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The Buzz on CBD

by Ben Becker, Newsletter Writer

It is likely that you have been hearing more about the mysterious and exciting chemical known as CBD. You may have seen billboards or heard radio ads promoting awareness of this wellness product. You may have even encountered news about about how the state of Wisconsin is regulating this product and what impacts that could have on agricultural producers. CBD is rapidly gaining in popularity and availability, with a multitude of offerings of many different forms that can be found at your local Willy Street Co-op. For those looking to know more about this mystifying chemical, or anyone considering using it as part of a healthy lifestyle, there is a lot to know. Sorting through the information and confusion can be challenging, but as customers, physicians, and producers engage with the impact CBD can have, it becomes clear why so much buzz surrounds it. 

What is CBD?

One of the biggest points of confusion regarding CBD is its relationship with marijuana. CBD is in fact related to marijuana in its origin, however, unlike recreational and medical marijuana products, CBD products do not contain large amounts of the psychotropic chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC. Because CBD products are lacking in THC, they do not produce the intoxicating effects or “high” resulting from marijuana use. This is an essential difference between the two, both in how they are used and in how regulatory bodies might choose to approach them. The relationship, and the confusion between the two, results from the fact that CBD, or cannabidiol, is like THC in that it is a chemical found in cannabis, meaning that it is part of a larger family of chemicals known as cannabinoids. 

While cannabis is a term that is often used interchangeably with marijuana, it more accurately refers to a larger classification of plants. In addition to marijuana, the cannabis family also includes hemp. Hemp has a long and storied history as an industrial product for which it is well known, but probably less present in most people’s minds are the benefits hemp offers as a dietary supplement. 

Hemp is sometimes referred to as a superfood because its seeds contain protein and amino acids in addition to fatty acids such as omega-6s and omegas 3s. In addition to this wealth of nutrients, hemp seeds are also a good source of fiber. Unlike marijuana, hemp has very little in the way of THC, but it provides the source from which CBD is derived. In summary, CBD and hemp should not be confused with psychoactive drugs including both recreational and medical marijuana. This confusion is to be expected because our society has known about marijuana as an intoxicant for a long time, but canibidiol is still a rather recent discovery. 

How does CBD work?

Cannabidiol was initially discovered in 1940, and its full chemical structure was not fully known until 1963. However, it wouldn’t be until the 1990s that scientists began to unravel how the human body is structured to interact with this substance. In 1995, researchers identified two cannabinoid receptors within the human body: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are concentrated in the parts of the brain responsible for mental and physiological processes such as memory, cognition, emotion and coordination. CB2 receptors are found throughout the immune system and peripheral tissues. This signaling system, which reacts to cannabinoids, is known as the endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids are naturally produced by our body, but they are similar in behavior to how cannabinoids like CBD interact with the our internal systems. As CBD comes into contact with receptors and the neurotransmitters in your body, your endocannabinoid system works to regulate various bodily functions including intestinal function, metabolism, and homeostasis. When CBD interacts with our CB1 and CB2 receptors, these receptors function more capably while also promoting greater balance and maintenance of our vital health systems. 

Overall, this endocannabinoid system permeates numerous facets of our biology to maintain our organic harmony as we respond to the environment around us. We are continuing to realize just how prevalently this system extends within us, as endocannabinoid receptors have been found in our skin, skeletal muscles and fat tissues and in organs including the liver, pancreas, kidneys, liver and heart, in addition to our immune systems, neural pathways and gastrointestinal tracts. The presence of these receptors within the human body has led many to theorize that humans have a prehistoric relationship with cannabis as an important part of diet, health and livelihood. Research has traced the evolution of the endocannabinoid system to over 500 million years ago, and numerous animals from mammals and birds to amphibians and fish all produce endocannabinoids. As we continue to learn more about CBD and how our bodies and minds have developed to interact with it, there are some very exciting possibilities for how this chemical could impact and improve our wellness. 

What does CBD Treat

One of the most fascinating developments in CBD’s potential to promote wellness is efficacy in treating epilepsy. In cases where numerous other forms of treatment and medications have failed to show positive results, some medical professionals have chosen to prescribe cannabidiol as an alternative means to reducing seizures for epileptic patients. Research into CBD as a treatment of this condition—in particular, some forms of child epilepsy—has produced results where cannabidiol has been observed as very effective in reducing seizures.  Recently, this research has led to the FDA approving an oral treatment containing pure CBD for treatment of childhood epilepsy. 

The positive impact of CBD oil is not limited to only one condition alone. Many users find CBD to be an effective treatment for chronic pain. Studies taking place in the last few decades have thus far indicated that cannabidiol can be used effectively to manage pain without producing adverse side effects. By interacting with receptors in your brain and immune system, CBD suppresses the body’s inflammatory response while helping to produce regulatory cells and managing the perception of pain. As a result, CBD may be of use in dealing with arthritis, or when seeking relief from the pain and other symptoms. 

What makes CBD especially attractive for pain management is that it is less dangerous and  habit forming than using opioid medication. 

Cannabidiol also works to reduce stress and anxiety by helping to rebalance hormone levels. By regulating stress signals, CBD prevents the brain from releasing too much cortisol, a hormone related to our body’s response to stressful situations that can negatively impact our immune and physiological functions. 

In addition to pain relief and stress management, science is finding that cannabinoids present a lot of potential for multiple conditions that can benefit from therapeutic use. Research into cannabinoids has unveiled that these chemicals can have positive impacts in coping with not only inflammation and pain, but also for treating anxiety, psychosis, sleep disorders, and in combating free radicals. While this research is still in its infancy, it says a lot about how chemicals like CBD may come to play a part in our future medicine and lifestyle. 

When it comes to treating pain, evidence in favor of cannabinoids is already substantial. This same research has also shown that cannibinoids have efficacy in helping chemotherapy patients in addressing their nausea and vomiting, and for controlling spasticity in those suffering from multiple sclerosis. 

Scientific research is continuing to explore how cannabinoids may prove promising in addressing a multitude of mental and physical adversities including tourettes syndrome, social anxiety, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder. There is even a moderate amount of evidence that cannabinoids can help with improving sleep for those who suffer from sleep apnea or fibromyalgia. 

Scientists are continuing to investigate how illnesses ranging from anxiety and schizophrenia to heart disease and cancer may be treated with cannabidiol. While the growth in prescriptions of CBD by conventional medical professionals is similar to the emergence of medical marijuana as a potentially viable means of treatment for pain, nausea, loss of appettie and other conditions, CBD differs largely in that its use does not have the mind-altering impact that patients and lawmakers may view as undesirable. However, just as the legality of medical marijuana varies by how it is used and the state or nation in which the user resides, so too is the variety of regulation and legality concerning CBD dependant upon geographic location. 

Legal Questions

How the state and federal government regulates the production and distribution of cannabidiol is a confusing topic, and absolute clarity is elusive even to lawmakers. Cannabis is still a substance our society regards with suspicion and prejudice even though restrictions surrounding its use have loosened in recent years, especially for the treatment of medical conditions. Currently in America, 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, but the federal government continues to categorize marijuana as a Schedule I drug, or in other words, a controlled substance whose use is heavily restricted. 

Even though hemp contains less than 0.3 percent of the mind-altering compound THC, due to its close association with the psychoactive properties of marijuana, hemp and its derivative cannabidiol suffer from a bewildering legal status. This confusion came to a head in Wisconsin last spring, when the Wisconsin Department of Justice advised law enforcement agencies that hemp remained illegal without a prescription. This advisory caused quite a dust-up, especially because it conflicted with both a federal law that allowed the sale of CBD as a nutritional product derived from agricultural hemp, as well as state laws passed in 2014 and 2017. The 2017 state legislation was intended to allow individuals to possess CBD oil and for farmers to produce agricultural hemp provided it did not contain more than 0.3 percent THC. 

As the 2017 legislation was intended to support Wisconsin agriculture, growers were particularly taken aback by the severity and poor timing of the Department of Justice’s announcement, especially because it threatened their seasonal planning and endangered millions of dollars worth of investments. In spite of this perplexity, stores carrying health supplements have continued to offer CBD oil, seeing it as essential to ensuring customers can enjoy the care that maintains their healthy lifestyle. 

Since last spring, new legal developments have occurred regarding the legality and regulation of cannabidiol and hemp products. In October, the Wisconsin Controlled Substances Board downgraded the status of CBD drugs containing no more than 0.1 percent THC to a Schedule V substance in order to allow for pharmaceutical prescriptions to treat epilepsy. At the federal level, hemp has become legal nationwide through the passing of the most recent farm bill. 

CBD Products

While regulation of cannabidiol continues to develop, this exciting substance is proving popular in a variety of forms and products. Cafe owners and mixologists are offering CBD infused coffees and cocktails. You can even purchase treats for your pets containing cannabidiol. Co-op Owners searching for CBD at their local Willy Street Co-op will find that we carry a wide assortment of CBD products from lotions and tinctures, to CBD oil chocolate bars. You can even ask our Juice Bar staff to add CBD to your smoothie! 

Hemp-based wellness products containing CBD differ in their forms and intensity. Its first form is the raw hemp formula, which you can find in such products as oil drops, balms, or softgels. In its raw form, CBD is chemically bound to an additional acid chemical, which prevents it from crossing the blood-brain barrier. This makes the raw formula ideal for issues below the neck, especially when applied topically to the skin, or when taken internally for gut health, allowing it to interact with serotonin receptors. In its second form, cannabidiol is refined from its raw form, releasing it from its attachment to acid to create a purer form of CBD. At this stage, the CBD oil still has a large percent of plant materials making it appropriate for distinct uses. However, in this form it is not ideal for topical use. In its most refined form, CBD oil is concentrated into a high strength formula that can be applied through topical solutions, applicators, or ingested in drops or even gummies! Whether you are looking to use CBD in a lotion for for treating sore muscles, as a dietary supplement taken through a capsule form, or even to inhale it through a vaporization cartridge, Willy Street Co-op Wellness staff have a huge knowledge base that they can use to guide you in finding the CBD product that will meet your needs. 

While looking to understand and effectively incorporate CBD into our lifestyle, we should be sure to do so with care, remembering to maintain balance as the goal. Just like any other medicine, we should collaborate with a healthcare professional when seeking to treat any infirmity for which we see cannabidiol as a potential source of relief. When looking to enhance our health through the use of CBD products, it is essential to view cannabidiol as a supplement to a complete diet and a lifestyle which includes proper exercise. Just as cannabinoids work to bring our system into equilibrium, we should ensure that the choices we make to promote health are bringing our life into balance. As the availability of cannabidiol products progresses along with our knowledge about the potential of stimulating our endocannabinoid system, the future of CBD and hemp should prove to be exciting.