CBD is one of the most abundant active compounds in the cannabis plant. It’s a non-psychoactive isomer of THC—meaning it doesn’t induce that intoxicating “high.” It’s derived from the leaves, stems, and flowers of hemp and cannabis plants, but with the legality of cannabis still being debated in some places, most CBD oils are derived from hemp plants.
“CBD is a plant compound found in cannabis sativa — both hemp and cannabis,” says Yvonne Perez Emerson, herbalist and founder of Make and Mary, a CBD boutique in Portland, Oregon. At least 100 unique compounds are believed to be found in hemp known as cannabinoids, of which CBD is the second most common. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that interact with the body’s central regulatory (endocannabinoid) system, which manages the body’s homeostasis (physiological balance) between bodily processes such as appetite, mood, memory, sleep, and immune system functions, adds Emerson.
They can either be consumed as phytocannabinoids, which are intrinsic to CBD products, or produced naturally by the body (endocannabinoids). When ingested, CBD oil can benefit the brain and body by interacting with the endocannabinoid system and neurotransmitters that affect inflammation, pain, mood regulation, and stress responses.
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how is it done?
CBD oil is derived from an extraction that often uses carbon dioxide, resulting in nutrient-dense products high in cannabinoids.
“CBD oil is made by adding the hemp extract to a carrier oil,” says Emerson. The carrier oil most commonly used with CBD is medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which is made from coconuts. Vegetable oil, sunflower oil, almond oil and olive oil can also be used as carriers.
Once a carrier oil has been paired, the focus shifts to potency, which determines the strength of the product based on the amount of CBD content present. “A formulation needs to calculate what percentage the dosage or potency of the end product should be. First of all, it depends on the potency of the raw material,” continues Emerson.
When the desired potency is reached, additional ingredients can be added to the oil depending on its intended use. For example, Emerson’s products include other botanicals such as rosehip seed oil and jojoba oil that address specific concerns such as inflammation or skin hydration.
How is it used?
Many products contain CBD oil, from topical pain-relieving creams to tinctures or gummies used to improve sleep or anxiety. Even fizzy drinks, pet products, and beauty products are jumping on the CBD craze.
Experts find that CBD oil has a number of health benefits. “Put simply, CBD restores homeostasis (the body’s natural balance),” says Emerson. “It acts in the endocannabinoid system by activating two of its core receptors (known as CB1 and CB2) that regulate mood, temperature, cognitive function and muscle repair.”
Although more research is needed, preliminary studies show that CBD oil can also be used to treat or improve the following areas:
- Acute and chronic pain
- Seizures due to epilepsy and related disorders
- Anxiety disorders, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder
- Psychiatric and neurological conditions and diseases
- Digestive System Health
- weight management
- oxidative stress
- Cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke
- Stress-Induced Cardiovascular Disease
- skin health
Possible risks and side effects
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns of several potential risks from using CBD in any form, including:
- Possible liver damage
- Negative drug interactions that can cause serious side effects
- Increased risk of sedation and drowsiness when taking alcohol or drugs that slow brain activity
- Changes in alertness during use
- Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and/or decreased appetite
- Mood changes, such as irritability and restlessness
More research is needed on the possible side effects of CBD, particularly in relation to the long-term effects of using it over a long period of time, what dosage triggers risks, how methods of consumption (eating, smoking or topical application) affect the effects, the effects of CBD a developing fetus or a breastfed newborn and how CBD affects a developing brain, such as in children.
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The cannabis sativa plant species is used for a variety of benefits and by-products that vary depending on the plant strain and the specific part of the plant used. If you’re looking for ways to improve your physical health and omega intake, consider hemp seed oil and its research-backed benefits. If you need pain relief or something for anxiety or depression, talk to your doctor about whether CBD oil is the right choice for your health needs.
Forbes Health covers CBD and cannabis products according to FTC guidelines. Learn more about Forbes Health’s practices and policies regarding how we, as a publisher, report on CBD and cannabis.