CBD is simply an active chemical compound, or cannabinoid, that’s found in the cannabis plant. The reason it’s becoming so popular across such a wide audience of people right now though is because unlike the other main compound in cannabis (THC), it doesn’t get you high. There have been thousands upon thousands of medical studies showing all of the health benefits that CBD has, but “average” people are loving it because it doesn’t produce any mind-altering psychoactive effects.
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No one’s really sure: “It’s astonishing that there’s still no real consensus on how CBD works,” says McLaughlin. “One thing we do know is that it doesn’t work through the same receptors as THC, and, in fact, seems to have the opposite effect.” THC mainly binds to a certain type of receptor (known as CB1) in the brain. But with CBD, he says, “there seems to be a lot of complex targets”—which means CBD may affect multiple pathways throughout the body.
From anecdotal evidence in humans and from animal studies, CBD appears to affect the way we experience pain, inflammation, and anxiety. “Scientists have identified a number of receptors in the nervous system where CBD acts,” says Orrin Devinsky, MD, professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry at NYU Langone. “It’s established that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties and can increase activity at some serotonin [the feel-good neurotransmitter] receptors.”
The plants are cultivated and then sent for extraction. Some CBD oil-based products come from whole plant extracts. Others are derived from isolates. Whole plant extraction is self-explanatory. The entire plant is part of the process. Those in the medical communities prefer this method. They believe that a broader spectrum of cannabinoids yields during whole plant extraction. According to medical specialists, capturing the entire cannabinoid spectrum stimulates the endocannabinoid system. They call this the “entourage effect.”
Extracting CBD from the hemp plant is just one part of the process for making CBD hemp oil. Extracted CBD oil is less than palatable. If the consumer’s desire is to make CBD oil part of their everyday routine, producers try to make the oil at least a little bit tasty. Also, consumers require a choice when it comes to the product’s potency, or the strength of the CBD oil-based product. Producers then need to dilute the raw CBD oil to accommodate their needs.
Another concern is about medications with which CBD might interact. This won’t be an issue with most drugs, says Sunil Kumar Aggarwal, M.D., Ph.D., a palliative medicine physician and scientist who studies cannabis and integrates it into his Seattle medical practice. The exceptions are blood thinners, IV antibiotics, and other drugs whose exact dosing is crucial and must be monitored closely, he says. (Of course, if you have a health problem, talk to your doctor before using CBD, and never take it instead of seeing your physician for a serious condition.)
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