How To Get All The Health Benefits Of Marijuana Without Smoking
Allow me to begin by clarifying a very important thing: I am not a pothead, a stoner, or a recreational drug enthusiast.
G rowing up, I was originally a fantasy-fiction writing, World of Warcraft dominating geek in my early years, and later in high school and college was a clean-living, well-shaven jock athlete with a substance abuse problem that consisted primarily of copious amounts of creatine, caffeine and canned protein shakes.
Until recently, unless you count smoking a very small number of joints at a few random parties in college, about the closest I’ve come to what might be considered “fringe” substance use has been via occasional use of nootropics and rrbal extracts like packets of concentrated Chinese herbs, smart drugs like piracetam, anirecatam and alpha-GPC combinations. ( See my white powder on a kitchen scale video here) and vaporizing nighttime sleep extracts of melatonin and L-theanine. ( Yet another creepy video here).
Of course, if you’re a regular podcast listener or you read my recent article on the “The Effect Of Weed On Exercise: Is Marijuana A Performance-Enhancing Drug?“, then you already know that subsequent to the legalization of weed in my home state of Washington, I’ve been experimenting with edible tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for exercise performance, and also experimenting with vaporizing indica-rich strains of marijuana for creativity, relaxation and sleep.
So there: now I’m a bonified druggie. But let’s move on, because in this article, we’re going to delve into a derivative of the cannabis plant family that has some pretty massive payoffs for balancing your endocrine system, relieving anxiety, modulating chronic stress, shutting down inflammation and chronic pain, decreasing blood sugar, decreasing appetite and lowering abdominal obesity.
In other words, you’re going to learn about a form of cannabis without the paranoia inducing effects of regular weed, and all of the benefits.
So let’s say you didn’t grow up in the 60’s, never had stoner parents, have lived a relatively clean life, or simply smoke joints without ever thinking too hard about what’s happening chemically. Here’s a bit of “Weed 101”.
When people talk about marijuana or use marijuana, they’re usually referring to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). What’s THC? It’s the part of the hemp plant (AKA the cannabis plant) that induces a euphoric state. Or an annoying, mildly schizophrenic state, depending on your perspective. We can at least say beyond a shadow of a doubt that it makes Family Guy episodes way, way more funny.
And of course, THC is what most recreational weed users are looking for, which is probably why botanists have figured out since the 1960’s how to increase the amount of THC from around 3% to 5% in the 1960s to as much as 28% in our current decade. So yes, it’s true that we’re not smoking the weed our parents smoked, and one draw on a typical joint these days would probably knock your mom on her ass.
As you learned a little about in my article on the effects of THC on exercise performance, THC fits into a site called the C-1 receptor in the cerebral cortex of your brain, and this is what causes you to experience a cerebral high, and if you fill in too many of those C-1 receptors, a very, very long time sitting on your couch.
And then there’s cannabidiol (CBD), pictured right, which is one of at least 85 active cannabinoids identified in cannabis, but is a major part of the cannabis plant, accounting for up to 40% of the plant’s total cannabinoid extract. CBD has long been researched for a much wider scope of medical applications than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). We’ll get into the most relevant of those medical applications later.
But first more Weed 101 – specifically, how CBD is actually separated from THC. And to understand this, you need to put on your straw hat and for the next 60 seconds become a hemp field farmer.
See, hemp fields are simply fields of cannabis plants that grow under conditions in which the male plants have been allowed to fertilize the female plants. When you separate the male and female plants, the females can’t be pollinated, so they produce lots of THC (in what is known as “resinous THC form”) as a result. But when the female is allowed to get pollinated, she barely produces any THC. In fact, the happily sexed up female produces less than 1% THC.
So to gain a higher production of THC in a field of cannabis plants, you simply take away the male plants so the females can’t be pollinated, and to lower THC production, you keep the male and female plants together. Plants used for CBD oil or CBD capsules or hemp oil or hemp protein or your hippie neighbor’s tie-dyed hemp headwear meet the international standards of less than 1% THC.
The Wonderful World Of CBD Chemistry
Why on earth would you want to dump a bunch of CBD into your body with none of the fun, psychoactive properties of THC? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that. There are some very, very good reasons.
But first, it’s important for you to understand what’s going on inside your body when you consume this CBD stuff from those happily mating male and female plants.
You already learned that THC attached mostly to C-1 receptors. On the other hand, most people will tell you that CBD fits into a different receptor, the (…drumroll please…) C-2 receptor, thus magically minimizing the effects from the C-1 receptor and providing all the medical benefits without the psychoactive high from THC.
Sigh. I wish it were that easy.
CBD actually has a very low affinity for both C-1 and C-2 receptors but acts as an indirect antagonist of their agonists. Woo-boy. Head spinning? All this means is the following: all the things that would normally activate the C-1 or the C-2 receptors are turned off or turned down by CBD.
For example, CBD can increase C-1 receptor density so that there’s just too many C-1 receptors for THC to bind to, thus taking the edge off the potential psychoactivity of weed, while still retaining all the opioid-like painkilling effects. In case you are concerned about this, meaning you have to buy more weed or take more hits if you’re using CBD oil, you should also know that CBD can extend the duration of the effects of THC by inhibiting the cytochrome P-450 enzymes that would cause you to more rapidly metabolize THC.
So your plasma concentrations of THC increase when you’re using CBD, resulting in a greater amount of THC available to receptors and increasing the effect of THC in a dose-dependent manner (which means the more CBD you use, the more THC becomes available). But along with this increase, CBD also acts as an antagonist at the cannabinoid receptor called GPR55 in the caudate nucleus and putamen sections of your brain, reducing paranoia-like effects or heart-beat racing from weed.
Yes, I know. Eyes glazing over.
Blah, blah, insert Ben Greenfield geek-speak drone sounds here. Place propellor hat on head. Tuck in shirt and gently put pocket protector in its place.
Here’s what I’m getting at: the magic of CBD is not really based on it’s action on C-1 or C-2 receptors, unless you’re using CBD to specifically elongate the effects of THC or to take any unpleasant psychoactive edge off THC. Which works just fine, by the way.
As a matter of fact, if CBD did indeed attach to C-1 and C-2 receptors, it would have the same addictive potential of THC. But since its mechanism of action is not dependent on receptors associated with addiction, CBD is not addictive or habit-forming in any way. So while the receptor explanation is conveniently simple, it’s not quite accurate.
Instead, CBD acts as an agonist on an entirely different receptor called the 5-HT1A receptor, and this is how CBD actually works as an antidepressant with anti-anxiety and neuroprotective effects. It also serves as what is called an “allosteric modulator” of your opioid receptors, which is how it works to remove pain and reduce the effects of chronic inflammation. Other positive medical effects of CBD (there’s over 60 of them, if you care to read up on them here) are due to increased intracellular calcium release and agonism of another receptor called the PPAR-γ receptor.
So let’s put this into real world context.
As you may know or as you may have forgotten (ha!) short term memory problems are really common with THC. That’s why the extremely funny, laugh-snorting joke you told last night is impossible to remember the next morning. Don’t worry, it probably wasn’t as funny as you thought it was last night. But a 2010 study found that CBD eliminates any memory loss problem from weed. In the study, researchers used plants bred for high CBD and low THC plants, and attributed this attenuation of memory loss to CBD’s role as a C-1 antagonist.
Here’s another interesting fact for you: CBD has really strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, due primarily to its effects on your adenosine receptors and cytochrome P-450 and 2C enzymes. When this was first discovered, the US government insisted that cannabis has no medical benefits, but at the same time, they took out patent 6,630,507, which gave them rights to the antioxidant properties of cannabis (which they ironically still claim don’t exist). Incidentally, that patent was not extended to actual oil or capsule extracts of cannabis, so the good ol’ US guvmint missed out on some pretty good business opportunities, if you ask me.
It’s also nearly impossible to overdose on CBD. Kind of like water, dark chocolate, and steamed kale, it has an unusually low level of toxicity. In the last 6,000 years, CBD hasn’t killed anyone via overdose, which is particularly impressive when you compare it to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, Advil and Tylenol, which can wreak havoc on your gut lining, liver and kidneys. Or aspirin (salicylic acid) which kills over 1,000 people every year. Or alcohol, which kills over 110,000 people a year. No one’s ever died from CBD.
As a matter of fact, leading up to this article, I’ve used very high amounts of CBD (100+mg) with no ill effect, aside from extreme feelings of relaxation, calm and the impression that if my home caught on fire, I probably wouldn’t care (OK, so maybe that’s an ill effect).
A Very Brief History of CBD
Now of course, you could stop reading here and scroll down to fill yourself in on all the benefits of CBD oil, and the specific conditions for which it can come in handy. But I actually find the history of cannabis quite fascinating, especially given America’s persistent widespread disapproval and/or fear of it’s use. It’s not like this stuff just popped up like Red Bull energy drinks, ecstasy, Lunesta, or Adderall. Instead I’d kinda clump cannabis right in with organic vegetables and essential oils.
About 2,700 years ago, in Persia, a spiritual teacher named Zoroaster penned a sacred text of about 10,000 plants. As you can read about in this more incredibly detailed history of cannabis, Zoroaster interestingly included hemp at the tippy-top of his compendium. Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, also recommended cannabis extracts.
Later, Queen Victoria’s physician and one of the world’s leading doctors of that era, Sir Russell Reynolds, prescribed medicinal cannabis for the Queen’s menstrual cramps, for which CBD still works fantastically. When writing about medical marijuana in the first edition of the British medical journal The Lancet, Reynolds proclaimed that cannabis is “one of the most valuable medicines we possess.” Another widely hailed physician at the time, Sir William Osler, used CBD for migraines with excellent results.
The father of French psycho-pharmacology, Dr. Jean-Jacques Moreau de Tours, used the cannabis plant to treat depression, another condition still widely treated with cannabis in the modern era. Later, during the Revolutionary War, soldiers were paid with cannabis, and presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson encouraged farmers to grow more hemp to produce more rope and paper, as well as clothing and ship sails (which dates back to the Egyptians using hemp sails on their Nile boats 3,000-4,000 years ago). During WWII, American farmers were also asked to grow as much hemp as possible. Last time I checked, the US government isn’t politely asking farmers to grow hemp anymore, although corn and grain subsidies are booming.
Anything that can be made of plastic can also be made from hemp, which can reduce exposure to phytoestrogens and other chemicals in plastic and other synthetic compounds. Hemp plant fibers are long and tough, and can be woven into a soft cloth that wears well and has fewer of the herbicides and pesticides associated with other modern cloths like cotton. Even copies of the Declaration of Independence used to be written on cannabis paper, since it doesn’t yellow with age like other papers do.
As you’ve probably already heard, the hemp plant itself is is a highly useful plant, and every part of it has been used to make a wide variety of products, including biofuel and medicine. Biofuel made from hemp seeds is far less expensive and more effective than ethanol derived from corn. If there weren’t so many federal restrictions, growing hemp would highly benefit any agricultural state, but unfortunately most states must pay an absurdly high premium to import hemp seeds. And of course, as you’re probably aware, both THC and CBD seem to be immersed in a constant struggle of medical legality that I simply don’t have the time to address in this post.
Nonetheless, when it comes to CBD oil and cannabidiol, people seem be getting more aware of the fact that you don’t need to be a pothead to get all the medical, relaxing, hormone and metabolism-balancing properties of weed. Not that the image below is based on hard scientific epidemiological data, but a quick glance at a Google trends profile of searches for “CBD Oil” speaks volumes, doesn’t it?
Is CBD Addictive, Unsafe or Illegal?
So if CBD oil is so freaking magical, there must be a downside right? Addictive potential, perhaps? Toxicity and lack of proven safety? Illegal? Although I touched on the absence of C1 and C2 receptor binding earlier in this article, let’s delve into the addictive or unsafe potential of CBD just a bit more.
First, there is zero evidence, anywhere that CBD is addictive. This is because CBD does not act on any receptors in the brain that would produce addiction. You already learned about the science behind that whole receptor thing.
There, that was easy, huh?
But if you want more details then click here to read some of the writings of Dr. Tod Mikuriya, former national administrator of the US government’s marijuana research programs, was quite outspoken on the subject of addiction. The late Dr. Mikuriya stated that no other single drug or substance has as many therapeutic benefits as cannabis, and he never discovered any evidence of cannabis addiction.
Now don’t get me wrong – some will indeed claim that cannabis is addictive. For example, the Boggs Act of 1951 established mandatory sentences for drug users and also claimed that cannabis was addictive. But since then, testimony given by Dr. Harris Isbell, Director of Research at the Public Health Service hospital in Lexington, Kentucky exposed this as false, explaining how cannabidiols from marijuana are not physically addictive.
But Dr. Isbell’s research was mostly ignored, and instead overshadowed by the argument that the plant inevitably is the stepping stone to heroin addiction, and the calling for harsh penalties against offenders of the marijuana laws. But the concept of marijuana as a “gateway drug” remains completely unproven.
In over 6,000 years of usage in Oriental Medicine, there have been no cases of addiction reported (although Emperor Fu Hsi referred to cannabis as a popular remedy as early as 2,900 BC).
In the early 1900s, as part of the Prohibition movement, cannabis was claimed by many to be addictive. But this was not based on research, and ironically the recommended treatment for cannabis “addiction” in most cases was the use of heroin.
An actual long term study, Ganja in Jamaica: A Medical Anthropological Study of Chronic Marijuana Use, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1975, showed zero concerns with addiction, even after patients who had used cannabis for decades had stopped. The 1980 study Cannabis in Costa Rica: A Study in Chronic Marijuana Use backed this up. Most interestingly, studies like this are not finding any addictive potential even in the presence of THC along with the CBD!
In the early 1990’s, rehabilitation facilities did indeed experience a significant surge of patients who were “addicted” to cannabis. But a survey done at that time noted that nearly all of them had come from the court system, where judges gave convicted criminals the choice between entering into treatment for addiction or entering prison, which was probably a pretty simple choice for most.
Later in the 1990’s, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded research that had the goal of proving that cannabis is addictive. But instead of identifying any biochemical pathway that could cause addiction, any research defined addiction by the presence or absence of some degree of withdrawal, with no specific parameters for withdrawal actually defined. In other words, if you’re thirsty, this NIDA-funded research could argue that this means you are addicted to water.
The ugly truth is that the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the agency that oversees 85 percent of the world’s research on controlled substances, is on record stating that its institutional policy is to reject any and all medical marijuana research. “As the National Institute on Drug Abuse, our focus is primarily on the negative consequences of marijuana use,” a NIDA spokesperson told The New York Times in 2010. “We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana.”
And how about the safety of cannabis?
Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Medical School, spent the majority of his professional life studying cannabis, from the 1960’s to 2000’s. The result was “Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine“. As you can see, Dr. Grinspoon didn’t find one single case of death, stating that
“There are no deaths from cannabis use. Anywhere. You can’t find one.”
There are dozens of other doctors and similar studies, too many to list here – but you can certainly delve in at ProjectCBD website. On September 6, 1988 Francis Young, an administrative DEA judge, took medical testimony for over two weeks, and at the end of it, he said,
“Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”
Once again, even when talking about the THC combined with the CBD, and not the isolated, non-psychoactive CBD component, marijuana is shown to be both non-addictive and safe.
But when it comes to pain management, one of the primary uses for CBD oil, deaths from drug overdoses and drug poisoning continue to rise. Deaths from opioid analgesics – one of the most universally prescribed pain management drugs – increased from 4,030 in 1999 to 15,597 in 2009 and 16,651 in 2010. In 2010, 60 percent of all drug overdose deaths (22,134) involved pharmaceutical drugs, and pioid analgesics showed up in about 3 of every 4 of those pharmaceutical overdose deaths. That confirms the predominant role that research has shown opioid analgesics to play in drug-related mortality. Opioids are nasty, brutal drugs with side effects nearly as bad as the conditions they’re taken for, and although deaths from opiods are common, they’re still one of the most turned to bandaids in modern medicine.
CBD in proper dosages gives nearly the same pain reduction compared to opioid prescription drugs such as morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone are examples, and when combined with these drugs, allows you to use far less of the actual prescription, thus reducing the toxic load on your liver and kidneys. And of course, as you already know, these benefits come without the proven addictive or unsafe nature of opioid drugs.
Considering the complete non-addictiveness and safety of cannabis, Dr. James Hudson, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia Department of Pathology and Lab Medicine, has said that pharmaceutical companies have an enormous incentive to chemically recreate the natural compounds in marijuana and somehow sell a drug from it. You probably already know this, but pharmaceutical companies can’t patent a natural compounds, but if they can make a synthetic compounds that mimics ingredient from cannabis, they can formulate that as a drug and potentially make a lot more money off of it.
To get an idea of the medical benefits of CBD (again, I need to emphasize to you that this is not medical marijuana or anything illegal, just the completely natural form of CBD), just take a look video of CBD oil helping with a form of childhood epilepsy called Dravet syndrome. The first use of CBD for Dravet’s syndrome was given to a patient who was having 300 seizures a week. I first talked about this video last year Is Weed Healthy? The Controversial Truth About The Science Of Marijuana…
Do you see that? The form of epilepsy in that video usually kills the child.
Here’s a nearly identical video of a patient with multiple sclerosis (MS) who was given CBD…
…and cerebral palsy. When you watch the video below, it becomes even more ironic that the government once created a prohibition of cannabis, declaring that it “has no medical usage”.
You get the idea, and now you probably also have a pretty good idea of why pharmaceutical companies would want to patent some chemical-ized version of this. So I’d suspect that we’re not too far away from an enormously overpriced cannabis-like chemical produced in a pharmaceutical factory. But in the meantime, you can get the identical effects from entirely natural sources of CBD. Let’s take a look at what some of those most relevant effects would be.
As for the legality, here’s the skinny for my home country of the USA (original source here):
“The drug Schedules list “Tetrahydrocannabinols” and “marijuana” both as Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, however cannabidiol is unlikely to be considered as a Schedule I drug on the basis of being covered by the listing of “Marijuana” or by the listing of “Tetrahydrocannabinols” under Schedule I of the CSA.
“Marijuana” has a DEA Drug Code of 7360 (distinct from cannabidiol’s Drug Code of 7372) and is defined by the CSA as “all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin.” Exempted from regulation under the definition are “the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.”
A DEA Interpretive Rule published in 2001 states that the “definition of marijuana was intended to include those parts of marijuana which contain THC and to exclude those parts which do not. … The legislative history is absolutely clear that Congress meant to outlaw all plants popularly known as marijuana to the extent those plants possessed THC.”Cannabidiol isolated by extraction from marijuana sources does not contain THC, and synthetically produced cannabidiol does not contain THC either. It therefore stands to reason that cannabidiol is not covered under the prohibition on marijuana.
“Tetrahydrocannabinols” listed under Schedule I of the CSA are unlikely to include cannabidiol. Tetrahydrocannabinols are defined as follows:
Unless specifically excepted or unless listed in another schedule, any material, compound, mixture, or preparation, which contains any quantity of the following hallucinogenic substances, or which contains any of its salts, isomers, and salts of isomers whenever the existence of such salts, isomers, and salts of isomers is possible within the specific chemical designation (for purposes of this paragraph only, the term “isomer” includes the optical, position and geometric isomers):
(31) Tetrahydrocannabinols (DEA Drug Code: 7370)
Meaning tetrahydrocannabinols naturally contained in a plant of the genus Cannabis (cannabis plant), as well as synthetic equivalents of the substances contained in the cannabis plant, or in the resinous extractives of such plant, and/or synthetic substances, derivatives, and their isomers with similar chemical structure and pharmacological activity to those substances contained in the plant, such as the following:
(Since nomenclature of these substances is not internationally standardized, compounds of these structures, regardless of numerical designation of atomic positions covered.)
Furthermore, cannabidiol was not placed into Schedule I when The Controlled Substances Act was amended in July 2012 with the US Congress‘ passing of the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 (SDAPA) (which came into effect on January 4, 2013) to ban various cannabinoids, cathinones, and phenethylamines. The part adding to Schedule I various “cannabimimetic agents” which include molecules more closely resembling so-called “classically” structured cannabinoids reads as follows: Since cannabidiol is chemically not a tetrahydrocannabinol (nor indeed a “cannabinol” of any kind) and cannabidiol has a DEA Drug Code of 7372 (distinct from Tetrahydrocannabinols’ designated Drug Code of 7370), it stands to reason that cannabidiol is not considered one of the drugs placed into Schedule I under the listing of “Tetrahydrocannabinols” in the CSA.
(d)(1) Unless specifically exempted or unless listed in another schedule, any material, compound, mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of cannabimimetic agents, or which contains their salts, isomers, and salts of isomers whenever the existence of such salts, isomers, and salts of isomers is possible within the specific chemical designation.
(A) The term “cannabimimetic agents” means any substance that is a cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1 receptor) agonist as demonstrated by binding studies and functional assays within any of the following structural classes: (i) 2-(3-hydroxycyclohexyl)phenol with substitution at the 5-position of the phenolic ring by alkyl or alkenyl, whether or not substituted on the cyclohexyl ring to any extent.
Cannabidiol, while being a more “classically structured” cannabinoid (not like the much more recently discovered cannabinoid receport agonists with indole rings such as many of the JWH- and AM- named series), was not on the list of specifically newly banned cannabinoids (even among those with a more so-called “classic structure”) and it does not fall into the category of unlisted cannabinoids which are caught by the definition above for several reasons. Primarily, CBD is not a CB1 agonist; it is a CB1 antagonist. Also, unlike CP 47,497‘s homologues and similar synthetic “classical structured cannabinoids” which the above definition was written carefully to include, the cannabidiol molecule has a cyclohexene ring where the amended law requires a cyclohexane ring, and further cannabidiol does not have the required 3-hydroxyl moiety bonded to its cyclohexenyl functional group where the law requires a hydroxyl moiety bonded to the 3- position of a cyclohexyl functional group.”
OK, yes I’ll admit. That part hurts my head. But in a nutshell it simply means that cannabidiol, aka CBD, is a far different chemical than cannabinol or THC, and because of that, can’t fall into the class of being a controlled drug .
Of course, it’s extremely important to draw a distinction between cannabidiol from medical marijuana vs. cannabidiol from industrial hemp. The first form of cannabidiol is extracted from medical marijuana plants grown to be high in CBD and low in THC. It’s often sold under the title “Charlotte’s Web” and is a Schedule I controlled substance. It is only sold to licensed dispensaries and prescribed by doctors for particular conditions in places where marijuana is regulated, such as the USA. Marijuana-based CBD oil like this is only legal in states such as Colorado and Washington that have enacted medical marijuana laws.
While medical marijuana is grown to be high in CBD for the treatment of specific ailments, the THC content can vary dramatically, sometimes getting as high as the CBD content. The other problem with medical marijuana (besides the possibility of getting a strain that is high in THC) is that it’s not currently legal everywhere. In the United States, you must be living in certain states and obtain a prescription from a doctor to receive medical marijuana.
The water soluble CBD I use called “BioCBD” contains less than 0.001% THC, which is far below the legal threshold of 0.3% set by the DEA. Because of this unusually low amount of THC, this also means that a CBD source like BioCBD will not cause a positive drug test.
Since regulations can vary for each country, I’d recommend that if you want bulletproof confidence that you are completely within the bounds of legality, you reach out to your specific country’s customs department. Ask if you can import dietary supplements from the USA. If you are allowed to do this, then you can probably order CBD from hemp-based products.
Now…how about if you’re an athlete concerned about CBD use being considered “doping”?
No search of CBD Oil or Cannabidiol turns up any results on the World Anti Doping Association’s (WADA) prohibited substances list, and the article “Why should Cannabis be Considered Doping in Sports?” explains why:
“The WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency, 2013) establishes a 15 ng/mL urinary 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC (THCCOOH) threshold; urine analyses involves THCCOOH-glucuronide conjugates cleavage, which significantly increases free THCCOOH concentrations and detection time. Urinary THCCOOH concentrations above the 15 ng/mL threshold are considered Adverse Analytical Findings and may be interpreted as a violation of anti-doping rules (World Anti-Doping Agency, 2009). Studies showed that even occasional and single cannabis smoking might yield a THCCOOH positive result (≥15 ng/mL) for up to 5 days (Huestis et al., 1996). Thus, consuming cannabis even weeks before a match may imply a considerable risk of being detected in a doping test. In light of this considerable risk, some users started using a new preparation of herbal smoking blends named “Spice.” Such substances are highly potent cannabinoid analogs, with unknown and potentially harmful toxicological properties that may cause prolonged intoxication. These substances mimic or worsen cannabis’ toxic effects provoking cognitive and motor impairment (UNODC, 2011).
The non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) is anxiolytic in humans following a single dose (Zuardi et al., 1993; Bergamaschi et al., 2011); decreased anxiety and fear memories extinction after oral CBD intake may enhance sports performance with no “violation” of the Code, as no THCCOOH is detected in urine. One way to protect athletes’ health and to promote health, fairness, and equality in sports is to include any illicit drugs, their constituents and analogs in the anti-doping program. The sports may assist to create educational program for youth and athletes as an alternative to keep them away from drugs and to preserve the intrinsic value about the “spirit of sport.””
The US Anti Doping Association (USADA), is a bit more cautionary, and in the following statement sums up the fact that you should probably make sure you get any CBD you use from a “clean” source:
“Athletes need to be aware that while some papers show that the likelihood of testing positive from a hemp product (at least in workplace testing) is very low (1), there are at least two peer-reviewed articles that show it is possible to sometimes detect THC in the urine of people who have consumed hemp products (2,3). Athletes who choose to consume hemp products may be at risk for a positive anti-doping test, even though many of these products claim not to contain THC. Thus, the risk of testing positive from hemp is low, but nonetheless it may be possible. Because athletes are strictly liable for what is in their systems, irrespective of how it got there, it is very important to be aware of this possibility.”
And then there’s the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). To confirm a positive test for marijuana in NCAA testing, the level of THC in your urine would have to exceed 15 nanograms per milliliter. This is impossible to attain with a CBD oil derived from a hemp plant, and the only forms of cannabis that appear on the NCAA banned drugs list are marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and synthetic cannabinoids such as spice, K2, JWH-018, and JWH-073.
Finally, if you want to be 100% informed on legality of CBD or any other substance both in and out of competition, you simply cannot beat the Global Drug Reference Online (GlobalDRO) search engine, which allows you to search for any substance, in any sport, in any country, from any nation of purchase.
The Effects Of CBD On Hormones
Anyways, now we’re about to get to the good stuff, specifically things that I figured health-minded readers like you would actually find helpful, such as hormone balancing, de-stressing, enhanced sleep, fat loss, etc. But if you want to simply stop reading now, and take a side-track to go peruse the more than 20,000 articles published in peer reviewed journals that show the medical efficacy of CBD for a variety of other conditions in addition to what I’ve listed here, then knock yourself out.
Let’s begin with your endocrine system and hormones. Here are the studies:
Your endocrine system consists of glands throughout your body which regulate everything from energy levels to metabolism to sex drive. One major function of this system is to produce excitation in response to stress, which is of course necessary for survival, but when it gets out of hand it can be a source of excess stress. One big effect of cannabidiol in the endocrine system seems to be to protect against excess stress by reducing susceptibility to stress-induced activation in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. CBD significantly decreases plasma cortisol levels, and this is actually why I started using CBD in the first place – to reduce my cortisol.
But CBD has other effects on your endocrine system, particularly your appetite. You may simply think that marijuana produces the munchies and therefore makes you fat, and although this makes logical sense, science has shown that it’s not the case that marijuana makes you fat, especially when CBD is present.
Here’s how it works…
Your pancreas secretes the hormones glucagon and insulin to regulate blood sugar by signaling your liver to break down fat into sugar (glucagon) or to store sugar as fat (insulin). These hormones work as a pair to maintain homeostasis, and they stimulate the release of each other through a complex feedback mechanism. While THC primarily increases glucagon and blood sugar, CBD lowers insulin levels, and it is this CBD action that helps to explain why marijuana users tend to eat more calories but do not gain any extra weight, have less obesity and have lower rates of type II diabetes than non-users, and is also why some diabetics find that marijuana makes it easier to manage their blood sugar.
Type II diabetics (whose pancreas still functions) tend to have very high levels of insulin, but the liver is unable to use that insulin, so blood sugar stays high, and the pancreas eventually damages itself by trying to continually produce more and more insulin, eventually leading to organ failure if the diabetes is unmanaged. By lowering pancreatic insulin release, CBD may alleviate or prevent the progression of type II diabetes and blood sugar disorders. Cannabinoid antagonists such as CBD have been shown to reduce obesity, and not only do rodents given these antagonists eat less, but they also lose more weight than their reduced feeding can account for.
So the summary of the biggest effects of CBD on the endocrine system? Lower cortisol and better blood sugar control. Let’s move on.
The Effects Of CBD On Anxiety & Stress
You’ve already seen the data on the big cortisol-lowering effects of CBD. But when it comes to anxiety and paranoia in general, a THC-rich strain of marijuana will actually increase not decrease stress unless there is enough CBD present to balance out the stress-increasing effect of weed.
Studies in humans, including many of those cited below, have demonstrated that CBD dosage reduces anxiety (once again, compared to the increased levels of anxiety that THC produces), and that when you combine CBD with THC, it takes the anxiety edge off THC. This is due to the action of CBD on 5HT1A and TRPV1 receptors, both of which are involved in mitigating the anxiolytic, panic and fear responses to stress.
Here are the studies that have specifically investigated CBD’s role as an anti-anxiolytic:
When it comes to stress, which is of course significantly related to anxiety, the host of studies are just as impressive:
This is just a small sample of the research showing the role that CBD plays in reducing stress and reducing anxiety. I’ve found that as little as 10mg CBD vastly lowers my anxiety at the end of the day, and have dosed with as high as 100mg CBD to be as calm as a baby during trans-Atlantic plane flights, nights sleeping in hotel rooms, and other situations where I have difficulty sleeping or tend to be stressed out. The stuff works like a charm, and saves me from having to hunt down an unhealthy, addictive alternative like valium or diazepam.
The Effects Of CBD On Inflammation
You can pretty much consider inflammation to be the freaking bane of our modern, fast-paced, industrialized lifestyles. Of the ten leading causes of mortality in the United States, chronic, low-level inflammation contributes to the pathogenesis of at least seven, specifically heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and nephritis.
But from joint pain to irritable bowel syndrome to diabetic retinopathy, CBD has been shown to modulate both acute and chronic inflammatory issues via several different mechanisms, and from the research I’ve seen and cited below, it’s even more powerful than many of the commonly recommend natural remedies for inflammation, such as curcumin, fish oil, resveratrol, anti-oxidants, protelytic enzymes, Vitamin C, etc.
For example, cytokines are the signaling proteins synthesized and secreted by immune cells upon stimulation. They are the modulating factors that balance initiation and resolution of inflammation. One of the mechanisms of immune control by CBD during inflammation is stopping cytokine production by immune cells and lowering cytokine production by the T-helper cells Th1 and Th2 (which are interestingly the same cells in which overactivity can contribute to autoimmune issues and food intolerances). The inflammatory compound interleukin-6 (IL-6) can also be decreased in the presence of CBD.
In one interesting study, researchers decided to test the effect of CBD on four cell signaling or mediating molecules associated with intestinal inflammation and oxidative damage to the gut. Their findings were as follows:
1. Inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) – CBD reduced the overexpression of iNOS in response to colitis. iNOS overexpression is well correlated with disease activity with colitis, and inhibitors of iNOS lead to improvement in experimental models of IBD. iNOS results in high-output production of NO, which results in oxidative damage to the intestine via reactive oxygen species (ROS).
2. Interleukin-1β – levels significantly increased with experimental colitis. CBD was shown to decrease levels. IL-1β is shown to have potent pro-inflammatory activity and thus heightens the inflammatory response that leads to intestinal injury. IL-1β amplifies the production of inflammatory leukocytes (immune system cells), resulting in an increase of inflammation.
3. Interleukin-10 – levels significantly decreased with experimental colitis. CBD was shown to restore levels. IL-10 has anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Restoration of IL-10 activity is critical to intestinal health.
The reduction of iNOS and reactive oxygen species by CBD, along with the reduction of lipid peroxidation, shows the important therapeutic action of CBD in reduction of colonic inflammation by indirect reduction of oxidative damage. In addition, the dysregulation of the interleukins IL-1B and IL-10 is a well-known disruption caused by irritable bowel disease (IBD). The restoration of these interleukins to normal behavior by CBD, although the specific pathway is unknown, is another important therapeutic action that CBD has on reduction of colonic inflammation.
Many of the folks I coach and do consults with have always struggled with a “sensitive gut”, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, gas, constipation and other signs of gut inflammation, and being able to use CBD to reduce gut inflammation could be a game-changer for these people. But from the joints to neural tissue, CBD has a variety of other natural anti-inflammatory effects. Here are just a smattering of the studies done on cannabidiols and inflammation.
Interestingly, the connection between CBD and inflammation can be highlighted using professional sports as an example. From MMA fighters to NBA basketball players, cannabis use is widespread among hard charging professional and a growing number of recreational athletes, specifically for shutting down the extreme amounts of joint inflammation and pain from constantly pounding the mat or the court and for helping the body relax and sleep at night after a day of stress combined with hard and heavy training. Many NFL athletes are now experimenting with cannabis extracts to manage post-head injury symptoms and to reduce the chronic mid and post-career aches and pains.
I’m sure that if these same athletes realized they could get all the same anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and sleep effects from CBD, without having to worry about THC testing by their athlete’s federation, they’d likely leap at the chance.
The Effects Of CBD On Metabolism & Body Fat
Bet you never thought you’d hear somebody recommending a weed derivative to lose weight, but it’s true. Earlier in this article, you learned how CBD can help to stabilize insulin levels, regulate appetite, and decrease cortisol – all of which can have a profound effect on your body fat levels.
As I mentioned earlier, cannabidiol is known to counteract some of the effects of THC like the “munchies.” Just as THC can significantly increase your appetite, CBD can suppress your appetite, which is ideal if you’re watching your figure. Here is a great two minute video that sums up how marijuana can help obesity and body fat:
In the video, you learn about one study in which researchers found that pot smokers had lower levels of obesity than people who do not smoke pot, and another study that found that a brain chemical with a structure similar to one of the active compounds found in cannabis might actually help people lose weight. The findings are just the latest addition to a growing body of evidence that marijuana may be useful in countering issues related to obesity.
The researchers leading many of the studies on marijuana extracts and obesity are affiliated with the UK’s GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes me cringe that pharmaceutical companies are going to make some kind of very expensive CBD-based weight loss drug. But regardless of motive, in these studies, the researchers found that the two compounds, THCV and cannabidiol, boosted metabolism, and reduced levels of liver fat, and blood cholesterol. These same compounds also made mice more sensitive to insulin, protected the cells that produce insulin, and increasing metabolic rate – all while suppressing the appetite. Nice.
The Effects Of CBD On Sleep
In the United States, approximately 70 million people suffer from insomnia, insufficient sleep or another sleep disorder. CBD extracts have been mistakenly described as sedating, but I haven’t found that to be the case with my own use and neither has research. Although it’s true that if you take a bunch of CBD (I’ve found 30g+ of a good, absorbable CBD will do it for me) you will fall asleep like a baby, in modest doses, CBD is mildly alerting, and simply provides a calm, relaxed focus.
Cannabidiol actually activates the same adenosine receptors as caffeine, which is technically a stimulant. But patients with sleep issues report that ingesting a CBD-rich tincture or extract a few hours before bedtime has a balancing effect that facilitates a good night’s sleep, and I’ve certainly found this to be the case.
Here are the studies on CBD and sleep.
In sum: smaller doses of CBD provide you with a calm and relaxed focus that comes in handy during everything from writing to music to parties to workouts – very similar to what you would experience with THC, but without the psychoactive or paranoia properties. And if you combine these smaller doses of CBD with common natural sleep-inducing compounds like melatonin, magnesium, or lemon balm, then you can get yourself into an even more relaxed state. But larger doses of CBD (which are going to range based on the actual absorption of whichever CBD blend you are using) can be used all by themselves to enhance sleep or combat insomnia.
Speaking of dosage, in most clinical trials, you’ll see CBD dosing ranges from 10-800 mg of CBD a day (although to treat schizophrenia, I’ve seen doses as high as 1,300mg). But as with everything from whey protein to creatine to magnesium, everyone is different and you’ll likely need to experiment with a dosage range that works for you. The CBD capsules I personally use contain 10mg in one capsule, but based on the absorption (an important variable which you’re going to learn about next), I need to use far less CBD, about 1/10 the amount, compared to other CBD tinctures, extracts and capsules I’ve tried.
Why Most CBD Isn’t Absorbed & What You Can Do About It
OK, so there must be a catch here, because at this point you’re probably under the impression that I think CBD is some kind of cure-all magical tonic that ranks right up there with Belgium chocolate, Bordeaux wine and kale smoothies.
But problem is, CBD oil, capsules, powders, etc. are not easily absorbed by your body. They can spoil and become contaminated. They smell bad. They often taste bad too. And they’re not water soluble.
The water soluble thing is a biggie.
Your body is composed of over 60% water, and this means that you’re going to either A) need to take way, way more of a non water-soluble CBD product if you actually want to feel the effects or B) smoke or vape your CBD, which is logistically annoying and not something your kid or your pet can do (and yes, both kids and pets can enormously benefit from CBD usage).
This is why most CBD hemp oil products have an extremely poor bioavailability and most people simply don’t experience or feel any of the effects of the CBD they take.
So how can you make CBD absorbable?
Enter turmeric, the same flavorful spice that I mix with black pepper on my salads every single day of the year.
Turmeric comes from the rhizome in the turmeric plant, and the rhizome can grow up to 3 inches in length. The rhizome is then harvested and dried before being ground into a yellow powder, the very concentrated form of which is also known as curcumin (yes, the same curcumin that is currently the darling of the “natural anti-inflammatory” industry).
Kind of like cannabis, humans have been cultivating turmeric for a long time – over 4,000 years. The Ayurvedic medicinal herb was originally used as a medicinal herb in Southeast Asia, where turmeric also carries significant religious significance. Turmeric was a highly sought after commodity in the ancient spice trades that swept across China and Africa, all before the end of the 9th century.
India is the main cultivator of all the world’s turmeric crops and consumes 80% of the world’s supply. Due to the high content of the main bioactive component in turmeric (curcumin) Indian turmeric is considered to be the best in the world for medicinal purposes. The Indian city of Erode, located in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu, is the trading hub for turmeric in the Eastern hemisphere. Erode is so well known for its turmeric production that it is referred to as “Yellow City,” and “Turmeric City” (similar to the way that my living room couch is covered in yellow stains from my frequent turmeric sprinkling on most of the dinners I eat).
And here’s why turmeric plays such an important role in CBD absorption…
…when the cannabionids and terpenoids in CBD are mixed with the the isolated curcuminoids of a high-curcumin containing turmeric plant, the bioavailability of the CBD absolutely explodes. This means that if you’ve used CBD oil before in the absence of a curcuminoid blend from turmeric, you probably only felt about 1/5 to 1/10 of the actual effects of the CBD, since CBD by itself is very poorly absorbed.
For you aspiring Bulletproof Coffee drinkers out there, this is a similar concept to the idea that you simply never get to feel several of the bioactive, wakefulness and focus-enhancing terpenoids in coffee until you have actually introduced fats and triglycerides into the coffee to help these terpenes cross your blood-brain barrier – hence the butter and coconut oil blended with the coffee.
Using an extraction process called “hybrid-nanoengineering”, which basically involves a combination of CBD with turmeric herbal extracts, it is actually possible to get a completely bioavailable and absorbable form of CBD. The way that hybrid-nanoengineering works is that the cannabinoids and terpenoids are extracted from the cannabis herbs and then blended in a lab with curcuminoids to create CBD particles that are on the nano paricle size level. Nano particles (1/100 the width of a human hair) are easier for your body to absorb and transport to where they are needed within your body. This means that a hyrbid-nanoeingeneered CBD is over 10x more bioavailable in the body than any other oil based CBD, CBD tincture or CBD capsule, and it means that just 10mg of a nano particle CBD is the equivalent of taking at least 100mg of oil based CBD.
The result of hybrid-nanoengineering with turmeric is a raw oil that is high in CBD, virtually free of THC (less than 0.001%,) and complete with a full spectrum of other cannabinoids and terpenes, which work synergistically to make CBD even more effective. The oil is then encapsulated, and…
…you’ve got an extremely absorbable CBD capsule, along with all the benefits of curcumin. Here’s a video that demonstrates the absorption difference between water soluble CBD that’s been hybrid-nanoengineered, compared to regular, non-water soluble CBD.
How To Get All The Health Benefits Of Marijuana Without Smoking Allow me to begin by clarifying a very important thing: I am not a pothead, a stoner, or a recreational drug enthusiast. G