Most likely you’ve heard of cannabidiol by now, or its more common name, CBD. If you’re curious about the hype, we break it down for you. And we promise it’s not just for hippies! More importantly, it’s not the same thing as THC, the main psychoactive component of the marijuana (Cannabis) plant. CBD is not the part of the plant that gets you “high” like THC (1). Learn all you need to know with our CBD 101 below!
The Endocannabinoid System
Before diving into all of the benefits and uses for CBD, it is important to know at least the basics of the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). It is a natural part of the body, just like the cardiovascular system or the immune system. The ECS is made up of cannabinoid receptors all over the body, endocannabinoids, and enzymes. It monitors functions all over because the cannabinoid receptors reside almost everywhere! The CB1 receptors are mainly concentrated in the brain and the central nervous system, whereas the CB2 receptors are mostly in the peripheral organs, nervous system, digestive system, and in specialized cells in the immune system (2). The ECS can regulate physiological processes spanning from digestion and immune function, to mood, sleep, reproduction, pain, inflammation, and much more!
Activation in the Body
A unique aspect of the ECS is that the body can activate it with precision. In other words, it only impacts what it needs to. It also works to bring homeostasis to all bodily functions once activated. So you may be wondering, if ECS activation is so precise, how can some people have such negative reactions to marijuana? Well, if someone smokes too much marijuana, it floods their system with cannabinoids. This flooding disrupts the natural cannabinoid’s ability to do their finely-tuned communications. This throws the body’s physiology off in a harmful way (3). It also comes with the psychoactive component of THC, which throws another variable into the mix.
We don’t expect you to be ECS experts. Leave that to us! But we want to be fair and mention the other important players in the ECS: endocannabinoids. Produced by the body, they stimulate the ECS. They act like messengers by binding to the CB1 or CB2 receptors (2). Then enzymes break down the endocannabinoids once homeostasis (the goal of ECS) is reached. The enzymes prevent the endocannabinoids from “going too far,” and they decompose rapidly. Their rapid decomposition helps curb any over-activity that results from heightened endocannabinoid levels (2).
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How CBD Helps
CBD comes from the marijuana plant and is classified as a cannabinoid. Researchers have discovered hundreds of cannabinoids in the marijuana plant, with the two most popular being CBD and THC. Each cannabinoid affects the body differently, which is why CBD is so fascinating. The health benefits it brings to the human body appear endless. Expect more research regarding the potential benefits of the other cannabinoids found in the plant.
When CBD enters the body, it binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors to produce effects. Remember the endocannabinoids and enzymes that we mentioned? One of CBD’s main functions is to stop a certain enzyme from breaking down an endocannabinoid called anandamide. If anandamide doesn’t get broken down, it impacts the body even more. This is a good thing! Anandamide is often referred to as “the bliss molecule” and is thought to be one of the main reasons CBD is used to treat anxiety disorders (4).
As wonderful as CBD is, it is not a panacea for all diseases, so don’t believe every hype and ad. So where does the science stand? Right now, CBD benefits are being proven for certain cases of anxiety, childhood epilepsy, insomnia, inflammation and chronic and inflammatory pain (5,6). The ECS’s relationship with the brain has also sparked ongoing research for the use of CBD with Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegenerative, neurodevelopmental, and psychiatric illnesses. More research is also happening for its use in cardiovascular disease, neurological issues, acute and chronic kidney disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases (7). Pets are also being treated these days!
With so many health claims made about all of the health benefits of CBD, proceed with caution and know where science lacks. Since CBD exploded onto the market, there’s a wide range of options for types and quality. It seems CBD can be purchased everywhere these days. And yes, there’s a big difference between the types available at the gas station, grocery stores online retailers, and physician offices.
The Different Types of CBD
The most common types on the market include: CBD Isolate,CBD Full Spectrum and CBD Broad Spectrum. We break down their differences and similarities below.
To create a CBD product, the cannabinoid content is extracted from the plant. Other parts of the plant are also extracted like terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids. Companies can determine what to extract and the final composition of the extraction. The refined end product is what determines if the CBD extract is classified as full or broad spectrum or an isolate.
- CBD Isolate: scientifically the purest form because it is extracted and isolated from all other compounds. This means there are no terpenes, flavonoids, or other plant parts present. It’s typically extracted from hemp due to the low or non-existent THC content.
- Full Spectrum CBD: an extract that also contains all of the other naturally occurring parts of the plant (terpenes, flavonoids, essential oils, cannabinoids). The old thought was that the isolate was the most effective form, but studies now show that full spectrum products possibly provide higher levels of relief (7). This occurs due to the synergistic effect of all of the plant parts working more powerfully together, versus CBD alone.
- Broad Spectrum CBD: an extract that combines full spectrum and isolate products. Like the full spectrum products, all plant compounds are preserved in the extract. But similar to the isolate extract, THC has been completely removed. Therefore, the enhanced benefits of synergy in multiple cannabinoids still occur without the risk of THC activity.
Best or Better?
To be clear, there is not one form of CBD product superior to all the rest. It truly depends on individual factors like medical history, each body’s unique chemistry, past substance abuse, the purpose for taking it, and more. The effectiveness of each type for certain individuals is still being researched, and the ideal dosage for certain conditions.
One brand that we trust, and Chalene herself uses, is My Soul CBD. We did our research and love that the brand includes “CBD dose per serving” (not just per bottle like other companies). It contains no THC, and all of their products come from organically grown plants. Their products are also non-GMO, have undergone third-party lab testing, and each product has something called a certificate of analysis (COA). The COA is a document that shows how the product performed with CBD and THC levels, and also lets you know if contaminants were found. We recommend only purchasing from companies who provide the COA for each product. Transparency and quality are key, both of which My Soul CBD provide! (Use code: CHALENE at checkout for 10% off!).
The bottom line is that using CBD for medicinal purposes shows promise in certain conditions. But research is ongoing for proper dosage, safety, effectiveness, and for the “best” form. If you’re interested in incorporating CBD into your health routine, make sure you always discuss it with a trusted medical provider. This helps ensure you’re obtaining quality CBD products and safe administration.