CBD Oil: Helpful or Hyped?

Photo of a bottle of oil with dropper

CBD oil is having a spotlight moment. In recent years, it’s been touted as a cure for everything from epilepsy and arthritis to Parkinson’s and Crohn’s Disease, but can it really do all that? In today’s blog, we explore the effectiveness of CBD oil on various medical conditions so you can decide whether it’s right for you.

Where CBD Comes From

“CBD” is short for cannabidiol, a molecule derived from the cannabis plant. It’s non habit-forming, non psychoactive, and generally considered safe to consume — even in high doses. And while it’s true that the cannabis family does include the marijuana plant, CBD oil producers generally extract CBD from the hemp plant instead — because hemp naturally contains higher levels of CBD and much lower levels of THC than marijuana. The end result? CBD oil offers all-natural medicinal benefits without getting you high.

How CBD Works in the Body

All humans produce naturally-occuring cannabis-like compounds in our brains. These compounds, including both THC and CBD, are transmitted through the body and absorbed by receptors located in the kidneys, lungs and liver, as well as the skin, the white blood cells of the immune system, the gut and the spleen.

The process of compound transmission and reception is what’s known as the human endocannabinoid system, and it’s part of what allows our bodies to return to “normal” after injury or sickness. After experiencing a physical injury, for example, the brain automatically increases production of cannabinoids, which then go to work reducing the inflammation and other damage at the site of the injury. In addition, endocannabinoids help regulate immune activity, appetite and memory formation.

All of this happens naturally inside our bodies every day, but what happens when we ingest CBD oil from an external source?

When taken internally, CBD oil interacts with the body in a variety of ways, the most obvious being that it:

  • binds with serotonin receptors (putting you in a good mood) and
  • stimulates GABA receptors (calming you down).

But CBD can also do much more than that! In fact, to quote a recent New York Times article:

With more than 65 cellular targets, CBD may provide a kind of full-body massage at the molecular level.

Proven Medical Benefits of CBD Oil

While science is still trying to catch up with this trendy natural health superstar, recent scientific studies and research reveal significant benefits of regular CBD oil use, particularly with the following conditions:

Epilepsy and Seizures
CBD oil has been proven to not only reduce the number of seizures per day, but also the length of each seizure, particularly in children with drug-resistant conditions like Dravet syndrome. In fact, CBD oil is so good at stopping and preventing seizures that in 2018, the FDA approved the very first CBD-derived prescription drug called Epidiolex, a purified CBD extract, to treat rare seizure disorders in patients 2 years and older.

X-ray showing joint damagePain Relief and Reduced Inflammation
For some people, CBD oil temporarily relieves joint pain, strained muscles, nerve pain and even migraines — particularly when administered topically in the form of a CBD-infused lotion. That’s probably because there’s such a high concentration of cannabinoid receptors in human skin! Plus, a topical application is particularly beneficial for folks who may be allergic to NSAIDs, as it circumvents the bloodstream, stomach and liver altogether and goes straight to the source of the pain.

Suppression and Regulation of the Immune System
As mentioned earlier, CBD receptors are prevalent in the white blood cells of the immune system. Taking CBD oil internally has been shown to “pump the brakes” on the autoimmune system, preventing it from overreacting and mistakenly attacking healthy cells. Scientists are taking advantage of this steroid-like behavior and have seen positive results in studies using CBD oil with certain transplant procedures.

Addiction Recovery Support
A 2020 study concluded that CBD oil significantly reduces cravings and anxiety for those recovering from heroin addiction. This revelation could have a powerful impact on the opioid crisis by significantly lowering the rate of relapse.

Photo of a woman sleeping soundlyMore Research Needed

While online retailers like to position it as the miracle cure for whatever ails you, the truth is that there’s still a lot we just don’t know about CBD oil. Clinical research and human trials are ongoing as scientists attempt to uncover the effectiveness of CBD oil as a treatment for:

  • insomnia and sleep disorders
  • anxiety and panic attacks
  • depression
  • schizophrenia
  • autism
  • PTSD
  • multiple sclerosis
  • and other conditions

CBD Buyer Do’s and Don’ts

The CBD oil industry is largely unregulated, so before you buy, do yourself a favor and take a few extra steps to ensure that you’re getting what you paid for.

Reputable CBD sellers should be able to provide the following information:

Certificate of Authenticity. Whether you’re shopping online or in-person at a retail store, this item should be readily available for customer viewing. The Certificate of Authenticity is actually a multiple-page document detailing that the product has been ingredient-tested in a lab by a third party. The C of A should provide a list of ingredients found and in what quantity, broken out by batch or lot.

This is particularly important because in 2017, a study attempted to verify the accuracy of ingredient labeling on various CBD products (oils as well as vape products), and the results were disturbing. Not only did 26% of the products contain less CBD than advertised on the label, but an alarming 21% of products contained a higher level of THC than is considered acceptable in a CBD product. (Legally, CBD oils may not contain more than 0.3% THC.) A followup study in 2019 discovered the presence of additional undocumented ingredients not disclosed on the label, such as dextromethorphan, in CBD-infused vaping liquids.

GMP SealGMP Seal. The Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) system is a way for manufacturers to ensure that products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards. If you’re buying direct from the producer, this logo should be displayed on their website.

Product Potency. The label should clearly specify not only the strength of the product in milligrams (12.5mg for small pets, 30mg or 60mg for adults, etc.), but also the method that was used to create the product (i.e., how the cannabinoids were harvested from the hemp plant), which will reveal the mix of ingredients.

Manufacturers use three terms to identify the potency in this way. Look for these terms on the product label:

  • Full Spectrum CBD: This particular processing style yields a CBD product that contains a full range of cannabinoids. In a nutshell, Full Spectrum means that when the cannabinoids are extracted from the hemp plant, the entire extract (the whole plant) is made into a consumable product — so you are getting a healthy dose of all of the available cannabinoids (“full spectrum”) that exist in the hemp plant. Since the whole plant is used in making Full Spectrum CBD, trace amounts of THC are included — but generally less than 0.3%. This is a negligible amount that will not get you high. Full Spectrum CBD is considered the most potent and effective recipe of the three processing types because of the variety of cannabinoids all working together. It’s sort of the “multivitamin” of the CBD world.
  • Broad-Spectrum CBD: This type of CBD product contains a range of cannabinoids that are naturally present in the hemp plant, but without any THC. Broad-Spectrum CBD is perfect for those who are regularly drug tested at their jobs. It’s considered mid-range in potency.
  • CBD Isolate: This particular production process yields a CBD oil that is generally around 90% pure cannabidiol with no additional terpenes or flavenoids and no THC. CBD Isolate is tasteless and odorless. Oddly, even though it’s more pure, CBD Isolate has a gentler, less potent effect on the body, so you may have to take a higher dose or use it more frequently to see results.

Potential Red Flags

Watch out for and steer clear of any CBD seller who makes outrageous “miracle” type claims about their product.

In addition, be aware that CBD oil can sometimes interact or interfere with other medications and their absorption. If you’re taking prescription medications, you might be better off using a topical CBD lotion or gel rather than ingesting it orally. Consult your physician if you’re unsure.

Well-Rounded Pain Management Protocol

Here at Apollo Chiropractic, we find that a multi-pronged approach to pain relief is often the most effective. Adding CBD oil or topical lotions to complement regular chiropractic care and medical massage can be helpful in designing a well-rounded pain relief regimen that works for you.