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EP 37: Health Benefits of CBD

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Episode Transcript

Hello friends!

Well, hello everybody. I am really looking forward to today’s episode as this is a topic that I get asked about all of the time for my patients and friends, and it’s gonna be fun to take a deep dive into the fascinating history and the potential impact of the use of CBD on human health. Now, there’s so much misinformation and myth when it comes to CBD and most people only have a vague idea of what it is, and honestly, they immediately have it connected with marijuana.

So they’re thinking about stoners, smoking pot to get high. Maybe they’re thinking about the recent controversy on medical marijuana and only a few people realize that CBD is different than that.  But they’re sure, still pretty unsure about what all the fuss is about it. So, Believe me, we’re not gonna be talking about the recreational use of a Schedule I drug.

We’re not gonna even be talking about medical marijuana. We’re going to discuss the potential health benefits of industrial hemp-derived cannabidiol or CBD. Now, the use of CBD oil has certainly exploded over the recent years. It seems to be everywhere and there’s a lot of hype about it.

So we’re gonna see if you think that there’s anything to this hype and, and let you decide for yourself.  I will tell you right off the bat though, clinically I’ve used it with great success and  I’m really excited about the potential therapeutically.

And so we’ll spend the first few minutes talking about what it is, its history. And then the second part of the show, we’ll dive into how it can be used and what it’s doing in the body.  Most people think that it must be a new thing, but boy, they couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, the plant Cannabis is one of the very first plants that we have a record of being domesticated on the planet. We have records of people using it over 12,000 years ago for food, fiber, medicine, and inebriation.  4,700 years ago in Chinese medicine, they began to use it along with ginseng and ephedra and other great medicinal herbs.

In 2000 BC we have a record of the very first Chinese pharmacopeia. The compendium of herbs to be used in Chinese medicine, and this plant had over a hundred uses already documented. From around 1500 to 200 BC, we have records of it being used as medicine in Egypt, Greece, India, and Rome. In fact, everywhere the Romans went, they took cannabis and the hemp plant with them.

In 300 BC, the oldest cookbook we have on record from Rome actually had recipes for cooking with cannabis flour. So that’s ancient history. Now what about more recent history? 

Well, hemp was brought to the American colonies by the Puritans. It was illegal actually NOT to grow hemp in the American colonies.

It was so vital for their survival and for the creation of textiles and fibers. It’s the strongest fiber that we know of.  That means that Jefferson and Washington and basically all of these early fathers of our country were growing hemp and utilizing it as a textile along with tobacco on their farms. So it was very, very important for the economy of America.  

Fast forward now to the mid-1930s, and now we see cannabis being banned in all 40 states, although it’s still listed as a medicine.  Cannabis started becoming banned.

Now there’s some speculation as to whether this was from a health perspective – people smoking it or being inebriated with the marijuana plant, or if this was really an industry thing because other industries were threatened by the amazing properties of this hemp.

At any rate, by 1937, we have the Marijuana Tax Act, where the federal government bans marijuana against the wishes of the AMA and the medical physicians and this really initiated the first war on illegal drugs in 1940. 

Around this time there was a chemistry professor at the University of Illinois named Roger Adams who first discovered CBD. Now, CBD is an acronym for the word cannabidiol and it is just one compound that comes from both the marijuana and the hemp plant. So he understands and isolates and separates out the CBD oil from the hemp plant and starts studying its properties and finds it has many health benefits.

And now in 1946, we have Walter Lowe conducting the first CBD tests on lab animals.  And he proved that CBD is not the component that causes the altered mental state or the psychoactive component. It will be several years later Dr. Mechoulam from Hebrew University in Israel who finally understands the compound found in high amounts in marijuana called THC, which is responsible for the psychoactive components.  So we have all this research beginning in the forties, fifties, and sixties. They start researching primates and finally, we have the very first CBD oil that’s meant for therapeutic use that was released in Britain.

So this is the sixties and from then we have this stigma that is continuing to connect CBD from hemp with THC from marijuana. And so all of these things kind of got lumped together.  

Now this stigma is being separated as we understand this plant more and we understand the benefits of CBD with very little THC and the impact it can have. 

So right now, any industrial hemp product, whether that’s textiles or CBD oil, is completely legal in all 50 states from a federal government point of view. That was signed into law in 2018 in the updated Farm Bill.

So this goes under the agriculture department and there is still some state-by-state variation on exactly how this is rolled out, but from a federal point of view, CBD by itself is no longer illegal.  

Now a recent search on PubMed, which is the National Institutes of Health compendium of all scientific research, showed over 13,000 studies already published on CBD.

And what we’re learning is really quite amazing. So, one question many people often ask, of course, is what is the difference between hemp and marijuana? So let’s dive in and understand that difference because it’s certainly an important thing. So let’s talk first about this plant called cannabis, specifically cannabis sativa.

Now cannabis is a plant family that includes many species of plants, including hemp and marijuana, although they come from the same family, they have distinct purposes and uses. So just like cabbage and turnips are both part of the same vegetable family, they’re both part of the cruciferous family of vegetables, they’re obviously different and they taste different.

So think about that when you’re talking about the difference between cannabis coming out of hemp versus marijuana. It comes down to the makeup or the ratio of specific compounds called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that have a biological effect.

There are over 113 different cannabinoids that have been isolated from this cannabis family. We don’t know a lot about all of them. The two most widely studied, I’ve already mentioned, that’s THC, the psychoactive component, and CBD, which is a non-psychoactive component that actually mitigates and buffers and influences the function of THC.

So, some of the therapeutic benefits of THC have to do with pain relief, relaxation, appetite stimulation, and helping people with insomnia. CBD is present in all strains of marijuana and hemp, but by legal definition, a hemp plant has less than 0.3%. THC is called industrial hemp. 

So that is really, really an important number to understand. Now, marijuana is known for its flowering plant tops, and these flowers are bred to contain high THC content. So the average content of THC contained in marijuana is about 10%.  But obviously, they can cultivate different strains to even get higher than that.

These plants are illegal to grow, of course, without proper licensing in specific states. But hemp, the non-psychoactive plant primarily used for clothing, paper, biofuels, even bio bioplastics supplements, cosmetics, personal care, and foods, is cultivated in big outdoor swaths of land for large crops, and they have both male and female plants together so that fosters pollination and increases seed production and creates a larger yield of the plant.  

Marijuana is typically grown indoors under really controlled conditions and the growers remove all of the male plants from the female plants so that they prevent fertilization. Fertilization causes the THC content to go down, so they want it to not be fertilized to maximize that THC level. 

Now, you may be surprised to learn that there’s actually a system in our bodies that is comprised of receptors that interact exclusively with cannabinoids like CBD. It’s known as the endocannabinoid system, and it’s really the reason that we benefit from CBD. This endocannabinoid system is made up of a network of receptors that was discovered in the late 1990s. So far, we’ve uncovered three kinds of receptors, but most of what we know is about the first two called CB 1 and CB 2. 

Now “endo” means inside. So endocannabinoid means it’s stuff that we’re making. It’s coming from the inside of our body. The chemicals that dock on these receptors have a huge impact on the regulation of our entire system. The CB 1 and CB 2 receptors help to maintain vital health functions and restore homeostasis or balance within the body. 

Think of them as balancing a regulating system, and it is super, super important for complex life forms. In fact, when you go back and look at the evolutionary timeline of all life on the planet, as soon as we get up into anything with a vertebra, we see these receptors.

So we know that it is part of governing and regulating almost all higher life on the planet. So how big of a deal are these receptors? Well, here’s a fascinating little tidbit. These cannabinoid receptors are actually the largest single class of receptors in our entire body. We have more of these receptors than any other type of receptor in the body.

So follow along here. This is fascinating. We’ve had a plant that has coexisted with humanity for millennia, and we’ve known that it has an effect on us, but we didn’t know how. So they first do research on the plant itself to find out what compounds are responsible for this effect, and they find CBD and THC,  (and 111 others), but these are the main ones. 

So then they try to figure out how it works, and lo and behold, they find that we have receptors all over our bodies for this compound. So that begs the question, why would we have receptors for cannabinoids in the first place? Well, if we have receptors, then there must also be chemicals that our own bodies make that fit into those receptors.

Does that make sense? Indeed. Inside our bodies, we have several endocannabinoids. The two that are best understood at this time are called Anandamide, and 2AG. 

Now, anandamide was discovered in 1992 by the same group that discovered an isolated THC, and this compound is a neurotransmitter and it’s called the “Bliss Molecule”.

Ananda means bliss in Sanskrit. So, they named this the bliss molecule. And it’s important for producing a state of heightened happiness. It’s also important for memory, motivation, higher thought processes, or flow states, the creation of new neurons, and even movement control. It plays a role in pain, appetite, and fertility. 

It’s been shown to put the brakes on cancer cell proliferation. It’s both an anti-anxiety molecule and an antidepressant molecule. It’s actually what we produce when we hit that runner’s high or when we’re in a deep, deep meditation. And you might be happy to know it’s also found in chocolate. That’s why you like that dark chocolate so much. It’s got anandamide in it and it hits those endocannabinoid receptors and boom! You feel good. 

So 2AG is another one. And it also binds to the CB 1 and CB 2 receptors and it regulates immune function.  And where do we find 2 AG in high concentrations? Mother’s milk. So obviously when mothers breastfeed, they’re providing a rich nutritional cocktail of things that are going to stimulate the baby to grow, but also they’re expressing immune stimulating chemistry like colostrum and immunoglobulins.

And now we find out that it actually has 2AG in there causing us to possibly get “high” for the very first time at our mother’s breast 😉   

Okay, so we have 2AG and anandamide, and believe me, we’re gonna find more, but those are the best understood. But these have a regulatory effect, and so when CBD comes in and it hits those receptors, it also can have a balancing and regulating effect.

Now, researchers still have a lot to learn about the benefits of CBD oil, but preliminary studies have indicated that CBD may have a huge impact on things like inhibiting tumor growth and making chemotherapy more effective without harming healthy cells and tissues. Wouldn’t that be great? Relieving pain and inflammation, including chronic pain and cancer pain, reducing nausea and vomiting, lessening anxiety, of course, improving the quality of sleep, fighting viruses and viral infections, and relieving muscle spasms, and neurological conditions.

Let’s take a look at what some of this research has to say. It’s fascinating. 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect more than 18% of the population. And according to the World Health Organization, depression is the single most significant contributor to disability worldwide.

While anxiety disorders are ranked sixth, Now more and more people are turning to CBD as a natural alternative to prescribe medications because of the notorious side effects that those have. According to a survey published in cannabis and cannabinoid research in 2018, almost 62% of CBD users report that they’re using CBD to treat a medical condition. 

And the top three conditions are pain, anxiety, and depression.  That’s been a tremendous clinical tool in my bag of tricks to help my patients with anxiety and depression and pain. Phenomenal responses and we see it time and again. There was a published report in the journal NEUROTHERAPEUTICS back in 2015 and the scientists analyzed the preliminary research and found that CBD oil shows promise in the acute treatment of conditions like general anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and PTSD. 

A small study published in NEUROPSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY in 2011 determined that CBD may help alleviate social anxiety. So many studies have shown this. 

Researchers also believe that CBDs’ ability to act on that endocannabinoid system and other brain signaling systems may provide benefits for those with neurological disorders.

One of the most studied uses for CBD is in treating epilepsy and MS.  Several studies have shown treatment with CBD improves the quality of life and sleep quality in people with Parkinson’s. In one long-term study, researchers gave CBD to mice genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease and found that it helped prevent cognitive decline. While that was a mouse study, there’s been a ton of research on basic brain and neurological function because this cannabinoid system is responsible for actually stimulating new brain cell growth or neuron growth. 

The immune system is another area where CBD’s been very well studied. It’s been established that CBD has a strong capability to inhibit the production of inflammatory chemicals.

So think about this: all degenerative diseases that have an inflammatory component may benefit from the use of CBD. One well-studied example is inflammatory lung disease, and what they found is that CBD inhibited the migration and the action of several immune cells, including neutrophils, macrophages, and lymphocytes, and lowered the inflammatory cascade of chemicals called cytokines.

I know that’s a lot of big sciencey words there. Basically what’s happening is it’s lowering the number of cells that are producing inflammation, okay?  

In the brain, we understand that CBD inhibits cells called microglia. The microglia are kind of like the immune cells of the brain. They clean up debris and damage that happens just from day-to-day wear and tear on our brains from thinking and being alive when they function properly. These microglia are obviously critical for normal health, but when we get microglia that become overstimulated, we call it being “primed”. I like to say they’re trigger-happy.  They can overreact and that overreaction of the microglia creates a continual loop of inflammation, which speeds up degeneration. 

Okay, now there’s more. CBD also acts as an anti-inflammatory molecule in the eye. It’s been implicated as a potential therapeutic agent for inflammatory eye diseases like uveitis, age-related macular degeneration, and even diabetes-related glaucoma. 

What about diseases of the bowel, like Crohn’s? Yes.  CBD is an incredibly promising therapeutic for Crohn’s because it modulates the secretion of these pro-inflammatory chemicals by the immune cells of the gut. 

So I think that’s a fascinating area of research lowering the immune system when it’s overexcited. It is also going to be a potential therapeutic agent for all autoimmune diseases. 

It’s been shown to act by reprogramming damaged memory T cells. Now these are the cells that tell the immune system to attack our own bodies, and it also increases the effectiveness of what are called T regulatory cells.

Those T-regulatory cells are kind of like the governors of the immune system. And we find that in autoimmune diseases, these Treg cells are low. And so CBD has an ability to actually up-regulate the function of these T regulatory cells. 

We’re finding that CBD may be anti-proliferative for several types of cancers, including both estrogen-positive and negative breast cancer cells. Now, those are laboratory studies. Large-scale studies will still need to be done.  But they’ve established several different mechanisms by which this works and that the CBD may be targeting the metabolically overactive cancer cells.

And CBD also seems to reduce the chance of invasiveness of human lung cancer cells, making it very protective when it comes to lung cancer.  CBD also shows anti-proliferative effects with colorectal cancer, and that’s obviously one of the major causes of morbidity, morbidity and mortality in the Western world. 

It may also have an anti-cancer therapeutic value when it comes to brain cancer. So generally just understand the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD seem to be preventative when it comes to cancer. Now, what about anti-inflammatory effects related to pain? Of course, things like fibromyalgia and arthritis have been studied pretty extensively, and CBD has a profound effect on pain relief. We use it topically as a gel in our office for a lot of muscle and joint pain.  

What about its effects on hormones? Well, we know that THC in marijuana stimulates appetite, and gives people munchies, but CBD has the opposite effect. It regulates appetite. In 2017, there was a review of some scientific literature regarding CBD, and it found that weight loss was a common side effect.

When people were using CBD to treat seizures. So it caused them to feel more satiated and they ate less. And so that’s a fascinating component. More research is certainly needed to understand the weight loss benefit, but it’s an exciting potential area because obviously weight gain and obesity are considered a cause of many different chronic diseases.

Chronic stress disrupts the endocannabinoid system. So now there’s some evidence that CBD can lower excessive cortisol or stress hormones in the body. 

All right, you get the idea. There are a ton of potential benefits to CBD.  

So let’s talk a little bit about how we’re gonna get some of this good stuff in us if we want to try it. There are many different types of ways to get CBD in the body, but let’s talk about the three basics: 

  • Inhalants (vaping), 
  • CBD topicals like I just mentioned, creams, balms, gels, etc., 
  • and then the biggest category we’ll call Ingestibles. That’s things like liquid hemp oil, CBD tinctures, or drops.  Putting CBD inside of a capsule.

They can make CBD sprays and spritzers to be sprayed in your mouth or around your tongue. People are making bottled water with nano-sized CBD particles, infusing, chewing gum and gummies, and dissolvable powders. I mean, just cooking oils. They’re infusing it into coconut and olive oil and other edibles like putting it in gummies and brownies and things like that. 

So there are a lot of ways to get it in, but that brings up a huge concept of bioavailability. The different methods of delivery have different absorption rates, and this needs to be considered. So when you think about oral, anything you’re gonna swallow, on an ingestible it’s typically about 6 to 15% bioavailable if it has to be digested. 

So it goes through the body, gets digested in the stomach, and goes as oil into the small intestine where bile emulsifies it. Then it gets taken up and goes through the liver. So it takes a long time for that CBD to actually get into the blood. And so it’s got a poor bioavailability. 

Now, vaporizing it through like through an aerosol, absorbing it through your lungs is probably the highest, maybe 40% bioavailable. 

Now there’s a kind of new approach. We’re using a lot of technology to figure out how to make oral CBD more bioavailable. And so what they’re finding now is that you can make these fat-soluble oils into water-soluble compounds called colloids. 

You might have heard of colloidal silver. Well, they’re making colloidal CBD. There’s also an approach that’s slightly different that makes a little fat droplet called a liposome or a nanoemulsion. All you need to know about this is that it makes these droplets of CBD really, really, really small, so they don’t actually have to be digested by the stomach. 

They get absorbed through the mucus membranes of the mouth and esophagus so they can get into the body very, very quickly. And we can get absorption rates close to that of vaping –  35% in some cases. So this is important when it comes to picking how you’re going to get CBD, because the smaller the particle, the faster it’s absorbed. So that makes a difference when you’re picking things and it does make it get a little confusing when you look on a label because the label’s just gonna show you how many milligrams of CBD are in the bottle, but you could have a hundred times more bioavailability in a colloid form than you would just a regular oil. 

So one more consideration is that there are actually different options for how we get CBD. There’s something called an isolate where they basically extract out just the CBD compound from all the rest of the phytochemicals in the plant.

Then there’s something called a broad spectrum, which is a full hemp-derived extract, so it’s got all of the 113 cannabinoids in it, but then they specifically take out all of the THC, so there’s 0% THC in it. 

And then you have what’s called a full spectrum, which is a full hemp extract, and it has less than 0.3% THC in it. So that’s basically the industrial hemp, the full entourage of all of the different compounds, cannabinoids, and other things called terpenes that all work together. Now in the world of herbology, we understand that when you take an entire plant, all of the constituents of the plant work together in a synergistic way. 

And so when we start removing things into little isolates or taking out certain things, there’s gonna be less of a synergistic effect. So, the only thing we would say and caution you is that if there’s any chance that you’re gonna get drug tested there’s a possibility that if you have full spectrum in your body, there’s a slight chance you could test positive.

Now, I don’t think that it’s a real realistic likelihood, but, let’s say your job depends on this, you would want to take what’s called a broad spectrum hemp oil where all of the THC would be removed, so there would be no chance of testing positive on a drug test. 

Anybody who’s not getting drug tested, they’re probably gonna get a better effect taking a full spectrum product.

So how much do you take? Well, that is determined by the concentration of the CBD and the product. It’s determined by the weight of the individual, your own individual biochemistry, and the severity of the condition being treated. Our body regulates the endocannabinoid system very tightly, and so in a high-stress, nasty disease, and acute illness, you’re gonna need more CBD than you would for maintenance in general use. 

I wanna share just a quick patient story. I had a woman who came to see me. The most anxious person I think I’ve ever met,  just completely beside herself and almost non-functional at all. And so we started a regimen of multiple things that I knew could be beneficial. We started her on magnesium and other things just to calm down the nervous system. 

But we started her on a liposomal CBD, and it took her four pumps, four times a day in order to get relief. Now here’s the interesting thing. Over time, CBD tends to help regulate the body and we need less and less. So over time, this woman was able to decrease her dose from four pumps four times a day, to four pumps three times a day, then to three pumps three times a day, and getting down to where she doesn’t even need it anymore. Her anxiety is completely under control and she doesn’t need the CBD. This is the one thing I’ve found pretty much consistently through my patients is that over time they need less and less.  And then maybe just a very small amount as an ongoing preventative. 

So it’s very difficult in a podcast to tell somebody how to take CBD and how much they need. Just know that there’s no established lethal dose of CBD. Chronic use has been repeatedly shown to be well tolerated by humans.   

Now is it gonna work for everyone? Of course not. Nothing works for everyone. But when we start talking about risks and benefits, The potential benefit is so high and the risk is really so low that it is part of any protocol I use right now in my practice for any neuroinflammatory disease, any gut inflammatory disease, any chronic immune system problem we’re using CBD orally

And then any painful joint issue. We’re using a topically and for conditions like fibromyalgia, which are systemic pain issues, we use it internally as well. Make sure that  before you start taking CBD, you speak with your doctor because there may be drug interactions.  Many drugs will say on the label,  grapefruit, don’t take this with grapefruit juice because there’s an impact.

Well, CBD may be just the same, so be sure to speak with your physician.  If you want to try CBD, being active and eating a diet rich in essential fatty acids may increase the effects of CBD. So  it’s always a good idea to have an excellent diet.  And so. Knowing that if your fatty acid stores are high, you may not need as much CBD.

So there’s some incentive there.  Under chronic high levels of stress I’ve mentioned you might need more CBD. So  try to get your stress level under control and that will decrease the amount you need. As I mentioned, remember to always consult your physician before you change any medications or combine CBD with anything. 

It’s a very effective protocol alongside many conventional methods of treatment, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health. I hope this has been  fascinating for you. I love diving into these plant medicines.  They hold a tremendous amount of potential for us.

And I think that’s an emerging area of science now that we’ve known things have worked, but we haven’t known how. And now the science is catching up and we’re doing deep dives into how these things affect our body and how they can become powerful therapeutic agents. It may have many fewer side effects and may be able to be used in, in wide swaths of, of conditions because of how high up in the chain of control they affect our body.

 I hope that if you have any conditions that might benefit from CBD, I hope you take a deep look at this and speak with your physician and do some research on the best methods and companies to get CBD and use it effectively in your family.



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