In the world of health and wellness trends, these three letters are generating a ton of buzz: CBD.
Proponents say CBD can instead treat seizures that don't respond to traditional medications, and may help treat anxiety, pain and inflammation.
Think of it this way: If THC is the bad boy of marijuana, CBD is more like the wholesome cousin who brings you chicken noodle soup when you’re sick.
Nowadays, you can find a slew of CBD-infused wellness products everywhere from recreational pot shops to your neighborhood drugstore, hair salon or spa. There are CBD oils, lotions, bath bombs, coffees, candies and — believe it or not — pet treats.
It’s so trendy right now that even celebrities like squeaky-clean actress Mandy Moore have gone on the record to gush about the stuff.
All this hype has resulted in some major payoff. During 2018, the CBD industry grew by 80 percent in the United States and is now worth an estimated $591 million. That’s no small feat considering cannabis products, including CBD items, are still technically illegal on the federal level.
“I think when adult cannabis use was legalized in Washington in 2012, it opened a dialogue and curiosity about using a plant that was so vilified in the public,” explains Beatriz Carlini, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the University of Washington’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute and affiliate associate professor in the School of Public Health. “Coupled with an industry that is for-profit, and therefore very interested in mainstreaming cannabis, CBD was brought to people’s attention.”
CBD versus THC
Although using CBD for wellness purposes has grown exponentially as of late, many people still paint it with the same brush as marijuana.
That’s unfair, Carlini says, because CBD doesn’t have anything to do with the undesirable paranoia or increased anxiety you might get from the weed available in most Washington retail stores. In fact, the opposite is true.
“What CBD does is it helps to buffer the high that the THC component of the plant gives,” she explains. “This is a very important quality for those who need to consume THC for pain, inflammation or to control nausea — you can get your medicine without getting high.”
The reason that non-medical marijuana users get high and sometimes feel those negative effects is because most of the weed available to purchase has very little CBD in it.
“Throughout the years as cannabis is used more and more for its properties to alter our consciousness, the plant was genetically bred to minimize the CBD and increase the THC,” Carlini says. “The cannabis varieties that you find in the legal stores these days typically have a very low percentage of CBD and a very high percentage of THC. They are way, way stronger than they used to be.”
Are CBD benefits real?
Cannabis stigma aside, it’s easy to understand why some skeptics are quick to dismiss CBD’s purported benefits.
I mean, come on. Can rubbing a CBD ointment into your skin or swallowing a drop of CBD oil really help ease anxiety or relieve chronic pain?
In theory, yes, Carlini says — with the caveat that much more research needs to be done to say for sure.
Remember those more than 100 naturally occurring compounds that are found in marijuana? Turns out your body produces its own similar compounds called endocannabinoids, including CBD and THC equivalents.
That means you already have endocannabinoid receptor sites within your central nervous system that help regulate various physiological and cognitive functions, such as mood, pain sensation, appetite, memory and more.
“Both CBD and THC, when they go into our system, they bind with our natural endocannabinoid system,” Carlini explains. “This basically enhances what our bodies should produce. For people who might have a deficiency of these natural occurring endocannabinoids, this may help.”