Everything You Need To Know About CBD

By: Leafly Canada Staff     December 20, 2019
CBD (cannabidiol) is a therapeutic compound produced by cannabis.  Learn everything you need to know about CBD-particularly as it applies to Canadians and the legal Canadian market.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis and hemp.  CBD oils, edibles, and other products are continuing to grow in popularity as ways to manage anxiety, stress, pain, and other symptoms.
We typically associate cannabis with getting stoned, but CBD can be extracted from the plant to make products that come without the high or the smoke.  The molecule in cannabis that gets us high is called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and nowadays, you can turn to cannabis-derived CBD products with little to no THC for clear-headed symptom relief.
It’s not just THC and CBD, either-cannabis produces dozens of potentially therapeutic compounds called cannabinoids.   We’re slowly getting to know them as legalization spreads, and so far, they seem pretty friendly to us humans and our many ailments.

How Does CBD Work in the Brain and Body?

Each of our bodies has a set of receptors that interacts with cannabis compounds called cannabinoids, like CBD.  These receptors, found throughout the body, comprise the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex signalling system that ensures our bodies maintain homeostasis.  
Put another way, the endocannabinoid system keeps us in balance by directing the communication traffic as CBD interacts with this system, mimicking natural compounds (called endocannabinoids) produced by the body.
In the human body, CBD influences cannabinoid receptor activity and encourages production of the body’s natural endocannabinoids.  Interestingly, CBD also affects activity beyond the endocannabinoid system and can also interact with opioid, dopamine, and serotonin receptors.  The ability of CBD to interact with so many different systems throughout the body suggests it has the potential to open new frontiers in psychiatry and medicine.

CBD for Specific Symptoms: Anxiety, Pain, and More

After decades of cannabis prohibition, our scientific understanding of how CBD works for specific symptoms and conditions is just getting started.  Although many Canadians safely consume CBD for medical and therapeutic reasons, it’s always best practice to visit your family doctor or a cannabis-savvy physician (not always the same person) to discuss if CBD is right for you.

CBD for Anxiety

Although more controlled clinical studies are needed, numerous preclinical and case studies have found CBD to be safe and effective in easing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder

CBD for Neuropathic Pain

CBD inhibits glutamate release and other inflammatory agents, which makes it neuroprotective and excellent at dulling the prickling, tingling, and burning sensations associated with neuropathy, or neuropathic pain.

CBD for Inflammation

CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory, making it a potential treatment for a range of inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia, to name a few.

CBD for Pain

CBD is often touted as a analgesic, or pain-reliever, but this is a matter of some debate.  Many researchers believe that CBD relieves pain by addressing its cause-such as inflammation-rather than treating the pain itself.  The best evidence of CBD’s analgesic effects pertains to neuropathic pain specifically.

CBD for Insomnia

Similar to its relationship with pain, CBD’s impact on insomnia is debatable, and there is very little research to support its role in sleep, good or bad.  Anecdotally, however, many consumers claim it helps with sleep. More research is needed, but currently it is theorized that CBD promotes sleep by easing factors that disrupt it, like anxiety, or by working in concert with other cannabis ingredients, like the calming terpene myrcene.

CBD for Seizures

In both children and adults, large doses of CBD and CBD-based medications (Epidiolex) have had remarkable success in reducing the overall number of seizures experienced by patients with various forms of epilepsy, including rare and intractable forms such as Dravet Syndrome.

CBD for Addiction and Opioid Withdrawal

Like many of CBD’s potential applications, research into its effects on addiction and opioid withdrawal is scant, but promising.  Compared with placebo, it has been shown to reduce cravings and anxiety in patients recovering from heroin addiction, and to mitigate reward-seeking behaviour.

Dosing CBD

There is no ideal, one-size-fits-all dose with CBD.  Your perfect CBD dose depends on a few different factors, including your individual biology, the delivery method, and the specific nature of your symptoms.  For example, high doses of CBD (upward of 600mg daily) seem to be more effective for conditions like epilepsy, whereas low doses are potentially effective for anxiety.
Research is beginning to show that there’s a sweet spot when it comes to dosing cannabinoids like CBD: Consume too much or too little, and you may feel limited relief or side effects.  
More research is needed to develop specific guidelines around CBD dosing for different medical conditions.  Until then, if you’re using CBD oils, edibles, or other products to treat symptoms like anxiety, stress, pain, or insomnia, work with a cannabis-aware doctor who can start you off at a low dose and help you work up to the right amount for your medical needs.