Allow me to begin by clarifying a very important thing: I am not a pothead, a stoner, or a recreational drug enthusiast.
Growing up, I was originally a fantasy fiction writing, World Of Warcraft dominating geek in my early years, and later in high school and college was a clean-living, well-shaven jock athlete with a substance abuse problem that consisted primarily of copious amounts of creatine, caffeine, and canned protein shakes.
Until recently, unless you count smoking a very small number of joints at a few random parties in college, about the closest I've come to what might be considered “fringe” substance use has been via occasional use of nootropics and herbal extracts like packets of concentrated Chinese herbs, smart drugs like piracetam, aniracetam, and alpha-GPC combinations (see my white powder on a kitchen scale video here) and vaporizing nighttime sleep extracts of melatonin and L-theanine (yet another creepy video here).
Of course, if you're a regular podcast listener or you read my recent article on the “The Effect Of Weed On Exercise: Is Marijuana A Performance-Enhancing Drug?“, then you already know that subsequent to the legalization of weed in my home state of Washington, I've been experimenting with edible tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for exercise performance, and also experimenting with vaporizing indica-rich strains of marijuana for creativity, relaxation and sleep.
So there: now I'm a bonified druggie. But let's move on, because in this article, we're going to delve into a derivative of the cannabis plant family that has some pretty massive payoffs for balancing your endocrine system, relieving anxiety, modulating chronic stress, shutting down inflammation and chronic pain, decreasing blood sugar, decreasing appetite and lowering abdominal obesity.
In other words, you're going to learn about a form of cannabis with none of the psychoactive, paranoia-inducing effects of regular weed and all of the benefits.
So let's say you didn't grow up in the '60s, never had stoner parents, have lived a relatively clean life, or simply smoke joints without ever thinking too hard about what's happening chemically. Here's a bit of “Weed 101”.
When people talk about marijuana or use marijuana, they're usually referring to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). What’s THC? It’s the part of the hemp plant (AKA the cannabis plant) that induces a euphoric state. Or an annoying state, mildly schizophrenic state, depending on your perspective. We can at least say beyond a shadow of a doubt that it makes Family Guy episodes way, way funnier.
And of course, THC is what most recreational weed users are looking for, which is probably why botanists have figured out since the 1960's how to increase the amount of THC from around 3% to 5% in the 1960s to as much as 28% in our current decade. So yes, it's true that we're not smoking the weed our parents smoked, and one draw on a typical joint these days would probably knock your mom on her ass.
As you learned a little about in my article on the effects of THC on exercise performance, THC fits into a site called the CB1 receptor in the cerebral cortex of your brain, and this is what causes you to experience a cerebral high, and if you fill in too many of those CB1 receptors, a very, very long time sitting on your couch.
And then there's cannabidiol (CBD), pictured right, which is one of at least 85 active cannabinoids identified in cannabis, but is a major part of the cannabis plant, accounting for up to 40% of the plant's total cannabinoid extract. Due mostly to its safety and legality, CBD has long been researched for a much wider scope of medical applications than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). We'll get into the most relevant of those medical applications later.
But first more Weed 101 – specifically, how the CBD is actually separated from the THC. And to understand this, you need to put on your straw hat and for the next 60 seconds become a hemp field farmer.
See, hemp fields are simply fields of cannabis plants that grow under conditions in which the male plants have been allowed to fertilize the female plants. When you separate the male and female plants, the females can’t be pollinated, so they produce lots of THC (in what is known as “resinous THC form”) as a result. But when the female is allowed to be pollinated, she barely produces any THC. In fact, the happily sexed up female produces less than 1% THC.
So to gain a higher production of THC in a field of cannabis plants, you simply take away the male plants so the females can’t be pollinated, and to lower THC production, you keep the male and female plants together. Plants used for CBD oil or CBD capsules or hemp oil or hemp protein or your hippie neighbor's tie-dyed hemp headwear meet the international standards of less than 1% THC.
The Wonderful World Of CBD Chemistry
Back it up!
Why on earth would you want to dump a bunch of CBD into your body with none of the fun, psychoactive properties of THC? Don't worry, we'll get to that. There are some very, very good reasons.
But first, it's important for you to understand what's going on inside your body when you consume this CBD stuff from those happily mating male and female plants.
You already learned that THC attaches mostly to CB1 receptors. On the other hand, most people will tell you that CBD fits into a different receptor, the (…drumroll please…) CB2 receptor, thus magically minimizing the effects from the CB1 receptor and providing all the medical benefits without the psychoactive high from THC.
Sigh. I wish it were that easy.
CBD actually has a very low affinity for both CB1 and CB2 receptors but acts as an indirect antagonist of their agonists. Woo-boy. Head spinning? All this means is the following: all the things that would normally activate the CB1 or the CB2 receptors are turned off or turned down by CBD.
For example, CBD can increase CB1 receptor density so that there's just too many CB1 receptors for THC to bind to, thus taking the edge off the potential psychoactivity of weed, while still retaining all the opioid-like painkilling effects. In case you are concerned about this meaning you have to buy more weed or take more hits if you're using CBD oil, you should also know that CBD can extend the duration of the effects of THC by inhibiting the cytochrome P-450 enzymes that would cause you to more rapidly metabolize THC.
So your plasma concentrations of THC increase when you're using CBD, resulting in a greater amount of THC available to receptors and increasing the effect of THC in a dose-dependent manner (which means the more CBD you use, the more THC becomes available). But along with this increase, CBD also acts as an antagonist at the a cannabinoid receptor called GPR55 in the caudate nucleus and putamen sections of your brain, reducing paranoia-like effects or heart-beat racing from weed.
Yes, I know. Eyes glazing over.
Blah, blah, insert Ben Greenfield geek-speak drone sounds here. Place propeller hat on head. Tuck in shirt and gently put pocket protector in its place.
Here's what I'm getting at: the magic of CBD is not really based on its action on CB1 or CB2 receptors, unless you're using CBD to specifically elongate the effects of THC or to take any unpleasant psychoactive edge off THC. Which works just fine, by the way.
As a matter of fact, if CBD did indeed attach to CB1 and CB2 receptors it would have the same addictive potential of THC. But since its mechanism of action is not dependent on receptors associated with addiction, CBD is not addictive or habit-forming. So while the receptor explanation is conveniently simple, it's not quite accurate.
Instead, CBD acts as an agonist on an entirely different receptor called the 5-HT1A receptor, and this is how CBD actually works as an antidepressant with anti-anxiety and neuroprotective effects. It also serves as what is called an “allosteric modulator” of your opioid receptors, which is how it works to remove pain and reduce the effects of chronic inflammation. Other positive medical effects of CBD (there's over 60 of them, if you care to read up on them here) are due to increased intracellular calcium release and agonism of another receptor called the PPAR-γ receptor.
So let's put this into real world context.
As you may know or as you may have forgotten (ha!) short term memory problems are really common with THC. That's why the extremely funny, laugh-snorting joke you told last night is impossible to remember the next morning. Don't worry, it probably wasn't as funny as you thought it was last night. But a 2010 study found that CBD eliminates any memory loss problem from weed. In the study, researchers used plants bred for high CBD and low THC plants, and attributed this attenuation of memory loss to CBD's role as a CB1 antagonist.
Here's another interesting fact for you: CBD has really strong anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, due primarily to its effects on your adenosine receptors and cytochrome P-450 and 2C enzymes. When this was first discovered, the US government insisted that cannabis had no medical benefits, but at the same time, they took out patent 6,630,507, which gave them rights to the antioxidant properties of cannabis (which they ironically still claim don’t exist). Incidentally, that patent was not extended to actual oil or capsule extracts of cannabis, so the good ol' US gummint missed out on some pretty good business opportunities, if you ask me.
It's also nearly impossible to overdose on CBD. Kind of like water, dark chocolate, and steamed kale, it has an unusually low level of toxicity. In the last 6,000 years, CBD hasn’t killed anyone via overdose, which is particularly impressive when you compare it to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, Advil and Tylenol, which can wreak havoc on your gut lining, liver and kidneys. Or aspirin (salicylic acid) which kills over 1,000 people every year. Or alcohol, which kills over 110,000 people a year. No one’s ever died from CBD.
As a matter of fact, leading up to this article, I've used very high amounts of CBD (100+mg) with no ill effect, aside from extreme feelings of relaxation, calm and the impression that if my home caught on fire I probably wouldn't care (OK, so maybe that's an ill effect).
A Very Brief History of CBD
Now of course, you could stop reading here and scroll down to fill yourself in on all the benefits of CBD oil, and the specific conditions for which it can come in handy. But I actually find the history of cannabis quite fascinating, especially given America's persistent widespread disapproval and/or fear of its use. It's not like this stuff just popped up like Red Bull energy drinks, ecstasy, Lunesta, or Adderall. Instead I'd kinda clump cannabis right in with organic vegetables and essential oils.
About 2,700 years ago, in Persia, a spiritual teacher named Zoroaster penned a sacred text of about 10,000 plants. As you can read about in this more incredibly detailed history of cannabis, Zoraster interestingly included hemp at the tippy-top of his compendium. Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, also recommended cannabis extracts.
Cannabis also has links to Christianity – specifically through the Ethiopian Coptic Church, which is held to have been established by St. Mark (the guy in the New Testament of The Bible) in AD 45. The Copts claim that the use of marijuana as a sacrament descended from a Jewish sect called the Essenes (the folks who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls). According to the Coptic Church, cannabis played an important role in early Christian and Judaic rituals, specifically as a sacrament burned in tabernacles, to commemorate important occasions such as communication with God on Mount Sinai by Moses, and the transfiguration of Christ.
Tell that to your Sunday School teacher.
Later, Queen Victoria's physician and one of the world's leading doctors of that era, Sir Russell Reynolds, prescribed medicinal cannabis for the Queen's menstrual cramps, for which CBD still works fantastically today. When writing about medical marijuana in the first edition of the British medical journal The Lancet, Reynolds proclaimed that cannabis is “one of the most valuable medicines we possess.” Another widely hailed physician at the time, Sir William Osler, used CBD for migraines with excellent results.
The father of French psycho-pharmacology, Dr. Jean-Jacques Moreau de Tours, used the cannabis plant to treat depression, another condition still widely treated with cannabis in the modern era. Later, during the Revolutionary War, soldiers were paid with cannabis, and presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson encouraged farmers to grow more hemp to produce more rope and paper, as well as clothing and ship sails (which dates back to the Egyptians using hemp sails on their Nile boats 3,000-4,000 years ago). During WWII, American farmers were also asked to grow as much hemp as possible. Last time I checked, the US government isn't politely asking farmers to grow hemp anymore, although corn and grain subsidies are booming.
Anything that can be made of plastic can also be made from hemp, which can reduce exposure to phytoestrogens and other chemicals in plastic and other synthetic compounds. Hemp plant fibers are long and tough, and can be woven into a soft cloth that wears well and has fewer of the herbicides and pesticides associated with other modern cloths like cotton. Even copies of the Declaration of Independence used to be written on hemp paper, since it doesn’t yellow with age like other papers do.
As you've probably already heard, the hemp plant itself is a highly useful plant, and every part of it has been used to make a wide variety of products, including biofuel and medicine. Biofuel made from hemp seeds is far less expensive and more effective than ethanol derived from corn. If there weren't so many federal restrictions, growing hemp would highly benefit any agricultural state, but unfortunately most states must pay an absurdly high premium to import hemp seeds. And of course, as you're probably aware, both THC and CBD seem to be immersed in a constant struggle of medical legality that I simply don't have the time to address in this post.
Nonetheless, when it comes to CBD oil and cannabidiol, people seem be getting more aware of the fact that you don't need to be a pothead to get all the relaxing and hormone and metabolism-balancing properties of weed. Not that the image below is based on hard scientific epidemiological data, but a quick glance at a Google trends profile of searches for “CBD Oil” speaks volumes, doesn't it?
Is CBD Addictive OR Unsafe?
So, if CBD oil is so freaking magical, there must be a downside right? Addictive potential, perhaps? Toxicity and lack of proven safety? Although I touched on the absence of CB1 and CB2 receptor binding earlier in this article, let's delve into the addictive or unsafe potential of CBD just a bit more.
First, there is zero evidence anywhere that CBD is addictive. This is because CBD does not act on any receptors in the brain that would produce addiction. You already learned about the science behind that whole receptor thing.
There, that was easy, huh?
But if you want more details then click here to read some of the writings of Dr. Tod Mikuriya, former national administrator of the US government's marijuana research programs, was quite outspoken on the subject of addiction. The late Dr. Mikuriya stated that no other single drug or substance has as many therapeutic benefits as cannabis, and he never discovered any evidence of cannabis addiction.
Now don't get me wrong – some will indeed claim that cannabis is addictive. For example, the Boggs Act of 1951 established mandatory sentences for drug users and also claimed that cannabis was addictive. But since then, testimony given by Dr. Harris Isbell, Director of Research at the Public Health Service hospital in Lexington, Kentucky exposed this as false, explaining how cannabidiols from marijuana are not physically addictive.
But Dr. Isbell's research was mostly ignored, and instead, overshadowed by the argument that the plant inevitably is the stepping stone to heroin addiction, and the calling for harsh penalties against offenders of the marijuana laws. But the concept of marijuana as a “gateway drug” remains completely unproven.
In over 6,000 years of usage in Oriental Medicine, there have been no cases of addiction reported (although Emperor Fu Hsi referred to cannabis as a popular remedy as early as 2,900 BC).
In the early 1900s, as part of the Prohibition movement, cannabis was claimed by many to be addictive. But this was not based on research, and ironically the recommended treatment for cannabis “addiction” in most cases was the use of heroin.
An actual long term study, Ganja in Jamaica: A Medical Anthropological Study of Chronic Marijuana Use, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1975, showed zero concerns with addiction, even after patients who had used cannabis for decades had stopped. The 1980 study Cannabis in Costa Rica: A Study in Chronic Marijuana Use backed this up. Most interestingly, studies like this are not finding any addictive potential with CBD even in the presence of THC!
In the early 1990's, rehabilitation facilities did indeed experience a significant surge of patients who were “addicted” to cannabis. But a survey done at that time noted that nearly all of them had come from the court system, where judges gave convicted criminals the choice between entering into treatment for addiction or entering prison, which was probably a pretty simple choice for most.
Later in the 1990's, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded research that had the goal of proving that cannabis is addictive. But instead of identifying any biochemical pathway that could cause addiction, any research defined addiction by the presence or absence of some degree of withdrawal, with no specific parameters for withdrawal actually defined. In other words, if you're thirsty, this NIDA-funded research could argue that this means you are addicted to water.
As a matter of fact, here's what this article reported about NIDA.
The ugly truth is that the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the agency that oversees 85 percent of the world’s research on controlled substances, is on record stating that its institutional policy is to reject any and all medical marijuana research. “As the National Institute on Drug Abuse, our focus is primarily on the negative consequences of marijuana use,” a NIDA spokesperson told The New York Times in 2010. “We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana.”
And how about the safety of cannabis?
Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Medical School, spent the majority of his professional life studying cannabis, from the 1960's to 2000's. The result was “Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine“. As you can see, Dr. Grinspoon didn’t find one single case of death, stating that
“There are no deaths from cannabis use. Anywhere. You can't find one.”
There are dozens of other doctors and similar studies, too many to list here – but you can certainly delve in at ProjectCBD website. On September 6, 1988 Francis Young, an administrative DEA judge, took medical testimony for over two weeks, and at the end of it, he said,
“Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”
Once again, even when talking about THC combined with CBD, and not the isolated, non-psychoactive CBD component, marijuana is shown to be both non-addictive and safe.
But when it comes to pain management, one of the primary uses for CBD oil, deaths from drug overdoses and drug poisoning continue to rise. Deaths from opioid analgesics – one of the most universally prescribed pain management drugs – increased from 4,030 in 1999 to 15,597 in 2009 and 16,651 in 2010. In 2010, 60 percent of all drug overdose deaths (22,134) involved pharmaceutical drugs, and opioid analgesics showed up in about 3 of every 4 of those pharmaceutical overdose deaths. That confirms the predominant role that research has shown opioid analgesics to play in drug-related mortality. Opioids are nasty, brutal drugs with side effects nearly as bad as the conditions they're taken for, and although deaths from opioids are common, they're still one of the most turned to bandaids in modern medicine.
CBD in proper dosages gives nearly the same pain reduction compared to opioid prescription drugs, such as morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone, and when combined with these drugs, allows you to use far less of the actual prescription, thus reducing the toxic load on your liver and kidneys. And of course, as you already know, these benefits come without the proven addictive or unsafe nature of opioid drugs.
Considering the complete non-addictiveness and safety of cannabis, Dr. James Hudson, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia Department of Pathology and Lab Medicine, has said that pharmaceutical companies have an enormous incentive to chemically recreate the natural compounds in marijuana and somehow sell a drug from it. You probably already know this, but pharmaceutical companies can't patent a natural compound, but if they can make a synthetic compound that mimics ingredient from cannabis, they can formulate that as a drug and potentially make a lot more money off of it.
To get an idea of the benefits of CBD, just take a look at video of CBD oil helping with a form of childhood epilepsy called Dravet syndrome. The first use of CBD for Dravet's syndrome was given to a patient who was having 300 seizures a week. I first talked about this video last year Is Weed Healthy? The Controversial Truth About The Science Of Marijuana…
Do you see that? The form of epilepsy in that video usually kills the child.
Here's a nearly identical video of a patient with multiple sclerosis (MS) who was given CBD…
…and cerebral palsy. When you watch the video below, it becomes even more ironic that the government once created a prohibition of cannabis, declaring that it “has no medical usage”.
You get the idea, and now you probably also have a pretty good idea of why pharmaceutical companies would want to patent some chemical-ized version of this. So, I'd suspect that we're not too far away from an enormously overpriced cannabis-like chemical produced in a pharmaceutical factory. But in the meantime, you can get the identical effects from entirely natural sources of CBD. Let's take a look at what some of those most relevant effects would be.
The Effects Of CBD On Hormones
Anyways, now we're about to get to the good stuff, specifically things that I figured health-minded readers like you would actually find helpful, such as hormone balancing, de-stressing, enhanced sleep, fat loss, etc. But if you want to simply stop reading now, and take a side-track to go peruse the more than 20,000 articles published in peer reviewed journals that show the medical efficacy of CBD for a variety of other conditions in addition to what I've listed here, then knock yourself out.
Let's begin with your endocrine system and hormones. Here are the studies:
- Endocannabinoid system participates in neuroendocrine control of homeostasis (PubMed)
- The emerging role of the endocannabinoid system in endocrine regulation and energy balance(PubMed)
- Endocannabinoids in endocrine and related tumours (PubMed)
- Role of the endocannabinoid system in food intake, energy homeostasis and regulation of the endocrine pancreas (PubMed)
- The role of the endocannabinoid system in the neuroendocrine regulation of energy balance (PubMed)
- Effect of cannabidiol on plasma prolactin, growth hormone and cortisol in human volunteers (PubMed)
Your endocrine system consists of glands throughout your body which regulate everything from energy levels to metabolism to sex drive. One major function of this system is to produce excitation in response to stress, which is of course necessary for survival, but when it gets out of hand it can be a source of excess stress. One big effect of cannabidiol in the endocrine system seems to be to protect against excess stress by reducing susceptibility to stress-induced activation in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. CBD significantly decreases plasma cortisol levels, and this is actually why I started using CBD in the first place – to reduce my cortisol.
But CBD has other effects on your endocrine system, particularly your appetite. You may simply think that marijuana produces the munchies and therefore makes you fat, and although this makes logical sense, science has shown that it's not the case that marijuana makes you fat, especially when CBD is present.
Here's how it works…
Your pancreas secretes the hormones glucagon and insulin to regulate blood sugar by signaling your liver to break down fat into sugar (glucagon) or to store sugar as fat (insulin). These hormones work as a pair to maintain homeostasis, and they stimulate the release of each other through a complex feedback mechanism. While THC primarily increases glucagon and blood sugar, CBD lowers insulin levels, and it is this CBD action that helps to explain why marijuana users tend to eat more calories but do not gain any extra weight, have less obesity and have lower rates of type II diabetes than non-users, and is also why some diabetics find that marijuana makes it easier to manage their blood sugar.
Type II diabetics (whose pancreas still functions) tend to have very high levels of insulin, but the liver is unable to use that insulin, so blood sugar stays high, and the pancreas eventually damages itself by trying to continually produce more and more insulin, eventually leading to organ failure if the diabetes is unmanaged. By lowering pancreatic insulin release, CBD may alleviate or prevent the progression of type II diabetes and blood sugar disorders. Cannabinoid antagonists such as CBD have been shown to reduce obesity, and not only do rodents given these antagonists eat less, but they also lose more weight than their reduced feeding can account for.
So the summary of the biggest effects of CBD on the endocrine system? Lower cortisol and better blood sugar control. Let's move on.
The Effects Of CBD On Anxiety & Stress
You've already seen the data on the big cortisol-lowering effects of CBD. But when it comes to anxiety and paranoia in general, a THC-rich strain of marijuana will actually increase not decrease stress unless there is enough CBD present to balance out the stress-increasing effect of weed.
Studies in humans, including many of those cited below, have demonstrated that CBD dosage reduces anxiety (once again, compared to the increased levels of anxiety that THC produces), and that when you combine CBD with THC, it takes the anxiety edge off THC. This is due to the action of CBD on 5HT1A and TRPV1 receptors, both of which are involved in mitigating the anxiolytic, panic and fear responses to stress.
Here are the studies that have specifically investigated CBD's role as an anxiolytic:
- Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug (PubMed)
- Antidepressant-Like and Anxiolytic-Like Effects of Cannabidiol: A Chemical Compound of Cannabis Sativa (PubMed)
- Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients (PubMed)
- Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder(PubMed)
- Central anandamide deficiency predicts stress-induced anxiety: behavioral reversal through endocannabinoid augmentation (PubMed)
- Effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on regional cerebral blood flow (PubMed)
- The anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol injected into the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis are mediated by 5-HT1A receptors (PubMed)
- The anxiolytic effect of cannabidiol on chronically stressed mice depends on hippocampal neurogenesis: involvement of the endocannabinoid system (PubMed)
- Plant-based medicines for anxiety disorders, part 2: A review of clinical studies with supporting preclinical evidence (PubMed)
When it comes to stress, which is of course significantly related to anxiety, the host of studies are just as impressive:
- Endogenous cannabinoid signaling is essential for stress adaptation (PubMed)
- Regulation of endocannabinoid signaling by stress: Implications for stress-related affective disorders (PubMed)
- Functional interactions between stress and the endocannabinoid system: from synaptic signaling to behavioral output (PubMed)
- Neuromodulators, stress and plasticity: a role for endocannabinoid signalling (PubMed)
- Downregulation of endocannabinoid signaling in the hippocampus following chronic unpredictable stress (PubMed)
- Endocannabinoids and stress (PubMed)
- Stress regulates endocannabinoid-CB1 receptor signaling (PubMed)
- Chronic Stress Impairs α1-Adrenoceptor-Induced Endocannabinoid-Dependent Synaptic Plasticity in the Dorsal Raphe Nucleus (Pub Med)
- Endocannabinoid-mediated modulation of stress responses: Physiological and pathophysiological significance (PubMed)
- Cannabinoid receptor activation prevents the effects of chronic mild stress on emotional learning and LTP in a rat model of depression (PubMed)
- Cannabinoids ameliorate impairments induced by chronic stress to synaptic plasticity and short-term memory (PubMed)
- The anxiolytic effect of cannabidiol on chronically stressed mice depends on hippocampal neurogenesis: involvement of the endocannabinoid system (PubMed)
- Low-frequency stimulation evokes serotonin release in the nucleus accumbens and induces long-term depression via production of endocannabinoid (PubMed)
This is just a small sample of the research showing the role that CBD plays in reducing stress and reducing anxiety. I've found that as little as 10mg CBD vastly lowers my anxiety at the end of the day, and have dosed with as high as 100mg CBD to be as calm as a baby during trans-Atlantic plane flights, nights sleeping in hotel rooms, and other situations where I have difficulty sleeping or tend to be stressed out. The stuff works like a charm, and saves me from having to hunt down an unhealthy, addictive alternative like valium or diazepam.
The Effects Of CBD On Inflammation
You can pretty much consider inflammation to be the freaking bane of our modern, fast-paced, industrialized lifestyles. Of the ten leading causes of mortality in the United States, chronic, low-level inflammation contributes to the pathogenesis of at least seven, specifically heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and nephritis.
But from joint pain to irritable bowel syndrome to diabetic retinopathy, CBD has been shown to modulate both acute and chronic inflammatory issues via several different mechanisms, and from the research I've seen and cited below, it's even more powerful than many of the commonly recommend natural remedies for inflammation, such as curcumin, fish oil, resveratrol, anti-oxidants, proteolytic enzymes, Vitamin C, etc.
For example, cytokines are the signaling proteins synthesized and secreted by immune cells upon stimulation. They are the modulating factors that balance initiation and resolution of inflammation. One of the mechanisms of immune control by CBD during inflammation is stopping cytokine production by immune cells and lowering cytokine production by the T-helper cells Th1 and Th2 (which are interestingly the same cells in which overactivity can contribute to autoimmune issues and food intolerances). The inflammatory compound interleukin-6 (IL-6) can also be decreased in the presence of CBD.
In one interesting study, researchers decided to test the effect of CBD on four cell signaling or mediating molecules associated with intestinal inflammation and oxidative damage to the gut. Their findings were as follows:
- Inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) – CBD reduced the overexpression of iNOS in response to colitis. iNOS overexpression is well correlated with disease activity with colitis, and inhibitors of iNOS lead to improvement in experimental models of IBD. iNOS results in high-output production of NO, which results in oxidative damage to the intestine via reactive oxygen species (ROS).
- Interleukin-1β – levels significantly increased with experimental colitis. CBD was shown to decrease levels. IL-1β is shown to have potent pro-inflammatory activity and thus heightens the inflammatory response that leads to intestinal injury. IL-1β amplifies the production of inflammatory leukocytes (immune system cells), resulting in an increase of inflammation.
- Interleukin-10 – levels significantly decreased with experimental colitis. CBD was shown to restore levels. IL-10 has anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Restoration of IL-10 activity is critical to intestinal health.
The reduction of iNOS and reactive oxygen species by CBD, along with the reduction of lipid peroxidation, shows the important therapeutic action of CBD in reduction of colonic inflammation by indirect reduction of oxidative damage. In addition, the dysregulation of the interleukins IL-1B and IL-10 is a well-known disruption caused by irritable bowel disease (IBD). The restoration of these interleukins to normal behavior by CBD, although the specific pathway is unknown, is another important therapeutic action that CBD has on reduction of colonic inflammation.
Many of the folks I coach and do consults with have always struggled with a “sensitive gut”, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, gas, constipation and other signs of gut inflammation, and being able to use CBD to reduce gut inflammation could be a game-changer for these people. But from the joints to neural tissue, CBD has a variety of other natural anti-inflammatory effects. Here is just a smattering of the studies done on cannabidiols and inflammation.
- Cannabidiol as an emergent therapeutic strategy for lessening the impact of inflammation on oxidative stress (PubMed)
- The endocannabinoid system: an emerging key player in inflammation (PubMed)
- Anti-inflammatory role of cannabidiol and O-1602 in cerulein-induced acute pancreatitis in mice(PubMed)
- Cannabinoids, endocannabinoids, and related analogs in inflammation (PubMed)
- Cannabidiol, a non-psychotropic plant-derived cannabinoid, decreases inflammation in a murine model of acute lung injury: role for the adenosine A(2A) receptor (PubMed)
- Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors(PubMed)
- Cannabidiol reduces intestinal inflammation through the control of neuroimmune axis (PubMed)
- Diabetic retinopathy: Role of inflammation and potential therapies for anti-inflammation (PubMed)
- Cannabidiol reduces Aβ-induced neuroinflammation and promotes hippocampal neurogenesis through PPARγ involvement (PubMed)
- Cannabidiol attenuates high glucose-induced endothelial cell inflammatory response and barrier disruption (PubMed)
- Vanilloid TRPV1 receptor mediates the antihyperalgesic effect of the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol, in a rat model of acute inflammation (PubMed)
- Cannabidiol attenuates cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity by decreasing oxidative/nitrosative stress, inflammation, and cell death (PubMed)
- Cannabinoids in clinical practice (PubMed)
Interestingly, the connection between CBD and inflammation can be highlighted using professional sports as an example. From MMA fighters to NBA basketball players, cannabis use is widespread among hard charging professional and a growing number of recreational athletes, specifically for shutting down the extreme amounts of joint inflammation and pain from constantly pounding the mat or the court and for helping the body relax and sleep at night after a day of stress combined with hard and heavy training. Many NFL athletes are now experimenting with cannabis extracts to manage post-head injury symptoms and to reduce the chronic mid and post-career aches and pains.
I'm sure that if these same athletes realized they could get all the same anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and sleep effects from CBD, without having to worry about THC testing by their athlete's federation, they'd likely leap at the chance.
The Effects Of CBD On Metabolism & Body Fat
Bet you never thought you'd hear somebody recommending a weed derivative to lose weight, but it's true. Earlier in this article, you learned how CBD can help to stabilize insulin levels, regulate appetite, and decrease cortisol – all of which can have a profound effect on your body fat levels.
- The impact of marijuana use on glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance among US adults (American Journal of Medicine)
- The potential use of cannabidiol in the therapy of metabolic syndrome (PubMed)
- Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids in metabolic disorders with focus on diabetes (PubMed)
- Cannabinol and cannabidiol exert opposing effects on rat feeding patterns (PubMed)
- Cannabis and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for weight loss? (PubMed)
- The endocannabinoid system in obesity and type 2 diabetes (PubMed)
- Role of the endocannabinoid system in abdominal obesity and the implications for cardiovascular risk (PubMed)
- Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids in metabolic disorders with focus on diabetes (PubMed)
As I mentioned earlier, cannabidiol is known to counteract some of the effects of THC like the “munchies.” Just as THC can significantly increase your appetite, CBD can suppress your appetite, which is ideal if you're watching your figure. Here is a great two-minute video that sums up how marijuana can help obesity and body fat:
In the video, you learn about one study in which researchers found that pot smokers had lower levels of obesity than people who do not smoke pot, and another study that found that a brain chemical with a structure similar to one of the active compounds found in cannabis might actually help people lose weight. The findings are just the latest addition to a growing body of evidence that marijuana may be useful in countering issues related to obesity.
The researchers leading many of the studies on marijuana extracts and obesity are affiliated with the UK's GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes me cringe that pharmaceutical companies are going to make some kind of very expensive CBD-based weight loss drug. But regardless of motive, in these studies, the researchers found that the two compounds, THCV and cannabidiol, boosted metabolism, and reduced levels of liver fat, and blood cholesterol. These same compounds also made mice more sensitive to insulin, protected the cells that produce insulin, and increasing metabolic rate – all while suppressing the appetite. Nice.
The Effects Of CBD On Sleep
In the United States, approximately 70 million people suffer from insomnia, insufficient sleep or another sleep disorder. CBD extracts have been mistakenly described as sedating, but I haven't found that to be the case with my own use and neither has research. Although it's true that if you take a bunch of CBD (I've found 30mg+ of a good, absorbable CBD will do it for me) you will fall asleep like a baby, in modest doses, CBD is mildly alerting, and simply provides a calm, relaxed focus.
Cannabidiol actually activates the same adenosine receptors as caffeine, which is technically a stimulant. But patients with sleep issues report that ingesting a CBD-rich tincture or extract a few hours before bedtime has a balancing effect that facilitates a good night’s sleep, and I've certainly found this to be the case.
Here are the studies on CBD and sleep.
- The nonpsychoactive Cannabis constituent cannabidiol is a wake-inducing agent (PubMed)
- Cannabis, pain, and sleep: Lessons from therapeutic clinical trials of Sativex, a cannabis-based medicine (PubMed)
- Effects of acute systemic administration of cannabidiol on sleep-wake cycle in rats (PubMed)
- Effect of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on nocturnal sleep and early-morning behavior in young adults (PubMed)
- Cannabidiol, a constituent of Cannabis sativa, modulates sleep in rats (PubMed)
- Endocannabinoid modulation of cortical up-states and NREM sleep (PubMed)
- Intranodose ganglion injections of dronabinol attenuate serotonin-induced apnea in Sprague-Dawley rat (PubMed)
In summary: smaller doses of CBD provide you with a calm and relaxed focus that comes in handy during everything from writing to music to parties to workouts – very similar to what you would experience with THC, but without the psychoactive or paranoia properties. And if you combine these smaller doses of CBD with common natural sleep-inducing compounds like melatonin, magnesium, or lemon balm, then you can get yourself into an even more relaxed state. But larger doses of CBD (which are going to range based on the actual absorption of whichever CBD blend you are using) can be used all by themselves to enhance sleep or combat insomnia.
Speaking of dosage, in most clinical trials, you'll see CBD dosing ranges from 10-800 mg of CBD per day (although to treat schizophrenia, I've seen doses as high as 1,300mg). But as with everything from whey protein to creatine to magnesium, everyone is different and you'll likely need to experiment with a dosage range that works for you. The CBD capsules I personally use contain 10mg in one capsule, but based on the absorption (an important variable which you're going to learn about next), I need to use far less CBD, about 1/10 the amount, compared to other CBD tinctures, extracts and capsules I've tried.
Why Most CBD Isn't Absorbed & What You Can Do About It
OK, so there must be a catch here, because at this point you're probably under the impression that I think CBD is some kind of cure-all magical tonic that ranks right up there with Belgian chocolate, Bordeaux wine and kale smoothies.
But problem is, CBD oil, capsules, powders, etc. are not easily absorbed by your body. They can spoil and become contaminated. They smell bad. They often taste bad too. And they’re not water soluble.
The water soluble-thing is a biggie.
Your body is composed of over 60% water, and this means that you're going to either A) need to take way, way more of a non water-soluble CBD product if you actually want to feel the effects or B) smoke or vape your CBD, which is logistically annoying and not something your kid or your pet can do (and yes, both kids and pets can enormously benefit from CBD usage).
This is why most CBD hemp oil products have an extremely poor bioavailability and most people simply don’t experience or feel any of the effects of the CBD they take.
So how can you make CBD absorbable?
Enter turmeric, the same flavorful spice that I mix with black pepper on my salads every single day of the year.
Turmeric comes from the rhizome in the turmeric plant, and the rhizome can grow up to 3 inches in length. The rhizome is then harvested and dried before being ground into a yellow powder, the very concentrated form of which is also known as curcumin (yes, the same curcumin that is currently the darling of the “natural anti-inflammatory” industry).
Kind of like cannabis, humans have been cultivating turmeric for a long time – over 4,000 years. The Ayurvedic medicinal herb was originally used as a medicinal herb in Southeast Asia, where turmeric also carries significant religious significance. Turmeric was a highly sought after commodity in the ancient spice trades that swept across China and Africa, all before the end of the 9th century.
India is the main cultivator of all the world’s turmeric crops and consumes 80% of the world’s supply. Due to the high content of the main bioactive component in turmeric (curcumin) Indian turmeric is considered to be the best in the world for medicinal purposes. The Indian city of Erode, located in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu, is the trading hub for turmeric in the Eastern hemisphere. Erode is so well known for its turmeric production that it is referred to as “Yellow City,” and “Turmeric City” (similar to the way that my living room couch is covered in yellow stains from my frequent turmeric sprinkling on most of the dinners I eat).
And here's why turmeric plays such an important role in CBD absorption…
…when the cannabinoids and terpenoids in CBD are mixed with the isolated curcuminoids of a high-curcumin containing turmeric plant, the bioavailability of the CBD absolutely explodes. This means that if you've used CBD oil before in the absence of a curcuminoid blend from turmeric, you probably only felt about 1/5 to 1/10 of the actual effects of the CBD, since CBD by itself is very poorly absorbed.
For you aspiring fatty coffee drinkers out there, this is a similar concept to the idea that you simply never get to feel several of the bioactive, wakefulness and focus-enhancing terpenoids in coffee until you have actually introduced fats and triglycerides into the coffee to help these terpenes cross your blood-brain barrier – hence the butter and coconut oil blended with the coffee.
Using a process called “hybrid-nanoengineering” it is actually possible to get a highly bioavailable and absorbable form of CBD. The way that hybrid-nanoengineering works is that the cannabinoids and terpenoids are extracted from the hemp plant, combined with an Ayurvedic herbal blend and then processed into nanoparticle size. Nanoparticles (1/100 the width of a human hair) are easier for your body to absorb and transport to where they are needed within your body. This means that a hybrid-nanoengineered CBD is over 10x more bioavailable in the body than any other oil based CBD, CBD tincture or CBD capsule, and that just 10mg of a nanoparticle CBD is comparable to 100mg of standard CBD.
The result of hybrid-nanoengineering with the Ayurvedic herbal blend is an oil that is high in CBD, virtually free of THC (less than 0.1%,) and complete with a full spectrum of other cannabinoids and terpenes, which work synergistically to make CBD even more effective. The oil is then encapsulated, and…
…you've got an extremely absorbable CBD product, along with all the benefits of curcumin, lemon balm and Ashwagandha. Here's a video that demonstrates the absorption difference between water soluble CBD that's been hybrid-nanoengineered, compared to regular, non-water-soluble CBD.
Whew. Congratulations, you made it.
You now know:
- CBD is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, and can actually combat unpleasant effects of smoking weed, such as paranoia or over-excitability…
- CBD acts on completely different receptors and enzymes than THC, resulting in significant effects on anxiety, depression and stress…
- CBD is safe and non-addictive…
- Pharmaceutical companies can't patent CBD unless they turn it into a synthetic chemical first…
- There are shocking demonstrations of the potency of CBD for several serious neurological conditions such as epilepsy, MS and cerebral palsy…
- CBD can also be used to balance hormones, reduce anxiety, lower inflammation and chronic pain, combat metabolic syndrome, and reduce obesity…
- It is very difficult for your body to absorb CBD, unless the CBD has been blended with curcuminoids and made bioavailable in a nanoparticle size… …
After spending the past year researching everything you've just read about and experimenting extensively with CBD oil, I am now (full disclosure folks) an investor and adviser to the only company in the world that has patented the nanoengineering of blending curcuminoids with the cannabidiols and terpenoids in CBD.
I would never endorse anything that I don't use and benefit from myself, and I can honestly say that this is the most absorbable form of CBD I've ever used, it allows me to get all the benefits of smoking weed without actually smoking weed, and it is exact stuff that I personally purchase for myself and that now lives in a special place in my pantry.
In addition to my morning and evening multivitamin and fish oil, I've now added two of these CBD capsules to my early evening protocol, specifically to lower inflammation from exercise, to lower my stress and anxiety, to help me to have more creative focus for writing, and to cause me to fall asleep much, much faster at night.
Three other things…
The hemp used to make this CBD oil is extracted from a special variety of sustainably raised, organic hemp that is specifically bred to contain naturally high concentrations of CBD, while still containing all of the natural cannabinoids, terpenoids, and other compounds of the original plant. The resulting oil then is strictly tested for purity and is free from pesticides and heavy metals.
The starch “filler” is from non-GMO brown rice. The hypromellose vegan capsules contain no soy, no nuts, no sugar, no yeast, no gluten, no dairy, no chemicals, no artificial flavors, no artificial coloring, and are lab tested to be free from toxins and other solvents.
And just to enhance the peaceful, calm, focus that NatureCBD gives you, I've also added to this unique custom formulation two big de-stressing and focus enhancing agents…
This is an exotic Indian herb with remarkable stress-relieving properties comparable to those of powerful drugs used to treat depression and anxiety.
Scientific studies support ashwagandha’s ability not only to relieve stress, but also to protect brain cells against the deleterious effects of our modern lifestyles. For example, in validated models of anxiety and depression, ashwagandha has been demonstrated to be as effective as some tranquilizers and antidepressant drugs. Specifically, oral administration of ashwagandha for five days showed anxiety-relieving effects similar to those achieved by the anti-anxiety drug lorazepam (Ativan®), and antidepressant effects similar to those of the prescription antidepressant drug imipramine (Tofranil®).
Stress can cause increased peroxidation of lipids, while decreasing levels of the antioxidant enzymes catalase and glutathione peroxidase. When ashwagandha extract was administered by researchers one hour before a daily stress-inducing procedure, all of the parameters of free radical damage normalized in a dose-dependent manner.
Premature aging associated with chronic nervous tension is also related to increased oxidative stress. For example, in a remarkable animal study, examination of the brains of sacrificed animals showed that 85% of the brain cells observed in the animals exposed to chronic stress showed signs of degeneration. It is this type of cellular degeneration that can lead to long-term cognitive difficulties. Amazingly, when ashwagandha was administered to chronically stressed animals, the number of degenerating brain cells was reduced by 80%.
In one of the most complete human clinical trials to date, researchers studied the effects of a standardized extract of ashwagandha on the negative effects of stress, including elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The results were impressive, with participants showing increased energy, reduced fatigue, better sleep, and an enhanced sense of well-being…
…along with a reduction of cortisol levels up to 26%!
Using a validated model of damaged nerve cells and impaired nerve-signaling pathways, researchers have that demonstrated that ashwagandha supports significant regeneration of the axons and dendrites of nerve cells along with the reconstruction of synapses, the junctions where nerve cells communicate with other cells. This means ashwagandha extract helps to reconstruct entire networks of your nervous system, and has huge implications for any athlete using CBD to manage head injuries or chronic pain.
Researchers have also found that ashwagandha helps support the growth of nerve cell dendrites, which allow these cells to receive communications from other cells, and that ashwagandha helps promote the growth of both normal and damaged nerve cells, suggesting that the herb may boost healthy brain cell function as well as benefit diseased nerve cells. So we're talking a “nootropic” smart drug type effect.
Most ashwaganda supplements have failed review by ConsumerLabs, so I opted for a water-soluble, bioavailable formulation of ashwaganda, using the same nanoengineering technique as the CBD…
2. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm, AKA “Melissa Officinalis” was dedicated to the goddess Diana, and used medicinally by the Greeks some 2,000 years ago. In the Middle Ages, lemon balm was used to soothe tension, to dress wounds, and as a cure for toothache, skin eruptions, mad dog bites, crooked necks, and sickness during pregnancy, and as a medicinal plant, lemon balm has traditionally been employed against bronchial inflammation, earache, fever, flatulence, headaches, high blood pressure, influenza, mood disorders, palpitations, toothache and vomiting.
Because it provides the body with a calming effect, lemon balm is also used for nervous agitation, sleeping problems, functional gastrointestinal complaints, menstrual cramps and urinary spasms. It is thought that the volatile oils in lemon balm contain chemicals that relax muscles, particularly in the bladder, stomach, and uterus, thereby relieving cramps, gas, and nausea. Because of its calming effect without the potential to create the side effects of a sedative, lemon balm is also widely used to treat stress, anxiety and insomnia. This ability, along with lemon balm's antiviral and anti-autoimmune characteristics have also made it useful for the treatment of thyroid issues chronic fatigue syndrome.
Recently, lemon balm produced an unexpected result: it greatly increased the ability to concentrate and perform word and picture tasks. In a study at Northumbria University in England, students were tested for weeks while using either lemon balm or a placebo. The students did significantly better on the tests after taking lemon balm and continued to post improved scores for up to six hours after taking the herb. The students taking lemon balm were noted to be calmer and less stressed during the tests.
Similar to the ashwaganda, the lemon balm in NatureCBD is also highly bioavailable. Nanoengineered? Yeah, you guessed it.
So, the total ingredients of NatureCBD are…
Hybrid-nanoengineered: CBD, Curcumin, Lemon Balm, Ashwagandha and Magnesium.
Pretty cool little formulation, huh?
To go along with all my other hippie sounding stuff at Greenfield Fitness Systems, like NatureFlex, NatureColostrum and NatureCleanse, the name of this nanoengineered, turmeric blended, ashwaganda, lemon balm blend is “NatureCBD“. Here's a comparison of NatureCBD to other CBD products:
NatureCBD also comes with a “feel the difference” money-back guarantee.
That means I'm so confident this is going to be a game-changer for you if you're stressed, anxious, have difficulty sleeping, need to lower inflammation, control appetite or get any of the other benefits of smoking weed without actually smoking weed, that NatureCBD has an unconditional 30-day money-back guarantee.
I get it.
Many people are (and should be!) skeptical when they hear what a new product might do for them, especially when it's a politically charged, controversial plant extract like CBD. So with this guarantee, you have the opportunity to experience the same peace, calm, focus, relaxation and sleep benefits I've already enjoyed, with no worries.
If you don't feel a difference after 30 days or you're not happy with your results, simply notify me up to two full months after your purchase and I’ll make arrangements for you to receive a 100% refund (less shipping). No questions asked. No annoying hoops to jump through.
Do you have more questions, comments or feedback about how to use CBD oil? About the NatureCBD formulation? Do you have other questions about THC, cannabis or marijuana? Leave your thoughts below and I promise to get you an answer!
Also published on Medium.