You only have to read the reviews under a CBD product on the Holland & Barrett website to see the extent to which anecdotal reports cannot be trusted. More than 100 customers gave Jacob Hooy CBD+ Oil five stars, with a few saying they always noticed if they missed a dose (presumably this made them less relaxed, although they did not reveal what they were taking it for), while 93 people gave it one star, saying it did nothing, or was too weak. One couple even said it gave them palpitations and a sleepless night. All these people had different conditions, expectations and situations. “And,” says McGuire, “you have to remember that anything can have a placebo effect.” While it looks unlikely that the recommended doses of these products will do any harm, McGuire’s guess is that doses are so small “that it’s like homeopathy – it’s not going to do anything at all”.
But now, as more and more people are turning to the drug to treat ailments, the science of cannabis is experiencing a rebirth. We’re finding surprises, and possibly miracles, concealed inside this once forbidden plant. Although marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug, Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, recently expressed interest in what science will learn about marijuana, noting that preliminary data show that “for certain medical conditions and symptoms” it can be “helpful.”
Hash oils seized in the 1970s had a THC contents ranging from 10 to 30%. The oil available on the U.S. West Coast in 1974 averaged about 15% THC.[2] Samples seized across the United States by the Drug Enforcement Administration over an 18-year period (1980–1997) showed that THC content in hashish and hashish oil averaging 12.9% and 17.4%, respectively, did not show an increase over time.[4] The highest THC concentrations measured were 52.9% in hashish and 47.0% in hash oil.[5] Hash oils in use in the 2010s had THC concentrations as high as 90%[6][7] and other products achieving higher concentrations [8]
The truth is that no one knows precisely what any of these molecules are doing to us. It is a case of finding the effects first and working backwards to understand the mechanisms. “There are a number of possible transmitter systems that CBD could act on,” says McGuire. “And it’s not 100% clear which ones are critical for anxiety, or psychosis or schizophrenia. But [the antipsychotic effect] is a different mechanism from existing treatments, which is a big deal because existing treatments aren’t working.”
A wealth of marketing material, blogs and anecdotes claim that cannabis oils can cure whatever ails you, even cancer. But the limited research doesn't suggest that cannabis oil should take the place of conventional medication, except for in two very rare forms of epilepsy (and even then, it's recommended only as a last-resort treatment). And, experts caution that because cannabis oil and other cannabis-based products are not regulated or tested for safety by the government or any third-party agency, it's difficult for consumers to know exactly what they're getting.
Preliminary research indicates that cannabidiol may reduce adverse effects of THC, particularly those causing intoxication and sedation, but only at high doses.[24] Safety studies of cannabidiol showed it is well-tolerated, but may cause tiredness, diarrhea, or changes in appetite as common adverse effects.[25] Epidiolex documentation lists sleepiness, insomnia and poor quality sleep, decreased appetite, diarrhea, and fatigue.[3]
The oil may be further refined by 1) alkali washing, or removing the heavy aromatic carboxylic acids with antibiotic properties, which may cause heartburn, gallbladder and pancreas irritation, and resistance to hemp antibiotics; 2) conversion of CBD to THC. Process 1) consists of dissolving the oil in a nonpolar solvent such as petroleum ether, repeatedly washing (saponifying) with a base such as sodium carbonate solution until the yellow residue disappears from the watery phase, decanting, and washing with water to remove the base and the saponified components (and evaporating the solvents). This process reduces the oil yield, but the resulting oil is less acidic, easier digestible and much more potent (almost pure THC). Process 2) consists of dissolving the oil in a suitable solvent such as absolute ethanol containing 0.05% hydrochloric acid, and boiling the mixture for 2 hours.[19]

CBD products that don't contain THC fall outside the scope of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's (DEA) Controlled Substances Act, which means CBD products are legal to sell and consume as long as they don't have THC. That's likely one of the reasons why CBD products, including CBD oil, are becoming more socially acceptable and increasingly popular. In 2016, Forbes reported that CBD products are expected to be a $2.2 billion industry by 2020.
Over decades, researchers have found that THC may help treat pain, nausea, loss of appetite and other problems, while CBD was thought to be biologically inactive in humans. But in the past 10 years, scientists have concluded that CBD may be quite useful. Dozens of studies have found evidence that the compound can treat epilepsy as well as a range of other illnesses, including anxiety, schizophrenia, heart disease and cancer.
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Two cannabis-based pharmaceutical drugs, manufactured in the UK, are licensed for prescription but only for very specific uses. Sativex has been available in the UK since 2010 and uses THC and CBD to treat spasticity in multiple sclerosis. And a new CBD-only drug, Epidiolex, was approved in June in the US to treat rare childhood epilepsies, with a similar decision expected imminently for Europe and the UK.
Selective breeding of cannabis plants has expanded and diversified as commercial and therapeutic markets develop. Some growers in the U.S. succeeded in lowering the proportion of CBD-to-THC to accommodate customers who preferred varietals that were more mind-altering due to the higher THC and lower CBD content.[55] Hemp is classified as any part of the cannabis plant containing no more than 0.3% THC in dry weight form (not liquid or extracted form).[56]
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