CBD is all the buzz these days, and everyone wants to know what it is and how to use it. Cannabis is showing up in everything from skincare to cocktails to pet supplies. Understanding the benefits of the different forms will be important as CBD goes mainstream and you consider adding it to your wellness arsenal.
Both are forms of cannabinoids, the active ingredients that occur naturally in cannabis. One gets you high, the other doesn’t. Learning the difference, and how cannabis is being used, both recreationally and medically, will help you navigate this new world of lifestyle medicine.
What is it
Cannabis is a genus of the plant family Cannabinacea, and has been used medicinally for pain relief since 2700 BC. Cannabinoids are the main class of compounds found in cannabis. They work with the human endocannabinoid system which is responsible for keeping our most important biological functions in balance — things like managing pain, sleep, the immune system, appetite and more. Basically, the humans are pre-wired to use cannabinoid plant compounds in ways that benefit our major body systems.
The cannabis plant is one of the most pharmacologically active plants on the planet, with a whopping 400 plus active chemicals. The pharmaceutically active components in cannabis actually mimic the endocannabinoids in our bodies. This means they are beneficial for helping the body heal and restore itself and are especially effective for inflammation and pain.
Along with cannabinoids, there are other naturally occurring active chemicals in cannabis called terpenoids and flavonoids. These chemical components contribute a wide variety of therapeutic benefits such as, preventing seizures and muscle spasms, killing viruses and bacteria, preventing certain types of cancer, stimulating bone growth and dilating blood vessels. There are also powerful antioxidants.
The two most commonly known cannabinoids are THC and CBD.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is responsible for cannabis’ primary psychotropic effects. THC also has medicinal properties that include anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative and analgesic benefits.
CBD (cannabidiol) has many beneficial medicinal properties and is a powerful anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-proliferative, anti-spasmodic and reduces anxiety. It is a nonintoxicant, meaning it does not have psychotropic qualities, or will not get you ”high”.
CBD is a beneficial and versatile cannabinoid found largely in hemp which is a type of cannabis. Interestingly, it is naturally occurring and found in smaller servings in the cruciferous family of vegetables that includes broccoli and kale. It is most abundant, however, in hemp.
What makes CBD so important medically is that it has such strong anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and neuro-protective properties. This makes it a promising treatment for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimers disease, and all other neurodegenerative diseases that have a strong link to inflammation. CBD has also been shown to help regulate blood pressure and kill certain types of cancer cells, while simultaneously protecting healthy cells.
CBD has many benefits for the average user but is best known for its ability to reduce anxiety and provide a sense of calm. It has already been successfully used to help treat PTSD, and is known for its anti-depressant and anti-psychotic properties. CBD has antioxidant properties considerably stronger than vitamin C and E, so you will be seeing it in skin care products. As a powerful anti-inflammatory, with no known side effects, CBD is a useful over the counter option for pain management, and can help treat everything from arthritis to headaches.
What to look for
There are currently many companies selling CBD products online and in stores. It comes in tinctures, capsules and topicals. How you take it or use them will depend on the desired medicinal benefit you seek. Because CBD is not yet FDA regulated, it falls on the consumer to be an educated buyer — do not assume all products are of the same quality or that label claims are true.
When you are buying CBD, look for the volume or amount of CBD and do a bit of research to make sure high quality hemp was used in production. I suggest only buying CBD from reputable companies in the United States and avoiding overseas hemp that might be chemically treated. Each product you buy should be clear about its concentration amount. The concentration amount denotes the strength of the product, or how much CBD is contained in the total volume. I would only buy from a company that runs tests on its products so you know what you are getting and that the company cares about quality.
General serving information
This is where things can get tricky. CBD works most effectively when taken or used consistently. The best results are obtained when it is used as a daily supplement, the same way you would take a vitamin.
The standard starting adult serving of CBD is considered to be 1-2mg daily. This is a good place to start and determine if this is a satisfactory serving. You may want to experiment up to 3mg as a daily supplement. Higher servings, and other methods of delivery, can be researched for conditions like chronic pain and sleep disorders. And it is always recommended that you check with your healthcare provider before adding new supplements to your routine.
Cooking with CBD
My fascination with CBD began with the extensive health benefits and then circled back to my sweet spot of using food as medicine. I found it fascinating that our bodies know exactly what to do with the beneficial plant compounds found in cannabis; that we could easily tap into the powerful benefits by using CBD and avoid the “high” associated with THC.
The best way to add CBD to food is with the oil or isolate crystal forms , and I came up with a few tips for incorporating it into recipes. I found it easy to measure and add CBD oil to soups, smoothies and salad dressings. CBD is fat soluble, so you want to make sure you are using it with some form of healthy fat. I used it in smoothies made with nut milks or kefir, and salad dressings with any type of oil. I added it with oil or butter to make blended creamy soups, and was careful not to overheat when warming — thereby protecting the active ingredients.
Making a calming chai tea or hot chocolate was a natural place to add a few drops of CBD oil. I also found it worked well in pestos and other sauces. We don’t eat many sweets in our house, but I made a batch of macadamia, coconut power balls and added the CBD oil to the recipe with great success. The CBD isolate crystals are typically used in baking, and have less of a pronounced flavor than the oil or drops.
I also ordered some topical lotions online; that can be used to enhance the feeling of wellbeing and promote sleep. I purchased some capsules containing a combination of CBD and turmeric that can replace chemical, over-the-counter pain relievers that have nasty side effects.
I welcome the opportunity to explore the possibilities of CBD, with its multitude of medicinal benefits, into my kitchen and my life.