Medical herbalist columnist Jenny Logan writes about CBD oil and endocannabinoids.
There has been much debate recently about the many benefits if CBD oil, so this week I though I would try to answer the questions.
INTRODUCING THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM:
Firstly, we need to understand that cannabinoids are not found solely in cannabis plants. The human body produces its own cannabinoids – called endocannabinoids. These naturally produced cannabinoids are used by a system named the endocannabinoid system to regulate how messages are sent, received and processed by the body cells. The endocannabinoid system exists throughout all the different body systems – the brain, the nervous system, the heart, liver, pancreas and reproductive system, where it regulates messages being transmitted throughout the nervous system – it can ensure happy or relaxed messages are being effectively transmitted. It can also help to control pain messages. A disrupted endocannabinoid system has therefore been associated with many health problems including anxiety, stress, insomnia, poor appetite control, digestive issues, pain and inflammation.
MEET ANANDAMIDE – THE BLISS MOLECULE
Anandamide, which can also be referred to as AEA for simplicity, is the main endocannabinoid used by our Endocannabinoid system. It is named after ‘anada’ the Sanskrit word for bliss or happiness, but has been found to play a much wider role in our health and wellbeing.
THE ROLE OF ANANDAMIDE
Anandamide is produced in the part of the brain which is important in memory, motivation, higher thought processes and movement control. It also plays a role in pain appetite and fertility. Additionally, it is now believed that it is anandamide, not endorphins, which is responsible for the high people can experience after exercising.
THE BAD NEWS
Some people are genetically predisposed to produce more anandamide than others – these people will probably find stressful situations easier to deal with. When we do produce anandamide, it is quickly broken down again – thus we quickly lose our ‘runners high’.
THE GOOD NEWS
It is possible to ‘boost’ your anandamide levels:
CHOCOLATE – Specifically dark chocolate. Eating dark chocolate or raw cacao nibs is thought to give a quick boost of anandamide – possibly one of the reasons why we crave chocolate.
TRUFFLES – For those who are feeling particularly wealthy, black truffles are also known to be a natural source of our bliss molecule.
CBD OIL – CBD (cannabidiol) oil sourced from Cannabis sativa, also known as industrial hemp. Research has shown that CBD prevents the breakdown of anandamide, thus prolonging good feelings, and limiting pain.
SO, IS CBD SAFE?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is that CBD is NOT part of the controlled drug cannabis – it is extracted from a completely different plant. CBD comes from Cannabis sativa – also known as industrial hemp – the same plant we use to produce hemp seeds, hemp oil and hemp fibres.
The component of cannabis which creates the ‘high’ associated with it, is known as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is found in very low concentrations in industrial hemp. All CBD products must be tested and proven to contain less than 0.2% THC.
To ensure the quality of any CBD product before purchasing it would be sensible to check the following:
Is the supplier well established – how long have they been trading for?
Is every batch tested and checked for THC content – what maximum level will the supplier check for?
Is the product clearly labelled – do you know exactly what you are buying and what dose you will get each time?
WHAT MAKES A GOOD CBD PRODUCT?
The source material - A good CBD product will be produced using organically grown hemp.
The extraction method – There are many ways to extract CBD from hemp, a high-quality product will have been produced using a method known as ‘supercritical CO2 extraction’. This method ensures that no chemicals or solvents are used, no part of the oil is damaged, and also produces very little waste.
The ‘entourage’ – The best CBD products are ‘full spectrum’ products. Hemp contains many other beneficial compounds, not just CBD, and these compounds work together with CBD – this is often referred to as the ‘entourage effect’.
CBD is best absorbed under the tongue, so it should be held in the mouth before swallowing. However, it has a very strong taste which can make this difficult. Taking CBD in a base of MCT (coconut) oil, helps to make the strong flavour more palatable. Additionally, MCT oil increases the absorption of CBD.
CBD can be taken in drops or a spray (capsules are available, but because CBD is best absorbed under the tongue, they will not be as effective).
As counting out drops directly into the mouth is not easy or accurate, a spray, which provides a measured dose, accurately and easily every time is probably the better option.