Since opening the San Francisco office of Parsley Health in 2016, I’ve become exposed to the wide world of cannabis. I grew up in the midwest and had adopted conservative views of marijuana use. Despite living in California for almost two years, the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, I was still skeptical of marijuana and CBD oil benefits. I was also hesitant to prescribe CBD to patients due to potential psychoactive effects when combined with THC and because it’s not a regulated substance. But as my patients at Parsley Health kept asking me about CBD, I decided to dig a little deeper into potential CBD oil benefits and was surprised at how promising it may be.
CBD comes from the Cannabis sativa plant, which is also used to produce hemp and marijuana. It’s extracted from the resin of cannabis buds and flowers and usually diluted with another oil, like MCT.
The major difference between CBD and marijuana is that it does not contain THC, the psychoactive compound that probably comes to mind when you think of marijuana. That means you won’t get high from using CBD.
Terpenes are an additional class of compounds that give various flavors and fragrances to different strains of marijuana. They are naturally found in the cannabis plant and one of the reasons it is best to choose broad-spectrum products. Over 100 different terpenes have been identified to date. There are both psychoactive and non-psychoactive forms. The theory is that they interact positively with cannabinoids to have therapeutic effects in inflammation and pain, but more research is still needed.
Marijuana and CBD work by acting on the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system’s main job is to maintain homeostasis and help the body adapt to outside stressors.
There are two main types of cannabinoids—endo (produced naturally within the body) and phyto (produced from a plant). CBD is one type of phytocannabinoid. Phytocannabinoids mimic endocannabinoids, so they can act like a supplement, giving you a boost beyond what your body can produce.
Receptors for cannabinoids are found in the digestive, reproductive, nervous, and immune systems. Because cannabinoids interact with almost every system in our bodies, they’re often touted as a cure-all. While they’re not truly able to heal everything, they do regulate neurotransmitter function, inflammation, mitochondrial function, and metabolism.
CBD is safe for almost everyone, according to a recent report from the World Health Organization , but check with your doctor before starting any CBD product, especially if you are pregnant or on any medications. Research has shown several CBD oil benefits, ranging from alleviating social anxiety to improving rheumatoid arthritis .
CBD works directly on the brain receptors 5HT1A (serotonin) and GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter). Lower levels of these can contribute to anxiety and depression .
Suppresses cytokine production and induces T-regulatory cells to protect the body from attacking itself, which can help autoimmune conditions .
Inhibits transmission of neuronal signaling through pain pathways.
May relieve epilepsy in children.
CBD has few side effects and is considered a safe substance to take. These are some of the known side effects of CBD:
All are usually mild, dose-dependent, and resolve in 2 to 4 hours. If you experience any of these, stop using CBD and see your doctor. Some individuals may also show abnormalities in liver function testing.
CBD is available as edibles, topical balms and patches, capsules, tinctures, oils, teas, and vape pens.
Similar to supplements , CBD production and distribution are not regulated by the FDA. That means it’s important to choose wisely in order to know exactly what you’re getting. A new study in the journal Pediatric Neurology Briefs tested 84 CBD products purchased online and found that 21 percent actually contained THC, 43 percent contained more CBD than listed, and 26 percent contained less CBD than listed.
The best way to find out the quality of your CBD is to discuss directly with the company you are purchasing from. Look for companies that do extensive third party testing to ensure the highest standards .
For California residents, CBD oil just became much safer to use: A law that went into effect July 1, 2018 requires marijuana products sold in California to undergo extensive testing with new safety regulations for companies.
Keep in mind that every state has different regulations and CBD oil is still not legal for recreational use in all states. It’s legal in 29 states for medical use as of this writing. As of this writing, it is legal in 33 states but always check with your specific state as these are in flux from year to year.
If you choose to try CBD, we recommend to start low and go slow. Starting at 5 mg and working your way up to 40 mg while evaluating how your body responds is ideal. Using a tincture that is free from dairy , sugar, and gluten is an easy way to slowly titrate to your personal effective dose. Like any medication or supplement you should check with your doctor before ingesting.
While there are many emerging studies showing signs of CBD’s health benefits, research is limited on its long-term effects. If you try a CBD oil and start to see unpleasant side effects, stop taking it and see your doctor immediately. At the end of the day, CBD oil is a supplement and should be used as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
You can reap incredible anti-inflammatory benefits from eating a whole foods based diet, addressing nutritional deficiencies , exercising, and introducing stress reduction practices like meditation in your regular routine.
Dr. Tiffany Lester is a board-certified Integrative Medicine Physician who has practiced a holistic approach to health for over a decade. She is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, where she completed her training in internal medicine. She also graduated from the Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Arizona with Dr. Andrew Weil, and has extensive training in functional medicine through the Institute of Functional Medicine. Dr. Lester is also featured as a teacher for the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and regularly contributes to national wellness publications.