In the face of a lot of conjecture, misinformation and decidedly non-science based “science,” there’s definitely a need for some clear explanation about CBD oil: what it is, what it’s not, and how it can be used therapeutically. Here’s what I’ve learned in an attempt to educate myself and offer products I truly believe in. I’ve watched CBD products literally transform patients’ lives; here’s why.
The Endocannabinoid System
Before we deep dive into CBD oil, we first have to understand the framework of how it works in our body. Enter the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a crucial molecular system that the body uses to help maintain homeostasis, and named for how our body responds when exposed to Cannabis. (If it’s been a minute since high school biology, homeostasis is the concept that most biological systems are actively regulated to maintain conditions within a narrow range. Our body doesn’t want its temperature to be too hot or too cold, blood sugar levels too high or too low, and so on). And if you’ve never heard of the ECS, you’re not alone. It’s relatively new research, and still isn’t being taught on a widespread basis. So let’s break it down:
The three key components of the ECS are:
- Cannabinoid receptors found on the surface of cells. These “listen” to conditions outside the cell and transmit information to inside the cell. The major receptors are named CB1 and CB2
- Endocannabinoids, small molecules that activate cannabinoid receptors. The two major endocannabinoids are anandamide (comically named for the yoga term ananda – to self realize, to bliss out and live in joy) and 2-AG. They’re made within the cell membranes and done so on demand.
- Metabolic enzymes bring it all together. They break down endocannabinoids after they are used. They ensure they’re utilized when needed, but not for longer than necessary.
So how do they work together?
Within the BRAIN – if neurons become overactive, the body releases endocannabinoids which bind to the CB1 receptor, indicating to the body to chill out and re-enter homeostasis
Within the INFLAMMATORY RESPONSE – inflammation is a natural and normal response by the immune system to physical damage or infection, and it’s purpose is to remove the damaged tissue or pathogen. It becomes problematic, however, when it’s present for too long (think chronic inflammation) or is directed at healthy cells (think autoimmune dysfunction).
Current Research and Applications for ECS
- Migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome all represent “clinical ECB deficiency syndromes” – Ethan Russo
- “Failure to thrive” syndrome in infants may be caused by a dysfunctional ECS – Ester Fride
- Chronic migraines represent a “system failure” of the ECS – Paola Sarchielli
- Deficient ECS signaling contributes to depressive illness – Matthew Hill
- Omega 3 supplementation causes greater mRNA levels of CB1 & CB2. Omega 3 deficiency abolishes ECS functions and can lead to CB1 desensitization.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of more than 100 unique cannabinoid compounds that are found in the oily resin of the cannabis plant. The sticky, gooey resin is concentrated on the dense clusters of cannabis flowers, commonly called “buds.” These are covered by tiny, mushroom-shaped trichomes, or specialized glandular structures that contain a treasure trove of oily, medicinal compounds, including CBD, THC and various aromatic terpenes. These oily trichomes protect the plant from heat, UV radiation and possess antifungal, antibacterial and insecticidal properties. This same oily resin that protects the health of the plant can protect your health too, but without the intoxicating effects of CBD’s cousin, THC.
CBD oil is extracted from these resinous trichomes and there are many different cannabis strains or varietals. The amount of CBD present can vary on the variety of hemp, with CBD -rich cannabis being more desirable (and legally with less than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight). Oil is extracted using a variety of solvents to do so: CO2, ethanol, hydrocarbons (like butane) and olive oil. They each have their merits and limitations and for the sake of brevity here’s a quick breakdown.
- CO2 is the most prevalent and safest but requires expensive equipment
- Ethanol extraction creates high quality, potent oil but can be difficult to dose accurately due to the thickness of oil
- Hydrocarbons present danger issues with production and can be dangerous if solvents are fully purged from the oil extract
- Olive oil is simple and inexpensive, with lots of DIYers but is perishable
What does full spectrum mean?
Full spectrum oil contain all compounds naturally occurring in the plant, including terpenes, essential oils and all other cannabinoids (this is why there’s a marginal amount of THC). These all work together synergistically and magnify the therapeutic benefits of each individual cannabinoid. An isolate, by contrast, is a single compound, and broad spectrum is an array of cannabinoids with the THC removed (a good option if you are concerned about a drug test).
In my opinion – this is very similar to consuming a whole foods supplement as compared to a synthetic isolate. You want the WHOLE plant for maximum absorption. Nature is brilliant and rarely (if ever) can man improve upon it. For instance, the white part or pith of an orange contains bioflavonoids that aid with absorption of the Vitamin C in the flesh of an orange. This is called the “entourage effect.” I wouldn’t consume CBD that wasn’t full spectrum the same as I wouldn’t bother with a synthetic, lab made supplement (again unless drug testing is a concern).
Note: Be forewarned about CBD product companies that claim they get their CBD from hemp seeds. While hemp seeds are an excellent source of protein-rich, omega 3 fatty acids, the seeds themselves don’t contain CBD, THC or any other cannabinoids. CBD oil is NOT the same as hemp oil or hemp seed oil. Some companies are spiking help seed oil with a CBD isolate – NOT the same as a full spectrum CBD rich oil.
Bringing it together: How does CBD interact with the ECS?
The reason that plant cannabinoids have psychoactive and medicinal effects within the body is largely because we have an ECS that they can interact with. For example, THC gets you high because it activates the CB1 receptor. The metabolic enzymes that normally break down extra endocannabinoids also don’t break down THC, which is why it lasts in your system longer as well.
CBD interacts with a number of receptors, which is why it delivers a number of effects. With repeated use, CBD can also affect overall levels of endocannabinoids in the brain, referred to as “endocannabinoid tone.” CBD inhibits the FAAH enzyme, which breaks down anandamide. Thus, CBD effectively increases anandamide levels (your endogenous feel good ligand) by preventing FAAH from breaking it down. This is a major reason why CBD is so great at improving anxiety over short and long term bases.
With a growing body of research behind it, the therapeutic potential of CBD oil are truly amazing. Common indications include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Sleep issues and insomnia
- Cancer – both in nausea, tumor reduction and pain
- Pain management, acute and chronic
- Substance use disorders
- Reduction in muscle spasticity – Epilepsy and Multiple Sclerosis
- Chronic and acute inflammation – from acne to diabetes prevention
- Cardioprotective – reduces high blood pressure and prevents heart damage from inflammation
While these are a few examples, the implications for pain, sleep and inflammation (involved in so many lifestyle diseases) are profound.
Brands At Absolute Wellness Center
We currently offer two CBD lines : UltraCell by Zilis and Sea Island CBD. In the sea of options out there for CBD, here’s why we choose to carry them. (Note: I’ve found that each person responds differently to different brands, and different products within that brand line. If you haven’t responded to a particular formulation, let’s chat).
- Zilis is a water based CBD company, based on the premise that oil and water (water we’re mostly composed of) don’t mix. They boast a 94% bioavailability rate, are full spectrum with more than 400 naturally occurring compounds. Being water based, effects are also felt within minutes as opposed to one to two hours. They are also totally free from THC.
- Zilis also offers a number of non-CBD “boosters” made from all natural hemp free botanicals.
- UltraEdge promotes mental potential and cognitive support. A great natural alternative to Adderall.
- UltraIce promotes homeostasis and provides optimum performance via antioxidants like curcumin.
- UltraDream is point blank the most effective natural sleep aid I’ve ever seen. It’s a blend of GABA, melatonin and chamomile. Every patient who has tried it has had positive results, and some have used it to come off pharmaceutical sleep aids entirely.
- Sea Island CBD is a local, organic, full spectrum CBD oil product line. They have a stellar price that I feel good about supporting. Check out their mission statement below:
“We own and control our entire process from seed to shelf. We follow organic protocols every step of the way.
We manage all processes of hemp product development, refinement, and extraction.
We own all of our operations and fulfillment systems and oversee every aspect of product sales and distribution.
This is called “vertical integration”. From the seed placed in the ground to the bottle or jar in your hand, we oversee with expert precision every step of the process to ensure that you are getting the very best CBD product available in the world.
At Absolute Wellness Center, we carry a number of “strengths” of the Sea Island CBD blend as well as a topical option.
FULL 450 – contains 15 mg CBD per serving. Best for mild anxiety/chronic low grade inflammation.
FULL 900 – contains 30 mg CBD per serving. Best for sleep issues, moderate anxiety, mild to moderate pain.
FULL 1500 – contains 50 mg CBD per serving. Best for insomnia, severe pain and severe anxiety.
Topical Pain Lotion – great for sunburns, aches and pains and sore muscles
Dosing: In general, we want to start low and go slow. Begin with a half dropper full, holding under the tongue for at least 30 seconds. Repeat after 30 minutes if the desired effect is not achieved. Consider a more robust strength if clinical goals are still not met at that point.
Questions? Email us here! Want to pick up your own CBD? Stop in! (Zilis also does drop shipping).
Gunduz-cinar O, Hill MN, Mcewen BS, Holmes A. Amygdala FAAH and anandamide: mediating protection and recovery from stress. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2013;34(11):637-44. [PDF]