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CBD oil: A guide to what’s available and how they work

As the buzz surrounding this cannabis derivative gets louder, here’s what you need to know as to what should be the best CBD oil.

Cannabis has now been legal in several countries, including Canada. And while the hype has calmed down to a simmer, there’s still a lot to learn about the once prohibited plant.

First, let’s take it back to basics. “Cannabis” is the scientific term for a genus of flowering plant, which contains the species Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Hemp is a varietal of C. sativa that has less than one percent THC, the compound that produces the feeling of being high.

“Marijuana” is technically the term for a cannabis plant that has up to 30 percent of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but as many believe the word has racist connotations, “cannabis” has been the preferred term for some time.

So, What is CBD?

Cannabidiol or the popularly known CBD is one of more than 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, pure CBD is non-impairing, so it won’t give you the feeling of being high, which is why the focus has shifted so heavily toward using CBD as a therapeutic salve.

CBD research and cannabis research, in general, has been limited because it was considered an illegal narcotic for so long. But some preliminary research into CBD has shown that it may be useful in the treatment of inflammation, nausea, seizures, and psychiatric disorders. With the market now open in many countries, we should start to hear a lot more research on cannabis and cannabis products.

CBD oils, containing CBD extracted from the C. sativa plant, will have varying levels of THC in them, though these levels are generally quite low. These oils can be purchased through an approved retailer (be sure to read labels thoroughly to determine the level of THC in your oil before use). It is all the more critical in the US where if a CBD product contains the legally permitted amount of THC but wasn’t grown by a licensed producer according to federal regulations, it’s still illegal. Moreover, in the US, purchasing CBD is federally legal as long as it doesn’t contain more than 0.3 percent THC – the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the high sensation. However, some state laws have put restrictions on buyers for using CBD. For example, in Virginia, you can only buy and possess CBD if you have a prescription.

How do you use it?

CBD is being put into tinctures, topicals and almost anything that’s marketable at this point. When it comes to oils, most packaging recommends that five to 10 drops be placed under the tongue for quick absorption.

It’s worth noting: You should allow CBD oil to sit for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking or eating. These oils are also not meant for oral consumption or cooking since infusing cooking oils is a different matter altogether. (The jury is still out on how effective topical products, like bath bombs and lotions, can be.)

What do the experts say?

In June 2018, the World Health Organization met to discuss the therapeutic use of cannabis and its extracts, including cannabidiol, determining that they both warranted further review based on compelling data.

But some in the research community think the prominence of the CBD conversation may be adding to the still-present stigma surrounding cannabis. “I think it’s important for the public conversation about the use of cannabis, medically, to be broadened to focus on cannabis, not CBD,” says Dr. Jordan Tishler, a Harvard-trained physician who has been working with cannabis for about 20 years.

“In many ways, the current obsession with CBD underlines the ongoing stigma related to cannabis and intoxication, which we must try to overcome for the benefit of patients.”

Dr. Tishler also cautions that to see real benefits from CBD, you need to take high amounts. “All studies show that you need to take 10 to 20 mg per kilogram for any benefit. For an average person, that’s 800 to 1600 mg per day, or $50 to $100 US per day. This is clearly beyond most people’s budgets. Below those doses, CBD is solely a placebo.”

What will happen to you?

In addition to the aforementioned therapeutic uses, some users report that CBD can help mitigate a myriad of issues, such as menstrual cramps, muscle aches, and joint pain in athletes.

Cannabis and CBD can affect everyone a little differently, but CBD oil should not affect you on a psychoactive level, and users generally don’t report feeling drowsy when taking the recommended dose.

Of course, if someone is allergic to any hemp or cannabis products, they should steer clear of CBD oil, as well.

When it comes to skincare, CBD has been said to help reduce redness and have super hydrating powers. So if you’re looking for a nourishing body balm, that also happens to be natural, this is as good a bet as any.

As Dr. Tishler mentioned, CBD oils can be a bit pricey for the moment, but as the market regulates, there will be room for more players to get into the game. Start with a low-dose CBD oil to ease your way in, if you’re interested.

It’s clear there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to cannabis and CBD, but education is critical as we expand our knowledge on how this plant can act as medicine. Healing with CBD: How Cannabidiol Can Transform Your Health Without the High, which was just released this fall, is written by Eileen Konieczny, a registered nurse known for her cannabis advocacy, and Lauren Wilson, a writer and cannabis enthusiast. In the book, they talk more in-depth into every aspect of CBD, including dosing, its history, and more.

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