CBD: A beginner’s guide

With all eyes on cannabis this year, there’s still so much to learn about the plant, its unique properties and the effects of consuming it. While THC (aka tetrahydrocannabinol, which facilitates the “high” associated with weed) often takes the spotlight as pot’s primary redeeming compound, more conversations are starting to be had about another trio of letters, CBD. Short for cannabidiol, consider CBD the calm sibling to THC’s life-of-the-party.

Both compounds facilitate reactions via the body’s own endocannabinoid system. It’s a neurotransmitter network composed of cell receptors and molecules throughout your body that allow you to process cannabis; it is also responsible for maintaining homeostasis, or balance.

“Both CBD and THC interact with the endocannabinoid system in the body, a vital system responsible for pain, appetite, mood, memory, and sleep, to name a few,” says Dennis Hunter, founder of Sonoma County’s CannaCraft, a medical cannabis product manufacturer. “The main difference is that THC is psychoactive, creating the common high associated with cannabis, whereas CBD is non-psychoactive. On its own, it will not cause a person to feel high regardless of the amount consumed.”

In short, you can expect bodily benefits without any mind-altering effects – a major plus for patients looking strictly to alleviate symptoms like pain. “Broadly, CBD has more of an anti-inflammatory, anxiety relieving, neuroprotective, anti-psychotic, anticonvulsant action. THC has a more euphoric, psychoactive, anti-emetic, pain-killer effect, though the latter can also be found with CBD,” explains Dr. Perry Solomon, chief medical officer at HelloMD.com, a website dedicated to providing medical information about cannabis.

CBD is available in a variety of delivery systems, including sublingual tinctures (applied under your tongue by dropper) that are absorbed by mucus membranes for an effect that’s felt within five to 15 minutes; soft gel capsules, which offer slower effects setting in after an hour or two; and vaping and smoking, where the effect is felt almost immediately.

It’s also found in topical salves and lotions, and made the news recently as a treatment option for pets experiencing pain, anxiety and other issues. Because CBD interacts with so many vital systems in the body, Hunter is seeing his clients use it for a variety of issues, from pain management to anxiety to epilepsy to digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease. It’s important to note that currently in Canada, CBD products are only available from a licensed producer and with a prescription.

As with all types of medicine, it’s imperative you speak with a doctor first to make sure it will work for you. “There is some evidence that high doses of CBD can compete with some enzymes in the liver that normally degrade drugs such as warfarin, that is used to thin the blood,” says Dr. Solomon, adding that this also applies to some chemotherapy drugs.

When taken together with THC, CBD will create a different experience, one that is commonly referred to as the ‘Entourage Effect’. “CBD works best in conjunction with THC. Even small amounts of THC can help to optimize the benefits of CBD,” says Hunter. The ratio of CBD to THC can be adjusted to help treat different ailments: more THC may be helpful for extreme pain, while a high-CBD and low-THC product is more appropriate for treating anxiety or chronic pain throughout the day. “Being able to adjust the CBD to THC ratio allows patients to customize their treatment to meet their unique needs,” he says.

Story by Caitlin Agnew
Photos by Steph Martyniuk

The preceding is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to condone the use or consumption of cannabis. For more information, please refer to our disclaimer

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