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What Is CBD Oil and Why Is It the Next Big Thing?

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What Is CBD Oil?

CBD oil (aka cannabidiol oil) is a distillate of CBD, a compound derived from the Cannabis sativa species. Depending on the method of preparation and extraction, CBD oil can be golden-yellow in color or blackish-green. The taste and smell of this substance also varies with its method of preparation (i.e. the less filtered it is, the more it might smell like marijuana).

This simple little compound has sparked a bevy of confusion, amazement and skepticism in recent months. This has been sparked by CBD's increasing legitimization in public and regulatory settings. For example, the World Anti-Doping Agency has removed CBD from its list of banned substances. Moreover, celebrities such as comedian Seth Rogen, UFC star Nate Diaz and marathon runner Avery Collins are among the growing list of A-list professionals who endorse CBD oil for various uses.

Yet, beyond all the recent hype surrounding its applications, CBD may actually provide some amazing medical, therapeutic and cosmetic benefits. We will cover the basics of CBD in the rest of this article.


How Is CBD Oil Made and Manufactured?

As explained earlier, CBD comes from the Cannabis sativa species. There are two main plants that are used for extracting CBD for human consumption/use: marijuana and hemp. Among the many differences between these two plants, the major one goes as follows: marijuana has copious amounts of the psychoactive chemical THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), while Hemp has almost no THC. However, both plants have CBD. And since THC is still illegal on the Federal (and in some cases, the state) level; CBD is often harvested from hemp to minimize risk of contamination. The two main CBD extraction methods are listed below.

Ethanol/Hydrocarbon Extraction:

This is the simpler and least expensive of the two extraction methods. During the process, either ethanol or a hydrocarbon solution is passed over the plant material (hemp or marijuana). As a result, CBD and other cannabinoids are extracted. Further refinement is needed to isolate pure CBD (if this is desired).

Supercritical CO2 Extraction:

This extraction method involves a specialized device called a supercritical CO2 Extractor. First, the hemp plant is ground up into a fine powder. This powder is then placed into the machine. Then over a long period (typically 24 hours), the pieces of plant material cycle through different temperatures and pressures using CO2 as the solvent. This allows to you extract different components of the hemp plant. Ultimately, CBD oil comes out as a golden liquid with a very waxy texture.


CBD Oil Benefits:

CBD oil has a number of benefits, some of which have only been discovered in the past four or five years. The effect of CBD on various human tissues is an ongoing field of research, yet the known therapeutic and medical benefits of this compound are presented below:

Therapeutic Benefits

The basis for many of CBD oil's touted therapeutic effects stem from its effect on a specialized system of the body called the endocannabinoid system (aka ECS system). The ECS system regulates and modulates sleep, appetite, and immune responses among other things.

The ECS system acts upon the nervous system through cannabinoid receptors. CBD and other cannabinoids are able to attach to these receptors and (in many cases) manifest anti-inflammatory effects. Furthermore, since the ECS system generally affects most parts of the nervous system, CBD oil (at least) has the potential to target and positively influence various parts of the body at once.

Medical Benefits

The years of medical research that involved CBD have yielded tangible results and more potential treatments that are coming down the pharmaceutical pipeline. Among the medical conditions that could benefit from CBD treatments, the biggest seven are:

  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Cancer Related Symptoms
  • Acne
  • Neurological Disorders
  • Heart Disease
  • Chronic Pain
  • Diabetes
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In fact, there are at least two pharmaceutical drugs currently on the market that use CBD to effectively treat two separate conditions. Sativex, an oral spray, uses a combination of THC and CBD compounds to treat the pain associated with arthritis and multiple sclerosis. The drug has been approved for use in several countries.

The other drug Epidiolex, made a big splash this year by getting FDA approval for sale in the U.S. The drug is a prescription form extraction of cannabidiol that has been shown to effectively treat two rare forms of childhood epilepsy.


A Brief History: The Discovery of CBD

In the summer of 1938, a young scientist with U.S. government-affiliated narcotics laboratory by the name of John Matchett went to Minnesota and collected wild hemp and marijuana plants. They cured, dried and processed these plants through a solution of 95% ethanol. They resulting extract was later described a "crude red oil."

This oily substance was later sent to Roger Adams, quite possibly the most prominent organic chemist of the time. Adams refined the oily substance with a series of chemical baths until he had a whitish-yellow resin. This resin was the first successful isolation of cannabidiol (CBD) in the historical record.

However, in one of science's greatest ironies, Roger Adams was immensely disappointed in his discovery. He specifically looking for the psychoactive chemical that gives marijuana its characteristic inebriating effect. That chemical, THC, was later discovered by a team of chemists in Israel some 25 years later.

It was only decades after Adam's discovery that the scientific community began to acknowledge CBD's unique, positive contributions to human health and wellness.


One of the biggest potential obstacles preventing CBD from becoming a truly household consumer product or additive, is its legal status. Currently, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) considers cannabidiol a schedule I drug, a drug classification shared by heroin and LSD.

However, attitudes towards CBD are quickly changing. Generally speaking, in some form or another CBD is legally approved for purchase in all states except Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Indiana. Different states may have different legal requirements when it comes to the purchase and/or sale of CBD oil. Therefore, you should look us your individual states legal guidelines as it applies to this substance. Yet, in a broader context states that have already approved recreational marijuana use have little to no restrictions on the sale and purchase of CBD.

On a further note, most of the CBD oil that you see for sale in the broader marketplace is sourced from certified hemp plants (i.e. hemp plants that contain less than 0.03% THC). The reason for this being that plants (like marijuana) that naturally contain more than 0.03% THC remain illegal in many jurisdictions and on the federal level.

On the international level, the sale and purchase of CBD oil is legal in approximately 45 countries as of the time of this article's writing. And the number seems to be increasing rapidly.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


AbsoluteNature on March 29, 2019:

Excellent and thorough write up.

Liz Westwood from UK on October 14, 2018:

This is a topical article with an ongoing debate about the medical usefulness of cannabis derivatives.

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