To this point, CBD oil has existed in a kind of liminal space— at once an illegal drug, a legal medication, and some kind of “dietary” supplement. It’s possible this could change in the coming years, however. GW Pharmaceuticals, a U.K.-based firm, has developed a “pure CBD” medication called Epidiolex that has shown promising test results. It is currently on a fast-track to receive FDA clearance. For some patients, Epidiolex could be a miracle cure. This summer, in Wired magazine, writer Fred Vogelstein chronicled his family’s own struggles to find an effective treatment for his son’s epilepsy—including experiments with hemp oil— and the immense hurdles they overcame to gain access to Epidiolex prior to its FDA approval. The drug could be for sale on pharmacy shelves in the near future, though exactly how near is hard to say.
In the United States, cannabidiol is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This means that production, distribution, and possession of CBD is illegal under federal law. In addition, in 2016 the Drug Enforcement Administration added "marijuana extracts" to the list of Schedule I drugs, which it defined as "an extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis, other than the separated resin (whether crude or purified) obtained from the plant." Previously, CBD had simply been considered "marijuana", which is a Schedule I drug.
At Denver’s LivWell, which has an enormous indoor growing operation, workers remove marijuana leaves before the buds are trimmed, keeping the plants destined for medical use separate from those for recreational use. After Colorado legalized marijuana, thousands of young people from all over the world flocked to the state to participate in the multimillion-dollar business phenomenon that’s been called the Green Rush.
For kids with severe forms of epilepsy, changes in medication levels can be extremely dangerous. “If their levels go low, they’re at increased risk of seizures, which could lead to an emergency room visit or an ICU stay,” Knupp said. “On the other hand, if their levels go high, their side effects can increase dramatically.” Side effects from epilepsy medications can range anywhere from drowsiness to vomiting to heart arrhythmia, Knupp noted. “For some people that could mean a minor inconvenience, but for some patients it could be life-threatening.”
Jump up ^ Klein C, Karanges E, Spiro A, Wong A, Spencer J, Huynh T, Gunasekaran N, Karl T, Long LE, Huang XF, Liu K, Arnold JC, McGregor IS (November 2011). "Cannabidiol potentiates Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) behavioural effects and alters THC pharmacokinetics during acute and chronic treatment in adolescent rats". Psychopharmacology. 218 (2): 443–457. doi:10.1007/s00213-011-2342-0. PMID 21667074.
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Cannabinoids are neuroprotective, meaning that they help maintain and regulate brain health. The effects appear to be related to several actions they have on the brain, including the removal of damaged cells and the improved efficiency of mitochondria. CBD and other antioxidant compounds in cannabis also work to reduce glutamate toxicity. Extra glutamate, which stimulates nerve cells in the brain to fire, causes cells to become over-stimulated, ultimately leading to cell damage or death. Thus, cannabinoids help protect brain cells from damage, keeping the organ healthy and functioning properly. CBD has also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain.
Among the company’s many offerings is Real Scientific Hemp Oil, which it sells through its subsidiary HempMedsPx, also based in Poway. On its web site, HempMedsPx describes how its hemp “is grown in northern European microclimates, without the use of any pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers.” The company promises that it “continuously scrutinizes and improves the processes to meet all regulations and exceeds quality standards.”
In the apparent rush to accept weed into the mainstream, to tax and regulate it, to legitimize and commodify it, important questions arise. What’s going on inside this plant? How does marijuana really affect our bodies and our brains? What might the chemicals in it tell us about how our neurological systems function? Could those chemicals lead us to beneficial new pharmaceuticals?
Keep in mind, too, that CBD product companies use different CBD sources, extraction methods and production techniques – and not all resulting products are created equal. You'll have to do your own research to determine which companies you're willing to trust, Asquith says. Plus, how the products are packaged and consumed – be they in oils, creams or capsules – affect how they're absorbed in the body. Edibles, for example, are well-absorbed, while oils taken under the tongue are "baloney," Tishler says. And of course, salespeople at herb shops don't have the same mission, knowledge, training or oversight as physicians and pharmacists. "We have spent the last 100 years or so developing the pharmaceutical system because it works," Tishler says.
Figuring out how much CBD oil to take can feel like trying to navigate through a complicated maze. The sheer volume of CBD brands on the market can create confusion for consumers, and when you take a closer look, it’s not difficult to understand why. Not only do vendors use different source materials (CBD-rich cannabis vs. industrial hemp, different strains, etc.), but they also implement different extraction techniques .
The medical use of marijuana has brought some attention to the subject of using cannabis-derived products for health, but it’s important to understand how CBD oil differs. We’ll get into this more in a bit, but the key difference lies in the parts of the plant being used to make the product. For example, CBD oil is also different from hemp seed oil, since it is extracted not from the seed but from the flowers, leaves, and stalks of hemp.
Could cannabidiol help prevent tumors and other cancers before they grow? A 2012 study showed that animals treated with CBD were significantly less likely to develop colon cancer after being induced with carcinogens in a laboratory. Several studies had already shown that THC prevents tumors and reduces them, including one in 1996 on animal models that found that it decreased the incidence of both benign and hepatic adenoma tumors. In 2015, scientists analyzed the medical records of over eighty-four thousand male patients in California and found that those who used cannabis, but not tobacco, had a rate of bladder cancer that was 45 percent below the norm. Topical products can be used to treat and prevent skin cancers. Continuing research is focused on the best ratio of CBD to THC and the most effective dose level in cancer prevention and treatment.
CBD may help reduces REM behavior disorder in people with Parkinson’s disease. REM behavior disorder is a condition that causes people to act out physically during dreaming and REM sleep. Typically, during REM, the body is largely paralyzed, a state known as REM atonia. This immobilization keeps sleepers from reacting physically to their dreams. In REM behavior disorder, this paralysis doesn’t occur, leaving people free to move—which can lead to disruptive sleep and to injuring themselves or their sleeping partners. Cannabis may also work to reduce pain and improve sleep quality in people with Parkinson’s disease.
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