What’s all the hype about CBD? It is estimated that 4 to 6 million people have consumed CBD in the UK last year. Recently, CBD has had a lot of press, but what seems like a new trend is in fact a very ancient one. Cannabis medicine has been used for millennia in ancient China, India and Egypt, and has been present in pretty much every ancient pharmacology. These ancient civilisations were using the cannabis plant to relieve pain, and for its soothing effects.
In our modern societies, most severe pains are treated with morphine derivatives. These have a lot of undesirable side effects, including addiction and risk of overdose. CBD is the greatest available alternative to this medication. Contrarily to morphine based medications, CBD is completely safe.
CBD is also used to fight off one of the main sources of imbalance in our modern day societies, namely stress. Stress, along with anxiety, is a source of poor sleep. Sleeping well is known to be the backbone of good health, however statistics have shown that most of us do not get enough good quality sleep with over one person in four reporting bad quality sleep in Britain. CBD can help to relax and sleep well, regulate the mood, appetite, and cognitive processes. It is also an anti-inflammatory. Yes, CBD can help on many levels!
CBD is a naturally occurring compound present in cannabis. The abbreviation CBD stands for cannabidiol, one of the 104 identified cannabinoids found in cannabis.
The name cannabis often raises some concerns. Cannabis? Am I going to get high? Well, no…. the mind-altering compound in cannabis is THC, not CBD. THC has a psychoactive effect while cannabidiol has a relaxing and calming effect. So, contrarily to the effects sought by marijuana smokers, CBD will not get you high.
Cannabis is not just a plant but a large family of plants. There are many varieties of cannabis, each grown for specific purposes. This family can be divided into two major types: cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. These two varieties have been combined to produce hybrids. Roughly, the effects of the indica strains are more on the relaxing side whereas the effects of the sativa strains are more on the psychoactive side.
The type of plant used to produce medicinal CBD oil is not the same as the commonly found street cannabis. Hemp is high in CBD and low in THC whereas marijuana is high in THC, but low in CBD. Undoubtedly, these plants have different effects. You will not get high on hemp, and you might struggle to get to sleep with most strains of marijuana grown for their THC content.
Currently, THC is illegal in most countries in the world, whereas CBD is legal. That is why street marijuana is considered a drug whereas CBD products are considered medicine. However, very low amounts of THC are legal and tolerated, since they help activate CBD to its full potential. Interestingly, the psychoactive effects of THC are cancelled out by CBD when these two elements are combined in the right ratios. For this to be achieved properly, one needs to choose high quality CBD products, made by professionals.
Cannabidiol is recognised as a completely safe substance by the World Health Organisation. Cannabidiol is naturally found in our bodies in what is called the endocannabinoid system. It is therefore not a foreign substance, and the body can process it very easily.
The endocannabinoid system is a complex endogenous system, which means it is part of our biological makeup. It is still under scientific investigation. To keep it simple, endocannabinoids, the naturally occurring cannabinoids in our bodies, are neurotransmitters which bind to cannabinoid receptors. The endocannabinoid system is involved in the regulation of our nervous system, and plays a role in appetite, mood and temperature regulation. It also influences sleep patterns, energy balance, stress response patterns, immune system health and female reproduction. This list is not exhaustive, and the endocannabinoid system has been found to play an important role in human health and balance. This explains why CBD can be helpful in so many different situations.
To optimise the effects of CBD, it has to be as bioavailable as possible. The bioavailability of a compound is the degree to which it can be utilised by the body. The higher it is, the more efficient the absorption of the substance. Bioavailability depends largely on the method of consumption. For example, ingestion of medicines will lower the bioavailability, due to the digestion process.
Ultimately, choosing the way you consume CBD is a personal choice. It depends on your reason for consuming CBD. Someone looking to reduce their stress levels will not consume CBD in the same way as someone looking to regulate their appetite patterns, or someone dealing with chronic pain, post-surgery pain or inflammation. Also, we all have different metabolisms, and factors like our weight and age come into play in choosing the best suited method.
There are some guidelines according to the type of issue you are dealing with and the required speed of effect. However, feel free to experiment the form in which you take it. CBD is safe so you are not risking anything by experimenting a little.
CBD is best consumed in the form of an oil, which can be ingested or applied topically. The oil preserves all its properties and is the most efficient way for CBD to reach the bloodstream and be effective quickly. There are other forms available for specific uses.
To increase bioavailability, CBD oil can be consumed sublingually, that is by holding a few drops under the tongue for a few seconds before swallowing them. This way, CBD is absorbed through the mucous membranes and reaches the bloodstream quicker. The difference between the drops and the spray is a matter of convenience and personal preference.
Edibles made with CBD oil take a little longer to be absorbed, since bioavailability decreases with digestion. However, they are a good way to extend the duration of effect.
Creams, balms and ointments are recommended to deal with localised pain. Topical application reduces the overall bioavailability but helps to target a specific area. Our skin also has endocannabinoid receptors, which will be reached quicker with a local application. If you hurt your wrist while practising sports for instance, topical application is a good choice. However, creams and balms will be less efficient if you are dealing with a more general state of stress or pain.
You might have seen that CBD oil comes in different strengths. It can be mind-boggling to choose the dosage from an internet catalogue. CBD dosage depends on what you are using it for, but also on your body weight, age, metabolism and many other factors.
Basic recommandation table
We all respond differently to plant medicines. When starting with CBD it is good to read advice, but it is ultimately a personal journey. As a general rule, it is advised to start with a low dosage and build up progressively to meet your personal needs. Combining forms of consumption may also change the dosage you need.
For acute pain, higher dosages and quicker forms of absorption are recommended. However, for chronic pain, it is best to take smaller doses several times a day rather than a strong dosage once. For stress management, it is the same. CBD can be used occasionally to deal with a particularly stressful situation, but also as a long-term cure, with smaller, more frequent doses.
Building up your consumption does not mean changing the dosage every day. As with most plant medicines, it is recommended to stick to the same dosage consistently for a period of several weeks before increasing the dosage.
Depending on how it is administered, CBD takes 20 to 40 minutes to take effect, and will last up to 6 hours.
When taking CBD for the first time, you can start with a very small amount on the first day, to see how you feel, and slowly increase the dosage over a few days. After this period of getting acquainted with the medicine, it is advised to stick to the same dosage for about a month. If you are taking CBD for a serious condition, it is best to be guided by a therapist.
In case you do take more CBD than you need, there is no need to worry. There is no risk of overdose or addiction and no harm will occur. At most, you might feel sleepy or slow. If this happens, consider lowering your dosage.
Whatever you are turning to CBD for, you can rest assured that it is a safe and natural medicine, with a great potential to alleviate various conditions and support a healthy, balanced lifestyle.