What is Cannabidiol?
Plants have a metabolism like we do. In their cells they produce several substances that either help them grow or protect them from different predators, such as animals, insects, bacteria etc. These substances are called metabolites. Some metabolites like carbohydrates, lipids and proteins, that help the plants grow are called primary metabolites. Others, which derive from the primary ones, like alkaloids, phenolics, essential oils etc. are chemicals that help the plants defend themselves and are called secondary metabolites. For example, the β-carotene that gives carrots their orange color or the anthocyanins that give tomatoes and flowers their different colors are typical secondary metabolites. Secondary metabolites are usually produced in specific plant cells either in tiny quantities making it very difficult for us to isolate them or in bigger ones.
Canabidiol (CBD, see fig. 1) is a secondary metabolite of both hemp and Marijuana plants that is mainly found in the seeds, stalk and flowers of the plant and comprises up to 40% of the plant’s extract thus, it is very easy for us to isolate it in big quantities from the plants. Moreover, CBD can also be synthesized and produced in the laboratory. However, the synthetic CBD is a highly regulated substance and its possession is allowed only for specific purposes. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), CBD has a great potential as a new drug and there are many scientific studies and companies that perform research on it in order to develop new therapies for several diseases. Thus, CBD cannot be considered as a dietary supplement, although there are still available products indicating CBD as dietary supplement.
Figure 1: Cannabidiol chemical structure1.
How CBD works in your body?
There is no evidence for the moment showing that CBD produces euphoria or intoxication2-4. CBD, like other cannabinoids also have their effect mainly by interacting with specific receptors of our brain and body cells. Two well-known receptors that CBD interacts with are: the CB1 receptor, found on neurons and glial cells in various parts of the brain, and the CB2 receptor, found mainly in the body’s immune system cells. However, CBD has very low affinity for both of these receptors and when it binds at them it produces little to no effect. CBD also has affinity at certain Transient receptor potential (TRP) cation channels, which are implicated in many diseases. There is also growing evidence that CBD acts on other brain signaling systems, and that these actions may be important contributors to its therapeutic effects5. For instance, CBD blocks the activity of several receptors, such as TRPV1, TRPV2, TRPV3, TRPV4 and TRPA1 which are highly active in pain states in many diseases. CBD is also an antagonist of the TRPM8 receptor, which heavily implicated in allodynia, a really intense kind of pain. Finally, CBD also targets key neural signaling receptors such as 5-HT1a and 5-HT3a, which are useful targets for diseases such as epilepsy and numerous anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, although there are many studies and several clinical trials that show the potential therapeutic effects of CBD, there is no evidence for its mechanism of action.
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Medicinal properties of CBD
Since the FDA has recognized CBD as a new potential drug, there are many scientific studies and clinical trials going on in order new therapies to be discovered for several diseases. Until now it has been shown that CBD has the following medicinal properties:
- Treatment and/or prevention of skin diseases like psoriasis
- Analgesic (pain treatment/relief)
- Anti-convulsive (anti-epileptic)
- Blood-sugar balancing
- Stress/anxiety relief
- Gastrointestinal relief
Safety of CBD
As mentioned above Cannabidiol is a drug. Thus, it is possibly safe when taken orally or sprayed under the tongue appropriately in adults, while following the appropriate dose. Cannabidiol doses of up to 300 mg daily have been taken by mouth safely for up to 6 months. Higher doses of 1200-1500 mg daily have been taken by mouth safely for up to 4 weeks. Cannabidiol sprays that are applied under the tongue have been used in doses of 2.5 mg for up to 2 weeks8.
Comparing to other drugs used for the treatment of similar diseases as the ones mentioned above, CBD has less severe side effects. The most commonly reported ones include dry mouth, low blood pressure, light headedness, and drowsiness, tiredness, diarrhea and changes of appetite or weight.
Special precautions & warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: As there is not enough reliable information about the safety of cannabidiol consumption during pregnancy or breast feeding, better stay on the safe side and avoid its use.
Parkinson’s disease: According to some studies taking high doses of cannabidiol might make muscle movement and tremors worse in people with Parkinson’s disease.
There are numerous CBD products in the market, starting from whole plant extracts but also in the form of oils, balms, pastes, tinctures, salves, gels, creams and lotions, patches, capsules, transdermal formulations, even chewing gum. However, not all of them are safe or approved from the FDA. Thus, be careful of what you order and for which condition you would like to use it. In case you are interested to treat a disease, better contact your doctor and get advice from him before purchasing a CBD product.
It is mostly produced from pressed hemp seeds and is commonly used for wellness and body care products as it contains high amounts of terpenes, vitamins, fatty acids, trace minerals, and other natural cannabinoid compounds.
Creams and lotions
There is a lot of research going on for the development of cannabidiol based creams and lotions. These products are intended to be used not only for wellness purposes, but also for the treatment of several skin diseases like psoriasis.
These products are usually made from cannabidiol extracted from the stems of hemp plants. Companies claim that this is another way of getting your daily CBD and other important cannabinoids good for health.
Water soluble CBD
CBD brothers9 have created a water soluble, drinkable CBD in order to ensure that the active ingredients are quickly and fully absorbed. This product contains healthy levels of CBD, CBC, CBN and CBG together with Curcumin, Echinacea, Vitamin E, Myrcene, Caryophyllene, Pinene, Limonene, Linalool. They claim that this product can deliver vital enhancement.
Capsules and tablets
There are so many different CBD capsules in the market. Most of them are non-psychoactive proposed for taking your daily CBD, but there are also others intended for the treatment of chronic pain, cancer, anxiety, diabetes, epilepsy, sleep disorders, arthritis and several other medical conditions or even for quitting smoking! For your safety, it is important to follow the recommended dose and buy them from a verified seller. Interestingly, there are CBD capsules in the market also for your little friends (cats or dogs). They are supposed to benefit your pet’s body by enhancing its mobility, joints, gastrointestinal tract, neurology as well as its general demeanor and comfort.
AXIM Biotech, a U.S. based company and world leader in cannabinoid research, has developed a form of chewing gum from hemp, to treat pain and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis (MS). The name of the drug is CanChew Gum ™ and contains 5 mg of cannabidiol (CBD) and 5 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
They are an easy, controllable and accurate way of CBD delivery. It is better adhere them to any veinous part of the skin for discreet, all day (or night) usage.
Most of the products are intended for the pain management and some of them are an accompaniment to the patches. However, there are also claims that they may treat nausea and emesis, convulsions, muscle spasms, inflammation, depression, and cachexia.
Cannabidiol has a huge potential for the treatment of numerous diseases, such as cancer, chronic pain, stress, epilepsy, diabetes, psoriasis etc. or it could just be used for enhancing your general health or mood. However, as it is considered a drug, you should always take care of consuming a proper dose and use it cautiously.
- Martin-Santos et al. Acute effects of a single, oral dose of d9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) administration in healthy volunteers. Curr Pharm Des. 2012;18(32):4966-79
- Fusar-Poli et al. Distinct Effects of Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol on Neural Activation During Emotional Processing. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(1):95-105
- Winton-Brown et al. Modulation of Auditory and Visual Processing by Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol: an fMRI Study. 2011 Jun;36(7):1340-8
- Borgelt et al. The pharmacologic and clinical effects of medical cannabis. Pharmacotherapy 33 (2): 195–209 (2013)
- Iffland K and Grotenhermen F Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol – A review of clinical data and relevant animal studies European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) 2016