These days, CBDs seem more popular than the ABCs. Touted as a cure for pain, anxiety, insomnia, and more, “CBD” surpassed “exercise” and “veganism” as one of the top-searched health and wellness terms on Google last year. 

Everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon. Pro athletes, including Olympic soccer star Megan Rapinoe, heavyweight champ Mike Tyson, and NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski are promoting or producing their own CBD lines, developed for athletic recovery and wellness. Domestic maven and branding tycoon Martha Stewart recently struck a deal with Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth, Inc., where she is a brand advisor and also signed up to produce a line of CBD-infused pet treats. 

There’s a fine line between a trend that is wildly popular and a trendy product that seems just too good to be true. CBD, or cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive compound extracted from cannabis and hemp (more about that later) crossed that line quite a while ago. 

So how do you know what’s right for you or even where to start? 

It’s complicated, but it helps to know some basics.

Cannabis contains compounds like CBD that can be extracted in a variety of ways, and those extracted compounds are attributed with specific effects. 

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the cannabinoid that gets you buzzed. It gets a lot of headlines, but it’s just one of more than 200 compounds that can be extracted from cannabis. 

Hemp is a variety of cannabis sativa that’s bred for very low levels of THC. (Hemp oil is a natural anti-bacterial and useful in applications for inflamed skin—sunburns, new tattoos, even mild abrasions and bug bites.)

In the U.S., by law, hemp must have THC levels of less than 0.3 percent “on a dry weight basis.” That’s not enough THC to get your dog high, even if you own a Chihuahua. 

At the other extreme, recreational-grade cannabis at the dispensary (Snoop Dog style, not Chihuahua grade) is typically bred for levels of THC between 15 to 25 percent, for high potency (pardon the pun). 

The “entourage effect”

Pioneering CBD wellness brand Papa & Barkley’s creates products using hemp-derived CBD (legal in all 50 states, you can purchase these products online) and marijuana-derived CBD (these products must be purchased in a legal state and come in varying ratios of CBD to THC), which produce enhanced effects from a “full spectrum” of natural plant compounds—often referred to as the “entourage effect.” 

Papa & Barkley PR and Partnerships Manager Sara Kern explained the “entourage effect” like this:

“The entourage effect is the concept that the cannabis plant, with all of its phytonutrients, cannabinoids, terpenes, and chlorophyll, is kept intact. To understand this concept better, think of fresh-pressed orange juice compared with orange juice concentrate. The fresh-pressed orange-juice is full of pulp, fiber, vitamins, and nutrients. The orange juice concentrate, on the other hand, has vitamin C in it, but is missing all of those other beneficial nutrients,” Kern explained.

“When companies extract just one cannabinoid like CBD, they get a CBD isolate or distillate. Then they take that isolate or distillate and mix it with other ingredients. That’s like creating an orange juice concentrate. It has the cannabinoid, but not the other benefits of the cannabis plant,” she said. “If you infuse the whole cannabis plant into your carrier oil, like Papa & Barkley does, your product ends up with all the nutrients of the plant, similar to the fresh-pressed orange juice.

“It’s also important to note that cannabinoids, like CBN, CBD, THC, and CBG work best as a team. A product with just CBD in it is going to be less efficacious than a product with all the cannabinoids in it, even if that product only has trace amounts of THC. That’s why even Papa & Barkley’s CBD [only] products have trace amounts of THC in them—amounts that are below the legal limit of 0.3%—qualifying them as hemp-derived and legal to sell nationwide [and online],” Kern added.

The orange juice analogy is easier to swallow, so to speak. So free to add a couple of drops of CBD tincture to that OJ…

Wild West” style market

CBD and cannabis-related products are still complicated and controversial for many reasons, but primarily because cannabis is still federally prohibited in the United States. Lack of a coherent federal policy to regulate cannabinoids for research and use allows a “Wild West” style market, where product quality varies. 

Legitimate product manufacturers or vendors will not make “cure-all” claims; there simply isn’t enough documented research to back them up, though anecdotal and preliminary evidence shows that CBD has an anti-inflammatory effect and works with the body’s own systems. 

Federal legalization would open the door for U.S. researchers to run studies and clinical trials on CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids, setting the foundation for a new area of medicine.

One more thing that helps to understand how CBD works—the endocannabinoid system, which researchers have found to exist in all vertebrates. 

Like other physiological systems that are more familiar—the nervous, endocrine, and neurological systems—the endocannabinoid system seems to help regulate other bodily systems, and maintain “homeostasis,” according to some experts. 

Since every person is slightly different, CBD and other substances produce varied effects, especially when a plant-based approach to medicinal treatments is used. 

Scarce research means we are at the beginning of understanding what cannabinoids can really do. That said, decades of anecdotal evidence tout CBD as a powerful anti-inflammatory, which seems to contribute to therapeutic effects in treatment for seizures.

The only FDA approved drug derived from cannabis is called Epidiolex, developed by U.K.-based GW Pharmaceuticals for treatment of two forms of severe pediatric epilepsy. 

Image courtesy of Papa & Barkley.

So which CBD is right for me?

“For people who are new to cannabis, Papa & Barkley recommends starting with topical products like our Releaf Balm, Releaf Body Oil, or Releaf Lotion. With these products, cannabinoids do not enter into the bloodstream, so the user will not experience psychoactivity,” Kern advised. “If you’re hesitant to experience the psychoactive effects of cannabis, a topical product is a great entry-level product. Topicals are great for reducing normal inflammation and discomfort.

“If you’re hoping to use cannabis to aid with sleep or reduce stress, a CBD Tincture is a good starting point. CBD does not promote a head-high like THC does, so you won’t experience psychoactive effects. However, many users report feeling more relaxed when ingesting CBD.

“Tinctures let you control your dose, so you can start with a low dose, see how your body responds, and increase your dose over time as you become more comfortable with the product. Keep in mind, CBD has cumulative effects, so you’ll want to consume the tincture daily for about seven to ten days and then evaluate how you feel. Like any routine, consistency is key.” 

With edibles too, it’s important to start small and increase in baby steps. 

Because edibles are processed through absorption in the gut and liver, effects may be delayed or enhanced. It can take over an hour for edibles to kick in, as opposed to inhale-ables or sublingual applications, which take effect much quicker. There are many edibles to choose from—beverages, gummies, teas and hot drinks, sweet and savory snacks, and more. 

As you can see, with all of the different types, ingestion methods and ratios, there’s a lot of trial and error involved in finding the right CBD product for you. 

Tips for CBD newbies: 

  • Look for products that are sourced, tested, and manufactured in the U.S.
  • CBD products with more than .03 percent THC will be available only in U.S. states where cannabis is legalized. Hemp-derived CBD formulations are widely available online and can be shipped globally or purchased at local retail stores.
  • If you’re not sure, make sure the company you choose has customer service available for questions and recommendations.
  • Err on the side of caution. Make sure you study the recommended dosage, especially if there’s THC involved. Remember, edibles can take over an hour to kick in. 

Good luck on your journey! Please share your experience with CBD below.


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