Even though the legalization of medical marijuana in several states has helped many Americans find relief from symptoms of many conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer, some people are still uneasy about the psychoactive nature of marijuana.
For these folks and marijuana proponents alike, there’s one product that could please everyone: CBD oil.
CBD oil, or cannabidiol, is a compound found within the plant Cannabis sativa (yep, that’s marijuana). This plant is incredibly complex, containing over 100 compounds, known as cannabinoids, that can interact with the body in different ways. The two most famous cannabinoids in the marijuana plant are THC and CBD.
THC vs. CBD: What’s the Difference?
Here’s the short version: THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid, and CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. Recreational marijuana contains a high ratio (no pun intended) of THC to CBD, whereas CBD products never contain more than 5 percent THC.
Now let’s dig into the details. THC, or delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, is the compound in marijuana that’s linked to the “high,” along with many other effects on the body, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). THC interacts with cells in the body known as the CB1 receptors (primarily found in the brain) and CB2 receptors (primarily found in the immune system).
When interacting with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, most cannabinoids in marijuana (including THC) can “speak the body’s chemical language,” according to NIH. This natural interaction triggers the various effects on learning, sleep, pain, brain function, appetite, and coordination—and yes, can cause a high. In other words, it’s marijuana’s interaction with these receptors that gives someone the “munchies.”
But CBD is unique. This cannabinoid does not interact with these CB1 and CB2 receptors, and unlike THC, it does not cause a high or intoxication. Instead, CBD is known for its therapeutic, calming effects, which might be due to its interaction with the central nervous system.
What Is CBD Oil and What Can It Do?
By isolating the CBD compound, you can reap the physically and mentally soothing benefits of cannabidiol—without smoking or getting high. This makes CBD oil an appealing choice for many people who might otherwise be turned off by traditional marijuana options.
CBD oil is available in capsules, lotions, and tinctures. The latter is the most common; the CBD can be measured out and then released underneath the tongue, where it is held for about 90 seconds to allow it to be absorbed.
A major benefit of CBD oil is that it appears to help with many conditions that have historically been difficult to treat.
For example, a 2015 meta-analysis from researchers at the NYU School of Medicine concluded that CBD has a “considerable potential” to treat multiple types of anxiety disorders. That could be a game-changer for the 31 percent of U.S. adults who experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Treating anxiety has historically been a major challenge for doctors and patients alike.
And in June 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex—a CBD-derived medication for the treatment of epileptic seizures. This is the first CBD product to receive FDA approval, even though CBD’s anti-seizure properties have been known since the 1970s.
Studies and clinical trials are ongoing, but here are some of the conditions CBD oil may be able to help treat:
With medical marijuana, and CBD specifically, becoming legal in more states, researchers are able to continue studying the safety and effectiveness of CBD oil. One thing’s for sure: This little plant has potential.