Somewhere between the hemp seeds you sprinkle on your smoothie bowl and psychoactive marijuana is CBD hemp oil. In short, CBD provides potent benefits from the hemp plant without the whole getting-high thing. I started taking it as a supplement over a month ago and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. But before I share my personal experience with CBD, I thought I'd give you some info about it and what it can do.
So, what is CBD oil?
Let's get this out of the way first: CBD oil does not get you high. Not even a little bit.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is available as a supplement and comes from the same cannabis plant as the stuff you would smoke, but contains only trace amounts (less than 0.3 percent) of THC—the chemical component that has psychoactive effects. CBD contains cannabinoids, which are the naturally occurring chemicals within the hemp plant that are anti-inflammatory and patented by the U.S. government as a neuroprotectant and antioxidant.
"Clinical reports showing its safety and tolerability allow us to move forward with confidence," says Anjali Dsouza, M.D., of the District Center for Integrative Medicine. "We have long known that, in certain circumstances, cannabinoids like CBD can help achieve and support a stable balance in our bodies, also known as homeostasis. CBD is currently used in a wide range of clinical scenarios including cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, traumatic brain injuries, insomnia, anxiety, and PTSD."
CBD hemp oil is legal in all 50 states and is commonly sold in a concentrated tincture with oil and occasionally some extra flavoring.
We actually have an endocannabinoid system.
Humans have an endocannabinoid system—as in a whole network of the body that knows how to process these naturally occurring chemicals. The human body and the cannabis plant both make cannabinoids, so we are biologically programmed to be able to use CBD effectively to help us reduce inflammation and pain.
What are potential benefits of taking CBD?
In 2012, the Stanley Brothers developed a strain of CBD for a little girl named Charlotte, who was suffering from 300 seizures a week. Today, her condition is under control and she's a happy second grader. Their product Charlotte's Web is a full spectrum hemp plant extract, which means that in addition to cannabinoids, it also contains terpenes (essential oils) and flavonoids.
"I've found CBD oil to be of value for my patients," says Dr. Joel Kahn, founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity. "It's helped with pain and inflammation, anxiety, sleep, smoking cessation, and as an adjunct to some cancer side effects. It doesn't cause changes in alertness and is not psychoactive. The pathways by which it works are known and it can be encouraged more widely."
It's been found to be a powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotectant that can be used safely by many people.
"I have prescribed CBD oil and my experience suggests it is generally well-tolerated. The worst side effect I have seen is sedation. As with all things, I typically start low and go slow, as paradoxical reactions are always possible in medicine," says Dr. Dsouza.
How CBD oil affected me.
Like with food, caffeine, and prescription or OTC drugs, everyone's experience is different. For me, I noticed significant shifts in a few major areas of my life.
It got rid of my period pain.
I've never had really painful periods, usually some mild to moderate cramping at the start but nothing inhibiting. Then, a few months ago, I started getting wrenching, fetal-position-inducing cramps on the first day of my cycle. I hated the idea of taking a crazy amount of NSAIDs in a day just to keep the pain under control, which is what led me to CBD.
After a bit of research, I decided on Charlotte's Web Hemp Oil and gave it a try right away—about a week before my period was due.
That month my cramps were significantly less intense (which I'm sure is due to several factors), but I decided to take a dose of the oil instead of two Advil and see what happened. It took away my cramps within 30 minutes, the same as a typical over-the-counter pain pill. I would say I was surprised, but I was genuinely hoping it would work and was overjoyed when it did.
The idea of having a natural product I can take to reduce pain is huge. I've tried heating pads, essential oils, and calming teas, but this is something that really, tangibly helps and lets me go about my day without pain. Whoa.
It helped me deal with anxiety.
The best way I can describe the noticeable difference in this area is that it diffuses that knotted nervous feeling in my gut. As a relatively anxious person—especially in big groups or unknown social situations (i.e., a lot of the time)—taking CBD oil has allowed me to shed that a bit. It gives me a more calm, "I've got this" kind of feeling that can really make a difference.
I'm not usually a nervous flier, but on a recent trip I had received a couple of important emails right before boarding the plane, which sent my mind spiraling. Plus I had a middle seat, which is anxiety-inducing for someone who drinks as much water as I do. So I took a couple of tinctures' worth of my CBD oil and after a little while, I felt more relaxed and was able to chill out with a good book for the rest of the flight.
It can also help with sleep.
My sleep is kind of unpredictable, with weeks at a time filled with great sleep and others riddled with random 3 a.m. wakeups or a serious case of overactive bedtime brain (is there an acronym for this yet?).
I started taking CBD oil with my evening tea about an hour before bed and five of the seven nights I did that, I had excellent sleep. It's hard to say whether the oil did it, but I've heard other people report that it really helps them with sleep.
It gave me a mood boost.
The other side of that anxiety coin, depression is something I've dealt with throughout my life and can creep up if I'm not vigilant with my mental health. I felt like the heaviness of depression simply didn't linger when I was taking CBD.
The idea of an "overall sense of well-being" that I saw in the product description for Lord Jones' CBD gummies really resonated with me. I'm still me and get anxious, emotional, and blue, but knowing that I have this in my toolbox is comforting and really (as cheesy as it sounds) helps me feel more like me.
How to take it.
The type of CBD oil I take comes with a dropper, so I'll take two droppers' worth on a spoon. You can mix it into a cup of tea or a smoothie, too.
There are also more playful ways to take it, like these CBD gummies by Lord Jones, chocolates, or hard candies.
If you want to learn more, check out these podcasts:
- You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes: The Stanley Brothers
- Her Rules Radio: Medical Marijuana for Women
- That's So Retrograde: Royal Highness