The reason so many people are interested in cannabis products that don’t make them high, proponents say, is that CBD helps with everything from pain and nausea to rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, Crohn’s disease, and dementia. CBD is anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, antibacterial, immunosuppressive, and more, says Joseph Cohen, D.O., a cannabis doctor in Boulder, CO.
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.
Under federal law, cannabis (from which both CBD and marijuana are derived) is illegal everywhere, although the laws against it aren’t generally enforced in states that have legalized marijuana. Some manufacturers claim that CBD culled from legally imported industrial hemp, which has little to no THC, is fine to ship across the U.S., but many experts disagree, noting that because hemp comes from the same species as marijuana, cannabis sativa, all CBD falls under the DEA’s Schedule 1 designation. “This creative interpretation of the law runs afoul of reality,” says the Brookings Institution, a Washington, DC, think tank.
Cannabinol results from the degradation of THC. There is little of it in the fresh plant, but decarboxylation often raises the amount of CBN in the plant as an effect. CBN is only mildly psychoactive and has a higher affinity for the CB2 receptor than the CB1 receptor, linking CBN to the body’s immune system. In hemp oil, CBN is present in levels of 0.2% or lower.
“What is CBD oil” may be your first question, but the real question we have to answer is, “What does CBD oil do?” CBD interacts with the body through the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) or endocannabinoid system. First discovered in the late 1980’s, the endocannabinoid system regulates the body’s homeostasis, or general state of balance, impacting such functions as mood, sleep, appetite, hormone regulation, and pain and immune response. Like an acrobat on a highwire, as the environment around us impacts our normal balance, the endocannabinoid system “corrects” by mediating our body’s reaction to keep us level.