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CBD Oil: 9 Science-Backed Benefits

Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an integrative medicine physician with expertise in functional and holistic medicine based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Commissions we earn from partner links on this page do not affect our opinions or evaluations. Our editorial content is based on thorough research and guidance from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a chemical compound found in the cannabis sativa plant. When applied topically or consumed through smoke inhalation or edible consumption, CBD interacts with neuroreceptors in your endocannabinoid system, which sends signals between your cells to help regulate your movement, mood, homeostasis and immune system.

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CBD is often extracted from the cannabis sativa plant in oil form and mixed with an inert carrier oil like hemp seed oil for consumption. In fact, of the 60% of U.S. adults who report having used CBD before, 55% of them use CBD oils and tinctures specifically, according to a recent Forbes Health survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll.

CBD research is growing, too. Here are nine ways studies suggest CBD oil could benefit your health.

1. Offset Anxiety and Depression

CBD’s ability to calm is perhaps its most popular effect and the reason its use is so widespread. A 2017 study in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry tested the anxiety levels of 57 men in a simulated public speaking test. Some received a placebo while others received either 150 milligrams, 300 milligrams or 600 milligrams of CBD before their speeches. Those who received 300 milligrams of CBD experienced significantly reduced anxiety during the test compared to those who received the placebo. Interestingly, participants who received either 150 or 600 milligrams of CBD experienced more anxiety during the test than the 300 milligrams group.

Meanwhile, at least one study in mice revealed CBD had effects similar to the antidepressant imipramine. Human trials are needed, though, to confirm whether CBD can induce this same antidepressant reaction in our bodies.

2. Treat Select Epilepsy Syndromes

In some instances, CBD can be used to treat epileptic seizures.

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of CBD under the brand name Epidiolex to treat seizures resulting from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome—two rare forms of epilepsy—in patients at least 2 years old.

Three well-vetted studies provide the basis of support for the FDA’s decision. In these trials, 516 patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome received either Epidiolex or a placebo. Epidiolex, when taken along with other prescribed medications, decreased the frequency of participants’ seizures compared to the placebo.

3. Reduce PTSD Symptoms

In a small 2018 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11 people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) received CBD along with routine psychiatric care for eight weeks in an outpatient psychiatric clinic. Ten of the 11 experienced a decrease in their PTSD symptoms. CBD was generally well tolerated, the researchers write.

Margaret Rajnic, a doctor of nursing practice experienced in medical cannabis and CBD, emphasizes the importance of using therapy in tandem with any type of cannabis or CBD for PTSD. “There is an amount of therapy that is needed for PTSD,” she says. “But CBD will give you that little bit of decreased anxiety.”

Four other human trials from 2012 to 2016 suggest CBD reduces PTSD symptoms, although some include THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main mind-altering element in cannabis. When THC and CBD work together, they create what’s called an “entourage effect,” complementing each other’s benefits and potency. For example, taking the same dose of THC and CBD together tempers the “high” from THC, while just a little THC paired with more CBD enhances the effects of the CBD.

4. Treat Opioid Addiction

Some studies—both preclinical animal and human clinical trials—suggest CBD could be used to help treat people who are dependent on opioids.

In one such study, researchers administered CBD to people with heroin use disorder. Over the course of a week, CBD significantly reduced heroin users’ cue-induced cravings, withdrawal anxiety, resting heart rate and salivary cortisol levels. No serious adverse effects were found.

Other studies find CBD helpful in reducing various psychiatric and medical symptoms like anxiety, insomnia and pain in patients with substance use disorders, indicating that CBD may be an effective treatment for opioid addiction. However, further studies are necessary.

5. Alleviate ALS Symptoms

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that causes nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to deteriorate, resulting in loss of muscle control that worsens over time. It’s not yet understood exactly why ALS occurs, although it can be hereditary in some cases. There’s no known cure, and there are only two FDA-approved medications to help treat ALS symptoms.

Research suggests people with ALS can benefit from the entourage effect created by the combination of THC and CBD, similar to people with PTSD. In a 2019 study, patients received a combination of THC and CBD in varying doses depending on their needs and preferences. Those with mild, moderate or severe spasticity (muscle tightness and stiffness) due to ALS reported high levels of satisfaction with the treatment, and those with moderate to severe spasticity reported higher satisfaction rates than those with mild spasticity.

6. Relieve Unmanageable Pain

In 2005, Canada approved the use of Sativex, an oromucosal (absorbed in the lining of the mouth) spray with equal proportions of THC and CBD, for the treatment of multiple sclerosis-related central neuropathic pain. In 2007, Canada approved the medicine’s use again for cancer pain that proved unresponsive to other medications.

Meanwhile, continued studies in the U.S. indicate CBD is effective in treating chronic, non-cancer pain. In one 2020 study, researchers administered CBD topically to a group of patients with symptomatic peripheral neuropathy (a result of brain nerve and spinal cord nerve damage) while another group with the same condition received a placebo. Results showed a significant reduction in intense, sharp pains and cold, itchy sensations in those who used the topical CBD compared to those who used the placebo. No participants reported adverse side effects.

When introduced topically, CBD oil doesn’t affect the systemic issue as it might if it were introduced directly into the bloodstream. Instead, topical CBD is more localized and treats pain in a certain area. Since it’s more direct, it may have a more pronounced effect.

7. Ease Diabetic Complications

For starters, tests on human cells found that CBD helps reduce the effects of high glucose levels on other cells in the body, which typically precedes the development of diabetes and various complications. Researchers concluded that with further studies, CBD could have significant benefits when used in patients with diabetes, diabetic complications and plaque buildup in artery walls.

In another small study, 13 patients with type 2 diabetes who weren’t on insulin treatment were given both CBD and a placebo (in lieu of insulin). Researchers found CBD decreased their levels of resistin (which causes resistance to insulin, the protein that regulates sugar levels) and increased their levels of glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide (a hormone that ensures a sufficient release of insulin from digested food) compared to their baselines before they started the test. These results suggest CBD could be a natural treatment for diabetes by helping the body regulate insulin-related hormone levels.

8. Protect Against Neurological Disease

Preclinical and clinical studies show that CBD has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers deduce these characteristics can provide significant neuroprotection, or protection against numerous pathological disorders.

Several preclinical studies suggest CBD can produce beneficial effects against Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Huntington’s disease and cerebral ischemia were also tested, although significant positive results were not recorded. Further clinical studies are needed to confirm CBD’s benefits when used as a treatment for these disorders.

9. Inhibit Arthritis Symptoms

Arthritis involves the deterioration of the tissues in and around your joints. There are several types of arthritis, and symptoms include pain, stiffness and loss of motion. Arthritis treatment usually targets pain relief and improved joint function.

A 2006 study found that Sativex—a CBD-based botanical drug approved in the United Kingdom in 2010—promoted statistically significant improvements in quality of sleep, pain during movement and pain at rest in patients with rheumatoid arthritis when compared to a placebo. It was the first controlled trial of Sativex as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, involving 58 patients. CBD was found to have a pain-relieving effect, as well as an ability to suppress disease activity.

In 2018, in a study of more localized treatment, researchers administered a synthetic CBD gel in either 250-milligram or 500-milligram doses daily or a placebo to patients with knee pain due to osteoarthritis. Patients also stopped taking any other anti-inflammatory medications or painkillers, with the exception of acetaminophen, before and during the study period.

The results were interesting, although not entirely conclusive. On one hand, those treated with CBD did not experience much change in pain when compared with placebo patients. On the other hand, there were statistically significant differences between the group receiving the 250-milligram dose and the placebo group when measuring the average weekly improvement of their worst pain levels and their WOMAC (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index) physical function rating. Additionally, men seemed to benefit from CBD more significantly than women in this test.

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CBD Oil Made from Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?

With so much false information spread online about CBD oil, one of the most common questions we receive from consumers relates to the difference between CBD oil from hemp and from marijuana. There are, indeed, many differences between hemp-derived and marijuana-derived CBD oil in terms of its cannabinoid profiles, effects, and legality.

However, before we dive deeper into this subject, we’d like you to get a better understanding of what cannabis, hemp, and marijuana are and how they’re different from each other. Let’s get straight into it.

Difference Between Hemp And Marijuana

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis is an annual herbaceous plant with two primary classifications — Indica and Sativa. Marijuana and hemp are members of this plant genus; hemp belongs to the Cannabis sativa species only, whereas marijuana can be a member of either Cannabis indica or C.sativa species. Because both marijuana and hemp come from Cannabis sativa, they share certain traits. However, marijuana and hemp are not the same things. Below we highlight several distinct differences between these two plants.

What is Hemp?

Hemp is a cannabis plant that is harvested commercially for its seeds, stalks, and flowers. Because it grows sturdy and tall — up to 2 to 4 meters in height — it’s typically cultivated outdoors.

Different parts of the plant are used for different uses:

  • Seeds are often used in food and cosmetics.
  • Stalks are the source of fiber used in building materials and clothing.
  • Flowers, on the other hand, are harvested for its cannabinoid content.
  • The cannabinoid content of hemp is where it differs the most from marijuana.

Namely, hemp comes with high concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, but it carries almost no THC (below 0.3%). It’s the THC content that gives marijuana its psychoactive effects.

Unlike marijuana, hemp has been excluded from the Controlled Substances Act with the introduction of the 2018 Farm Bill. According to the new act, hemp can be commercially grown and manufactured into CBD products for sale to the public.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a cannabis plant that is harvested for its euphoric, relaxing, and psychoactive properties. As opposed to hemp, the seeds and stalks of marijuana aren’t used commercially as a food source, or in the textiles industry. Instead, the plant is cultivated for its highly resinous flowers containing an abundance of cannabinoids. The THC content of marijuana is much higher than it is in hemp.

Marijuana can have up to 30% THC per dry weight. This type of cannabis is classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

Therefore, the US federal government doesn’t recognize any medical uses of marijuana and claims it has a strong potential for abuse. Marijuana remains federally illegal in the USA, although states have begun passing legislation that legalizes either medical or recreational marijuana use.

Given the above differences, those new to cannabis may think CBD from hemp is somehow different than CBD from marijuana. It’s not.

Not All CBD Oils Are Created Equal

On the molecular level, CBD is the same compound regardless of whether it’s found in high-THC or low-THC cannabis plants. There are, however, several differences between CBD products, such as CBD tinctures, depending on where the CBD is sourced from.

CBD Oil Made from Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are a few aspects which help us distinguish between CBD oil derived from hemp vs. CBD oil derived from marijuana. Here’s the breakdown the most important differences:

1. Cannabinoid Content

The majority of CBD oils on the market are full-spectrum extracts. This means they contain not only CBD but also a range of other cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis plants. Now, the main difference between CBD oil from hemp and marijuana is the ratio between THC and CBD.

Hemp-derived CBD oil usually contains high concentrations of CBD, but its THC content doesn’t exceed the legal 0.3% limit. While marijuana-derived oil is sourced from selectively bred high-CBD strains, it also comes with significant amounts of THC, ranging between 5% and 30%.

In fact, some high-CBD flowers can have equal levels of THC and CBD. Which brings us to another issue regarding the differences between CBD oil made from hemp and marijuana.

2. Legality

All hemp-derived products are legal in the United States. This applies to both federal and state laws. The current legal status of hemp is defined by the 2018 Farm Bill, under which companies can legally grow, manufacture, possess, and sell CBD hemp products. Transportation across state borders is legal too. With marijuana CBD oil, it’s a different story. US states have the right to introduce their own marijuana laws.

A total of 47 states have some kind of medical marijuana programs, while 10 states (plus Washington D.C.) have legalized marijuana for medical AND recreational use. But on the federal level, marijuana remains an illicit substance, and its cultivation, possession, sales, and transportation are considered a federal offense.

This means that even if you’re caught transporting marijuana CBD oil between two states where marijuana is legal, you can be prosecuted for drug trafficking because that’s what it is according to the US federal government.

Fortunately, federal agencies have already provided guidelines for prosecutors to stop enforcing these laws against medical marijuana patients and non-medical users possessing small amounts of marijuana oils for personal use.

3. Effect Profiles

Due to its low THC content, hemp-derived CBD oil has no intoxicating effects on the user. In other words, you won’t get high off of CBD hemp products. Instead, you may feel relaxed, more alert, free of physical and mental discomfort, and notice positive changes in your overall well-being thanks to how CBD works in the endocannabinoid system. CBD oil from marijuana can get the user high, although the psychoactive effects of such products are less intense since CBD counteracts THC’s intoxicating properties. In addition, marijuana-derived CBD oil acts as a strong analgesic, relaxant, anti-depressant, and can tackle a wide range of chronic, often treatment-resistant, conditions.

4. Uses

Full-spectrum CBD hemp oils are labeled as dietary supplements and can be found among other over the counter products in pharmacies, health stores, headshops, and specialty stores across the country. The main purpose of using CBD hemp oil is to restore the chemical balance in the body by stimulating the human endocannabinoid system and enhancing the overall quality of one’s life. As a company selling CBD products, we’re not allowed to make medical claims about CBD hemp oil, but we strongly encourage you to do your own research on that matter. As for marijuana-derived CBD oils, you can find them only in medical or recreational dispensaries depending on the state you live in.

Should I Buy CBD From Hemp or Marijuana?

It depends on the intended use. As we said, CBD is CBD. The human body doesn’t care where this cannabinoid is sourced from, but when it comes to CBD oil, it’s not just about cannabidiol; there are other cannabinoids to take into account as well as terpenes and other phytochemicals.

According to studies conducted by experts in the cannabinoid field, all constituents in cannabis work synergistically to produce a unique set of effects in each cannabis strain. These effects are stronger than those produced by each cannabinoid alone.

This phenomenon is commonly known as the entourage effect.

The ratio between THC, the addition of terpenes, and the number of the so-called minor cannabinoids all determine the way we react to cannabis. Some researchers claim that equal ratios of CBD to THC turn out to be the most effective but even a 20:1 ratio of CBD to THC can produce significantly stronger therapeutic effects.

If you’re looking for the benefits of THC but don’t want to get as high as from high-THC, low-CBD strains, you may want to try the marijuana-derived CBD oil. But then again, you must live in a state with a legal medical or recreational marijuana market.

If, however, you’re looking for a federally legal product that will still offer the full spectrum of cannabinoids — with only trace amounts of THC — then the hemp-derived CBD oil is the way to go.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve made it through this article, it’s clear that CBD oil made from hemp and marijuana are two different products. That’s great because by knowing this, you can make a well-informed decision upon your next CBD purchase and educate your friends about the specific differences between the two sources of cannabidiol. What CBD oil do you use? Is it CBD oil from hemp or marijuana? Or maybe both? Let us know in the comments below!