CBD oil is a cannabis extract that contains high levels of CBD and little to no THC.
CBD oil products have become increasingly popular in recent years. They can be derived from either marijuana or industrial hemp.
Following the legalization of marijuana in different states, the popularity of CBD products has skyrocketed. Sales of CBD products have been projected to reach $2.1 billion by 2020.
The availability of CBD has also increased in recent years. CBD oils can be purchased online or in dispensaries, often regardless of the federal legal status of CBD.
What is CBD?
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the two most common chemicals found in marijuana. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning that it does not produce a high.
CBD has been used by many people to treat a wide variety of conditions, ranging from alleviating social anxiety to slowing the progression of cancer.
Recent discoveries that CBD can effectively treat debilitating forms of epilepsy in children has also attracted a great deal of media attention to what some believe is a miracle drug.
Due mainly to legal restrictions on the sale and consumption of CBD, scientific evidence on the benefits and potential risks of the compound are limited.
Yet, growing numbers of people are finding that the obvious relief afforded to them by CBD outweighs any potential costs of continued use.
History of CBD Oil
Charlotte Figi and the Stanley Brothers
In 2011, a team of brothers from Colorado learned that CBD had the potential to inhibit the spread of cancer in the body.
They set to work developing a high CBD strain of medical marijuana that could be used for treatment, without the intoxicating effects otherwise associated with the drug. What they created was a strain so low in THC that it couldn’t get anyone high. They named it “Hippie’s Disappointment.”
This was exactly what the parents of Charlotte Figi were looking for. The 5-year-old Colorado girl was suffering from Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that had Charlotte suffering from up to 300 seizures a week.
The Figis extracted the oil from the Stanley brothers’ high CBD strain and gave it to Charlotte. Shortly afterwards, Charlotte’s seizures were reduced to 3-4 times a month. The high CBD strain has been renamed Charlotte’s Web in her honor.
Epidiolex and GW Pharmaceuticals
Following the success of Charlotte’s Web, GW Pharmaceuticals created Epidiolex, a plant-derived CBD oil for the treatment of rare forms of epilepsy.
To date, GW has reported successful Phase 3 trials for the use of Epidiolex in Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes.
Epidiolex has recently been granted orphan drug status in the U.S., meaning it can legally be used as medication for treating a rare condition.
Extracting CBD Oil
The most common way to make CBD oil is to start with a high CBD plant. Once a strain of cannabis is chosen, there are a few methods available to extract CBD oil, each with its own pros and cons:
CO2 extraction uses high pressure carbon dioxide at low temperatures to isolate the medicinal oil. This requires specialized equipment and expertise, but yields a safe, potent product.
Ethanol is used to create oil to be used in vape pen cartridges. This method destroys plant waxes, potentially reducing medical benefits.
Olive oil extraction is a safe and inexpensive method, but makes a perishable product that needs to be stored in a cool, dark place.
Synthetic CBD can be produced in a scientific lab, resulting in the purest form of CBD. Synthetic extracts lack other, less researched, but potentially beneficial components such as terpenes and flavonoids.
Note: Butane and hexane can also be used to extract CBD, but these solvents are toxic and have the potential to leave unsafe residues in the extract.
Types of CBD Products
CBD oil can be derived from either hemp or cannabis flowers. Hemp contains much lower levels of THC than cannabis flowers, and contains proportionally more CBD than THC.
Due to legal restrictions on cannabis extracts, many producers of CBD oil opt to extract their oil from hemp.
However, CBD oil derived from organic, whole plant cannabis is generally seen as having greater health benefits and as safer for the consumer.
Due to its low CBD content, CBD hemp oil requires a large amount of hemp to create a significant amount of oil.
The problem with this is that hemp is a bioaccumulator, meaning it draws toxins from the soil into the stalk. The high volume of hemp needed to make CBD oil therefore makes it far more likely to contain more toxins.
CBD hemp oil also lacks terpenes and other cannabinoids that, when combined with CBD, can enhance the medical benefits that are otherwise available in whole plants.
For patients who prefer to vaporize, CBD vape oils and e-liquids offer a way to consume pure CBD without experiencing the typical psychoactive effects of cannabis.
CBD vape oils can be purchased in a bottle as a refill or as a one-time use cartridge for certain vape pens. Depending on the product, a bottle or cartridge of CBD vape oil may contain anywhere from 25-300mg of CBD.
Unlike other CBD oil products, vape oils allow you to feel the effects of CBD almost immediately after inhaling the vapor.
CBD can be extracted from cannabis using alcohol or vegetable glycerin to create a tincture, similar to many other herbal tinctures sold in natural health stores.
Tinctures are usually administered by putting a few drops under the tongue (sublingually) but can also be added to a food or drink and swallowed. Tinctures are often flavored to make them easier to consume.
CBD tinctures tend to be less concentrated than oil extracts and usually contain 1-20mg of CBD per serving.
CBD can be infused with skin products such as balms, salves, lotions and oils to create a topical medication that can be applied directly to your skin.
Unlike other CBD products, topicals allow patients to apply CBD directly to the affected area for faster and more targeted relief.
CBD topicals are often used for the treatment of pain and joint-related arthritis. The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD also make topicals useful for treating various skin conditions such as allergies, eczema, acne and psoriasis.
High CBD strains
Cannabis strains typically contain more THC than CBD by composition, so even high CBD strains will not have a majority CBD composition.
A strain with a CBD content of over 4% is considered “high CBD”. Strains with CBD content of 8-12% are considered CBD-rich and are commercially available, but some strains exist with as high as 18% CBD.
Some CBD-rich strains include:
- Charlotte’s Web
- Sour Tsunami
- Jamaica Lion
Although numerous CBD-rich products are available commercially, some people produce CBD oils and extracts themselves.
The biggest factor to consider when comparing commercial and homemade oil is safety.
Certain extraction techniques are not ideally suited for the home. The purity and consistency between batches can also vary greatly depending on not only the extraction methods, but also the source.
Different amounts of CBD can be extracted from hemp and marijuana, and the CBD content of specific crops can vary based on growing conditions.
Legal Status of CBD Oil
A number of CBD oil products exist on the market in states where medical and/or adult-use cannabis is legal.
States with medical marijuana laws include:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
On the other hand, certain states have passed legislation specifically for CBD extracts. These laws usually allow only FDA-approved forms of CBD (Epidiolex) and do not include hemp CBD products.
States with CBD-only laws include:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
The U.S. Controlled Substances Act considers all types of cannabis to be Schedule I drugs. As a result, both hemp and marijuana are illegal to grow under federal law.
However, the act also allows certain cannabis plant material — the seeds and stalks of non-THC producing cannabis plants (i.e. hemp) and any products made from them — to be imported and sold in the U.S.
Because of this exemption, CBD oil products are technically legal, but only if they are derived from the stalks or seeds of hemp plants (not flowers).
Hemp CBD Loophole
This loophole in the law has led companies to develop and market hemp CBD products as a legal alternative to other CBD oils that are only available in certain states.
In order to comply with federal law, most companies produce their CBD oil in European countries where hemp is legal to grow and then import the finished product to the U.S.
On Dec. 14, 2016, the DEA published a final ruling that took aim at these hemp CBD products. The ruling, which took effect on Jan. 13, 2017, classifies all cannabis-based extracts (including hemp CBD products) as Schedule I drugs.
While all CBD products seem to be banned under this new ruling, several industry organizations and legal experts have publicly challenged the legality of the DEA’s decision. It remains to be seen whether the DEA will indeed crack down on hemp CBD products.
Safety of CBD Products
Due to the illegal status of cannabis in the U.S., there is no regulation on the production, labeling and sale of CBD products.
In addition, there are a few other considerations to help you gain the most benefits and minimize any potential risks of taking CBD.
CBD oils sourced from hemp are not recommended over those derived from marijuana. Industrial hemp contains much less CBD than cannabis, meaning a great deal of hemp is required to extract a small amount of CBD.
This is an issue because hemp is a bioaccumulator, meaning it draws up toxins from the soil. The more hemp used, the greater the level of toxins in the final product.
It is always advisable to be informed about the source of any CBD product you may be taking. Purity and consistency are big concerns, so consumers need to be critical about what they buy.
Good questions to consider:
- Is the oil sourced from hemp or marijuana?
- Where do the plants come from?
- Were the plants farmed organically?
- Is the product sourced from one or multiple places?
CBD and CBD oil offer many benefits to those suffering from a wide range of conditions and disorders, but also for otherwise healthy adults.
Thus, the popularity of CBD and CBD oils have surged in the past few years, and it is now easier than ever to purchase CBD-rich products.
The legal status and restrictions on CBD, however, prevent regulation of CBD oil products and stall scientific research that can further understand both the short and long-term effects of CBD use.
For consumers, this means that the purchase and use of these products remains at their own discretion.