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CBD: the game-changer for marijuana

In 2009, the marijuana world had its eureka movement, and since then the push for legalization in states and nationwide has gathered at an unprecedented pace. That eureka moment happened in Oakland’s Steep Hill Laboratory, when Fred Gardner, a journalist from the Bay Area, spotted something remarkable in the cannabinoid makeup of a previously unknown strain of marijuana.

Back then, the cannabinoid of interest for cannabis researchers, advocates and users was THC, which was accepted as having specific, albeit limited medical uses. However, it wasn’t the THC cannabinoid that was sparking intrigue in the obscure Soma A-Plus strain Gardner was eyeballing, nor was it intrigue comparable to any created by the thousands of other strains that had gone through the Californian laboratory.

No, what was fascinating researchers and wowing Gardner was the high concentration of cannabidiol in Soma A-Plus. Cannabidiol, or CBD as it’s shortened to, is also imbued with powerful medical qualities, but not until then were they seriously considered, as nobody knew that marijuana strains could have such high CBD concentrations. Since 2009, we’ve been graced with several gorgeous CBD-rich strains, many of the best from the Cannatonic range.

The cannabis industry was already fully aware that industrial hemp contained CBD, but these new strains were nothing like hemp, as the CBD levels in Soma A-Plus and others were much greater. And crucially, CBD is not psychoactive; therefore users didn’t have to be worried about taking too much and experience side effects, as are sometimes caused when consuming very large amounts of THC.

In truth, CBD has been shown to reduce the “high” induced by THC, because they bind to the same cannabinoid receptors (this is why vendors state the exact concentrations of both, as it’s this interaction which determines the primary effects). And because CBD-rich strains are still just strains, they can be used for smoking and for edibles like any other.

When the marijuana market first began, the majority of strains grown would have similar levels of CBD and THC, and would be primarily used for hashish purposes. However, as we became more aware of the plant’s makeup, demand for THC-dominant strains soared, as recreational users looked to enjoy the psychoactive feelings while medical users sought specially-cultivated strains. Northern California was one of the main regions that experienced this demand shift, and for a period, CBD was nearly bred out of Emerald Triangle strains.

If any further proof of how marijuana-positive California really is, when Proposition 215, a bill to legalize medical marijuana statewide, was passed by the electorate in 1996, all voters would have known about is psychoactive THC, not CBD. Yet despite the side effect (in a medical context) of getting high, Californians approved the bill regardless.

During this period, only small research groups were investigating the specific molecular composition of marijuana and its medical potential, which naturally led them to CBD as one of the plant’s most dominant compounds. It wasn’t long after that before scientists started realizing the anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, anti-depressant, analgesic, anticonvulsant and antipsychotic properties. Just as crucially, CBD was also proving to have no notable side effects.

Back in 2010, Fred Gardner and Martin A. Lee, who has authored books on marijuana, set up Project CBD. Gardner had developed a keen interest in cannabidiol after penning a story for medical cannabis journal O’Shaughnessy’s. Project CBD was established with the goal of researching everything CBD: it looked at CBD-rich strains and CBD-infused products, how patients could benefit, viable business formats for CBD, how doctors could become better informed and even – in the long run – prescribe CBD, as well as considering the overall medical possibilities of the compound.

Gardner and Lee quickly gathered that CBD was capable of transforming people’s perceptions of marijuana, and specifically medical marijuana, because it allowed the plant to be viewed solely through a medical prism. Moreover, as it was non-psychoactive and presented no health risks, there was no way that anti-marijuana forces would be able to smear CBD.

Therefore, when CBD really took off, it wouldn’t just be appealing to those who already used medical marijuana, but to non-users, who had perhaps never considered alternative, herbal medication, subsequently expanding the industry in a stunning manner. Not everybody reacts well to THC, especially if they suffer with anxiety or paranoia, so CBD offers a route in for those curious about medical cannabis, but apprehensive about getting bake. And we’ve seen that as the market has developed, the language surrounding CBD is much more formal (‘CBD-rich’ is a preferred term in medical journals to ‘high-CBD’), so products are taken seriously, and don’t attract the negative connotations often pinned on recreational users.

The CBD revolution

It’s somewhat remarkable that the compound that has changed marijuana forever was only reconsidered due to chance. Yet this trump card for the cannabis world wasn’t immediately accepted when it first came back on the scene – mainly by law enforcement, but even by a few in the pot community! However, when CNN broadcast the documentary Weed in 2013, giving the American public a glimpse into the life of Charlotte Figi, a young girl combatting Dravet’s syndrome with CBD in the marijuana-loving state of Colorado, attitudes started to change. It’s no exaggeration to say this documentary, made by Dr Sanjay Gupta, turned the tide.

The debilitating Dravet’s syndrome lumbered poor Charlotte with tens of seizures per day and hundreds over the course of a week. Not only were they seriously affecting her quality of life, but doctors could find no working treatment for the condition either – so the parents took it upon themselves. After reports of a boy with Dravet’s in California reacting positively to CBD-dominant, non-psychoactive marijuana oil, Charlotte’s parents headed to a local dispensary, and obtained a similar product that was high in CBD and low in THC.

The oil had a remarkable effect on Charlotte, reducing her seizures from hundreds a week to just one or two a month. Now, much of the CBD oil used to treat patients with Dravet’s is derived from Charlotte’s Web cannabis, a strain named after Charlotte.

The national platform this documentary was given transformed the public’s perception of marijuana overnight. What was once considered a recreational plant that turned users into unproductive potheads was now seen as a miracle cure for children. And with Charlotte’s story proof that marijuana could be manufactured into medicating products that wouldn’t get you baked, a sceptical public quickly turned into a curious one, wondering what other ailments CBD and marijuana could treat and whether it would be beneficial for them.

Unfortunately, while the CBD medical business has boomed astronomically over the past decade, there have also been numerous lies and mistruths spread about cannabidiol itself and CBD-dominant strain from those dead set against any level of marijuana legalization. But the truth is that marijuana has grown and been used by civilizations for thousands of years, and was only first considered bad when prohibition was enforced in the early 20th century. Until that point, cannabis was used for fiber and as herbal medicine, and hemp (a CBD-dominant cannabis sativa strain) was even part of the food chain.

But advanced technology has helped the cannabis industry develop into a professional one. Gone are the days when marijuana was all about rolling up a joint and smoking away. While that’s still enjoyed, mainly in a recreational sense, we are now graced with concentrates, CBD vape juice, various edibles and even creams. Not to mention our increased knowledge of strains: when you buy from a dispensary you’ll know the exact amounts of CBD and THC, and regular users will be able to anticipate the effects of a strain from these numbers alone.

It’s this extra detail – not just grinding up any bud and hoping for the best – that has enabled marijuana and its derivatives to become a credible alternative to prescription medication. There’s still a fair ways to go, but each piece of pro-cannabis legislation passed is another step to eradicating marijuana prohibition for good.

The ever-expanding list of uses for CBD

Because marijuana was completely illegal for so long, research was limited for decades, with scientists still playing catch up now. However, our knowledge on cannabis as a medicinal treatment improved in the 1980s, amusingly thanks to the renewed War on Drugs pushed by President Ronald Reagan. The Reagan administration hoped that if they could prove cannabis did long-term damage to the brain – as they clearly did by spending several million dollars on scientific studies – that the marijuana advocates would be silenced for good.

However, that didn’t happen. What all of the Reagan administration-funded research ended up doing was enhance our understanding of marijuana, by discovering the endocannabinoid system which shows how CBD, THC and other cannabinoids interact with the body by binding to cannabinoid receptors. Therefore, we began to realize how THC and CBD worked; ultimately finding that cannabis protects the brain. Indeed, discovering the endocannabinoid system would make it easier for researchers to find marijuana’s other medical uses. It has also helped to improve scientists’ understanding of other biological systems.

Comprehensive, detailed studies on cannabis and the endocannabinoid system kept popping up in peer-reviewed journals as the 1990s wore on, a period which also saw the formation of the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS). With scientists from all over the planet getting together to discuss their findings and aggregate their scientific data, the community was able to make medical arguments for CBD, THC and the entire plant rooted in undisputable fact.

In 1998, a National Institutes of Health-funded study would be the starting point for the federal government to patent CBD and THC’s neuroprotective and anti-oxidant traits. This study indicated that the cannabinoids could reduce neurological damage in patients who had suffered stroke or trauma. CBD and THC were also touted as treatments for various other diseases and conditions, which we will get further into.

Epilepsy: scientists in the United Kingdom were to first to uncover CBD’s antioxidant properties when studying its effects in animals with epilepsy

Acne: In 2014, a report featured in the Journal of Clinical Investigation indicated that CBD may have therapeutic use for acne vulgaris, a skin condition notoriously difficult to treat

Mood: CBD’s anxiolytic and antipsychotic properties make it a great treatment for mood disorders, as first investigated by Brazilian researchers

Stem-cell neurogenesis: Studies out of Germany revealed that CBD promotes new brain cell growth in adult mammals

Irregular heartbeat: CBD has the ability to limit cardiac arrhythmia in animals caused by strokes and limits brain damage, according to a feature in a 2010 edition of the British Journal of Pharmacology

Diabetes: CBD can reduce the chance of diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice, according to research from Israel

Antibacterial qualities: A Journal of Natural Products report from 2008 showed CBD’s antibacterial qualities in tackling hospital superbug and methicillin-resistant MRSA. The World Health Organization considers such bacteria as part of a global health crisis, and CBD’s potential here is encouraging, especially given the lack of anti-bacterial alternatives. The American Chemical Society published the journal.

Mad-Cow Disease: Mad-Cow disease may raise a smirk from its name, but this deadly brain disease was thought to be incurable until a report in the Journal of Neuroscience hinted at CBD being a possible treatment. Nothing is confirmed here, and we would never – with current knowledge – describe CBD as medication for Mad Cow, but the French scientists behind that report reckon that CBD can protect neurons from the neurodegenerative process, and their work was published in a respected journal. Hopefully future studies can shed more light.

Beyond these big issues, CBD is said to be effective against depression, anxiety and other mental health issues (many with PTSD use CBD and whole-plant marijuana). Its pain-relieving qualities are great for easing arthritis. Some alcoholics have found joy through CBD, and the compound is also used to control weight levels and as a general health supplement.

CBD and THC: a beautiful cannabinoid combination

Despite making strides in other countries, in the United States – at federal level, anyway – it’s proven much tougher for CBD to prove its medical abilities, due to the testing complications caused by the War on Drugs. Therefore, most of the studies conducted in the US show how CBD interacts with animals, not humans. While useful, this research clearly can’t prove CBD’s effectiveness in the human body, and therefore the FDA and co can’t, on that basis, deem it beneficial to the public health. However, these studies have helped us better understand the endocannabinoid system.

Abroad, more than 20 countries have now recognized and approved certain CBD-rich medicines for therapeutic use, after going through strenuous research. One interesting product that is uniquely prescribed (as approved medication containing THC) for multiple sclerosis is Sativex, a sublingual spray with both CBD and THC that effectively quells spasms and pains. In the United Kingdom, GW Pharmaceuticals argues that its Sativex product was more effective when CBD and THC were both present, in a nod to the entourage effect touted by many marijuana experts.

CBD and THC interact with different receptors in the brain, but CBD also works with the CB1 receptor that THC binds itself to. Hence you get the added effect of cannabinoids acting with more receptors and the unique interaction when a CBD and a THC molecule bind with the same receptor. From this, we can deduce that full-spectrum medication is more powerful than isolate medication, whether it’s CBD-isolate or THC-isolate.

Cannabis oil options are best in legalized states, as these are able to offer various CBD/THC concentration combinations. Some states that have advanced medical marijuana legislation can also provide multiple options for consumers, while other states have only passed CBD-only legislation so far, meaning CBD oil products are either CBD-isolate or full-spectrum (with terpenes and other cannabinoids, minus THC).

As opposed to THC-isolate, CBD-THC oil effects last longer but the psychoactive effects are not as powerful. In comparison to CBD-isolate, CBD-THC oil is more therapeutic because of the extra compounds, but it does get you high. Ultimately, providing all of these products are available to all patients, the industry will inevitably be a long-term success.

The dosage required is very much dependent on the person taking it, as CBD and THC tolerances do vary, and if you medicate with marijuana regularly then you’ll need higher potencies. It’s very much trial and error, but with no side effects to CBD and just the short-term “high” feeling from THC, you should never feel concerned about experimenting with marijuana. It’s a natural plant that delivers slightly different results each time, so go with the flow and as you become more aware, start picking out the strains best suited for you.

For the actual intake of cannabis, you’re in much better luck if you live in a fully legalized state or a state with a good medical marijuana program. Because progressive states can offer you a whole range of CBD products, such as edibles, beverages, gels, salves, sprays, tinctures, CBD e-juice and even more that you don’t have to smoke. And the beauty with the majority of these products is that they resemble other medication in their respective intake methods, ensuring first-time users aren’t overwhelmed by the experience.

With the market still relatively young, regulation has been slow to non-existent, meaning it’s not always easy for consumers to know which brands to trust. Here at CBDvapejuice.net, we handpick the best products from the best companies, so be confident about trying something new. When purchasing a CBD oil product, find out whether the company has produced laboratory tests, detailing the exact ingredients of their products and the extraction method. All respectable companies use the gold standard CO2 extraction method, but sketchier brands may use cheaper methods – causing metal traces to get into the oil. Third-party tests are ideal, but in-house testing shouldn’t be disregarded. If a company has no results to show, be wary.

Furthermore, your CBD vape oil and standard CBD oil products should be as close to 100 percent purity as possible. If fats, preservatives, corn syrup, flavorings or additives feature in the ingredients list, you might want to look elsewhere. And don’t just check the ratio of CBD to THC, but the concentrations of each cannabinoid and the total amount of each in the product.

Where does industrial hemp fit in?

The almost long lost brother of the marijuana family now is industrial hemp, which botanically is a strain of cannabis sativa, but has very low quantities of THC, and has therefore historically not been treated with the same strong arm that typical cannabis strains have been. Hemp-derived CBD is legal in all 50 states, and while this isn’t as good as CBD oil from a richer source, it’s good if there’s no legal alternative. Because CBD concentrations are lower in industrial hemp, more plant matter needs to be used to extract the same amount of oil, hence increasing the chance of metals and other toxins seeping into the final product.

According to the federal government’s definition, a cannabis sativa strain must contain less than 0.3 percent THC to be classified as industrial hemp. But what makes industrial hemp strains relatively low in CBD concentrations too, in comparison to standard marijuana? This is due to the resin, where the CBD and THC are found – hemp is low-resin marijuana whereas standard cannabis is high-resin marijuana. Both THC-dominant and CBD-dominant strains can be high-resin, and some newer specially cultivated strains are dominant in both.

With miniscule amounts of resin on the stalks of industrial hemp, the extraction process is very expensive. Consider the following: a good industrial hemp strain is made up of about 3.5 percent CBD, while some of the CBD-rich strains coming out of California right now are nudging 20 percent CBD and upwards – it’s much more efficient, and much cheaper, making CBD medicating far more accessible to all citizens when extracting from CBD-rich strains.

Frustratingly, Washington’s 0.3 percent THC limit is a thoughtless arbitrary figure – there was never any scientific backing for setting the restriction at that point, all it served to do was reinforce cannabis prohibition and make things harder for future generations to unpick. However, some savvy marijuana growers in Colorado were always looking for loopholes, and would even go so far to harvest CBD-rich strains early, so the high CBD concentrations could be extracted out before the plant reached a point where it surpassed the 0.3 percent THC limit. These growers would then call the product “hemp”. Although since the federal government prevents industrial hemp cultivation outside of controlled situations, they would still technically have been in violation of the law.

Historically, the industrial hemp consumed in the United States would have to be imported from Northern Europe. Farmers over there would grow industrial hemp for other uses, but after realizing the profit potential of the hemp biomass remaining once they were finished, they decided to start selling it. But the problem of having to extract from so much biomass was always there, and it doesn’t help that hemp is a bio-accumulator. Indeed, hemp is often planted in poisoned areas – such as in Chernobyl following the nuclear disaster in the 1980s – to help clean up the soil. That’s all well and good, but you don’t want all the nasties from the ground in a medicinal product!

The majority of hemp-derived CBD oil manufacturers play by the book, but as we pointed out earlier, it’s important to do your own research and study lab test results before buying a new CBD product (especially if there aren’t many reviews) – not that you’ll have that problem here, because we’ve done the research for you! CBD vape oil is a wonderful way to medicate with CBD, and you can choose to vape the oil as it is, or combine it with your preferred e-liquid. The leading brands have worked tirelessly to ensure their products are safe for consumption and inhalation.

Let’s not forget THCA too, which is THC in its non-psychoactive, unheated form – it often features in CBD oil products as a way to whole-plant medicate without getting high. Some patients choose to use CBD-THCA oil for therapeutic medicating, but others choose the old-fashioned CBD-THC method, relax and get baked for a few hours and enjoy the powerful medicating experience the duo provides. Different ailments require different cannabinoid dosages, so if CBD-rich oil hasn’t worked, try – if it’s legal in your area – a CBD-THC oil, or even a THC vape juice product. You may just find a hidden gem.

Whole-plant beats isolate

The only concern about the leaps and bounds medical marijuana has been making is the apparent side-lining of THC as a compound for medical use. Besides the FDA approval granted for prescribed THC product Marinol, THC is otherwise not recognized as having medical properties, even when interacting in a whole-plant situation. It’s some contradiction from the federal government to accept one product and ignore the compound in any other scenario. Epidiolex from GW Pharmaceuticals is the CBD equivalent of Marinol, if you will, in that it’s single-molecule medication that’s set to receive FDA approval.

The Project CBD team are keen to make the distinction between single-molecule and whole-plant cannabis medicine. It’s not just the THC that lacks in single-molecule products, but other useful cannabinoids such as CBG, and the gorgeous terpenes and other compounds that all play a part in producing the “entourage effect”. Think of single-molecule as the compounds adding up, and whole-plant as the compounds multiplying together – clearly the latter is more powerful.

That’s not to discredit CBD because it has many medical abilities in its own right, and some CBD medication is a massive improvement on none at all. What we are saying is that whole-plant products are more efficient, would be cheaper for consumers and is a reality that all in the marijuana community should strive towards. The cannabis plant’s therapeutic potential is phenomenal, it shouldn’t be sold short. Indeed, anti-cannabis forces are even allowing minor marijuana legislation to pass, with the hope that would bury the issue for good.

With an Israeli study in 2015 finding whole-plant to be more potent than single-molecule in exactly the same set-up, these long-held arguments have been proven. Now we must ensure legislators take notice, and vote the right way – we owe it to CBD.

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