CBD is one of the most abundant active constituents of the cannabis plant. It’s a non-psychoactive isomer of THC—meaning it won’t result in the intoxicating, “high” sensation. It’s derived from the leaves, stalks and flowers of hemp and cannabis plants, but as the legality of cannabis is still controversial in some places, most CBD oils are extracted from hemp plants.
“CBD is a plant compound found in cannabis sativa—both hemp and cannabis,” says Yvonne Perez Emerson, an herbalist and the founder of Make and Mary, a CBD boutique in Portland, Oregon. There are thought to be at least 100 unique compounds found in hemp known as cannabinoids, of which CBD is the second most abundant. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that interact with the body’s central regulatory system (endocannabinoid system), which manages the body’s homeostasis (physiological balance) among bodily processes such as appetite, mood, memory, sleep, and immune system functions, adds Emerson.
They can be either consumed as phytocannabinoids found intrinsically within CBD products or produced naturally by the body (endocannabinoids). When ingested, CBD oil can help the brain and body by interacting with the endocannabinoid system and neurotransmitters that impact inflammation, pain, mood regulation and stress response.
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How Is It Made?
CBD oil is made from an extraction, often using carbon dioxide, that creates nutrient-dense products with high cannabinoid content.
“CBD oil is made by adding the hemp extract to a carrier oil,” says Emerson. The most common carrier oil used with CBD is medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which is made from coconuts. Vegetable oil, sunflower oil, almond oil and olive oil can also be used as carriers.
Once a carrier oil has been paired, the focus shifts to potency, which determines the product’s strength based on the amount of CBD content present. “A formulation needs to be calculated by what percentage you want the dosage or potency of the end product to be. This depends on the potency of the raw material first,” continues Emerson.
When the desired potency is reached, additional ingredients can be added to the oil depending on the use for which it’s intended. For example, Emerson’s products include other plant-based materials, such as rose hip seed oil and jojoba oil, that address specific concerns like inflammation or skin hydration.
How Is It Used?
Many products contain CBD oil, from topical pain relieving creams to tinctures or gummies used to improve sleep or anxiety. Even bubbly drinks, pet products and beauty products are jumping on the CBD wave.
Experts find CBD oil has an array of health benefits. “Put simply, CBD restores homeostasis (the body’s natural balance),” says Emerson. “It works in the endocannabinoid system by activating two of its core receptors (known as CB1 and CB2), which regulate mood, temperature, cognitive function and muscle repair.”
Although more research is needed, preliminary studies show that CBD oil may also be used to treat or improve the following areas:
- Acute and chronic pain
- Seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions
- Anxiety disorders, depression and post traumatic stress disorder
- Psychiatric and neurologic conditions and diseases
- Digestive health
- Weight management
- Oxidative stress
- Cardiovascular conditions, such as hypertension, heart disease and stroke
- Stress induced cardiovascular conditions
- Skin health
Potential Risks and Side Effects
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns of several potential risks when using CBD in any form, including:
- Potential liver injury
- Negative drug interactions which may cause serious side effects
- Increased risk of sedation and drowsiness when used with alcohol or drugs that slow brain activity
- Changes in alertness during use
- Gastrointestinal distress, such as diarrhea and/or decreased appetite
- Changes in mood, such as irritability and agitation
More research into the potential side effects of CBD is needed, especially pertaining to long-term impacts of use over a sustained period of time, what dosage triggers risks, how consumption methods (eating, smoking or topical application) impact effects, CBD’s effect on a developing fetus or a breastfed newborn, and how CBD impacts a developing brain, such as in children.
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The cannabis sativa plant species is utilized for a wide variety of benefits and byproducts, which vary depending upon the variety of plant and what specific part of the plant is used. If looking for ways to boost your physical health and omega intake, consider hemp seed oil and its research-backed benefits. If you’re in need of pain relief or something to help with anxiety or depression, speak with your health care provider about whether CBD oil is the right choice for your health needs.
Forbes Health covers CBD and cannabis products in accordance with FTC guidelines. Learn more about Forbes Health’s practices and policies regarding how we cover CBD and cannabis as a publisher.