While cannabis largely has a reputation for its psychoactive elements (AKA getting you high), legalization in Canada turned the spotlight on how cannabis is being used in other ways and for other reasons. At the center of this conversation is CBD, which is being touted in everything from skin-care products to oils to supplements. But what is it? And what’s the research on it? We spoke to Philippe Lucas, VP of Patient Research and Access at Tilray, to learn a little more about CBD including how it affects the human body and where the research is headed.
First off, what is CBD? “CBD is short-form for cannabidiol, one of over 100 compounds called cannabinoids extracted from hemp or the cannabis plant,” says Lucas. The two main cannabinoids you’ve probably heard of are THC and CBD, and the percentages of these compounds tend to be what people pay attention to when they’re shopping cannabis. In combination, they can lead to plenty of different cannabis experiences including everything from stimulating to relaxing.
But, will it get me high? Probably not. Where THC has a psychoactive effect (giving you that high feeling), CBD is more associated with mellow and relaxing properties. “CBD has little to no psychoactive effects, and is used when consumers are seeking a more mellow, clearheaded experience,” says Lucas.
How does it help me relax? CBD helps to curtail overstimulation, which is what often leads to anxiety and stress. For this reason, CBD can actually be a great option is you feel like you’ve gotten too high or you find yourself greening out, as it can help counteract the psychoactive elements of THC.
“Consumers who are sensitive to the anxious side effects of THC, typically seek a cultivar which has equal CBD and THC, as CBD is known to have anti-anxiety effects,” says Lucas. So you can actually consume cannabis and not have a high at all—only the relaxing properties that help keep you calm. “THC strongly binds to CB1 receptors in the brain, while CBD doesn’t bind as strongly to these receptors,” says Lucas. “This is why CBD seems to have no psychoactive effects.”
And people use it medically? A natural extension of its relaxing properties, many people use CBD as a wellness tool in their day-to-day life. But, it is actually used in a medical sense for other ailments. “CBD is currently known for its anti-seizures properties in pediatric epilepsy, and may also be an effective treatment for anxiety, addiction, Multiple Sclerosis, pain and inflammation,” says Lucas. “We’re currently participating in seven clinical trials to help expand the addressable medical market.” This means that scientists are continually finding new ways that CBD can be used, especially now that legalization has opened the door to more and more research.
What’s in the future for CBD? “It is early days for CBD research, but CBD has a lot of pharmacological promise,” says Lucas. “We’re studying medical cannabis as a treatment option for a wide array of conditions.” Lucas notes areas of research like the effects of CBD on pediatric seizure disorder, HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and essential tremor. “We’re excited to have access to more scientific data on the uses of CBD, and how it can be used to improve the lives of patients.”
So in the meantime? Keep your CBD use to trusted and legal methods of consumption (including dried flower, edibles and oil) and for the purposes that already have some clear research on them (relaxation, stress relief, anxiety), until we learn more. In practice, there’s a lot of differing takes on how effective CBD is. While some people swear by it for reasons including insomnia and stress, others find that it doesn’t make too much of a difference even when they take it regularly.
As with most things cannabis, effects will be different for everyone and your best bet is to start low and go slow. Topicals will soon be legal in Canada, opening the door to more research about how this might differ in effect from ingestables. Bottom line? Stay tuned to hear a lot more about how CBD can help you.