In the meantime, some physicians are forging ahead — and cashing in. Joe Cohen is a doctor at Holos Health, a medical marijuana clinic in Boulder. I asked him what CBD is good for, and he read me a long list of conditions: pain, inflammation, nausea, vomiting, intestinal cramping, anxiety, psychosis, muscle spasms, hyperactive immune systems, nervous system degeneration, elevated blood sugar and more. He also claimed that CBD has anti-cancer properties and can regenerate brain cells and reduce the brain’s levels of amyloid beta — a kind of protein that’s been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. I asked for references, noting that most of these weren’t listed in the Academies report or a similar review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “I think you just have to Google search it,” he said. It’s true that a preliminary study found hints that cannabinoids might reduce beta amyloid proteins in human brain cells, but the study was done in cells grown in a lab, not in people. As for cancer, the FDA sent warning letters last year to four companies that were selling products that claimed to “prevent, diagnose, treat or cure” cancer.
A wide variety of solvents can be used for extraction, such as chloroform, dichloromethane, petroleum ether, naphtha, benzene, butane, methanol, ethanol, isopropanol, and olive oil. Currently, resinoids are often obtained by extraction with supercritical carbon dioxide. The alcohols extract undesirable water-soluble substances such as chlorophylls and sugars (which can be removed later by washing with water). Non-polar solvents such as benzene, chloroform and petroleum ether will not extract the water-soluble constituents of marijuana or hashish while still producing hash oil. In general, non-polar cannabis extracts taste much better than polar extracts. Alkali washing further improves the odor and taste.
All this means that scientists can still only obtain marijuana-derived CBD from farms licensed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (which until this year meant only one farm owned by the University of Mississippi). As for whether you should have a preference for CBD that comes from hemp, marijuana, or a pure synthetically produced version, there are some theories that THC—and even the smell and taste of cannabis—might make CBD more effective, but Bonn-Miller says these ideas have yet to be proven.
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