CBD has produced a lot of buzz over the past few years. News outlets and cannabis activists have touted its benefits for physical and mental health. A quick Google search will reveal dozens of places to buy it online. It’s even available in health food stores and other outlets where you’d never in a million years find ordinary cannabis.
But with all of this attention, there’s also been a lot of misinformation going around. To put it bluntly, you can’t believe everything you see in the news. CBD is surely safe, therapeutic, and provides many health benefits. That said, it’s time to dispel some of the myths surrounding this new chemical supplement. Here are six common myths, and why they’re wrong.
Myth #1: CBD is Non-Psychoactive; THC is a Recreational Drug
If you read the news, or even most medical studies, they’ll describe CBD as “non-psychoactive”, which means it doesn’t have any consciousness-altering properties. This is plainly false. Think about it for a second. A non-psychoactive substance couldn’t help with anxiety, psychosis, addictive cravings, alertness, or mood.
Clearly, CBD is a psychoactive substance. It affects our minds, albeit mostly in positive ways. However, it does not impair most people’s mental or physical function, even when taken in large doses. A more accurate term would be “non-intoxicating”.
Conversely, THC isn’t purely recreational. This idea is also patently false. THC is obviously medicinal in its own right. As shown by literally hundreds of clinical trials, THC can be used to treat glaucoma, loss of appetite, and depression, just to mention a few of its medical benefits.
A more pertinent question is where we draw a line between a recreational drug and a medication. To use an extreme example, consider fentanyl. Clearly, it can be used as a recreational drug, although it’s a very dangerous drug. But it also has significant pain-reduction properties, and has improved quality of life for many people who experience excruciating chronic pain.
Returning to cannabis, THC is clearly both medical and recreational. Is the same thing true for CBD? Probably not. It clearly offers medical benefits, but you can’t use it to get high. It simply doesn’t produce a strong, rewarding pleasurable effect. Studies in humans and animals have not shown any cravings, addictive use, or euphoria associated with it. Once again, we return to the term “non-recreational”, which does a much better job of describing CBD’s properties.
Imagine a group of friends passing around a CBD vape. You wouldn’t expect them to start rambling, losing their train of thought, or laughing at nothing. What you would expect is for them to become more focused, relaxed, and free of anxiety. So not only is CBD non-recreational, but it also has benefits for people who don’t suffer from any serious medical problems.
Myth #2: CBD Makes You Sleepy
This myth came from a handful of early CBD studies, which found that CBD extracts acted as a sedative. The problem with these studies is that these early extracts contained higher levels of THC than most modern extracts, and THC does act as a sedative. Many of these early preparations also contained high levels of myrcene, a terpene with sedative properties.
CBD itself does not make you sleepy; on the contrary, it actually increases alertness. Moreover, it even counteracts THC’s sedative effects, delays exhaustion, and ameliorates the groggy “hangover” that comes from large doses of THC. Even in very large doses, up to 600mg at a time, pure CBD has not been shown to have any sedative effects.
Myth #3: Low CBD Doses Are Sufficient
Along with CBD, another modern trend is the practice of “micro-dosing”. This means using small doses of cannabis to treat medical conditions, while avoiding the negative side effects of large doses of THC. Micro-dosing also helps users to boost their endocannabinoid health, and prevents the tolerance-building effects of regular cannabis use. Because of this trend, many people now believe that micro-dosing with CBD is effective. It’s not. But why is that?
On a milligram for milligram basis, CBD is significantly less potent than THC for relieving most symptoms. To use pain relief as an example, 3 to 5 milligrams of THC is roughly equivalent to 300 to 200 milligrams of CBD. And that’s assuming the CBD is even effective to begin with.
Furthermore, while THC and CBD can both be used to treat a lot of the same symptoms, they operate in fundamentally different ways. And not all patients will respond to both substances in the same way. There’s a lot of variation between individual people. In medical studies on anxiety, seizures, and schizophrenia, doctors have used dosages of hundreds of milligrams. Most people simply could not afford to buy this much CBD on a regular basis.
That said, low doses of CBD can provide some beneficial results for certain symptoms. For example, doses of as little as 2 milligrams have been shown to improve alertness, focus, and mental clarity. In short, how much CBD you need will depend on your specific symptoms.
Myth #4: All CBD is the Same
Let’s start by stating the obvious: a molecule of CBD is a molecule of CBD. Whether it comes from cannabis, industrial hemp, or is synthesized in a lab, it’s the same. But not all sources provide the same benefits.
To be sure, CBD provides many benefits. But it’s most effective when it’s delivered along with the full array of cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis, including THC. This is due to the “entourage effect”, which means that different cannabinoids increase each-others’ effectiveness. As a result, even low-THC CBD formulas are more effective than CBD all by itself. This is especially true when it comes to pain treatment, where THC significantly enhances the benefits of CBD.
Furthermore, while industrial hemp contains virtually no THC, it also contains significantly less CBD than cannabis. This means that more plant material is required to create an ounce of CBD oil, when compared to the amount of cannabis required to create the same ounce. Not only that, but hemp-based CBD is not regulated by the FDA. This means that labeling is often inaccurate, even if you’re buying from a reputable shop. Do you really want to buy CBD oil without knowing what’s in it?
The best solution is simply to buy cannabis-derived CBD. Because this CBD is regulated, you can trust its content. However, this option is only available in states where cannabis is legal. In other states, you’ll unfortunately be limited to hemp-derived CBD.
So, what can you do if you live in a state where cannabis is still illegal? Your best solution is to contact the manufacturer directly and ask for their product’s laboratory analysis. Reputable companies will have their CBD products lab tested, and will be willing to share that information with prospective customers. Conversely, less-reputable companies will not share that information.
Myth #5: CBD Activates Your Cannabinoid Receptors
Every human being, as well as most mammals, have an endocannabinoid system. It’s essential to our lives. The endocannabinoid system plays an important role in immune response, healing, and regulating chemical balance in our individual cells. As a result, many therapies, drugs, and even lifestyle changes target this system for treating just about every known disease.
Because of this, it should come as no surprise that medical cannabis can treat a wide variety of diseases, from neurological issues to inflammation to psychiatric disorders to digestive distress. It has even shown promise for treating infectious diseases. The endocannabinoid system is involved in all these areas of your body, and provides powerful healing benefits.
So, how is CBD different? To begin with, its effects are similar to THC in many ways. They both help with pain relief, nausea, seizures, anxiety, and mental focus, as well as decreasing inflammation. However, there’s a significant difference between the two.
THC behaves much like the natural endocannabinoids produced by our bodies. Both THC and natural endocannabinoids activate cannabinoid receptors, and act directly on our cells to promote overall physical health. Meanwhile, CBD has a different method of operation. Instead of stimulating CB1 and CB2 receptors, it simply reduces the level of their activity. It actually decreases the effect of other cannabinoids on the CB1 receptor.
Conversely, CBD also increases cannabinoid signaling, albeit indirectly. This is because it inhibits the breakdown of anandamide, our body’s most prolific endocannabinoid. In one study, schizophrenia patients experienced significant increases in their natural anandamide levels after 28 days of treatment with 800 milligrams of CBD.
As you can see, the effects of CBD on your endocannabinoid system are not cut and dried. It simultaneously decreases the effectiveness of cannabinoids, while increasing their presence in your body. As a result, it’s very different than THC. Whether or not it works for you will depend on your specific needs.
Myth #6: CBD is Legal in the Entire US
If you aren’t paying a lot of attention, you might think CBD is legal in the US. You can buy it in many health food stores, and even order it on Amazon. And it has no potential for abuse, so you’d think it’s legal. Sadly, the DEA disagrees.
According to a 2015 DEA memo, CBD is still classified as a tetrahydrocannabinol under the Controlled Substances Act. Furthermore, the FDA has stated that CBD products cannot be labeled as dietary supplements. Officially, this is because the health benefits are still being investigated. The FDA has even sent several letters to CBD retailers, reminding them that CBD is not legally a dietary supplement.
The good news is that this doesn’t have any effect on everyday users of CBD supplements. To be sure, these legal issues might still cause some trouble for retailers and suppliers. But this depends on the willingness of the DEA and FDA to take actual legal action against those companies. At the time of this writing, the federal government has sent a lot of letters, but they’ve taken a “hands-off” approach in terms of actual enforcement.
We hope we’ve helped to clear up the most popular myths surrounding CBD. Now you can move forward as an educated consumer, and decide what treatment is right for you.