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There’s a stigma, for better or worse, associated with marijuana that may be deterring people from trying CBD. I will be the first one to tell you that, as a rule, I’m no fan of the sensation of being “high” or stoned. I do, however, like and am always curious about, alternative treatments to health issues I face, whether it’s essential oils for headaches, acupuncture for low-back pain, or probiotics for regular tummy troubles. Because research shows CBD may help ease symptoms of anxiety, I decided it was a good option for me to try.
It's important to note that CBD use and products are still in their infancy, and newer, better products will probably be available in the next few years that will make these initial products look silly. Indeed, some studies suggest CBD is really, truly only beneficial in large doses (over 300 milligrams), so it’s possible the impacts people like myself do experience are minimal compared to what’s possible. As studies increase and products improve, the CBD landscape may change dramatically.
So CBD Isn’t Marijuana?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of several dozen active compounds found in cannabis. CBD’s popular first cousin, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is the compound that’s associated with marijuana’s “high” or psychoactive effects. CBD has zero psychoactive effects.
I’ve been burned by a lot of wellness fads in the past. Indeed, it’s been my job for over a decade to embrace what companies say will be the new “revolution” in health and personal care and make myself a guinea pig. I’ve tried any number of products, diets, even retreats to determine if they have hope (probiotics) or belong at the bottom of the bin (rocker bottom shoes).
My initial impression is a positive one. I fully believe people can have positive results after taking CBD for a variety of issues. In my experiment, I was only trying to treat anxiety, and I found it to be moderately helpful. It did not eliminate the anxiety or associated stress, but it felt as if it took the sharp edge off the running worries and constant stream of thoughts that I frequently experience. I felt calmer, though not at all “high.”
Plants that qualify as industrial hemp, by the standards of the 2014 Farm Bill, must contain less than .3% THC. But the sale of hemp products is seemingly only permitted when derived from the stalks and seeds of the plant (as opposed to the flowers, where a lot of the good stuff is). Mix in the phenomenon known as the "entourage effect" — which demonstrates that CBD is most effective when used in combination with other cannabinoids, leading many to seek a "whole plant" or "full spectrum" version of the compound — and that's where it gets tricky. Are producers of hemp-derived CBD really only using stalks? Would that product be very effective? It remains unclear.
Lidicker does an excellent job of attempting to unravel the legal jargon in — butstill, even she notes that "the legal status of CBD is a real doozy." The main issues have to do with the (somewhat arbitrary) distinction between "hemp" and other forms of cannabis. Hemp refers to varieties of Cannabis sativa used mostly for industrial purposes, the THC present in most strains of cannabis specifically bred out of it. You can't smoke hemp and get high; instead, it's used to produce strong fiber for textiles, rope, and paper, as well as things like biofuels and animal feed.
For those who are unfamiliar, CBD is one of the many cannabinoids found in cannabis. Another cannabinoid you may have heard of is Tetrahydrocannabinol, a.k.a. THC, which is responsible for the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana — and is the most highly regulated compound present in the plant.
The way that CBD works — and the full range of its applications and health benefits — is still being explored, but it very broadly has something to do with the compound's natural analgesic effects and its interaction with your body's endocannabinoid system. For more information, pick up the forthcoming book, by wellness editor and writer Gretchen Lidicker; it's perhaps the best summary of what we know about the compound, questions for further research, and how to buy and use CBD products in our daily lives. What I can tell you is that it really works for me.
"What's the point," you might wonder, "of putting it on the outside of my body?"
Cannabis, it seems, is the It beauty ingredient of the moment, showing up in everything from hand creams to face serums to lip balms.
So, can you take CBD lotion on a plane? Head to the TSA website and you'll get an emphatic "NO" in the context of medial marijuana. But widely available hemp-based CBD topicals are not classified as such — and as several media outlets, anecdotal reports, and cannabis entrepreneurs have noted, they are not a huge concern for the authorities. The prevailing wisdom seems to indicate that hemp-based CBD products are OK to bring on board, but do so at your own risk.