Mythbusting CBD: 5 popular misconceptions debunked

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Cannabidiol (CBD) has received a lot of attention recently, writes Macey Wolfer. It has been touted as a therapy or cure for a number of health concerns, sometimes in place of pharmaceuticals. While it’s an exaggeration to call this component of cannabis a “miracle drug,” it does have several therapeutic properties that are beneficial for a variety of conditions.

With so much talk about CBD in the media, plenty of misconceptions have arisen. Let’s take a look at the most popular myths about CBD to clear up any confusion.

Myth: CBD is legal throughout the US

Despite being available just about anywhere you go, the legality of CBD is fuzzy for many. As of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp-derived CBD is indeed legal on a federal level because hemp is now considered an agricultural commodity. Hemp is bred to be extremely low THC and more fibrous, making it a useful agricultural tool.

In states where recreational marijuana is legal, marijuana-derived CBD is legal on a state level, but not federally. The same rules apply to states with legal medical marijuana, though many states have incorporated their own CBD-only laws.

To sum up: If the CBD is extracted from hemp, it is legal so long as it follows governmental standards of hemp production. Marijuana-derived CBD is legal depending on your state’s marijuana laws.

Myth: CBD is non-psychoactive and medicinal, while THC is psychoactive and recreational

Cannabidiol has been wrongfully referred to as “non-psychoactive” enough times that this has become a widespread misconception.

Here’s why it’s incorrect: The term “psychoactive” refers to any substance that affects the brain. CBD has been shown again and again in scientific studies to have anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects.

Its effects on mood and cognition prove CBD to be psychoactive. However, it doesn’t get users high, so it can be considered non-intoxicating — unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

But THC also has plenty of medical uses, despite being incorrectly referred to as the “recreational” side of cannabis in relation to CBD. Some use THC to regain their appetite, combat nausea, deal with chronic pain, and more.

In fact, in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study on CBD and THC extracts in patients with cancer-related chronic pain, CBD and THC were found to work better together than separately.

Which brings us to our next myth:

Myth: Isolated CBD is more beneficial than whole-plant extracts

Researchers have found that CBD may actually be more therapeutic in whole-plant extracts, where other cannabinoids and terpenes are present, rather than in an isolated form.

When using full-spectrum CBD, small amounts of THC may be present amongst terpenes and other compounds of the cannabis plant. These all work together to create a symbiosis that boosts their therapeutic effects. This phenomenon has been coined the “entourage effect.”

In a 2015 study, researchers pointed out a bell-shaped dose-response which showed that isolated CBD worked well only in limited dosage ranges. When the CBD was combined with additional cannabis compounds, though, researchers found that “other components in the extract synergize with CBD to achieve the desired anti-inflammatory action.”

It’s worth noting that isolated CBD can still be beneficial for many reasons, especially for people who do not want to risk consuming small amounts of THC.

Myth: The more CBD, the better

There is no universally accepted dose for using cannabidiol. Some people consume 10 mg per day, while others use doses that are ten times higher.

CBD is biphasic, meaning its effects may be opposite in low doses compared to high doses. That’s why users should start with a low dose and adjust from there.

Studies show that those who use CBD to control seizures benefit from low doses. Some find that low doses are more stimulating or energizing, while high doses tend to be more sedating or work better for targeting pain.

This ties into our next misconception...

Myth: CBD is a sedative

While CBD has been shown to lengthen total sleep time in rats, that does not necessarily mean it is a sedative.

It is suggested that CBD may help lull users to sleep by calming their anxiety or stress. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders may be the root of many sleep disorders.

In a human study on sleep, anxiety, and CBD, 48 out of 72 subjects reported improved sleep after a month of using CBD. However, the number fluctuated after that.

Additional research has further complicated the issue. Four females and four males aged between 21 and 34 participated in a double-blind and placebo-controlled studyof CBD and THC’s effects on sleep, morning performance, memory, and tiredness.

Taking 15 mg of THC sedated the subjects, helping them fall asleep quicker. The 15 mg of CBD  “increased awake activity during sleep and counteracted the residual sedative activity of 15 mg THC.” Rather than acting as a sedative, the relatively low dose of 15 mg CBD actually promoted wakefulness.

CBD’s biphasic nature may be responsible for the variety of experiences with CBD and sleep.

As research into CBD is still in the early stages it is especially susceptible to having myths and misconceptions dominating the conversation. Don’t let this deter you from exploring the world of CBD though. Early research has shown that CBD has a lot of potential benefits for us. Just make sure to do your research and be informed before jumping in.

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