannabis plant like a dog breed. While the Rottweiler may pack a bigger bite than a toy poodle, they are merely hybridized expressions of the same genus and species, Canis familiaris. Likewise, the hemp seed oil in your fridge, the CBD extract in your cupboard, and the green magic you puffed in college all come from the same Cannabis sativa plant – hybridized over centuries to express different properties.
Returning back to the ECS and cannabinoids to dispel the next myth…
The ECS is a miraculous system that helps regulate our overall balance by acting on other systems, such as the cardiovascular, neurological, immune, and endocrine systems. Among its many functions, the ECS helps reduce inflammation, dampen overactive neurons, and preserve an overall state of homeostasis necessary for optimal health, wellbeing, and immunity. One of the last systems discovered in our physiology, with scientific understanding commencing only in the late 1980’s! While there is much that remains to be learned, scientists already know the main mechanism by which the ECS operates.
The human body contains cannabinoid receptors in virtually every cell. This should not only give you hope for the tremendous potential of cannabinoid medical applications, but it should also raise the question of, “whether or not our bodies are designed specifically to consume cannabis?” The answer to this question is a decisive NO!
Phytocannabinoids, or cannabinoids found in plants, mirror the endogenous cannabinoids produced by our bodies. Therefore CBD supplementation, or relief found from consuming medicinal cannabis has more to do with endocannabinoid deficiency than a biological need to consume cannabis for our wellbeing. Therefore it may be worthwhile to focus first on restoring a natural balance to one’s ECS before exploring ways to supplement using phytocannabinoids.
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Endocannabinoids are composed of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Consuming a diet high in these natural fats, such as walnuts, avocados, hemp seed oil, and certain types of fish will boost the production of cannabinoids. Likewise, regular exercise, breathwork, and meditation practices have shown to increase natural cannabinoid production.
If, however, you choose to experiment with CBD medicine, a little bit of knowledge will save you time and money in your healing journey…
CBD is present in virtually every flower of every variety of cannabis. The current complexities of the global regulatory framework, however, only permit the sale of CBD products with a concentration of THC less than 0.3% in the US. In Europe, this limit is 0.2%, meaning a CBD plant grown in Oregon or Colorado cannot be exported to Europe unless the THC concentration was under the European limit. This is critical to understand why most CBD products you’ll encounter are made from CBD isolate – stripped down CBD, separate from all other cannabinoids. Isolating the CBD is an easier way to guarantee compliance with a web of regulations that still control all aspects of the hemp and cannabis trade.
Tests have shown that CBD in it’s isolated form has less healing properties than so-called full spectrum, or broad spectrum oils. Similar to what is already known through Ayurveda, Eastern Medicine, and Indigenous Shamanism, modern science is realizing plant medicine works differently in its whole form. This is called the entourage effect.
Therefore when choosing a CBD product, always attempt to find a full spectrum product.
This is the least processed CBD and contains all the cannabinoids and flavonoids present in the original plant.
If you’re wondering what broad spectrum CBD entails, imagine the full spectrum oil with all traces of THC chemically removed. Although this composition may still be more effective than isolate, the added processing harms the integrity of the compounds compared to full spectrum products.
The next two variables to know when picking the optimal CBD product are whether the cannabis was organically grown. And the method by which the CBD has been extracted. While many CBD brands provide independent batch testing of all their products. It is always preferred to know there were less chemicals in the plant to begin with. Organic farming methods use natural or ultra-modern methods to repel insects. And fungus while providing only natural fertilizers to the plants. Therefore the composition of the final medicine will contain no toxic chemicals that may otherwise be present.
The extraction method is the final piece of the puzzle separating pure natural medicine from chemically processed CBD.
CBD is from flowering cannabis plant in 1-3 ways. Using ethanol, natural gas, or carbon dioxide (CO2). The premiere method for extraction that maximizes the quality of CBD and minimizes unnatural residues is CO2. It also happens to be the costliest method! When you’re listening to some explanation of why a CBD producer chose anything but CO2 extraction. Know it only has to do with money!
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You now have a roadmap for procuring the best possible CBD extract on the market. That’s right, let’s focus on the extract! While there are other forms of CBD delivery, to assess its efficacy for your physiology. Start with the extract – which has the highest likelihood of producing a noticeable effect. 1-3 drops under the tongue for 3-4 minutes is a great way to test if CBD is appropriate for you.
When you’re ready to see if CBD is right for you, make sure to ask your pharmacist. “do you have any organic, CO2-extracted, full-spectrum CBD extract?”. This is the only way to ensure that you’re maximizing the medicinal potential of this incredible plant.
Leo Kotlyar is the founder and president of DéWarrior Unlimited, a strategy and sustainability consulting company. Working to transform the way businesses grow through scalable sustainable development.