Have you heard about cannabidiol (commonly shortened to CBD)? It’s one of the most controversial supplements on the market today, and for good reason.
CBD is one of 85 cannabinoid chemicals found in the cannabis (marijuana) plant. THC, the molecule that gets you high, is in the same family, but unlike its mind-altering cousin, CBD from cannabis is totally non-psychoactive. It’s starting to look like CBD can do all kinds of useful things, from decreasing inflammation to fighting multiple sclerosis. I’m excited about it, and I put together a comprehensive guide here.
But as with many new supplements, there are downsides and grey areas to CBD. Just how Bulletproof is it? Here’s what the research says.
The good: CBD may increase alertness, help you sleep, and make you less anxious
Studies show that CBD can do some interesting stuff. CBD may:
- Help you sleep if you take a slightly larger dose (160 mg), even if you have insomnia
- Decrease social anxiety by calming down your amygdala, a part of your brain that controls fear A high dose of CBD (600 mg) also decreased anxiety during public speaking.
Recent research on human cells in test tubes suggests that CBD is a strong antioxidant. CBD outperformed both vitamin C and vitamin E at protecting neurons from inflammation and oxidative damage. CBD also decreased stroke-related brain damage in rats by 50%, although we don’t yet know whether it does the same in humans
There is even a team of researchers working on a trial of CBD as a breast cancer therapy.
So you can see why I’m excited about this stuff! That said, many of the CBD studies on humans are small, so I still have my reservations.
The not-so-good: unexpected side effects, pesticides, and fertilizers
I tried putting CBD in my Bulletproof Coffee (um, on a vessel 200 miles offshore, in international waters) for several days and the CBD caused severe skin dryness and cracking. I normally have very healthy skin.
After some digging, I found an article from the journal of Experimental Dermatology explaining that cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 are present in your skin. The CB1 receptor is on nerves in skin, even the little ones in your follicles, and it may play a role in skin cell maturation. That could explain why my skin got so dry – maybe I had a bad reaction.
It could also have been an issue with pesticides. Pot isn’t food, but it’s still a crop, and many producers spray their cannabis plants with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to increase yield. Go organic (yes, organic weed products exist) to avoid the unwanted chemicals.
The other not-so-good: CBD is still illegal in many places
If you want to supplement with CBD, there are three main challenges: how to get it, how to take it, and how to pay for it.
Getting it seems easy. You can find a variety of oral CBD supplements online: pills, lozenges, liquids, and capsules. But check your state laws before you order CBD online. If marijuana isn’t recreationally legal in your state, neither is CBD. And regardless of state laws, you should know that federally, CBD is a Schedule I drug in the United States and a Schedule II drug in Canada. (As of October 18 2018, the purchase and possession of recreational cannabis and CBD became fully legal in Canada).
That said, the odds of the FBI knocking down your door are probably pretty slim…kind of like they are for pot. Shipping CBD across state lines can legally put you or your business at risk. I am hopeful this will change because it’s an irrational, harmful state of affairs.
The annoying: only 6% of CBD oil gets absorbed?
So let’s assume you skirted some laws and got a CBD supplement. The trouble is that your liver is very good at breaking down CBD – so good that if you swallow CBD, only about 6% of the amount you took reaches your brain. That explains why the people in the anxiety studies had to swallow 400-600 mg of CBD extract to feel its anti-anxiety effects. A single dose that size would cost you about $100.
What about smoking?
I’ve been pretty clear about how smoking tobacco or pot is a bad idea because of combustion byproducts, even though nicotine and the active parts of marijuana are useful. When you smoke something, it reaches your brain quickly without passing through your liver. That’s good for CBD – its bioavailability jumps from 6% when eaten to 31% when smoked. The problem with smoking high-CBD pot (or any pot) is that you inhale all kinds of toxins and carcinogens, as well as THC. Marijuana smoke also contains apigenin, an estrogenic compound that can mess with your hormones, although CBD and THC themselves don’t seem to be estrogenic.
The other downside is that with smoking, it’s very difficult to control how much CBD you get. A low dose of CBD may make you more alert, but a slightly higher dose can make you sleepy. It’s a fine line, and if you’re smoking you don’t have enough control.
Can you upgrade your smoke?
No. Don’t smoke anything.
Vaping comes with a whole bag of issues, too. Leave your lungs out of it for now. The best option for getting CBD is to look for:
It’s still difficult to control dose when vaporizing CBD extract, but if you do a little math you may be able to figure it out. You’ll want a vaporizer made specifically for oils.
The verdict: CBD is Bulletproof…if you take it the right way
CBD may increase your alertness, help you sleep, and make you less anxious. It could even act as an antioxidant and protect your brain from damage. Just be sure you take it the right way. To avoid pesticides and fertilizers, go organic if you can.
If you’re willing to go to the trouble, CBD could be a beneficial supplement. What are your thoughts? Have you benefited from CBD?