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Before cannabis was legalized in Canada, most people associated the plant with its psychoactive effects, provided courtesy of THC. But since last October, it’s the drug’s quieter, gentler side that’s taken the spotlight. CBD has quickly become one of the biggest buzzwords — and wellness trends — of this year.
This chemical compound is a natural derivative of the cannabis plant and is widely credited with being the source of many of its medicinal properties. Just a few of the many, many health concerns and conditions it’s been reported to benefit: Anxiety, depression, insomnia, memory loss, chronic pain, menstrual pain, acne, high blood pressure, schizophrenia, addiction disorders — heck even cancer is on the list.
So, is CBD the miracle drug we’ve all been waiting for? Probably not — but that doesn’t mean it’s snake oil either. Here, we break down what it is, where it comes from, what claims have been scientifically proven (and which haven’t), as well as how to try it out for yourself.
ABCs of CBD
First things first: CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol, which is one of at least 113 phytocannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant.
Phytocannabinoids are naturally-occurring chemical compounds concentrated in a resin produced in the plant’s trichomes, a.k.a. the fuzzy, sticky hairs all over its leaves and buds. Through the magic of chemistry, this resin can be extracted and individual components can be isolated for therapeutic uses.
We could go on about the science, but we’ll spare you.
Here’s the bit you actually need to know: Used as drugs, each of the cannabis plant’s phytocannabinoids has its own unique properties. Tetrahydrocannabinol — otherwise known as THC — is its primary psychoactive bad boy that makes you feel high. CBD, on the other hand, is more like its chill older cousin who’s really into new-agey alternative therapies and, like, following your bliss, man.
Or at least, that’s how it used to be regarded. Now more than ever, CBD — and cannabis in general — is shaking its hippy reputation in favour of one focused on wellness, self-care, and legitimate medical benefits.
MEDICAL MARVEL (MAYBE)
Remember what we said before about skipping over the science? Scratch that. (We’ll keep it brief, we promise.) But instead of a lesson in botany, let’s talk biology.
In spite of its name, the cannabis plant isn’t the only natural source of cannabinoids. Along with phytocannabinoids in plants, the human body has its own internal system of naturally produced endocannabinoids. These neurotransmitters play a central role in all sorts of physiological and cognitive processes and functions, including pain-sensation, mood, and memory, fertility and pregnancy, and appetite. Some other plants that have been found to interact on the endocannabinoid system are echinacea, liverwort, black pepper, black truffles and cacao. (No wonder chocolate makes us feel so good.)
It’s this biological link between cannabinoids and human physiology that may explain CBD’s growing reputation as a wonder drug — and the growing quantity of scientific evidence that supports that reputation.
Naturally, researchers balk at labelling CBD as a medical cure-all (with good reason — that would be a huge claim to make), and yes, at the moment marketers are louder than scientists in touting its benefits — in part due to stringent regulations by the FDA that have hampered research opportunities. But more and more scientific studies are showing correlations between improved wellness and therapeutic use of CBD products. Some examples:
- Last year, the FDA approved a CBD-based drug for the management of epilepsy.
- A number of studies have found evidence that CBD may help with pain management for arthritis, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and fibromyalgia.
- Emerging evidence from ongoing clinical studies supports the idea of CBD as a treatment for anxiety and sleep disorders, largely due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
- A new study out last month found CBD to have antibiotic effects equal to or greater than drugs currently on the market, while also being “much less likely to cause resistance than the existing antibiotics.”
IT’S A LIFESTYLE
Aside from these medical applications, many people swear by CBD as part of their daily wellness regimen. From getting a good night’s sleep to focusing your mind to taking the edge off nagging anxiety, or just unwinding at the end of a long day (in the same way you’d down a glass — or three, we don’t judge — of red wine), there’s a tonne of annecdotal support for CBD as a self-care aid.
HOW TO TAKE IT
Other popular methods (current legalities aside) are through topical applications, like body lotions, bath bombs, and ointments, or in edibles, like gummies, chocolates, baked goods (even homemade!) or tea infusions. For the adventurous, there are also CBD-infused sexual lubricants and even suppositories, which are recommended for easing menstrual cramps or as an option for getting your fix if you feel too nauseous to swallow a pill.
As for dosing, sadly, it’s a bit of a crapshoot. Since studies have been limited and everyone’s body responds differently, there aren’t really any set guidelines for how much you’ll need to take to feel the effects. Even though you’d have to take a heck of a lot of the stuff to O.D. on CBD (about 20,000 mg, to be precise), as a CBD newbie, your best bet is to start slow and follow the directions provided on product labels.
Also, this should go without saying, but we’re saying it anyway for good measure: We’re not doctors, and nothing in this article should replace the advice of a medical professional. If you’re looking to address a specific health concern, consult a medical professional for advice on determining the best dosage for you. If you take any prescribed daily medications, it’s also wise to ask your doctor whether CBD could interfere with their effectiveness.
With all the buzz since legalization, it’s unsurprising that brands across the board want to cash in on the trend. To be sure you’re getting the good stuff, it’s important to read ingredient lists and know how to decode labels. A key distinction to note: the differences between hemp seed oil or cannabis sativa seed oil, and CBD oil.
It’s also important to make sure the place you’re buying from is legit. Magnolia Wellness, based out of B.C., is an education-first cannabis retailer. As Canada’s ultramodern holistic wellness brand, Magnolia focuses on helping people understand what they’re buying and how it will fit into their lives and daily routines.