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.
‘CBD has proven anti-anxiety effects and may be helpful in depression, based on anecdotal reports,’ says Dr Gordon. ‘I use high CBD prescription cannabis medicine products as part of a mental health protocol with my patients suffering with anxiety and depression. The antidepressant effects of CBD have been shown in animal models, but we now need large, depression-specific studies in humans as the next step.’
Considered the most scientific method this is also among the cleanest techniques of extraction. Referred to as sub-critical or super critical CO² method, it uses carbon dioxide under different pressures to extract the medicinal oil. This is among the most expensive techniques of extraction due to use of hi-tech equipment that can be operated by trained personnel only. The advantage of this technique is that the end product is the purest form of CBD oil which is highly potent and free of chlorophyll. However if the heat used during extraction is too high it can damage terpenes in the oil that have therapeutic benefits and provide flavor and essence to the oil strain.
While there is much debate on which form is better, this 2015 study leans in favor of full spectrum CBD oil products. There are many that believe that other cannabinoids, THC especially, are necessary to take full advantage of what cannabis has to offer. Ultimately, however, we are all different and it comes down to the individual user and their needs. If drug testing is a concern, you’re encouraged to seek out CBD isolate products (or terpsolates) or broad spectrum products instead of full spectrum.
In terms of how CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant, there a few different techniques that can be used. The most popular used to be by running harsh chemicals like butane (lighter fluid) or hexane over the raw plant material, but people quickly found out that this resulted in trace amounts of carcinogenic compounds (like formaldehyde) being left over in the end product. Not good.
Full spectrum CBD includes hundreds of active compounds, each in varying amounts and potencies, each with their own subtle action. The Entourage Effect predicts that some of these compounds can work in concert with each other to produce larger effects than they could individually, and that some compounds support the actions of others or even help render active compounds that normally wouldn’t be.
So, many of CBD's popularized benefits aren't well-proven. But are there any harms in trying CBD-containing products? In a word, yes. While any reported side effects from CBD alone are minor (think dry mouth and dizziness), they can be serious if the CBD products interact with other medications, experts say. Since CBD is metabolized by the same enzyme in the liver that metabolizes many conventional medicines and supplements, the chemical can cause the levels of other drugs in the system to rise; in some cases – like for those taking a drug to prevent their bodies from rejecting a donor organ – to a deadly level, Tishler says.
Full spectrum (or “whole plant”) products contain CBD as well as terpenes and other cannabinoids such as CBG, CBN and trace amounts of THC. Usually these will be in ratios that were naturally-occurring and extracted from the plant and specific strain. Terpenes and cannabinoids are occasionally added back into products as an isolated form to raise the potency of the product.
Like we mentioned a moment ago, it used to be the belief that “pure CBD,” or CBD isolate, packed the most potent punch in terms of cannabis therapy. And that would make sense too, right? If we know that CBD is primarily the active compound in the plant that provides the medical relief and therapy, then wouldn’t it make sense to make a 100% pure powder out of it?
Since it is non-toxic and non-flammable, supercritical CO2 is preferable over chemical solvents like butane, hexane, and acetone, which can linger in the extracted oil if not purged correctly, rendering the oil toxic. It has also been noted that botanical essential oils extracted using supercritical CO2 are truer to the scent of the original plants than in other forms of extraction, meaning more of the plant’s chemical structure is retained in the oil with the use of CO2.
The appeal? Proponents claim CBD can help ease pain, anxiety, depression and stress, boost focus and productivity, improve the immune system, reduce inflammation and more. And – unlike its psychoactive cousin THC – CBD, they say, is harmless, legal and can't get you high. "The known is it's good for you, it helps a lot of people and a lot of things, and you can't hurt yourself," says Phil Asquith, a farmer and producer of extra-virgin olive oil in California, who founded one of the first companies in the CBD space. "The unknown is all the details."