Part One: HEMP OIL and CBD BASICS
1. The History of Hemp, 5
2. The Science of CBD, 19
3. Legal Status of Hemp and CBD Oil, 27
4. A Buyer’s Guide to Hemp CBD Oil, 41
Part Two: HEALING WITH HEMP CBD OIL
Addiction, Opiate, 58
Age-Related Macular Degeneration, 60
Alzheimer’s Disease, 62
Anxiety Disorders, 64
Appetite Loss, 66
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, 69
Blood Clots, 71
Cardiovascular Disease, 75
Chemotherapy, Side Effects, 75
Colitis, Ulcerative, 75
Crohn’s Disease, 76
Dermatitis, Atopic, 79
Eye Disorders, 83
Heart Disease, 88
High Blood Pressure, 90
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, 95
Macular Degeneration, 97
Migraine Headache, 97
Multiple Sclerosis, 97
Nausea and Vomiting, 101
Opiate Addiction, 101
Panic Attack, 101
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, 102
Premenstrual Syndrome, 102
Skin Conditions, 106
Sleep Disorders, 106
Thyroid Disorder, 106
Ulcerative Colitis, 106
About the Author, 133
To my wife and soulmate, Gail,
to our children, Alanna and Evan,
and to our grandchildren,
Lily and Ryan.
I wish to express my deep and lasting appreciation to my friends, associates and especially to my family, Gail, Alanna, Evan, Lily and Ryan, for their assistance and understanding in the preparation of this book.
I would like to thank my editors at Square One, Erica Shur and Caroline Smith, for all their talent and efforts in making sure that all the material in this work was clear and accessible.
Imagine that researchers had found a naturally occurring substance that could effectively overcome dozens of health disorders without any serious side effects. Now imagine that the plant in which this substance was found had been banned in this country because, as a commercially grown crop, it threatened other competing “cash” crops. As new studies showed its many medical benefits, our laws continued to prevent farmers from planting an easy-to-grow crop that requires few, if any, pesticides or herbicides. If you think that sounds so crazy that it couldn’t be true, think again. For the last seventy years, the Federal government has prohibited farmers from commercially growing the hemp plant. In doing so, it has effectively prevented American companies from making available hemp extracts with CBD—the very compound that science has found to be an amazing and versatile healer.
As it turns out, hemp is a relative of marijuana. Both are cannabis plants, as are many other plants. However, while marijuana is high in THC, the chemical compound that accounts for marijuana’s psychoactive effects, hemp contains too little of this chemical to get anyone high. On the other hand, while the majority of available marijuana contains a relatively low level of the healing compound CBD, hemp is high in CBD—which has no psychoactive effects and is non-toxicating. Yet as you will discover in the chapters that follow, for decades, the hemp plant has been outlawed along with marijuana because the government has falsely classified it as a dangerous Schedule 1 drug. And while more and more states are legalizing the growth and sale of marijuana, hemp is still not permitted to be grown as a commercial crop.
As a registered pharmacist, I have witnessed the amazing growth of pharmaceutical companies over the years. I have also seen too many of these companies produce drugs that may relieve specific symptoms, but come with dangerous side effects. I have always looked for natural products that can provide the same relief without the risk of side effects. That is not to say that pharmaceutical companies don’t produce life-saving drugs, because they do.
Healing With Hemp CBD Oil is the result of my investigation into this important product. The book is divided into two parts. Part One presents the basics of hemp. It begins with a look at hemp’s impressive history and its importance as a popular crop grown throughout the world. It goes on to explain the groundbreaking scientific research into hemp oil and its healing effects on the body. Because of the amount of misinformation about hemp oil products, Chapter 4 is devoted to making you a smart consumer who knows how to buy, use, and store hemp oil-based products. Part One concludes with an eye-opening review of the law, medicine, and CBD.
Part Two provides an A-to-Z listing of specific health disorders and how hemp oil can be used to relieve them. Each entry includes an explanation of the problem, its most common symptoms, its causes, and its standard conventional treatment and side effects, if any. The entry concludes with a discussion of how you can use hemp oil to improve your health. At the end of the book, a resource section guides you to the organizations and websites that can assist you in learning more about hemp. For those who wish to read the research papers and articles on which this book was based, you’ll also find an extensive list of references.
The information presented in this book is not meant to replace the medical advice given to you by your physician. It is designed to provide the facts you need to know to make informed decisions about your health. If in reading this book you find a treatment that is of interest to you, do not be afraid to discuss it with your doctor. You can play an important role in your own health or healing process.
As much as I want to guide you to safe treatments for your health problems, I also want this book to get you angry. The United States government has banned our farmers from commercially growing hemp, one of the world’s most important crops. After reading the pages that follow, I hope you agree that the time has come to change the law and allow both our farmers and our people to benefit from this amazing plant.
CHAPTER 1: Hemp Oil and CBD Basics
The History of Hemp
Hemp’s history spans several thousand years; it was one of the first plants to be grown for purposes other than food. It had multiple uses in ancient Chinese and Indian cultures, ranging from a religious symbol to a tonic to a foundation for industrial materials. Centuries later, hemp spread to the Western world, where America’s Founding Fathers used paper made from hemp fibers to draft the most important documents of our civilization. The United States government officially noted the medicinal qualities of hemp and cannabis in 1850, although the unique benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the two major components of the plants’ chemical make-ups—wouldn’t be specified until the 1960s.
If hemp was such an essential component of societies around the world, why then was its cultivation banned in the United States in the 1900s? If CBD is a non-intoxicating “decaffeinated” version of THC—why are they looped together as one and the same in our laws? You may be surprised to learn that all it took to make the public fearful of cannabis and hemp were the narrow-minded agendas of powerful politicians and industry leaders. As you will see, they succeeded in attaching a stigma to these plants that even science, history, and countless success stories have failed to eradicate. In this chapter, we do our part to dispel that stigma by exploring the fascinating history of the hemp plant and its prominent compound, CBD.
HEMP’S RISE AND FALL
Hemp has been grown all over the world for at least 12,000 years. It is a variety of the Cannabis Sativa L. plant—a term most people associate with its close relative, marijuana. Hemp differs from marijuana, however, in that it lacks a substantial amount of THC, the chemical responsible for its cousin’s psychoactive properties. True food and fiber varieties of hemp are naturally low in THC and are significantly high in CBD. These plants have completely different DNA from drug varieties of marijuana and are the ideal source for CBD. As a commercial crop, hemp has also proven its value in so many ways—producing fabric, fibers, lotions, soaps, cooking oil, and fuel, as well as nutritional supplements. In fact, it is estimated that hemp has over an astounding 25,000 unique uses. As you read on, you will learn why this highly versatile plant has suffered from stigma despite its intrinsic industrial, agricultural and medical value.
Hemp Throughout the Ages
Forms of the cannabis plant, including hemp, have been promoted as medicine since ancient times. One of the earliest mentions of hemp as a medicine was in a pharmacopeia—a book of remedies—called the Shen-nung Pen-ts’ao Ching. This book is thought to be the world’s oldest medicinal guide. It was based on traditional Chinese treatments passed down from the time of the emperor Shen Nung, who lived around 2700 BC. The complete guide itself, however, was not compiled until the first or second century AD. The Chinese also created the first piece of paper completely made from hemp by 150 BC. Some of the oldest known writings, such as Buddhist texts from 100–200 AD, were scribed on hemp paper.
The Persian prophet Zoroaster placed hemp at the topmost rank in the Zend-Avesta, a list of over 10,000 medicinal plants written in approximately 1000 B.C. In ancient Indian culture, written and oral tradition states that the god Indra’s favorite drink was made of hemp, while the Buddha Siddhartha ate only hemp and its seeds for years. The sacred Indian text Atharva Veda, written around 1400 BC, listed cannabis as a remedy for distress. It also described the throwing of hemp boughs into a fire as a magical ritual that fought evil forces. Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC)—whose teachings are still observed in Western medicine today—recommended the use of cannabis in various treatments.
Hemp likely spread to Europe around 1200 BC, although it was not a prevalent crop until the start of the Middle Ages, around 500 AD. It became significant to the European economy mostly in the manufacture of sails and ropes. Italy, especially, was a hub for hemp production. The Italians prided themselves on their superior ships and fine clothing made of hemp. A factory called the Tana was built in Venice to enforce high standards for hemp quality and durability. In the 1500s, realizing the success that Italy and the rest of Europe had enjoyed, England entered the hemp market. King Henry VIII imposed a fine on farmers who did not dedicate at least a quarter-acre of their land to hemp cultivation. Farmers, however, were hesitant to comply because they did not profit from hemp as much as they did from grains or other crops. As a result, England imported most of its hemp from Russia—the largest source and exporter of hemp in the 1600s.
Hemp had reached America by the sixteenth century, and its versatility and valuable roles were well-known. In 1619, the First General Assembly of Virginia established a law requiring farmers to grow hemp: “For hemp also . . . we do require and enjoin all householders of this colony, that have any of those seeds, to make trial thereof the next season.” Hemp was vital in manufacturing the sailboat canvasses and ropes needed for transportation, trade, and navies in America and around the world. It was even used as a form of currency in tax payments.
Many of the Founding Fathers grew their own hemp. For example, George Washington often wrote about the hemp crop being grown at all five of his farms. Initially, he seemed concerned about its potential profitability and whether the hemp would thrive on American soil, as he wrote in a 1765 letter: “. . . as they [hemp and flax] are articles altogether new to us . . . I believe not much of our lands well adapted for them.” By 1794, these worries were quashed, as Washington wrote to his farm manager: “I am very glad to hear that the gardener has saved so much . . . of the India Hemp . . . the Hemp may be sown anywhere.”
Thomas Jefferson printed the first two drafts of the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper, although the final copy was eventually printed on parchment. Benjamin Franklin published many articles about hemp in the newspaper he printed, the Pennsylvania Gazette. One such article, which can now be found in the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, reproduced an entry from Ephraim Chambers’s Universal Dictionary. The entry described how to grow hemp and what its benefits were: “The Seed is said to have the Faculty of abating Venereal desires . . . and the Leaves are held good against Burns. . . . The Culture and Management of Hemp, makes a considerable Article in Agriculture.” And while it is rumored that Betsy Ross used hemp cloth to sew together the first American flag, it is a fact that many of the early American flags were made of hemp material. Hemp fiber continued to be widely used in paper until the nineteenth century, when the woodpulping process, the timber industry, and the factory production of paper became more prominent.
In 1839, a surgeon named William Brooke O’Shaughnessy brought cannabis into mainstream medicine after learning of its medical benefits in India, and by 1850, it was added to the US Pharmacopeia list of Medicines and Dietary Supplements. Less than a century later, the plant would be outlawed—despite its long history and its importance as one of the backbones of American culture. What happened? How did cannabis and hemp experience such a large fall from grace, and how come laws re-allowing hemp cultivation have only recently started to gain traction? We will explore these questions in the next section.
Why Was Hemp Banned?
As you can see, for centuries, hemp enjoyed universal endorsement. But in the first half of the twentieth century, things began to change. In 1906, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act. This Act established the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and required food labels to be accurate and honest. Under this Act, ten ingredients including cannabis were deemed “addictive.” While not outlawed, these ingredients were required to be clearly labeled on food and medical products. Backlash against cannabis and hemp emerged around this time. During the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), immigrants from Mexico introduced the recreational use of cannabis to the United States.
Although Americans had already been using drugs recreationally in opium and hashish parlors, the immigrants became the face of drug use. Newspapers told stories of crimes committed by people under the influence of drugs. Racist officials started grouping cannabis and hemp together under the same name “marijuana,” a Mexican slang term, to associate the plants with something foreign and dangerous. The American people seemed unaware that this “marijuana” was the same cannabis and hemp they had been cultivating and using for years.
By the 1930s, all states had regulations against marijuana and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) had been established. The FBN proposed to replace the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, which was established in 1914 with the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act of 1934. This Act was created in response to the public demand for a uniform, nationwide law regarding illegal drugs. It mostly concerned opiates and cocaine, but noted that if any state wished to regulate marijuana, the law could be applied. These so-called “poisons” could be seized by the authorities if citizens were found to be in possession.
The FBN sought to ban all recreational drugs. Its commissioner, Harry Anslinger, was very vocal in his belief that cannabis caused people to become aggressive and deviant. Propaganda films and advertisements were produced, associating cannabis and hemp with getting high, laziness, violence, and “reefer madness”—even though hemp does not contain any significant amount of the psychoactive and intoxicating THC element.
Racism, Fear, and Marijuana
The hysteria surrounding cannabis and hemp was based on racist ideas. Mexicans were not the only target; marijuana was also linked with black people and “viciousness.” Harry Anslinger promoted a campaign against black jazz musicians, such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, by stating that their “Satanic” music was created through the use of marijuana, and that this music—and the dancing that accompanied it—made white women become sexual and unruly. To pinpoint his line of attack, Anslinger wrote to his agents, “Please prepare all cases in your jurisdiction involving musicians in violation of marijuana laws. We will have a great national round-up arrest of all such persons on a single day.” He later clarified that this raid would affect not “the good musicians, but the jazz type,” and that “the increase [in drug addiction] is practically 100 percent among [black] people.” Anslinger and the FBN’s relentless pursuit of marijuana holders was a vendetta backed not by scientific research, but by personal biases.
Meanwhile, William Randolph Hearst, founder of media corporation Hearst, led a movement against hemp for years through yellow journalism—exaggerated, attention-grabbing news that was never backed up with reliable research. His newspapers painted the picture of marijuana as a drug smoked by lazy, violent Mexican people. Like Harry Anslinger, Hearst also likely held a racist vendetta: According to the Smithsonian Magazine, Hearst controlled over a half-million acres of land in Mexico that was pillaged by the Mexican General Pancho Villa. The frightening propaganda and advertisements, promoted by the government and influential people like Anslinger and Hearst, was successful. The American public became fearful of marijuana, and wary of hemp by association.
Economics may have also played a role in the demonization of cannabis. In his 1973 book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, Jack Herer suggests that certain industries may have felt threatened by hemp production. Such industries may have included timber, because of hemp’s popularity in paper products, and nylon, which at the time was a new, synthetic fabric that was competing with hemp textiles. Manufacturers of these products sought to kill the competition by drawing comparisons between hemp and its relative, marijuana.
Because fabric made from hemp is long lasting and is naturally pest-resistant (i.e., its production does not require the heavy use of chemical pesticides), its success may have been perceived as a threat to the cotton industry as well. The production of cotton accounts for nearly half of the chemical pesticide use in the United States. A counter argument to this theory was presented in a 2014 investigation by Brian Dunning with skeptoid.com, who argued against the urban legend that William Randolph Hearst conspired to make hemp illegal in the United States. While this theory has been met with some controversy, there is no question that by creating a negative perception of hemp in the public’s mind, these industries would reap the benefits of weakening their competition.
The Marijuana Tax Act
In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed, which enforced a tax on the sale of cannabis. If you were found to be in possession of cannabis without having paid a federal revenue tax, or failed to register the plants with the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, you would be subject to arrest. The law also affected doctors and pharmacists who prescribed cannabis, as they had to go through an arduous process to attain it and paid a special tax for prescribing it. If they too did not follow these procedures, they were prone to hefty fines, imprisonment, or both. At this time, the American Medical Association was strongly opposed to outlawing marijuana and did not see it as the addictive drug that it was painted to be, stating:
There is positively no evidence to indicate the abuse of cannabis as a medicinal agent or to show that its medicinal use is leading to the development of cannabis addiction. Cannabis at the present time is slightly used for medicinal purposes, but it would seem worthwhile to maintain its status as a medicinal agent for such purposes as it now has. There is a possibility that a restudy of the drug by modern means may show other advantages to be derived from its medicinal use.
Eventually, the Marijuana Tax Act was ruled unconstitutional after the 1969 court case Leary v. United States. In 1965, a Harvard professor named Dr. Timothy Leary had been arrested in Texas as he was returning from a vacation in Mexico. Although a small amount of marijuana was found in his daughter’s clothing, he took responsibility for its possession in violation of the Marijuana Tax Act. While he was initially found guilty and sentenced to thirty years in prison, all charges were dropped under appeal. In 1968, he was arrested once again in California for possession of two marijuana “roaches,” and convicted under the same law. When the case was eventually brought to the Supreme Court, the Marijuana Tax Act was found unconstitutional because it violated the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. Leary’s California conviction was overturned.
The Marijuana Tax Act was replaced by the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Prevention Control Act in 1970. Title II of this act was the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), which divided drugs into five schedules based on their addictiveness and/or accepted medical use. According to the CSA, hemp and marijuana were listed as “Schedule I Drugs,” subsequently prohibiting their consumption and possession. Hemp and marijuana were considered the same, despite hemp’s near non-existent THC concentration and lack of psychoactive and intoxicating effects. According to the law, these drugs have “a high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” The Act made it illegal to grow hemp without a permit, as well. Today, hemp is still being imported from other countries, but a “zero tolerance” level was established, meaning imported hemp products cannot contain more than trace amounts of naturally-occurring THC. The CSA defined “zero” THC as having less than 0.3%. Products with less than 0.3% THC are exempt from the CSA and legal to sell within the US. For example, since sterilized hemp seeds and products that are made from sterilized seeds, textiles, and cosmetics do not have THC, they are allowed to be imported and sold in the United States.
True hemp, meaning certified non-drug varieties of agricultural hemp and their extracts, which contain a full spectrum of naturally occurring phytocannabinoids, are also lawfully imported. When handled properly, these extracts can provide a safe, effective, and sustainable source of CBD.
The Modern-Day Laws
Confusion has arisen because some modern-day state laws and the federal law contradict each other. Cannabis possession is still outlawed at the federal level, but as of 2018, more than thirty states have decriminalized or legalized it at the state level. The Federal government has the authority to punish cannabis possessors even in a state where it is legal, although it is rare that this happens.
Hemp cultivation, meanwhile, still hangs in limbo. The 2014 United States Farm Bill, which determines the country’s agricultural and food policies, allows “industrial hemp”—hemp with a THC level below 0.3 percent— to be cultivated for research purposes. The cultivation sites must be certified and registered with the state. Over two dozen states allow farmers to grow industrial hemp for these purposes. In 2015, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act was introduced in Congress. If passed, it would remove all restrictions on cultivating industrial hemp. It would also remove hemp from the list of Schedule I drugs, as long as it has a THC level lower than 0.3 percent. However, this law has yet to be voted through, and is currently in its seventh iteration in the House. Many other laws have also been introduced to free hemp from the same restrictions as a high THC strain of cannabis. These laws aim to differentiate between higher risk cannabis with greater levels of THC and low-to-no risk agricultural hemp, which is non-intoxicating.
A great analogy would be to compare the difference between decaffeinated and regular caffeinated coffee to that of hemp and marijuana. Hemp and hemp-derived CBD products are considered by some to be non-intoxicating versions, or “decaffeinated” alternatives, to marijuana’s intoxicating or “caffeinated“ products.
In Chapter 3, we will go more in depth into the laws surrounding hemp, marijuana, and CBD.
THE DISCOVERY OF CBD
Although cannabis as a whole has been used as a medication for thousands of years, it has only been in the last century or so that cannabidiol, or CBD, has been extracted from the plant and used on its own to treat medical conditions. In the following sections, we will reveal when and how CBD was first discovered, as well as the significance of its discovery. We will track its history as a supplement and discuss the research that is proving it to be a force of nature.
One of the first known isolations of CBD from the cannabis plant took place in 1940. The findings were detailed in an article in the Journal of the American Chemical Society that year. The researchers noted that CBD had “none of the physiological activity typical of marihuana [sic].” Simply put, CBD was found to be nonpsychoactive, meaning that, unlike THC, it does not produce the “high” that is typically associated with cannabis use.
For about twenty years after that initial isolation, research on CBD was limited. But in the early 1960s, a chemist named Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and his group of researchers determined the exact chemical structures of both CBD and THC. (See inset “CBD Composition” on page 12.) Discovering the chemical structure of CBD paved the way for future scientists to understand the nature of CBD and other chemical structures present in cannabis, known as cannabinoids. This is because Dr. Mechoulam’s lab discovered that cannabinoids bind to specific receptors inside the body, contrary to the popular belief at the time that they “nonspecifically” altered the structure of cell membranes. Some of the cannabinoid receptors are found in immune system cells, which suggests that cannabinoids may contribute to enhanced immunity.
For over forty years, Dr. Mechoulam continued to study CBD and its effects on conditions such as epilepsy and nausea. He also discovered much about the way CBD acts once it is inside the body. According to an article in the journal O’Shaughnessy’s, CBD binds to cannabinoid receptors found throughout the peripheral nervous system. Its structure “enables it to get into places in the brain that conventional neurotransmitters cannot reach.” It also blocks some kinds of inhibitory neurotransmitters while activating receptors of helpful neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, a mood regulator. You will learn more about the body’s response to cannabinoids in Chapter 2.
Recent Interest in Medical Marijuana and CBD
For many years, the THC-dominant strain of marijuana was the most prominent in the United States. Most marijuana consumers were primarily seeking a “high,” and growers and dealers catered to them. Because of this selective breeding, the CBD content of cannabis decreased. CBD-dominant strains were practically unheard of in the United States until recently.
Beginning in the 1990s, interest and progress in the medical marijuana movement began to surge. With more benefits of CBD being uncovered every day, even pharmaceutical companies are looking to cash into the business. In 1996, California passed Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act. This was the first state-level medical marijuana initiative passed in the country. It allowed patients and their designated caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal medical use as long as they had a valid doctor’s recommendation. Soon, other medical and recreational marijuana initiatives were passed in dozens of other states.
Internationally, a British company called GW Pharmaceuticals was one of the first large proponents of extracting CBD and using it in medical trials.
The GW was founded in 1998 and began their first clinical trials just one year later. Geoffrey Guy, a co-founder of GW, sought CBD-rich cannabis plants for isolation and cultivation. His belief was that by using CBD-rich plants, his company could produce a medicine made of cannabis that had little or no psychoactive effect. According to its website, GW works with cannabinoid scientists worldwide to “explore the potential of a range of novel cannabinoid molecules in a number of distinct therapeutic areas including epilepsy, glaucoma, and schizophrenia.” GW’s research has spurned more interest in the subject of medical marijuana and CBD, especially in the United States.
In 2003, the United States Department of Health was granted Patent No. 6,630,507 for “cannabiniods as antioxidants and neuroprotectants”. A patent is a property right given to an inventor by the government. It allows the inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited amount of time. The summary of the patent filing for cannabinoids states that CBD and other cannabinoids have “surprisingly” been found to protect nerve cells from damage and to prevent oxidative stress, an imbalance between harmful free radicals and the body’s ability to neutralize their effects.
According to the patent filing, the “object of this invention [is] to provide a new class of antioxidant drugs . . . by administering a therapeutically effective amount of a cannabinoid to a subject who has a disease caused by oxidative stress.” This means that, should the use of cannabinoids become legal, the right to make and sell drugs made from cannabinoids is held by the Department of Health. The United States government is aware of the medical benefits of cannabis and the profits that can be made from such drugs, yet it has not removed cannabis from the list of Schedule I drugs from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This is yet another example of the government’s own contradictory actions when it comes to cannabis and CBD. Unlike THC, CBD itself is not nor has it ever been listed formally in the CSA, a point not to be ignored.
Even though the government has not yet repealed the nationwide marijuana ban, it is looking into testing specific pharmaceutical drugs. One of GW’s products, Epidiolex, was approved for use in clinical trials by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2015. This is important because, depending on the results of the trials, Epidiolex could become the first CBD-based prescription drug to be approved by the FDA. Epidiolex contains 98 percent of CBD as its active ingredient, with a purpose of treating children with a rare form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.
In 2016, the results of Phase 3 of the clinical trials were released. In Phase 3, the drug was given to large groups of people, and various types of information about the drug, such as side effects, effectiveness, and comparisons to other treatments, were observed. The trial was randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled. The results found that patients taking Epidiolex experienced 37 percent less seizures per month, compared with patients taking a placebo, who experienced 17 percent less seizures per month.
In 2017, The New England Journal of Medicine published additional results on Epidiolex (98 percent plant-concentrated CBD). This trial showed that CBD reduced the frequency of convulsive seizures among children and young adults with Dravet syndrome over a 14-week period, but was associated with adverse events, including somnolence and elevation of liver-enzyme levels. Additional data is needed to determine the long-term efficacy and safety of CBD for Dravet Syndrome. Although Epidiolex is not a synthetic drug, it is missing most of the natural co-factors found in the original hemp medications, preparations, and ancient remedies made from the whole hemp plant.
Questions have also arisen about the multiple drug-to-drug interactions reported in this trial between CBD and the other anti-epileptic medications. Those drug interactions clearly illustrate that when isolating CBD to 98 percent and omitting the naturally occurring co-factors, as is required for the FDA drug approval process, that it is much less effective than agricultural hemp CBD oil products with 2 to 5 percent naturally-occurring CBD. That’s because they’re completely different products in two totally different markets with different customers. Epidiolex appears to be a breakthrough pharmaceutical drug, while agricultural hemp extracts, that are a source of natural CBD appear to be the most revolutionary dietary supplement to date.
As a supplemental product, hemp CBD extracts are typically found in an oil form and are commonly sold in local independent health food stores, online, or in dispensaries. One of the first significant cases proving the effectiveness of CBD oil was that of Charlotte Figi. Her story was broadcast on the CNN news channel in 2013, drawing worldwide attention to the medical benefits of CBD products. Charlotte was five years old and suffering from over 300 grand mal seizures a week when her parents decided to give her CBD oil. They had previously tried pharmaceutical drugs and other medical procedures that did not provide significant help, and turned to CBD oil after watching a documentary about medical marijuana. Almost 100 percent of Charlotte’s seizures were treated by the CBD oil.
A high-CBD, low-THC product named Charlotte’s Web was named after Charlotte Figi. It was developed in 2011 by six brothers who cross-bred a strain of marijuana with industrial hemp, resulting in a higher CBD level than most marijuana plants. They used these plants to extract their oil.
The government-run agency National Institutes of Health has acknowledged that CBD can have many benefits in treating a wide range of inflammatory-driven conditions, including depression, anxiety, obesity, and even cancer. Its information summary on cannabis and cannabinoids for use with cancer has covered the topics of cannabis as a relief for pain, nausea, anxiety, and as a way to curb the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy, citing the results of several clinical studies. Even with this acknowledgment and without the force of law, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is suggesting that hemp CBD extracts are the same as a “marijuana extract” that falls under a Schedule I classification: “All extracts that contain CBD will also contain at least small amounts of other cannabinoids…such marijuana extracts remain in Schedule I.” Although the exact wording of CBD is not and has never been listed as a Schedule I, the DEA’s position on hemp CBD extracts appears to be defaulting again to its zero tolerance policy for THC, including the trace amount that naturally occurs in hemp.
Only Congress has the power to make law, not the DEA. Hemp products are already federally legal; however, questions surrounding the intellectual property and ultimately the fate of cannabis products, especially CBD, are to be determined by the courts.
Today, legally selling and purchasing CBD oil is a gray area: In some states that allow medical and recreational marijuana, these products are permitted. But on the federal level, things are a little different when discussing isolated CBD, which is awaiting formal FDA approval. As you learned on page 10, the only hemp and cannabis products free of all risk in the U.S. are those that contain absolutely no THC, not even the trace amounts already excluded from the CSA definition of marijuana and found in legal hemp products. That baffling contradiction is at the heart of the debate.
Nevertheless, the DEA still considers CBD oil a marijuana extract with no accepted medical use. Contrary to the DEA, the Food and Drug Administration considers CBD a “new drug” that must be used under doctor supervision and cannot be labeled a dietary supplement. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the legality of CBD, there is no question that CBD is beneficial in treating and managing many conditions.
It is unfortunate that after a long and proven track record, scare tactics and propaganda caused the downfall of hemp and cannabis. Hemp was once vital in the production of supplies and clothing in the U.S., while cannabis’s medical benefits were touted. But by the 1930s, competing industries and politicians sought to destroy hemp and cannabis before placing a tax on and ultimately outlawing them. Market forces lead to the development of patentable medicines that inevitably replaced natural hemp extracts with the FDA approved synthetic cannabis drugs Dronabinol (Marinol) and Nabilone (Cesamet).
Today, however, natural hemp CBD extracts are gaining more interest and attention. While the research on CBD is still early, the information is promising. As CBD medications enter clinical testing and gain more attention, the stigma surrounding it may finally be forgotten. CBD can serve to benefit a new generation of patients; it has already been shown to kill cancer cells, relieve pain and nausea, curb anxiety, stop seizures, and so much more. In Chapter 2, you will learn more about the science behind this healing process.
CHAPTER 2: The Science of CBD
In Chapter 1, you learned about the hemp plant’s many uses throughout history. Hemp was an important part of societies all over the world; it was used for manufacturing, for food, and for healing. But political agendas have caused hemp’s benefits to be ignored in favor of painting another plant in the family, marijuana, in a bad light. The proven medical benefits of hemp seemed to have been forgotten by the public. In this chapter, you will find out more about the science when it comes to hemp and CBD, and how they may help manage conditions such as epilepsy, depression, cancer, and much more.
It is important to understand how the hemp plant works, how CBD is processed from it, and how hemp differs from marijuana. Both are variants of the cannabis plant, each cultivated with its own unique set of uses: Marijuana is grown specifically for its psychoactive and intoxicating properties, while hemp has been historically grown for its seed and fiber. This variance is due to slight differences in chemical makeup and DNA: both plants produce the cannabinoids THC and CBD in their buds and leaves, but while marijuana plants typically have a THC content of anywhere between 5 and 25 percent, true agricultural hemp has a negligible amount—usually less than 0.3% THC.
There are also some differences in appearance. Hemp grows to be much taller than marijuana. Hemp plants range from 10 to 15 feet in height, in contrast to about 5 feet for an average marijuana plant. Another difference is that marijuana plants grow “out” instead of “up.” They tend to be bushier and fuller than hemp plants and need to be widely spaced apart so that the sunlight can more easily reach the buds. The tops and buds of both plants are similar in appearance, but marijuana buds tend have a bit of a “hairier” look to them.
Hemp plants range in size and reflect environmental conditions. Some have thin stalks, while other varieties are very thick with little vegetation, other than the flowering tops. When cultivators plant hemp, the amount of space they put between the hemp plants depends on whether the hemp is being grown for the fiber or the seed. When grown for the fiber, hemp plants are usually planted very close together; when grown for the seed, the plants can be spaced farther apart so that the seed-buds have more room to blossom.
In a 2013 conference with Congress, the DEA alleged that legalizing industrial hemp cultivation “would provide easy cover to hide more potent marijuana plants.” This is simply not true. It would not be prudent to plant hemp and marijuana plants close together, because cross-pollination would render the plants infertile. A person trying to hide marijuana plants in a hemp field would end up with marijuana that has low THC and very weak psychoactive and intoxication effects. The marijuana would actually be less potent. This is why it is so important for policymakers to learn the differences between the two plants; legalizing hemp cultivation nationwide would not lead to more people getting high.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP IN THE UNITED STATES
In Chapter 1, you learned that the 2014 United States Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp in a certain number of states. Section 7606 of the Bill defines “industrial hemp” as a derivative of the cannabis sativa plant with a THC level that does not exceed 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. The Bill permits industrial hemp to be grown, cultivated, and marketed for research and educational purposes. Below, we will discuss what kinds of materials are made from hemp and from what part of the plant they are produced.
The hemp plant is composed of several different parts, including the stalk (stem), the leaves, the roots, and the seeds. The hemp stalk perhaps has the widest range of uses. It can be processed to make textiles; for example, you have probably come across clothing or shoes made of hemp. Such clothing is considered more environmentally friendly than clothing made of cotton, because hemp is naturally pest-resistant. This eliminates the need for toxic chemical pesticides. The stalk can also transform into industrial or building materials, such as rope, caulking, fiberglass, insulation, or canvas. (The word canvas is actually derived from the word cannabis.) The herd inside the hemp stalk can be used to make paper.
Hemp seeds are often used in food, supplements, and cosmetics. They are hefty in the essential fatty acids omega-3 ALA and omega-6 LA that our bodies require but cannot make on their own. The seeds are used to make the popular hemp seed oil, a noted dietary supplement. Hemp seed oil is often called just “hemp oil.” Note that this is not the same as hemp CBD oil or hemp extracts whose health benefits we discuss in this book. Hemp seed, however, does have valuable health effects of its own.
Many people like to use hemp seed oil on their skin or in their hair because of its moisturizing properties. Hemp seed oil has also been used throughout history as a biofuel. The fuel it creates is free of pollutants and has four times the energy as corn-based ethanol. Some car manufacturers are working on ways to infuse hemp seed oil into their vehicle manufacturing to make cars more “green” and recyclable. Hemp-based protein powder can even be made from the seeds as a vegan-friendly alternative to animal proteins.
The leaves and flowers of the hemp plant are where the CBD component can be primarily found. Some CBD is also found in the stems, stalks, and raw seed oil. CO2 extraction represents an environmentally friendly way to produce full spectrum, CBD-rich hemp extracts. The leaves are known for their absorbent nature and can be used as animal bedding or as compost and mulch. The roots can also be used for compost because of the nutrients they carry.
There are many strong arguments to support hemp legalization in all states. It’s important to stress that hemp is not a drug and its products will not get anyone high. It is an important manufacturing and industrial substance, and an environment-friendly plant material that can be used in thousands of products. Hemp extracts that contain naturally-occurring CBD can be used in the relief of many health conditions, as you will learn below.
HOW CBD WORKS IN THE BODY
When you consume a hemp product made with CBD, you may wonder what the CBD does inside your body that allows it to exert its benefits. Cannabinoids like CBD interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system and other targets. The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a network of cell receptors, molecules, and enzymes found in the brain and nervous systems that work together to perform specific functions. The ECS plays a role in a variety of psychological processes, including appetite, pain-sensation, anxiety, mood and memory.
Our bodies naturally make substances that participate in the ECS, called endocannabinoids. CBD, however, is not an endocannabinoid. Instead, it is a phytocannabinoid: a cannabinoid that comes from a plant. In the following sections, we will explain different parts of the ECS and how CBD affects each one.
A cell receptor is a protein molecule that is attached to the cell membrane. The receptor reacts to incoming chemical signals. Signal and receptor combinations can then determine the cell’s activity. In the endocannabinoid system (ECS), the two main cannabinoid receptors are called CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are mostly found in the brain, nervous system, and certain organs and tissues, while CB2 is found mostly in white blood cells. New research has also discovered CB2 receptors in certain brain regions. CBD does not directly bind often with these receptors, but it does exert some interesting effects on them. CBD also interacts with other receptors, as you will learn in the following sections.
CB1 and CB2 Receptors
The highest levels of the CB1 receptor are found in the brain, particularly in the hippocampus, cerebral cortex, cerebellum, and the basal ganglia. These parts of the brain are in charge of your motor movements and behaviors, cognition, short-term memory, attention span, language, balance, and much more. This means that these functions are most affected by cannabis intake. THC—the psychoactive component in marijuana—binds directly to CB1 but CBD does not. Instead, CBD works to prevent THC’s bond with CB1.
Take the example of a person who ingests a high-CBD, low-THC product. He will not feel high because, not only is the THC level low, but the CBD is interacting with the CB1 receptors in his body. The CBD is sending a chemical message to the receptor, directing the receptor to change shape. When the receptor’s shape changes, its ability to make a perfect bond with THC declines. THC’s psychoactive effects will not be strong, if they even appear at all.
Meanwhile, the CB2 receptor is located primarily in the white blood cells. White blood cells are the director of your immune system because they protect you from infections and foreign manner. While studies have shown that THC has an effect on the CB2 receptor, much less is known about CBD’s effect on CB2. It is believed that CBD indirectly communicates with CB2.
CB1 and CB2 may be the main receptors in the endocannabinoid system, but several other receptors play important roles in the body. CBD reacts with receptors called 5-HT1A, TRPV1, GPR55, and GABA-A. These names may sound mechanical, but we will break them down into simple terms and explain how each affects your health. We will also describe how CBD interacts with each receptor. These are far from the only receptors that interact with CBD, but they are some of the most notable.
The 5-HT1A receptor can be found in most of the same parts of the brain as the CB1 receptor. Some of the functions it affects are your mood, appetite, sleep patterns, and pain perception. It is part of a family of receptors that are sometimes called “serotonin receptors,” named after the neurotransmitter that boosts feelings of happiness. Serotonin activates these receptors. However, CBD can also directly activate the 5-HT1A receptor. A study on animals in 2014 demonstrated that CBD’s interaction with 5-HT1A caused anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects.
TRPV-1 is mostly present in the peripheral nervous system, which connects the central nervous system in the brain with the rest of the body. Specifically, TRPV-1 is involved with relaying and mediating pain, inflammation, and your body temperature. CBD binds to and stimulates TRPV-1, leading to pain relief. To further explain, CBD is believed to actually desensitize the TRPV-1 receptor. This action can be helpful in treating conditions where TRPV-1 sensitivity is heightened, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The study that reported these findings concluded “the nontoxic and nonpsychoactive compound CBD may represent a useful pharmacological alternative in the treatment of the disease-associated chronic pain.”
The GPR55 receptor is expressed in the cerebellum part of the brain and in bone-building cells called osteoblasts. It is sometimes called the “orphan receptor” because researchers do not know if it is a part of a broader family of receptors. GPR55 helps to balance blood pressure and bone density. When this receptor is disrupted, it can overreact, leading to conditions such as osteoporosis, cancer, and obesity. Ruth Ross, a scientist at the University of Aberdeen, has noted that CBD is an antagonist of GPR55. This means that CBD can stop GPR55 from over-signaling.
Similar to the way CBD changes the shape of the CB1 receptor, CBD can also change the shape of the GABA-A receptor. GABA-A normally binds with GABA, which is short for gamma-Aminobutyric acid. GABA is a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on the body. When CBD changes the shape of the GABA-A receptor, this calming effect is strengthened. A study published in 2017 tested the effect of CBD on GABA receptors to find out if their relationship could explain CBD’s anti-epileptic, anti-anxiety, and pain relieving features. The authors concluded that their “…results reveal a mode of action of CBD on specifically configured GABA-A receptors that may be relevant to the anticonvulusant [anti-seizure] and anxiolytic [anti-anxiety] effects of the compound.”
CBD SAFETY Many people are hesitant to consume or support the use of CBD because of the conflicting information regarding its safety. However, a number of studies have found CBD to be generally well tolerated and safe for consumption, even in high doses and with chronic use. A 2011 review of over 130 studies and papers about CBD summarized:
CBD is non-toxic in non-transformed cells and does not induce changes on food intake, does not induce catalepsy, does not affect . . . heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature, does not affect gastrointestinal transit and does not alter psychomotor or psychological functions. Also, chronic use and high doses up to 1,500 mg/day of CBD are reportedly well tolerated in humans.
This review looked at studies that tested CBD’s effects on both animals and humans. The studies were a mix of in vivo tests conducted on living creatures and in vitro tests performed on cells outside of their normal biological environment.
In these studies, CBD was not found to have any significant side effects, even with a wide range of doses. It did not interfere with important psychomotor and psychological functions; subjects who participated in a verbal paired-associate learning test did not have their results affected by the use of CBD. Studies of more chronic use of CBD found that it was well-tolerated across several healthy and ill populations. It did not affect patients’ neurological, clinical, psychiatric, blood, or urine examinations. Several patients with psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, displayed extremely positive results after using CBD daily for three to four weeks. Their psychotic symptoms were reduced and they experienced fewer side effects than what they had experienced under prescription drugs.
CBD was also tested on patients with Parkinson’s disease in a four-week clinical trial. The CBD doses ranged from 150 mg to 400 mg a day and were given in conjunction with the patients’ usual treatments. At the end of the four weeks, the study found that there were no serious side effects, cognitive and motor symptoms experienced no change, and the patients’ psychotic symptoms were notably reduced. Taking this information in combination with the results from the study of schizophrenic patients, it seems CBD has the potential to strongly reduce psychotic symptoms.
Although CBD has not been shown to directly interact with pharmaceutical drugs, some concern lies in the way CBD interacts with certain liver enzymes. This family of liver enzymes, called cytochrome P450 or CYP, metabolizes most pharmaceutical drugs. It is thought that more than 60 percent of drugs on the market are broken down by CYP.
Certain doses of CBD deactivate these enzymes, although the exact dose has not been determined. CBD competes with the CYP enzymes for the same sites in the liver. The two components displace and deactivate each other. CYP is then unable to metabolize other substances.
However, the degree to which CBD interacts with CYP enzymes varies widely depending on a number of factors. The amount of CBD consumed, the form (pill/capsule, paste, balm, etc) in which it is consumed, the strength of the CBD, the genetic makeup of the person consuming the CBD, and more can affect how CBD competes with the CYP enzymes. Different pharmaceutical drugs seem to be affected in different ways, as well: In one clinical trial, a 25 mg oral dose of pure isolated CBD was found to influence the metabolism of an anti-seizure drug. On the contrary, CBD induces CYP1A1, which is responsible for degradation of cancerogenic substances such as benzopyrene. CYP1A1 can be found in the intestine and CBD- induced higher activity could therefore prevent absorption of cancerogenic substances into the bloodstream and thereby help to protect DNA. Another clinical trial found that a 40 mg sublingual dose of a CBD-rich spray had no effect on the CYP enzymes.
More research needs to be conducted in this area before making a clear determination as to exactly how well CBD interacts with pharmaceutical drugs. For now, it seems safest to avoid mixing more than 15 mg of CBD per day with multiple pharmaceutical medications, without the consent of your physician.
Enhancing CBD’s Effects
Taken by itself, isolated CBD is not absorbed very effectively by the body. Researchers and enthusiasts are looking into substances that can be combined with CBD to enhance its bioavailability (the dosage level that reaches the circulation and has an active effect on the body). Evidence is suggesting that oral co-administration of lipids enhances the systemic exposure of rats to THC and CBD by 2.5 fold and 3 fold, respectively compared to lipid free formulas. Look for CBD products with lipid carriers like extra virgin olive oil).
In this chapter, you learned about the science behind hemp and CBD. Hemp and marijuana have distinctive qualities and perform different functions. Hemp is an extremely useful plant for many reasons, and researchers should be allowed to cultivate it and study its healing benefits without fear of repercussion. So far, we at least know about some of the receptors in our bodies with which CBD extract from hemp interacts. These CBD-receptor interactions can help relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, pain, inflammation, osteoporosis, and more. In Part II, we will explore specific conditions and explain the benefits CBD has on each one.