In the past several years legalization of medical and non-medical marijuana and cultivation of hemp for CBD (cannabinoids) has skyrocketed. Last year the sales for legal hemp was one billion dollars. Thanks to the updated farm bill passed by congress in December of 2018, starting in January 2019, hemp can now be grown in all 50 states and it is estimated that by 2020 it will be a 20-billion-dollar industry. Raphael Mechoulam, is an Israeli chemist, who is fondly called the Father of Medical Cannabis. He was the first scientist who isolated the first two endogenous (made in the body) cannabinoids over 50 years ago. He then discovered that we had Endocannabinoid receptor sites where like a lock and key, cannabinoids attach to cells throughout the body to produce physiological responses necessary for keeping cells alive and healthy.
Over the past 50 years our understanding of the endocannabinoid system has increased dramatically. We now know that there are different types of CBD receptors located in different areas throughout the body. Simply put, the endocannabinoid system (E.C.S.) is a vast network of receptor sites, that is closely connected to many conditions of suffering. This is nicely summarized in the following two pictures.
Seeing these pictures, we can now understand why the National Institutes of Health (N.I.H.), has said, “modulating the E.C.S. may have therapeutic potential in almost all conditions affecting humans.”
The ABC’s of CBD’s
CBD’s can be produced by different plants, not just hemp. However, the cannabis family has the greatest concentration of CBD’s. Marijuana and Hemp belong to the cannabis sativa family, but marijuana contains a higher amount of the psychoactive cannabinoid called THC. Therein lies the advantage of extracting CBD’s from hemp. Hemp CBD’s contains less than 3% of THC (as mandated by federal law) vs 60% for marijuana. This is important because users of marijuana or exposure to too much THC under the age of twenty-five, risk damage and maturation of the frontal lobe of the brain. This could lead to increased impulsivity issues and increased drug use later in life. There are no such concerns with hemp. CBD’s derived from hemp contain a broad spectrum of different CBD’s, such as CBD, CBG, CBN, CBDV, THCV, and each of these target different areas of the body. Full spectrum extracts have terpenes such as beta-caryophyllene (for pain relief), flavonoids, and omega fats too. CBN, is a cannabinoid that helps with sleep. For this reason, I think full spectrum is better than isolates.
Most companies (even organically grown) extract CBD from industrial hemp using primarily the stalk of the plant which means that a lot of plant material is needed. There are other companies using the hemp leaves and flowering tops (this has been banned by the government) of a new strain of hemp plant. The flowers have a greater resin profile and are richer in polyphenols and terpenes than industrial hemp. Presently the organic hemp from Europe that has been in production for decades is the main source of hemp CBD’s, but soon these other strains might be more productive and less costly if they can get the law changed and prove that their products meet the requirements of the D.E.A.
Below are pictures of the difference between industrial hemp and high resin Kentucky hemp where the flowers are harvested.
Knowing which companies are adhering to the legal limits of THC and providing truthful labeling requires some investigation on each consumers part. The F.D.A. in 2015 and 2016 evaluated 24 CBD products and found that in 22 of the 24, they failed to have the amount of CBD in it as advertised. The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017 revealed that 70% of the CBD products did not match their label. It seems that transparency is the exception rather than the rule. Therefore, it is useful to ask the CBD company for a certificate of analysis (COA) from a third-party laboratory. Any reputable company will provide it when asked and/or will also make them available on their websites. In addition, the COA should list chemicals, pesticides, microbes and next to each there should be a ND, or not detected marking. For extraction purposes solvents such as hexane or petroleum derivatives could result in impure residues in the CBD oil or could destroy plant waxes which have their own benefit. Ethanol, methanol, or supercritical CO2 (carbon dioxide) is the best extraction method.
Dosing a CBD product usually starts at 10-15 mg of active cannabinoids. However, we are all different and much of the research showing the benefits of CBD’s are often in much higher doses than what is recommended as a daily dose. In some cases, the research studies showed doses are in the 200-600 mg per day which would be extremely expensive to do daily. For instance, a full bottle of CBD’s of 60 capsules or a one-ounce bottle could both have a total of 300 mg of CBD and cost 60.00-75.00 dollars.
Supporting the endocannabinoid system is clearly an important factor in maintaining our health. Exercise can stimulate the release of endogenous cannabinoids. Anandamide 2-AG is a cannabinoid found in breast milk, so from the start of life we give attention to our endocannabinoid system. With the increased use of opioids and other pain killers, depression and anxiety medications and for those suffering from other neurological issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, there is great potential in the application of CBD’s for a wide range of health issues.
Addressing the cannabinoid system doesn’t have to rely on hemp exclusively. Presently, I am using Thorne’s Hemp Oil +. Thorne uses the “entourage effect” in this product. In it, there is approximately 15 mg of full spectrum CBD’s from organic industrial hemp imported from Europe. In addition, they use clove bud, black pepper, hops, and rosemary to get a mix of approximately 15 mg of CBD per capsule. Clove and black pepper are high in beta-caryophyllene (Hemp Oil + has 5 mg of this), hops, (a cousin of hemp), is high in terpenoids humulone and lupulon. Rosemary is high in terpenes such as camphene, pinene, and limonene which promote relaxation.