Defining and Using CBD Oil as a Natural Remedy
CBD oil, or cannabidiol oil (say can-uh-bih-dye-all), is a blazing hot topic these days. Many natural health practitioners are extolling the amazing healing and restorative potential of cannabidiol, and anecdotal stories on CBD oil’s success are legion. Studies do exist that seem to back up what people are saying. The positive benefits of CBD oil could be phenomenal. But there is some confusion on what CBD oil actually is, and what it’s good for.
Most of us know enough about cannabidiol to know that it comes from the marijuana plant, also called cannabis, also called hemp (the industrial variety). Our knowledge generally ends there, especially in the states that do not yet have medical marijuana laws in place. For this reason many are justly concerned about the legality of obtaining and using cannabidiol. We wonder:
Terms like hemp oil, marijuana oil, and hemp seed oil only add to the confusion. We need to demystify. Let’s do that now, and talk about what cannabidiol really is, what it can do, and how CBD differs from some of the other related products that you hear about.
What is CBD (Cannabidiol)?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a phytocannabinoid. A phytocannabinoid is a cannabinoid derived from a plant, usually the cannabis plant. A cannabinoid is a chemical compound that acts upon receptors in the endogenous cannabinoid (endocannabinoid) system, only recently discovered by science, and responsible for creating and maintaining homeostasis in almost all vertebrate animals, including us illustrious humans. Our bodies actually produce some of its own cannabinoids. The endocannabinoid system is responsive to its own endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids, and cannabinoid mimics, which are also usually plant derived. It’s somewhat amazing that the endocannabinoid system went undetected for so long, because this system, it seems, is vital to the balance of all of our other body systems. Scientists have found endocannabinoid receptors in connective tissue, organs (including parts of the brain), and almost every kind of body cell membrane. This suggests that the endocannabinoid system can work to regulate at the systemic, cellular, and intracellular levels. That’s a powerful system.
Cannabidiol is just one of more than 113 active cannabinoids currently found in the cannabis plant, though phytocannabinoids aren’t found only in cannabis. A diverse number of other plants like echinacea, black tea, and New Zealand liverwort (Wairuakohu) have all been demonstrated to contain cannabinoids or at least cannabinoid-like compounds that may have a similar, if less potent, effect on the body.
Homeostasis & Cannabinoids
Homeostasis seems like an ephemeral term, because it refers to so much and yet still seems lacking in a concrete definition. Basically, homeostasis, physiologically speaking, is the body’s way of keeping all of its systems in balance and functioning optimally. It's our reaction to the environmental stresses that the body is exposed to. Our endocrine and nervous systems are the big players here. We have sensors all through our bodies, designed to detect various changes and respond, sending a signal to the brain, which then sends out the signal to adjust and rebalance. Regulating internal body temperature, blood glucose levels, calcium levels, and water content in the body are all examples of factors that our bodies want to see within a specific range, known as the set point. The process of detection and response to bring those factors back into healthy range, or their set points, is called homeostasis.
The endocannabinoid system seems to behave like a COO, or master controller for at least part of this process. Cannabinoids, be they made by us or what we ingest, activate the endocannabinoid system, helping to restore and regulate our balancing functions (homeostasis) in the body.
Cannabinoids, be they made by us or what we ingest, activate the endocannabinoid system, helping to restore and regulate balancing functions (homeostasis) in the body.
Let me take a moment to stress that illness (and good health for that matter) happens at the cellular level. We can’t see it unless we look at our cells under a microscope. We often don’t even realize that something is wrong until the impaired cell function and damage leads to internal inflammation and chronic illness. But it all starts with the lowly cell. So small. So important. When you consider that the receptors for the endocannabinoid system lie on the cell membrane, then you can see how cannabinoids, the activators, may have potential to help restore and rebalance the health of the cells in the body. That, in turn, can have benefits that you’ll actually feel.
So Cannabinoids are Good? What about CBD?
Okay, so CBD and other phytocannabinoids are indeed good things. They can act upon the endocannabinoid system in a beneficial way that we can take advantage of to assist us in our journey to attain and maintain great health. Why is cannabidiol specifically becoming such a buzzword? Easy enough. CBD is growing in popularity because:
CBD Oil Effects on the Body
Studies of the beneficial effects of CBD are ongoing, and more are needed. What scientists and health practitioners are currently seeing, however, is that cannabidiol seems to impact two major body systems:
That’s actually pretty big news, because these two systems are deeply connected to every other system in the body. For example, issues such as digestive disorders or heavy metal toxicity, when left unaddressed, almost inevitably lead to conditions like auto-inflammatory disorders, chronic pain, neuropathy , and neurodegenerative disorders. CBD oil has potential to be a great assistant here.
CBD and the Nervous System
Cannabidiol shows promise as an enhancer for the nerve synapses. This suggests potential to improve nerve function in general, improve synapse communication, and help to decrease the inflammation that is so often noted with neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. There are many clinical cases of CBD seeming to dramatically improve the cognition, short term memory, and motor function in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Science is only just beginning to catch up with these cases. 
It’s interesting to note that, so far as scientists have currently established, nearly all of the cannabinoid receptors in the brain are in the basal ganglia and the limbic system, including the hippocampus. The limbic system is known as our sensory, emotion and survival center, among other things. It’s responsible for danger analysis and our fight or flight response mechanism. This part of the brain is triggered abnormally in those who suffer from anxiety, mild to extreme. Do you see where I’m going with this yet?
Because CBD seems to impact both the endocrine system (hormones, stress response, homeostasis) and obviously has a large involvement with the limbic system, judging by the large amount of cannabinoid receptors located there, cannabidiol has potential to assist with:
There are many clinical cases of CBD seeming to dramatically improve the cognition, short term memory, and motor function in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
CBD and the Immune System
CBD is also has a substantial influence on the immune system. Studies have shown that cannabidiol can directly target immune cells, decreasing inflammatory cytokines, which can in turn drive down systemic inflammation.  This ability makes cannabidiol a huge potential benefit for those suffering from autoimmune disorders like:
Keep in mind that scientific studies have yet to catch up with what practitioners using CBD oil with their patients have experienced, but a few other conditions that have shown improvement in some with therapeutic CBD oil use:
CBD Oil vs Marijuana Oil vs Hemp Seed Oil
Figuring out which hemp based products are the ones that you want can be very confusing. We see a lot of terms like CBD oil, marijuana oil, and hemp oil thrown around the internet. Let’s take a look at what’s going on, and break down the various terms that we see.
One thing to keep in mind is that cannabidiol is just one of over a hundred cannabinoids found in the Cannabis genus of plants. THC is another cannabinoid, the most well known in fact, and it’s well established for its medicinal effects. While it has been discovered that certain cannabinoids can be found in other plants, hemp remains the most plentiful source. For this reason products containing CBD will invariably be derived from a Cannabis strain.
This includes Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, also known collectively as marijuana, along with so many other nicknames that it would take another article to list them all. These two particular species of cannabis are the ones most widely cultivated for their psychoactive and medicinal effects on the body. The Cannabis genus also includes the strain more commonly known as hemp, which while usually a variant of sativa, is grown for use as a textile and food source. It contains very little THC, and higher concentrations of CBD. This makes the agricultural strains the most suitable for creating CBD oil.
CBD Oil - What to Look For
CBD oil is an extract, usually using CO2, and into a solvent like alcohol, fractionated coconut oil, hemp seed oil, or a combination. Cannabinoids in general are water insoluble, so teas or water based preparations will do little good. These are usually sold in dropper bottles. Dosage is by the drop. As mentioned before, CBD oil is chiefly derived from agricultural hemp. This oil is usually sourced from Europe or Canada, as it remains federally illegal to grow hemp on an industrial scale in the United States.
The fact that CBD comes from agricultural hemp is excellent news. Agricultural hemp contains little to no THC, which is responsible for the psychoactive properties of cannabis (the “high”). No THC, no federal sanction against the product. Consequently CBD oil is legal to buy in all 50 states. This makes it a much better option for children, or anyone not interested in the stoned feeling that THC brings.
CBD content can vary greatly from one brand to the next. If you can find a brand that guarantees a minimum percentage of CBD per bottle, that would ensure that you’re actually getting adequate CBD per dose. Looking for CBD extracted from organic plants is also ideal. Brands like Elixinol list CBD percentage and batch information. CBD Direct, a supplier of the American grown, organic CBD product line called CBDRx, is another online source that lists CBD content per dose. If I hear of any others, I’ll include them here.
The agricultural strains of hemp contain little to no THC and high amounts of CBD. These are the most suitable for creating CBD oil. Best part: No high & legal to buy in all 50 states!
Hemp oil is an attempt on agricultural growers’ part to differentiate between oils derived from the marijuana plant, which comes with controversial connotation for those not in favor of the psychoactive effects of the plant, and oils from agricultural hemp. The implication is that hemp oil comes from the industrial version of the plant, which contains little to no THC. This also sidesteps legality issues, since the absence of detectable THC makes such products saleable in all 50 states. I have also heard hemp oil used to describe hemp seed oil, though, so I don’t personally find it to be a terribly illuminating term.
Marijuana oil is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, and only legally available in the states that have medical marijuana laws in place. This is an oil derived from one of the strains grown for recreational or medicinal purposes. It's usually an infusion. THC and CBD content will vary widely depending on which plants have been used to make it. Purchase this from a knowledgeable producer who knows which strains have been used to make it. Be aware that if you cross state lines with marijuana oil, you will have immediately broken federal laws.
Hemp Seeds and Hemp Seed Oil
This is an easy one. Both hemp seeds and the oil expressed from them come from the industrial strains of cannabis. No detectable THC, which is why both are readily available online and in local markets. There’s also rarely much in the way of CBD in either the seeds or their oil. Both are hugely healthy for you though, so use them both freely anyway. Look for organic for both, and cold pressed for the hemp seed oil. Keep both refrigerated for freshness.
Taken together, all of the benefits that we’re seeing with CBD certainly make it a compelling natural remedy for many illnesses, especially those where nervous or immune system are engaged. Let me just leave with my usual warning to avoid thinking of any one remedy as a miracle cure. Cannabidiol can be considered as a part of your health protocol, and it may be very instrumental as such. It can help to mitigate symptoms, and even facilitate healing while you work to make the changes that bring lasting good health; however, CBD, like any herbal remedy, will refuse to mask a poor lifestyle.
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The information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat illness. Always do your research before using an herbal remedy to ensure that there are no allergy risks or cross indications with any prescription medications that you are taking. See your doctor before starting any new treatments or programs. Anything that you learn from Prairie Hawk Botanica, its blog, or Jennifer Capestany must be considered informational only. You own yourself.
I'm Jennifer Capestany, a clinical herbalist and freelance writer with a practice in North Texas. Helping people deal as naturally as possible with rheumatoid arthritis, chronic illness and other chronic conditions is my calling.