BY MARYAM HENEIN
Everyone is making or selling Cannabidiol (CBD) these days. This phytocannabinoid has become extremely popular worldwide due to its tremendous and wide-reaching health benefits.
CBD has been called the most important cannabinoid on the planet. And if Big Pharma’s actions or the politics behind CBD are any indicator, it’s also the most lucrative. To put things in perspective, the Brightfield Group, a leading predictive analytics and market research firm, estimates that the CBD market alone could skyrocket to over $20 billion in revenue by 2022.
“CBD is now the most researched cannabinoid on the market and rightly so, because the studies go back to the 1940s proving its effectiveness on the nervous and immune systems, with no toxicity, side effects nor psycho-activity,” explained Jared Berry, CEO of Isodiol, a company that produces hemp-extracted CBD for pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and cosmetic companies.
And after nearly 100 years of prohibition, hemp is finally legal thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. With the passing of the bill this past December, the commercial cultivation of hemp and the domestic production of hemp products are now legal in the United States. Furthermore, hemp and hemp-derived CBD have been officially removed from the Controlled Substances Act. While the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) patented cannabinoids in 2001 as an antioxidant and neuroprotective, the government has still arguably made selling CBD quite difficult.
THE COMPOUNDS IN THE PLANT
Cannabis has been stigmatized for decades, even though scientists and society cannot deny that the plant’s active ingredients, known as cannabinoids, provide a natural remedy to a host of health issues. The plant contains both CBD and THC. THC is the chemical that produces the “high” of marijuana. CBD extracted from industrialized hemp contains less than 0.3 percent THC, though, and will not lead to a high.
Meanwhile, cannabis is known to contain over 400 chemical entities, including more than 85 different cannabinoids, many of which have potential health benefits. While Big Pharma focuses on isolating single compounds, CBD works better when it’s integrated with the rest of its cannabinoid family, like a good symphony.
“Those of us in botanical medicine understand that the sum of its parts is greater than any one single ingredient,” said certified clinical nutritionist Carl Germano. “While CBD may be the most dominant phytocannabinoid in hemp, and the others are there in minor number, they do not play a minor role in the body, as they all participate in nourishing the endocannabinoid system.”
This synergistic relationship is known as the “entourage effect.” While this may sound like a techno-thriller, it’s serious business and can make the difference between CBD having a full impact and doing nothing at all.
In whole-plant (non-conventional) medicine, the entourage effect refers to hundreds of natural components within a plant interacting together with the human body to produce a stronger impact than any one compound on its own. Conventional medicines, on the other hand, focus on extracting single compounds from a plant, isolating or producing the active ingredient in a laboratory, and then selling it to you in the form of pills and powders.
THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM WITHIN
One of the many amazing characteristics of cannabis is that the plant compounds interface with our body.
This is because cannabinoids synergize and help support humans’ built-in endocannabinoid system (ECS). CBD communicates with our body’s main command center to keep things running as they should. Pretty amazing.
“Cannabinoids promote homeostasis at every level of biological life, from the subcellular to the organism, and perhaps to the community and beyond,” writes NORML, a foundation that works to reform marijuana laws.
Scientists have known for a long time that the ECS plays a direct role in homeostasis — the regulation of metabolic processes in the body, including pain sensation, appetite, temperature regulation, stress reactivity, immune function and sleep. Even more interesting is that muscle and fat tissues also utilize these receptors to control their processes.
Cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body. There are currently two known subtypes of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. The CB1 receptor is expressed mainly in the brain, but also in the lungs, liver and kidneys. The CB2 receptor is expressed primarily in the immune system and in hematopoietic cells. Receptor pathways can eventually slow down or even stop altogether, thereby compromising the holistic function of receptors in the body. CBD can slowly help heal these receptors.
It’s estimated that 20 to 30 percent of the population has deficiencies in their ECS, a condition known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD), which can lead to a number of ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and migraines. Factors believed to bring on CECD include poor diet, insufficient sleep, lack of exercise and stress.
“I would also [add] environmental toxins, such as pesticides and phthalates,” says Stephen McCamman, co-founder of the Clinical Endocannabinoid System Consortium.
Fortunately, there are ways to boost deficient endocannabinoid systems. Not surprisingly, the cannabis plant is the cornerstone of these efforts.
Here are nine of the many conditions CBD can help treat
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder caused by unusual nerve cell activity in the brain. It’s estimated that about 3.4 million Americans — more than 65 million people worldwide — suffer from epilepsy. Many turn to mind-numbing medications, brain surgeries and invasively implanted electrical stimulation devices, with little to no relief.
Yet 20 years of research has shown that CBD can help prevent seizures. It has been successfully used to treat drug-resistant epileptic children with no side effects.
These days, just thinking about the future of the health care system in this country and the assaults on our environment is enough to get a person down and out.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, in any given year, persistent depressive disorder (PDD) affects approximately 3.3 million American adults. In 2015, an estimated 16.1 million adults in the United States reported having at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
CBD has been shown in a variety of research studies to have antidepressant-like actions.
We live in a Xanax-addled society. Anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 and 54 in the U.S.
One of CBD’s most promising implications is in the realm of anti-anxiety. Studies show that CBD can positively impact behavior and reduce psychological measures of stress and anxiety in conditions such as PTSD, social anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Research has also shown that CBD significantly reduces cognitive impairment and discomfort in speech performance and decreases angst surrounding public speaking. Pet owners have even reported that using CBD oil on their dogs has helped calm them down.
4. Oxidative Stress
Chronic disease is on the rise like never before, with oxidative stress playing a significant causative role. Oxidative stress occurs when the body has too many free radicals and can’t counteract the damage. People are vulnerable to oxidative stress when their diets lack sufficient nutrients or when they experience an onslaught of toxins their bodies can’t adequately get rid of, causing more symptoms.
Oxidative stress is associated with a number of ailments, including neurodegenerative diseases, heart disease, gene mutations and cancer.
THC and CBD are powerful antioxidants — they are even more potent than vitamins C and E. In fact, the patent HHS filed in 2001 is specifically for the neuroprotectant and antioxidant properties of cannabinoids.
CBD is particularly beneficial in the treatment of oxidative stress-associated diseases of the central nervous system because of cannabinoids’ ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and exert antioxidant effects inside the brain.
Low-level inflammation is at the heart of chronic disease — the silent lurker that contributes to at least 7 of the 10 leading causes of mortality in the United States: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and nephritis.
While anti-inflammatory unprocessed organic foods, stress management and lifestyle should be the base of any anti-inflammatory protocol, CBD has shown to significantly aid in suppressing chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain without causing dependence or tolerance.
6. Chronic Pain
America is witnessing a serious and deadly opioid epidemic. We are now losing more people to opioids than to firearms or automobile accidents combined. CBD may provide part of the solution.
One of the many benefits of CBD is that it can reduce chronic pain and protect neuro-pathways. Cannabis can regulate immune functions and help counteract neuron damage, making it a safe and effective treatment for ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and MS. CBD has also been shown to slow down cell damage in diabetes patients and to effectively block the progression of arthritis.
7. Weight and Obesity
As if CBD doesn’t have enough going for it, it also plays a positive role in our metabolism and bodyweight regulation.
In a study published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, CBD was found to
- Stimulate genes and proteins that enhance the breakdown and oxidation of fat;
- Increase the number and activity of mitochondria, which increases the body’s ability to burn calories;
- Decrease the expression of proteins involved in lipogenesis (fat cell generation); and
- Help induce brown fat, a type of fat that actually helps people lose weight.
8. Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation creates a cascade of symptoms that include misery, memory issues and toxic build up in the brain. According to the American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million U.S. adults suffer from sleep issues.
Here, too, CBD can help. Evidence suggests that hemp oil can normalize sleep cycles, improve quality of sleep and reduce anxiety. One study found that CBD blocked anxiety-induced REM sleep suppression, resulting in better-quality sleep. Another study determined that CBD oil reduced participants’ cortisol levels, which are linked to anxiety and stress in the body.
Dosing experiments have shown that small doses of CBD have an “active” effect, meaning that it helps people stay active and focused, while large dosages actually have the opposite effect. Everyone is different, and weight, age and metabolism are just a few of the factors to consider. For sleep, the Mayo Clinic suggests 40 to 160 milligrams of CBD orally.
9. Opiates and Addiction
Every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2011, 55 percent of drug overdose deaths were related to prescription medications; 75 percent of those deaths involved opiate painkillers.
Population studies have found that access to medical cannabis can reduce fatalities from opioid overdose, with the death rate dropping approximately 25 percent after two years and 33 percent after five years. CBD can also be an excellent ally in combating addiction.
CBD is thought to modulate various neuronal circuits involved in drug addiction. A limited number of preclinical studies suggest that CBD may have therapeutic properties for people coping with opioid, cocaine and psychostimulant addictions. CBD shows promise in helping with other addictions, too, like helping smokers quit nicotine.
CBD can even be effective for the treatment of cannabis withdrawal syndrome and has helped get many people off dangerous drugs. How ironic that we can use CBD as a remedy to stop the addiction of narcotics, considering the plant compound itself was (falsely) listed not too long ago as a schedule 1 drug. Given this information, CBD may be able to replace the array of synthetic drugs that have flooded the market.
About the Author
Maryam Henein is an investigative journalist, entrepreneur and the producer of the documentary Vanishing of the Bees. She can be contacted at honeycolony.com.
Join Acres USA for our 2nd annual Advancing Hemp event on May 20, 2021. This virtual event is designed to prepare farmers for successful hemp production through practical, applicable advice from industry-leading experts and growers. Learn more here.