Canada made history by becoming only one of two countries in the world to legalize the buying and selling of cannabis (the other country is, surprisingly, Uruguay). Soon, Ontario will eventually allow different dedicated facilities to sell recreational marijuana, and that might include a wellness supplement known as CBD oil. We’ve heard all the buzz about cannabis before legalization - some of it true, much of it speculation - but what could one component called CBD actually do for your health? A lot more than we once thought, it turns out!
What Is CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the two main molecules in marijuana; the other is tetrahydrocannabidiol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient that gives marijuana its reputation. While THC is known in the medical community for its anti-nausea properties, its status as a mind-altering recreational drug has made it a closed-off remedy for many people. For people who want the health benefits of marijuana without the high, CBD oil is a supplement that could change everything.
Before we get to that, a little civics lesson. Under Canada’s Cannabis Act, the provinces were tasked with choosing how they would sell cannabis, so long as they made it available on October 17; Ontario kept a government-run online marketplace to meet the deadline, but the goal is now to have cannabis in privately owned stores by April 2019. However, this is the recreational side of things, and the Federal government still regulates medicinal uses of cannabis. It has decided to limit access for cannabis products with medical purposes, and as such, Canadians can only get pure concentrates through prescriptions.[i]
So where does that leave purely therapeutic supplements? CBD oil is a liquid concentrate that delivers the wellness purposes without high levels of THC, so users won’t feel any mind-altering effects. Legally, as of right now, health food stores cannot sell it on their shelves, so you won’t find CBD oil next to the melatonin. The government is hesitant with making CBD oil, like all the other concentrated cannabis products, readily available until it has sufficient data and research. As of right now, the OCS does sell an oil with higher concentrations of CBD, but concentrated, CBD-only oil is currently not for sale.[ii]
The politics of cannabis have definitely affected what we know about CBD. The status of it as a Schedule 1 drug in the United States means the official position of the American government is that cannabis has no medicinal qualities[iii] (despite obvious evidence to the contrary). This belief has kept CBD off the medical community’s radar for a long time, and researchers assumed that CBD was a biologically inactive part of marijuana that didn’t affect the body. This is because while both THC and CBD interact with the immune and nervous systems, CBD is 1000 times less potent than THC.[iv] The research shows that CBD also reduces the psychoactive effects of THC, and strains of the cannabis plant with a higher-than-normal ratio of CBD-to-THC to elevate the therapeutic benefits are popular for medicinal purposes.
This off-balance ratio is another reason why the medical community thought CBD to be useless to humans, but recent studies are making the therapeutic benefits of CBD better known. And there are quite a few therapeutic benefits to enjoy!
What Does CBD Do To The Body?
The United States is known for having an incredibly “tough on crime” attitude when it comes to cannabis, which makes a Washington Post story from late 2016 rather exceptional: a young boy was suffering from seizures and needed hospitalization over fifty times in only two years. No medication prescribed to him could work… until they gave him an oral CBD supplement. The seizures became much less frequent, and he was able to leave behind his other medications.[v]
The story isn’t just remarkable because of where it took place. It’s a stunning example of how CBD can affect the body positively. We have a system of receptors in our body known as the endocannabinoid system, and it was once thought to only provide the “high” from THC. Studies have now discovered that this system regulates our stress response, protects our nervous system, and keeps our bodily functions stable. There are two types of receptors: CB1, which are located along the central nervous system, and CB2, which are located along the immune system. These receptors are where both the psychoactive and therapeutic benefits of THC and CBD begin.[vi]
The locations of the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body are different for everyone, though, which explains why people react differently to cannabis ingestion. If you get a strain that has a higher CBD to THC ratio, or even if you get an oil that only has a little THC in it, you might still have a psychoactive reaction.
Now that researchers know how CBD interacts with these receptors, what we know about the therapeutic benefits and how to take CBD has radically changed. The best way to get CBD’s benefits is in a concentrated product, as in regular cannabis, CBD is not very bioavailable. A product that your body can actually use, like a concentrate, can bring about the following benefits:
Inflammation Reduction: CBD’s biggest therapeutic benefit is as an anti-inflammatory. Research has shown that it uses several regulatory mechanisms on the CB1 and CB2 receptors to suppress inflammation.[vii] It can be used to treat many different mental disorders like schizophrenia, and even go as far as preventative measures against cancer[viii] and heart disease.[ix]
Mental Health Benefits: CBD oil is also a natural, safe supplement that can affect the body in times of stress. Studies show it reduces the blood pressure response to stress,[x] reduces negative responses among those with social anxiety[xi], and even decreases psychotic episodes in schizophrenic patients![xii]
Chronic Pain Relief: CBD’s status as an anti-inflammatory also makes it a promising supplement for treating chronic pain. It’s one that has a history in Canada, too: a cannabis-derived spray was approved in 2005 for helping manage pain associated with multiple sclerosis, and in 2007 for cancer pain.[xiii] Further trials have shown that it’s safe and effective for treating pain associated with arthritis, and these benefits are all derived from the CBD components in cannabis.[xiv]
Gut Health? It’s Promising!: A recent study out of Tel Aviv University has found that CBD can improve the quality of life for those living with Crohn’s disease. When given a four-to-one CBD to THC ratio, 65 per cent of those in the placebo-controlled study were in clinical remission after eight weeks.[xv]
The ingredient is natural, the usefulness is great, and none of these benefits comes with a high - so why can’t Canadians buy CBD oil on our shelves?
Why Can We Get High, But Not Healthy?
Canada has put in place a very strict regulatory structure for producers of cannabis, and there are 120 licensed growers across the country. The Cannabis Act, the law that sets the rules and regulations for the sale of marijuana, allows everyone over the age of 18 to buy it online or in stores (though some provinces, including Ontario, have raised the legal age to 19). A person can buy or have 30 grams of it on them at a time. Though Ontarians can only buy it online, the Provincial government has a very simple plan for the future: privatize. It is their hope that the private retail model will be unveiled in April 2019, turning sales over to the public and getting the government out of the marijuana-selling game. "The government of Ontario will not be in the business of running physical cannabis stores," says Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli .[xvi]
All of these regulations should make Canadians more hopeful about what they will be taking: if people choose to consume it recreationally, only safe products should be on the market. The same should be for CBD oil. In the United States, a lack of regulations make CBD oil a wary choice, even where it is a legal supplement, but growing cannabis in Canada is no longer a Wild West – we don’t have to worry about where this product will come from or what will be in it.
This is all good news for those who want increased access for medicinal purposes, and legalization and privatization have a number of companies considering cannabis, even in the United States. Cannabis might be used as an inert ingredient in ironically named “wellness beverages” from companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi; Molson Coors is already working with a Canadian growing company on cannabis-infused, nonalcoholic beverages.[xvii] What is the “inert ingredient” they are considering? CBD, of course![xviii]
What people seeking out products for wellness should be concerned about is the lack of a plan for sales in Ontario. Medical professionals now understand CBD to be safe, but our current sales laws prevent people from freely accessing this therapeutic supplement. It’s hopeful that, as the government seeks to make cannabis more available, it will also make pure CBD products available, too!
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