CBD oil and other CBD products are now sold in many places.
You may have heard of CBD oil—a form of marijuana that more and more people are turning to for pain, inflammatory diseases, skin conditions and a variety of other health issues.
You can ingest CBD oil by mouth rather than smoke it, and remain clear-headed while using it, since the “high” is minimal-to-nonexistent.
CBD oil is also reported to reduce chronic pain and inflammation without the often debilitating side effects and issues of addiction that come with most pharmaceutical options for pain.
As addiction to pharmaceutical opiates reaches critical levels in the U.S. (it is officially declared an epidemic by health authorities), Canada and elsewhere, more people are seeking alternatives. Enter CBD oil.
CBD oil first gained mass media attention due to widespread reports of its symptom-reversing effects for children with epilepsy. It further gained public awareness after Colorado and Washington legalized adult-use cannabis in 2012, and families with epileptic children began moving to those states in desperation.
But how much do we really know about CBD oil, and how can anyone decide which products are best in the young and shape-shifting legal marijuana market? We’ve compiled this guide to address these questions and more.
What is Cannabidiol?CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the cannabis plant’s more than 113 known chemical compounds called cannabinoids.
CBD has also been shown to treat anxiety, nausea, depression, and insomnia, among many other common ailments.
CBD oil is derived from cannabis plants that have been cultivated intentionally to contain high amounts of CBD and little to no THC.
Why doesn’t CBD get you “high” and how does it work?
The “high” effect that marijuana is well known for comes from the chemical compound THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.
Due to the natural makeup of the cannabis plant, CBD and THC naturally balance one another out. The more CBD you have in a given strain, the less THC you will have, and vice versa.
Scientific study of how cannabis works in the body is still playing catchup, due to decades of prohibition that blocked research on the plant. Organic chemist and co-founder of the Werc Shop cannabis testing labs, Jeffery Raber, PhD explains this in a recent article on medical marijuana products.
Raber also explains that marijuana products tend to work differently in each person’s body, depending on each person’s chemical makeup. So when trying CBD oil for the first time, it’s best to start slow and in small quantities.
Because of the see-sawing relationship between CBD and THC, for a time high-CBD strains were almost completely eliminated. This was because few people understood the medical benefits of CBD, so growers were focused on cultivating high-THC strains that would provide a strong “high” effect most marijuana users sought.
It wasn’t until 2009 that CBD made its big comeback, after scientists in several of California’s marijuana testing laboratories—particularly Steep Hills Laboratory of Oakland—began tracking data on CBD-rich cannabis strains.
As Steve DeAngelo—co-founder of Steep Hill Laboratory and the Harborside Health Center dispensary explained in a 2013 interview, it’s a common misconception that CBD oil contains just CBD, and no THC.
Most “CBD products” are labelled as such because they contain more CBD than other chemical compounds, and often the THC content is low enough that it won’t cause a noticeable high.
Navigating the LabyrinthBecause the scientific understanding, legal restrictions and socio-political quandries of cannabis are evolving at a rapid pace these days, it can be difficult to know where to begin.
Even if you’ve narrowed down your options and decided to try CBD oil, investigating a market saturated with new CBD products all the time—along with laws and policies that vary region-by-region—can feel like navigating a labyrinth.
For this reason, we’ve compiled a list of the 5 most popular CBD products—including how they work, what they cost and where to find them.
1. Charlotte’s Web and other concentrated oilsCharlotte’s Web is a cannabis product company based out of Colorado. Their pure plant, high-CBD extract is by far the most famous CBD oil because of its historic use in children with epilepsy, and ensuing mass media attention (e.g. CNN’s WEED documentary).
The Stanley Brothers—a group of marijuana growers from Colorado—first grew the Charlotte’s Web strain specifically for a young epileptic girl named Charlotte Figi. They bred this strain intentionally so that it would be extremely low in THC, and rich in CBD.
Charlotte’s Web oil is a pure extract of the cannabis plant, meaning it is not suspended in any other oils (often CBD oils are mixed into coconut oil, olive oil, or other plant oils). It is ingested by mouth and typically costs about $100 for 100ml.
But there are no standard rules for pricing, and the cost can vary quite a bit depending on where you are.
Charlotte’s Web oil is primarily sold in Colorado, but can be found in Oregon, Washington, California and several other states.
A number of comparable products exist on the market in the U.S. and elsewhere, in states where medical and/or adult-use cannabis is legal. (Note: 29 states, as well as Washington D.C., allow medical marijuana. Specific laws vary state-by-state, as does product availability).
With continuing advances in technology and cultivation, new options similar to Charlotte’s Web continue to emerge all the time.
New types of CBD oil are even popping up in states where marijuana is prohibited. For example, CBD hemp oils (products made from industrial hemp instead of marijuana) are now sold nationwide by many companies, including CW Hemp, a company founded by The Stanley Brothers.
Some CBD oils are delivered in pre-measured pills or capsules. Others are sold in tincture-form, dispensed from small squirt bottles or droppers.
2. CBD EdiblesCBD oil is also available in seemingly endless varieties of hard candies, gummies, chocolates and other edible products throughout Colorado, Oregon, Washington and California—the U.S. states where cannabis is legal for general adult use—as well as several medical-only states.
Most often, CBD edibles contain sweeteners, flavorings, and other plant-based oils (such as coconut or olive oil) along with the CBD oil, so they are usually not as highly concentrated as pure cannabis extracts like Charlotte’s Web.
They’re generally less expensive, too, but prices can vary quite a bit. The average price range for CBD-infused edibles is roughly between $15 and $75 per 100mg CBD.
High Times hosts an annual contest which rates the top CBD edibles products available in the U.S. The top five winners for 2016 include the CBD Lemon Chocolate Bar from FlavRx ($22 per bar/90mg of CBD) and Vanilla Macaroons from Utopia Farms ($20 per package/100mg of CBD).
Some people prefer edibles because they are often carefully measured to an exact dosage of CBD, which removes any guesswork that might come with tinctures or pure extracts.
Edibles Magazine is a useful resource that features detailed articles on CBD edibles and other edible products their reviewers recommend.
3. EpidiolexEpidiolex is a proprietary epilepsy drug made by GW Pharmaceuticals in Britain. It is currently pending government approval in a number of countries, including the United States.
The only active chemical compound in Epidiolex is CBD, according to GW Pharmaceuticals’ website, and it contains no other chemical compounds from the cannabis plant.
The company is currently completing Phase 3 clinical trials, the first of which have shown overwhelmingly positive results.
Here are the highlights from the first Phase 3 studies, posted on the company’s website in December 2016:
- Each pivotal Phase 3 study achieved the primary endpoint demonstrating a statistically significant difference between Epidiolex and placebo in seizure frequency reduction during the 14 week treatment period.
- In the 12-week maintenance period (excluding the initial dose escalation), the treatment effect increased for patients receiving Epidiolex and showed a greater level of statistically significance compared with placebo.
- Caregivers of patients receiving Epidiolex were significantly more likely to report an improvement in overall condition,
- A consistent separation between Epidiolex and placebo across all response rates was seen. In the LGS study, the drop seizure responder analysis showed a statistically-significant separation between Epidiolex and placebo at the 50 percent seizure reduction threshold,
- Epidiolex efficacy was established relatively early in treatment.
- Epidiolex was generally well tolerated.
If approved, Epidiolex would only be available via a doctor’s prescription for patients diagnosed with seizure disorders such as Dravet syndrome.
4. CBD Vape LiquidsSome people prefer to use vaporizers to inhale CBD. Vaporizing (or vaping) is a smoke-free way to take CBD, as users inhale the vapor or steam created by heating the plant at a temperature low enough to avoid combustion.
While there was some debate in the past over whether CBD could be absorbed well using this method, a study at the University of Wollongong in Australia published in 2014 showed that it is a perfectly viable way to take in CBD.
It was the first and only study to date, and looked solely at the viability of inhaling CBD using a Volcano vaporizer. It showed that CBD can in fact be effective when taken as a vapor.
Vaporizers tend to have a more immediate effect than ingested cannabis products, because they allow CBD and other cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream much faster.
Edible products (including concentrates, candies and tinctures) can take between one to three hours to digest and fully enter the bloodstream. As explained in a 2014 article, “ingesting cannabinoids orally poses a number of drawbacks, including inconsistent absorption and a delayed effect.”
The two main types of vaporizer products are CBD e-liquids and high-CBD concentrated oils. The latter is a pure plant extract, or the oil taken straight from the plant (i.e. Charlotte’s Web and similar extracts).
CBD e-liquids, on the other hand, are a more processed concoction of several ingredients, often called a “juice.” They usually contain propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), distilled water, flavor additives, and sometimes nicotine in addition to CBD.
E-liquids tend to be less expensive and contain less cannabinoids overall than vaporizer oils, since they’re mixed with other ingredients. Most vaporizers are built to process either one of these types of CBD liquids.
5. CBD TopicalsCBD topical products are used to treat pain, arthritis, skin conditions and other localized issues. Most often, these are lotions, balms, gels or salves made with CBD or THC-rich cannabis extracts.
They work locally when applied to the skin, as explained in an interview with Dr. Selman Holden, MD, in a recent San Francisco Chronicle article.
Holden said topicals “theoretically” work by reducing the pain signals that are sent to the brain from the areas of the body where they’re applied.
“Our skin’s ‘noise-noticing neurons,’ a.k.a. nociceptors, have a few receptor systems that influence how strong or weak the noxious stimulus is,” she explained. “Our peripheral cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are one of those influencing groups.”
LA Weekly recently ran a list featuring 6 topical CBD products available in the Los Angeles, California area. The list included a variety of CBD-rich skin products, such as medicated oils by Theramu ($70 per bottle/100-300mg of CBD) and healing balms by Mrs. Excellence ($30 per package/75mg of CBD).