CBD 101: Fact, Fiction, and all Betwixt

DISCLAIMER: This blog article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as advice, medical or otherwise. This is not a prescription or used to diagnose any particular disease or illness. 




The legalization of marajuana in 11 states including Colorado, Maine and Alaska has paved the way for a new multi-billion dollar industry--CBD. 


Unfortunately, because CBD has a close relationship to THC, like kissing cousins close, there are just as many myths as there are truths about it, its uses and benefits. 


The use of CBD has gained attention for a number of conditions ranging from acne to Parkinson’s and even cancer and there is a growing trend of use among both professional and recreational athletes, yet the benefits and use of CBD are still relatively unknown to the majority of consumers. 


Whether you’re #teamCBD or #TeamSnakeOil there is plenty of information on the interwebs to support or refute both arguments, let’s talk about some of the truths and myths about CBD and whether it’s the wonder drug people exclaim it to be. 

Most importantly, what does science say?


Many online articles just provide snip-its of benefits for mass reading in magazine articles. 


This certainly makes it easy to consume a base level of knowledge, assuming the author has done their research instead of repackaging the information already out there regardless of the information’s correctness. Misinformation gets repeated as truth and factual information is seen as conspiracy theories until no one knows what to believe.


Let’s deep dive into this important (and controversial) topic for everything you wanted to know (and more) about CBD.  


What is CBD?

Industrial grade hemp, from which CBD is derived, can be extracted, manufactured, and sold across state lines in all 50 states thanks in part to the Farm Bill of 2018 which classifies hemp as an agricultural product. This, however, does not mean that CBD is legal in all 50 states. Certain requirements must first be met in order to ensure its purity and quality and since there are currently no federal regulatory standards governing CBD it is important that consumers do their due diligence before purchasing or using CBD and CBD based products. 


What does CBD stand for?

CBD is short for cannabidiol (can-a-bid-e-all), a non-intoxicating and non-addictive phytochemical known as a cannabinoid found in the cannabis sativa plant. Cannabis sativa contains a number of phytochemicals such as CBD and THC as well as other compounds. CBD and THC are just two of over 100 cannabinoids found in the plant.


Are hemp and marijuana the same thing? 

No, marijuana comes from both the cannabis sativa and cannabis indica plant, whereas hemp can ONLY come from cannabis sativa.


Hemp contains CBD has less than .3% THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the active chemical responsible for the “high” associated with smoking marijuana. You may feel a little “loopy” or very relaxed with CBD, but that is likely due to something called receptor expression (more on that in a moment).


Marijuana contains THC. The amount of THC in marijuana can vary anywhere from 5-35%. 


Both CBD and THC are classified as Schedule I drugs (drugs with “no medical value” such as LSD and heroin) and have been classified as so since the 1970s, however, the FDA approval of the CBD based pharmaceutical medication, Epidiolex, for certain types of epileptic seizures calls CBD’s Schedule I classification into question.  The racist roots of the criminalization of marijuana is a story for another blog on another website, but I suggest you google that drama.


Full spectrum vs. isolates, which is better? 

Depends on who you ask. Many proponents of the legalization of marijuana, hemp and the like, advocate for the use of full spectrum CBD, meaning utilizing the whole plant. 


It’s believed that users benefit from the other found compounds within the cannabis sativa plant since it’s been shown that they all have synergistic effects. This also has the potential to increase the amount of THC in a CBD product. 


CBD isolates, on the other hand, isolate the molecules to only contain CBD and removes THC. Isolates also have a more researched and wider therapeutic value aimed at delivering the most therapeutic dose. 


Advocates of Full Spectrum CBD also argue that since both CBD and THC affect the endocannabinoid system in different ways that use of a full spectrum CBD has greater benefit to users. 


How does CBD affect the body? 

CBD interacts with your body via your endocannabinoid system which is a network of lipid (fat) based neurotransmitters responsible for regulating certain body functions and stopping them from getting out of control.  


This is particularly useful in explaining post-workout soreness. When your endocannabinoid system gets overwhelmed and cannot process the amount of inflammation flooding the body after exercise, the resulting experience is muscle pain. 


Endocannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors found  throughout the body. They regulate the secretion of hormones most notably reproductive, stress and inflammation and are responsible for maintaining a healthy immune system and stress response. 


CB1 and CB2 Receptors

There are 2 types of cannabinoid receptors found naturally within the body. CB1 and CB2 that were discovered in the early 1990s.


Both CB1 and CB2 respond to a number of endocannabinoids, both naturally occurring, such as anandamides (an-and-a-meads), as well as THC and CBD, 


This is important to note because of how external cannabinoids such as CBD and THC affect them.  


CB1 and CB2 receptors are both found throughout the body, but are found in higher concentrations in specific locations. 


CB1 receptors, primarily located in the nerve cells of the brain as well as the spinal cord. These receptors are mainly affected by THC.


CB2 receptors are primarily found in the white blood cells, endocrine glands and peripheral organs such as the spleen, tonsils and in the largest concentration throughout the gastrointestinal system and are most affected by CBD.  


Anandamides and CBD

Anandamides are a fatty acid neurotransmitter produced in the brain that bind directly to CB1 receptors and are responsible for reducing your body’s response to inflammation. Similar to THC, some researchers believe anandamides are responsible for the feeling known as “runner’s high due to the fact that they also bind directly to THC.” 


CBD, on the other hand, works differently in that it does not bind directly to CB2 receptors. However, CBD has been shown to increase the bioavailability of anandamide and therefore helping to reduce inflammation.


Since an increase of anandamides results in a decrease in pain and inflammation, it’s possible that a lack of anandamides is responsible for the phenomenon known as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and since CBD increases the amount of available anandamide, CBD could help prevent DOMS in long distance endurance runners.  


CBD and receptor expression

Simply put, receptor expression means how sensitively your body reacts to CBD products. The higher the number of receptors in one area, the higher the expression and the less CBD you need to feel the benefits. 


This is why there isn’t a universal “one size fits all” dosage and why the same dose of CBD can affect two people very differently.  


A variety of factors including the concentration of CBD, body weight, body chemistry and receptor expression will all be factors in determining how much CBD you should take and how it will affect you.


CBD and Science

The two major claims against the use of CBD are 1)  It hasn’t been scientifically proven to help any conditions and 2) lack of research.  


The FDA approval of Epidolox refutes claim one. 


CBD’s Schedule I classification makes broad or generalized studies difficult, but that does not mean it’s never been studied. Columbia University recently did a study on the use of CBDin patients with glioblastoma brain cancer that proved very positive in CBD’s ability to destroy cancer cells without also destroying healthy cells.   


CBD has also been studied in the UK, Italy and Brazil on conditions like anxiety, colon cancer and ulcerative colitis.


CBD benefits for athletes

CBD first became popular among trail and ultra marathoners for its claims in reducing pain and inflammation in the body. A 2007 study revealed that CBD significantly reduced sciatic nerve pain and inflammation in rats. 


It also has reported benefits both pre and post workout.


Pre-workout, runners who experience pre race anxiety may find relief with CBD. One particular study of CBD’s effect on anxiety proved that it did significantly lower levels of anxietyin a group prior to a public speaking engagement vs. the placebo group.  


It could also ease nausea, however the only particular study I could find was in regards to cancer patients post chemotherapy treatment. 


CBD may help with post-workout recovery as well. Exercise produces a number of hormones including cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Cortisol on it’s own isn’t bad, in fact cortisol is catabolic, meaning that it breaks down molecules in the body into smaller ones so they can be used throughout the body. Excess cortisol on the other hand has been linked to increased fat storage, weight gain and the slowing of protein synthesis responsible tissue growth. 


CBD is anti-catabolic and could potentially slow down or control the excess amount of cortisol potentially reversing the effects of the hormone. 


It also has been linked to a decrease in muscle spasms in those with MS. 


CBD has been shown to reduce inflammation in tendon injuries resulting in faster healing for conditions such as plantar fasciitis. 


CBD has also been shown to help you get a better quality of sleep, resulting in a decrease in excess cortisol and an increase in HGH (human growth hormone) which is responsible for everything from tissue repair to new tissue growth. 


Should you try it?

Advocating the benefits of CBD is different than advocating the use of CBD. Consumers should make their own decisions regarding whether or not use of CBD is right for them.  CBD has a number of useful benefits, but it’s not for everyone. For example, people using blood thinners and certain antidepressants should not take CBD. It’s always best to consult your doctor or pharmacist for these and other possible drug interactions including other herbal supplements and otc medications. 


If you’re considering adding CBD to your pain management plan, I hope this article helps you understand what CBD is, how it can benefit you and gives you information to make the best decision for you. 


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