March 15th, 2018

Your Definitive Guide to the Science of CBD

Integrative nutritionist Jillian Tuchman, MS, RDN unpacks and demystifies the magic that is CBD for a back-to-basics look at the cannabis that won't get you high.

Credit: IrieCBD

CBD. Those three letters are everywhere right now. As the surprise ingredient in the breakfast tonic for your fave Instagram babe. As the seductive addition to cocktail menus for those fancy spots. As the topic du jour for mainstream media. And as the ever divisive subject of all these policy debates.

But what the hell is it?

CBD or cannabidiol is one of the roughly 100 compounds known as cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD cannot get you high. In fact, CBD blunts the psychoactive effects of THC, so next time you need to come back down to earth quickly, reach for the CBD.

But just because CBD cannot get you high, does not mean it is not working. In fact, CBD possesses many of the therapeutic properties of THC and many more of its own. It has an especially wide range of medicinal applications. The fact that they are accessible without altering consciousness just makes CBD that much more popular.

So what does CBD do exactly?

The more we learn, the more we realize that CBD truly has the potential to revolutionize medicine. Hundreds of studies have shown CBD to have medicinal properties that can act as therapeutic, or even corrective, intervention for everything from epilepsy and inflammatory bowel disease to autism and chronic pain. One study found that CBD successfully reduced public speaking-induced anxiety in those suffering from social anxiety disorder.

Is it true that CBD can help with the opioid crisis?

There is evidence to suggest that CBD might be a viable treatment for opioid addiction. Multiple studies have shown that opioid overdoses are lower in states where medical cannabis is legal. One study found that CBD is effective in blocking opioid reward in mice, while a review of studies found that CBD appears to inhibit drug-seeking behavior in humans.

Okay, but let’s be real.

It’s hard to imagine that something like CBD could have such a range of therapeutic benefits. But it all comes down to its molecular shape and how it affects multiple receptor systems in the body. Namely, the endocannabinoid system—more about that here—which is responsible for maintaining your body’s equilibrium or homeostasis.

Your body produces endocannabinoids on its own. But cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant actually behave inside your body the same way as the naturally occurring endocannabinoids. That means the introduction of CBD to the body increases the presence of cannabinoids which your body thinks are endocannabinoids. And that’s revolutionary because studies suggest that problems like migraines, fibromyalgia, and IBS might actually be caused by a systemic endocannabinoid deficiency.

Is it legal?

Yes. But there is some fine print.

CBD is found in two places: the flowering cannabis sativa plant and non-flowering cannabis plant known as hemp. About 10 years ago, Congress introduced the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which differentiates industrial hemp from cannabis sativa.

It defines industrial hemp as that which contains no more than 0.3% THC—a low enough percentage as not to affect any psychoactivity. Comparatively, and depending on breed and strain, the cannabis sativa plant contains on average between 10 and 30% THC—enough to get you high.

Ultimately, CBD derived from industrial hemp is legal in all 50 states. While the CBD derived from cannabis sativa is only legal medically in certain states and for recreational adult-use in other designated states.

You can read more on the fine print over here.

What do I buy?

The recent legalization of cannabis in its many forms across certain parts of the entire US and soon-to-be all of Canada, has resulted in a deluge of CBD products. There are CBD-only sublingual tinctures, beauty serums, infused-lubricants, creams, capsules, powders and more. And if you live in a state where recreational adult-use or medical-use is legal, your options grow exponentially.

What if I want the benefits of CBD, but still want to feel that high?

That’s an option too! Over the last 15 to 20 years, botanists have bred various strains with high ratios of CBD to THC strains like Harlequin, ACDC, Ringo’s Gift, and my personal favorite, Sour Tsunami. If you hit up a dispensary and can’t find these exact strains, don’t fret. I’ve yet to visit a dispensary that doesn’t have at least one high-CBD strain on offer.

But what if I get lost?

I know it can feel confusing. It’s normal to be overwhelmed by the information—or by the lack of information. But remember to use your budtender’s brain to help you navigate. And send all your questions to Miss Grass (dearMG@missgrass.com).

About Jillian Tuchman MS, RDN

Jillian Tuchman is an integrative and functional medicine dietitian and nutritionist, reiki healer and medical cannabis educator. She educates conventionally-trained physicians, nurses, social workers and dietitians about the clinical applications of medical cannabis.

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