How CBD Actually WorksCraig Swanson
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There has been a recent explosion of marijuana use throughout the US since many of its states have made it legal for medicinal and even recreational use. Marijuana is legal to use for medical purposes in 30 of the 50 American states, while recreational use of marijuana is legal in 9.
There is currently a bill, the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018, which is currently awaiting scheduling for a vote in the full house for federal approval (1). You’ve probably heard of the miracle cases, children with severe seizure disorders able to live now as any other child thanks to their use of medical marijuana. People with mental trauma and personality disorders who find peace after using the drug. So how can this plant, labeled as a Class 1 drug by the FDA along with cocaine and heroin, be safe?. Are these people really being positively affected by using marijuana, or are they all really just getting high?
CBD vs THC
First off, let’s get into the differences between marijuana’s two main chemical compounds, THC and CBD. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the compound most commonly associated with recreational marijuana. It activates the CB1 receptors (which deals with coordination and movement, pain, emotions, and mood, thinking, appetite, and memories, etc) and CB2 receptors (which deal with inflammation and pain) of the endocannabinoid system in the brain and central nervous system(2). It is known to cause euphoria, sluggishness, and an increased appetite. It can also cause some users anxiety, paranoia, or even in some rare cases, hallucinations. It is most often absorbed into the body through smoke inhalation and enters the bloodstream through the aviola of the lungs.
The effects include but are not limited to, a lightheaded feeling of euphoria or spaciness, blood cell dilation which causes the bloodshot droopy eye look, heart rate increase which can aggravate anxiety, and an impairment of motor skills and reaction time. CBD (cannabidiol), though not found in high concentrations in the buds of the marijuana flower, can be extracted into much higher concentrations with little to no trace of THC remaining. The effects of CBD are much different from those of THC, and can even counteract the side effects of THC. CBD concentrates can take the form of oils, waxes, tinctures, creams, capsules, patches, and even snack foods.
How CBD Affects the Body
CBD is absorbed into the body through either the lungs when smoked, through the stomach when eaten or the through skin when applied via topical cream or patch. It will not cause the sensation of being high, no matter how much is inhaled, ingested or applied. CBD actively acts to suppress the CB1 and CB2 activating qualities of THC, so all of the spacey and uncoordinated feelings attributed to marijuana do not apply to CBD. Though it was previously thought that CBD bound to the CB2 receptors in the brain and that was the cause of its effect on the bodies decreased inflammation and feelings of pain, it is now suggested that CBDs actually stimulate the body to use more of its own cannabinoids instead(3).
We’ve mentioned the endocannabinoid system already, and some of the receptors in it. But what is the endocannabinoid system, and how does it affect our body? All mammals have cannabinoid receptors and are able to produce their own cannabinoids. Cannabinoid receptors are crucial to our body’s health and feelings of well-being(4). They are responsible for helping to balance our immune system, pain response, stress level, energy, sleep, mood, and appetite. THC mimics the cannabinoids our body makes, and CBD activates them.
Some people may feel very energized when the CBD starts to kick in, and would best benefit from using the product in the morning to help get their day started. Others though may feel very relaxed and at ease, and most benefit from CBDs in the evenings to help their body wind down for bed. Everyone though, should feel pain relief as a result of taking CBDs. For those concerned with the health risks associated with marijuana, consider that many of the risks posed by the plant only occur as a result of the smoke being inhaled into the lungs, and not the chemicals themselves. Any physical side effects of a CBD product should be mild enough to go unnoticed altogether.
How CBD Affects the Mind
Many people have found out the hard way that using marijuana can make them feel anxious. They may have even had panic attacks as a result of smoking or eating marijuana in the past. This could lead people with anxiety, depression, or mental trauma to feel that using medical CBD products is not for them, as it might make their symptoms even more severe.
As I’ve previously stated in this article though, CBD does not have the same side effects as THC, the main chemical component of marijuana responsible for feelings of anxiety. CBD inhibits feelings of anxiety and stress, regulates heart rate, and helps to relax tenseness. If you suffer from social anxiety, general anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and even postpartum depression, CBD could have a dramatic effect on your day-to-day mental wellbeing.
IS CBD Safe?
So, is CBD a safe alternative to other forms of more traditional pharmaceuticals? Yes. For many people, CBD really does seem to be a miracle drug. Though the long-term effects of CBD are not yet known to only recently receiving proper funding for high-quality research, the short-term effects have been dramatic in most people with physical pain and mental disorder. Even in large doses, there has yet to have been a report of a feeling of spaciness, loss of coordination or memory.
There have however been a few mild and rare side effects in certain people, including nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, diarrhea or, even more rarely, anxiety or psychosis. It is also possible that CBD may interact or interfere with other forms of medication (5), so please consult with your primary care doctor before beginning treatment with CBD, and stop use immediately if you notice any of the more serious side effects.