Clearing the Air: Demystifying CBD | Hemp & Weed | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Clearing the Air: Demystifying CBD 

Last Updated: 09/08/2021 9:49 am
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CBD is one of the trendiest ingredients in the wellness sphere, with a reputation as an artisanal remedy for stress, anxiety, and inflammation. Despite its popularity, there’s a lot people don’t understand about CBD, from its legality to efficacy. After all, it’s an ingredient prominently featured in the Whole Foods cosmetics aisle and is a former Schedule I controlled substance. And while cannabis experts have different opinions and perceptions about CBD, they agree that more education is paramount.

Currently, there’s only one CBD product approved by the FDA; a prescription oil called Epidiolex that’s used to treat seizures. Small-scale clinical research and anecdotal evidence suggest CBD is effective in treating a range of health conditions. Until federal regulations catch up with CBD’s popularity, consumers should do their own due diligence before using CBD products. Healthcare professionals, dispensary owners, and consumers are eager to share what they’ve learned about the myriad therapeutic benefits of this diverse compound.

Does CBD get you high?

Nope. The 2018 Farm Bill allows retailers to sell CBD products with less than .03 percent THC, which is not enough to cause psychoactive effects (but enough to flag a positive drug test). Most commercially available CBD products contain both CBD and trace levels of THC, as THC helps activate CBD’s medicinal properties.

Thomas Winstanley is the vice president of marketing at Theory Wellness, a small-batch marijuana company with recreational and medical dispensaries in Massachusetts and Maine.

“Nearly every one of our CBD products has a small amount of THC,” says Winstanley, “Not to the extent that you’ll feel high, but the effects may vary based on how much you’ve had to eat that day, or other external factors.”

When explaining CBD’s effects, Winstanley is careful not to make any definitive statements. He says “may” and “potential” because everybody responds in a different way to CBD, like caffeine, alcohol, or prescription medications.

Hemp-derived CBD, even when it contains trace levels of THC, is legal in all 50 states. Still, it’s important to be informed about your CBD retailer’s source plant and ask your healthcare provider before taking CBD for any medical reason. Depending on your personal tolerance for cannabis, even federally legal CBD products can cause mild euphoria.

What is the ECS?

Understanding CBD starts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which maintains homeostasis. Think of the ECS as a universal regulator. Life-sustaining physiological processes and functions like pain perception, digestion, energy, metabolism, bone density, blood pressure, stress, and hunger rely on the ECS for optimal functionality. Simply put, the ECS keeps our bodies functioning at peak performance. It naturally releases cannabinoids when we go for a long run, meditate, or dance to our favorite song. Our bodies don’t need cannabis to maintain homeostasis, but much like taking vitamins to supplement your immune system, CBD and other cannabinoids can benefit your endocannabinoid system, keeping vital systems in balance and maintaining an overall sense of wellbeing.

“Small, regular doses of cannabinoids from hemp and other plants help support the endocannabinoid system and enhance its signaling,” says Barbara Shea Tracy, MSN, FNP-C, a Massachusetts-based nurse practitioner and professor of nursing. Tracy currently works at Berkshire Cannabis Connect, where she treats ketogenic nutrition and certifies patients for medical cannabis cards. “Cannabinoids like CBD may act as a tonic to our most central physiologic healing system,” says Tracy.

Like Winstanley, Tracy avoids making definitive statements about the effects of CBD as its effects vary from person to person.

CBD Dosing Is Both an Art and a Science

If you’re interested in CBD for medicinal or therapeutic benefits, the first step is learning about dosing and bioavailability. All commercially available CBD should be accurately labeled, whether you’re buying from a dispensary, smoke shop, or online retailer.

“The CBD market is still largely unregulated when it comes to labeling and testing requirements,” says Dazey CBD founder Tori Bodin. She publishes the third-party testing results for all Dazey CBD products on the brand’s website to maintain transparency with customers.

The dose refers to the amount of CBD in your product (whether it’s an edible, pre-roll, oil, or tincture), while bioavailability refers to how much of that dose will get into your ECS for you to feel its effects. And bioavailability depends on the form of CBD you’re using.

Broad-spectrum CBD is distilled to remove any trace of THC while retaining the rest of the plant’s ingredients. Pure CBD is distilled even further, removing every other element of the plant besides CBD. Full-spectrum CBD includes trace amounts of THC (within the federally legal limit of .03 percent) and other compounds called terpenes. It’s still possible to feel the minor amount of THC in full-spectrum CBD, depending on your endocannabinoid system.

“Terpenes are molecules responsible for the distinct smell and taste of cannabis varieties and have therapeutic properties,” says Tracy. Terpenes work synergistically with cannabinoids and when taking full-spectrum CBD products, you’ll enjoy what’s known as “the entourage effect,” where every botanical compound of the plant works together to create a salubrious effect.

Charlotte Hanna, founder and CEO of Community Growth Partners, a vertically integrated woman-and-minority-owned cannabis company based in Massachusetts, believes full-spectrum CBD is the most beneficial for medical patients and recreational consumers, largely due to the entourage effect of cannabinoids, terpenes, and THC. “THC can increase the potency of CBD,” says Hanna.

However, there are some instances where pure CBD may be the best option. Tracy advises patients to take pure CBD if they feel too high from broad or full-spectrum CBD. “CBD tamps down the feeling of being high,” says Tracy. “Rather than interacting directly with cannabinoid receptors, CBD remains on the outside, assisting other cannabinoids in reaching receptors in the brain.”

Betsy Meyer, CBD enthusiast and cannabis processor from Portland, Oregon, prefers full or broad-spectrum CBD even though she lives in a state where recreational marijuana is legalized.

“If there’s more CBD than THC in flower, I don’t get any anxiety as a side effect.” Meyer’s father, who has diabetes, takes pure CBD to help regulate his glucose levels. She even gave pure CBD to a friend’s dog, who was suffering from stomach cancer.

Meanwhile, Rachel, a 24-year-old IT professional, takes CBD for chronic pain and anxiety. She lives in Pennsylvania, where recreational marijuana is still illegal. Rachel first heard about CBD from a friend who was visiting from California. “I had consumed a THC edible and was starting to freak out a bit,” says Rachel. Her friend offered Rachel a hit from his CBD pen, telling her it could help mitigate the effects of THC. “I trusted him, and I trusted cannabis,” says Rachel. “It was the best THC edible experience, thanks to the CBD.”

Rachel has suffered from scoliosis and debilitating menstrual cramps since age nine. For years, she tried treating her symptoms with ibuprofen and, later, THC. “Traditional marijuana helped,” says Rachel. “But it made me groggy. So I started looking into herbal treatments and decided to give red raspberry leaf teas and CBD a try.”

Quality Control In the Gray Market

Hanna believes the CBD industry would greatly benefit from more regulation and federal oversight.

“Manufacturers of high-quality CBD are in a very crowded marketplace,” warns Hanna. “Educating consumers on CBD is difficult when there are so many other products out there that are not what they claim to be. There is a lot out there that’s snake oil, and there’s a lot of quality product.”

Misinformation, inaccurately labeled products, and vague ingredients can quickly turn customers off when it comes to CBD. As a healthcare provider, Tracy first became interested in CBD as an indirect result of the unregulated market. “A patient approached me after paying $120 for a vial of CBD that had no effect,” recalls Tracy.

Hanna stresses the importance of being a conscious and informed consumer. She recommends buying CBD from a licensed dispensary and asking questions: Tell me about the source flower. Where did you get the ingredients? Where was it grown?

“At Theory,” says Winstanley, “employees undergo intensive, comprehensive training to understand the efficacy of their products.”

“We know these products inside and out,” says Winstanley. “We want to make sure our customers know the products as well as we do.”

Winstanley fosters an environment of empathy and open-mindedness among staff and clients. Questions are encouraged, and the dispensary offers private consulting services for customers who’d like to go over the menu in detail or receive tailored recommendations.

“People come in looking for a better quality of life,” says Winstanley. “We want to set them up for the best possible experience with these products. For example, we’ve helped veterans from upstate New York find relief from PTSD and cancer patients who need something to help stimulate their appetite.”

Every product at Theory Wellness has unique packaging labels based on its batch. Theory controls its entire supply chain, growing products in-house, curing them, extracting and packaging them. Anything produced for one of Theory’s retail locations gets tested in a third-party Massachusetts laboratory where scientists look for every identifiable cannabinoid in the batch.

“Even if you buy green apple CBD chews from us on one day and come back a month later, there’s going to be a different profile based on the test results,” explains Winstanley.

In other words, each batch of product—anything from flower, edibles, or oil—is packaged with specific labels based on the information found at the lab.

Tracy has seen hundreds of patients reap the medicinal benefits of CBD purchased from regulated dispensaries. “CBD has shown to be neuroprotective,” says Tracy. “It is anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, thus reducing inflammation; anti-emetic in alleviating nausea and vomiting; and it reduces anxiety.”

CBD Is Just the Beginning

CBD’s popularity is more than a fleeting trend. Its buzz steadily increases year after year as more states opt for legalization, giving way to more clinical studies and market availability. Still, CBD is just one of the hundred-plus cannabinoids. Its therapeutic benefits can be found in THCA, CBN, and CBG (to name a few).

“You need the whole plant,” says Hanna. “Everything in our store has some THC in it. Terpenes are an important therapeutic component of the cannabis plant as well.”

Hanna points to limonene, a terpene known for its zesty fragrance. Citrus fruits have naturally occurring limonene, as well as cannabis. Over 100 terpenes have been identified in cannabis, and they work in harmony with the plant’s hundreds of cannabinoids to augment the plant’s mellow or energetic effects, depending on its strain.

What about some of the lesser-known cannabinoids? There’s CBN, which occurs when THC is aged and stored. It’s similar to CBD but slightly psychoactive and, in Hanna’s opinion, extremely relaxing. For curious consumers, Rebelle, a dispensary in Great Barrington, offers CBN products in edible and tincture form.

There’s also THC-V, which researchers have found to act as an appetite suppressant, and CBT, which scientists believe can be an alternative to the ADHD medication Adderall. The fact that the same drug known for munchies can help curb your appetite is a testament to its versatility.

“There are so many other cannabinoids that we’re just learning about,” says Hanna, although some haven’t reached the East Coast yet. On the horizon, Hanna is working with scientists to formulate a tincture for Rebelle, using custom amounts of CBD, CBN, THC, and essential oils (which have therapeutic benefits, like terpenes).

The Future of CBD

The legal market on the East Coast is small,” says Winstanley, “But it’s going to expand.” He says Theory is interested in opening up more dispensaries in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.

Winstanley believes New York’s legalization of marijuana was a watershed moment for the cannabis industry and sped up the timeline for other states to pass their own legislature.

“New York passed legalization, followed by New Mexico. Virginia moved up their timeline and wheels began to turn into motion across the country. It was a tipping point in the future of legalization,” says Winstanley. “We’re happy for New York State and cannot wait to see this market come online.”

Indeed, CBD regulation is finally getting some much-needed attention from influential politicians. On July 14, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer proposed the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, an ambitious piece of legislation that, if passed, would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and allow comprehensive testing and regulations for hemp-derived CBD.

For now, consumers should keep in mind that CBD, like every other health supplement, works best if taken regularly.

“I teach my patients to keep a log and to write what they took, when they took it, and how it made them feel,” says Tracy. “Usually, after several weeks, patients can identify products and dosages specific to their needs.”

What’s Next for CBD

CBD enthusiasts like Rachel, Myers, and Bodin plan to continue using CBD in the future, even as traditional, THC-based products become more readily available.

Incorporating CBD and herbal remedies into Rachel’s wellness routine has drastically improved her quality of life. “I feel like a new person,” says Rachel. “I’m no longer trapped in bed by all the pain.”

Rachel typically takes full-spectrum CBD every day after work, either smoking a pre-roll or eating an edible. “Outside of pain management, CBD does make me feel less anxious and helps me enjoy THC a lot more,” says Rachel. She finds CBD makes her more creative, as well.

“Many people don’t realize that when CBD became federally legal, it wasn’t just for ingestibles and beauty products,” says Bodin. “It was also the first time other manufacturers could start buying and experimenting with hemp as well. The future is very exciting.”

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