Cannabidiol, or CBD as it's more commonly known, is just one of many naturally occurring compounds exclusive to both cannabis and hemp plants. The compound itself has shown beneficial to a staggering number of common maladies, and being a “unregulated” chemical, can be sold over the counter. Not surprisingly, a still-growing industry has amassed around the natural compound - inviting interest from industrialists, politicians, researchers and sick people alike.
But as interest in CBD has risen, so have debates in a topic getting more attention every year: what format of the product is best and just how should CBD be administered.
Big Phyto-Pharma, Not Your Local Head Shop
Just how big of an industry could be centered around a single plant compound? Current forecasts estimate the worldwide CBD Market to be valued at a billion dollars annually, with that number expected to grow to 22 billion in the next ten years. And it's not just Chinese imports and Mom and Pop pipe shops anymore, either.
Just a few months ago, GW Pharmaceuticals put out a new drug called Epidiolex, aimed at treating several forms of previously hard to treat epilepsy. The compound is a full spectrum CBD-rich hemp extract, we'll get to what that means in a minute. Hemp extracts are now a big business.
This massive industrial growth spurt shouldn't really be surprising. PubMed research indicates that CBD is proven effective for over 50 difference common ailments. From fibromyalgia to PTSD, migraines and sleep disorders to inflammation and diabetes, this singular, naturally-occurring plant compound seems to do it all. But CBD isn't the only cannabinoid useful for these (and other) illnesses.
The Full Spectrum
CBD makes up a surprising 40% of the natural resin of hemp and cannabis plants, making it by far the most prolific chemical involved by percentage. CBD mitigates the psychological effects of THC, the most intoxicating compound in the plant, but those are just two of over 80 compounds indigenous and exclusive to cannabis and hemp.
The term “Full Spectrum” is used to indicate that a product contains this full range of organic compounds, and CBD isn't the only rising star. Full spectrum CBD compounds include a number of other helpful and impressive cannabinoids. CBDA, for example has been shown to inhibit cancer cell growth. CBG is another cannabinoid useful for sleep and promoting bone growth, and CBGA is a potent anti-inflammatory and antibiotic, just to name a few. Even THC is typically found present in these types of extracts, but in such small amounts (0.03% is allowed by law) as not to provoke a psychological response.
How Do, Partner?
Method of consumption is another factor to consider. Different methods of consumption induce different onset times as well as a potential for varied physiological effects. Cannabis itself has a long tradition of being consumed through smoking (obviously) as well as in drinks, foods, tinctures and topicals - and CBD continues this tradition.
A very popular product on the market now (often smoked with a bong or vaporizer) is called CBD Isolate, or Pure CBD. This product is, just as it sounds, nothing other than isolated CBD molecules. I have to admit it looks pretty weird to the standard cannabis consumer. CBD isolate has a crystalline structure giving it a sort of sand like appearance.
Fear Not, Health Nut!
Despite the unusual appearance of CBD isolate, it's actually made with a startlingly natural process called chromatography. It basically works like this: plant matter is ground and forced through sand or silica in a pressurized tube. The sand acts as a natural filter: smaller molecules end up falling through the sand first - CBD being that molecule.
CBD isolate has gotten popular all over the world for plenty of good reasons, but one of the most compelling has been the lack of legal regulations surrounding the natural hemp extract. Especially for people with allergies to standard medications or those who might be susceptible to drug testing (like anyone in the medical field), CBD isolate can offer a tremendous relief for a number of conditions without risking job loss or other adverse consequences.
Until recently, the purity of CBD isolate had researchers assuming that it would be the most formidable version of the compound for treating illnesses - but a 2015 study has changed minds…
The research done was performed by the Lautenberg Center for General Tumor Immunology in Jerusalem, and had some interesting findings, but I feel compelled to make an aside.
Although mice are still the popular standard for these sorts of tests, it is a well acknowledged fact in the scientific community that mice are not only decidedly not identical to humans, but that their physiological responses, likewise, don't always parallel our own. That being said, I still generally agree with the results that indicate something called the Entourage Effect.
Two major findings were made in the study that administered CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD to two different groups of mice. The first is that mice given full spectrum CBD were provided with higher levels of relief. Also, interestingly the study found that full spectrum CBD continued to provide relief as the dosage was increased whereas CBD isolate did not.