The Benefits and Downside of CBD Oil

As natural remedies go, hemp – and its more potent cousin, marijuana – have been used to treat a variety of illnesses for thousands of years. That’s thousands – in fact, hemp is one of the fastest- growing plants, and was grown commercially by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers. It also was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 10,000 years ago.

Industrial hemp, typically found in the northern hemisphere, is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant species. And while well known and popular in eastern cultures for its healing properties, U.S. Federal laws aimed at curbing the use and sale of marijuana and Cannabis plant derivatives have restrained the popularity of these medicinal potions in many U.S. states. But now, as the sale of marijuana and products containing THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is becoming legal (for medicinal and recreational use), there is a bounty of options available to consumers.

THC is one of at least 113 cannabinoids identified in cannabis, but is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis – the product that produces the euphoric “high” that people enjoy. But it’s also used for treating a variety of illnesses and diseases, for pain relief, and for behavioral mental health treatments.

The use of CBD-based oils, lotions and ingestible products is now legal in many states that have not legalized recreational marijuana use, including Connecticut (which has legalized the use of medical marijuana only). Marijuana contains both THC and CBD, and these compounds have different effects. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive. This means that CBD does not change a person’s state of mind when they use it. However, products marketed as CBD oil may contain THC, though these only are available through state-sanctioned and taxed dispensaries, or can be obtained, often illegally, through mail-order and black-market sites.

The Advantages of Using CBD Oil

According to the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, 100 million Americans live with chronic pain. Along with drastically reducing quality of life, chronic pain can increase healthcare costs and have a negative impact on productivity at work. So, any natural remedy is bound to draw a lot of attention.

CBD, or cannabidiol oil, contains CBD and often other active compounds in a carrier oil. There are a number of forms of CBD oil, including softgel capsules, tinctures, and under-the-tongue sprays. Some forms of CBD oil can also be applied directly to the skin, in the form of products like creams and salves. The concentration of CBD varies from product to product.

For many people experiencing chronic pain, CBD has steadily gained popularity as a natural approach to pain relief. Cannabidiol is sometimes touted as an alternative to pain medication in the treatment of common conditions like arthritis and back pain.

The use of cannabis for pain relief dates back to ancient China. It’s thought that CBD oil might help ease chronic pain in part by reducing inflammation. In addition, CBD oil is said to promote sounder sleep and, in turn, treat sleep disruption commonly experienced by people with chronic pain. Emerging research shows that endocannabinoids may play a role in regulating such functions as memory, sleep and mood, as well as metabolic processes like energy balance. In addition, CBD oil may help improve a variety of health conditions including stress, which exacerbates high blood pressure.

As its popularity has grown, so has the hype, and the marketing mania – CBD is promoted by some as a miracle oil that, among other cures, can shrink tumors, quell seizures, and ease chronic pain. Cannabinoid-laced drugs have been approved by the Federal Drug Administration for treatment of epileptic seizures, and moderate doses of CBD are mildly energizing.

But very high doses of CBD may trigger a biphasic effect, meaning it can produce two different results; the CBD-rich cannabis flower produces sedative and painkilling properties. CBD is not intrinsically sedating, but it may help to restore better sleeping patterns by reducing anxiety.

Industrial hemp typically contains far less cannabidiol than high-resin CBD-rich cannabis flower tops. Huge amounts of industrial hemp are required to extract a small amount of CBD, thereby raising the risk of contaminants because hemp is a “bio-accumulator” that draws toxins from the soil. But plant breeders are now focusing on developing high-resin cannabis varietals (marijuana) that satisfy the legal criteria for industrial hemp – with THC measuring less than 0.3 percent and CBD levels exceeding 10 percent by dry weight.

That may seem like too much technical information, but it’s all to point out that there are a lot of CBD-based potions now on the market that may have some medicinal benefits, and many that won’t. Because CBD oil products are mostly unregulated, there’s no guarantee that any given product contains a safe or effective level of CBD. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017 found that nearly 70 percent of all CBD products sold online are incorrectly labeled, and could cause serious harm to consumers. Some CBD oils may also contain incorrectly labeled amounts of THC and other compounds.

Some research indicates that the use of CBD oil may trigger a number of side effects, including anxiety, changes in appetite and mood, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth and nausea or vomiting. There’s also some concern that the use of CBD oil may lead to increased levels of liver enzymes (a marker of liver damage or inflammation).

However, on a more positive note, researchers are now finding that CBD may help treat generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and also is useful in combating addictions to tobacco products and even to THC itself. CBD also may have moderate pain-relieving effects for neuropathic pain without the cannabinoid-like side effects. However, there is currently a lack of proper trials and research confirming these effects.

The bottom line is that if you’re thinking of using CBD oil to treat a health problem (and it is legal where you live), make sure to consult your healthcare provider first to discuss whether it’s appropriate for you, and to ensure that the product you buy is truly beneficial.


Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!