5 Questions You Probably Have About CBD Oil

💚 Brought to you by Cypress Hemp, a sustainable company on a mission to revitalize the American hemp industry. They donate 10% of profits to neuroscience and nature conservation.

A few weeks ago, the New York City Department of Health made banning foods laced with cannabidiol (CBD) a priority. You may have noticed the recent proliferation of candies, drinks, and baked goods touting the benefits of CBD and thought they seem like a delicious place to start trying it out for yourself. While all CBD is not technically legal in the US, it is derived from industrial hemp and contains little to no THC — the drug we were told to D.A.R.E. to just say no to. Naturally, this leaves it in a gray area where false and exaggerated claims are sure to multiply.

Will I get high?

For example, last month, as a stressed-out friend was leaving the house, I offered them some CBD to calm their nerves. They balked. “I’m driving, maybe next time!” came soon after. While it’s true that you should never drive under the influence of THC — yep, even where it’s legal — you shouldn’t have the same reservations about CBD oil. Why? Because it can’t get you high!

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To understand how you’ll only need to call on some (possibly dormant) Biology 101 knowledge. First, let’s talk about the three terms you’ve likely heard over and over — Cannabis, hemp, and marijuana — and their distinctions. Cannabis is a plant genus; think of it as a big green umbrella. Under that umbrella are two major species: Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. While hemp falls under Cannabis sativa, marijuana can be either sativa or indica.

Although they can share a species, you’d never confuse them (and your CBD oil manufacturer definitely wouldn’t). The pièce de résistance, however, is that industrial hemp contains no more than 0.3% of THC, a negligible amount of the psychoactive cannabinoid that gets you high. Think of it like drinking kombucha, or even non-alcoholic beer — you can consume as much as you want, but you’re never going to feel that buzz.

And if you’re about to google “how much CBD would it take to get me high” then let me save you the trouble. In short, no amount of cannabidiol is going to get you stoned because your body recognizes THC and CBD disparately and isn’t wired to get them mixed up (1,2).

Is it legal?

When CBD first landed on the shelves of my favorite head shop, I did a double take. I briefly wondered if my red state had amended its marijuana laws and I was oblivious. Alas, no luck — Texas is still a toke-negative place. If you’ve only seen CBD in the context of a smoke shop, wall-to-wall with glass pipes for, uh, tobacco, then I can see where you might be perplexed about its legality too.

Because American industrial hemp is so strictly regulated, with a dutiful eye on THC thresholds, CBD falls into a classification closer to hemp oil than hash. This is why you can now buy a bottle of CBD oil in all 50 states online, at grocery stores, boutiques and, of course, head shops.

Why do it?

At this point, you might feel comfortable buying CBD but still unsure if you should. Well, that’s personal! Maybe you love a good trend, or perhaps you’re in physical or emotional pain — we’re only just beginning to learn the full extent of what cannabidiol can do for us. So, I’ll tell you what my chemistry professor always used to say to me because it’s just vague enough to be wise: do your research and keep an open mind about the results!

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How do I pick the right kind?

When anything achieves cult status, it’s important to be critical. When the US hit peak avocado toast hysteria (hyperbole? you decide), dissenters were quick to point out that not everyone peddling said breakfast food used ethical sourcing. When coconut oil reached memedom as a tongue-in-cheek cure-all, activists shed light on the industry’s animal abuse in Southeast Asia.

CBD is projected to be a $22 billion product within a few years, and the market is already flooded with options over which you can agonize. Personally, I use three criteria to determine what I buy:

Organic Certification

Though industrial hemp is legal to grow, there is no legal or approved list of pesticides that farmers can use to protect their crops. Before you shrug off a brand’s organic, non-GMO status, you should know that hemp is a bio-accumulator, meaning that it can draw toxins from the soil. By choosing an organic brand, you will have peace of mind that no illegal off-label pesticides were used to protect profits, which is a growing concern as the CBD industry continues to boom. Furthermore, organic hemp has higher standards for inspection and actually improves soil conditions for next the crop, making it a more sustainable choice.

Editor’s Note: While our Canadian neighbors now require that licensed producers use third-party laborites to test for pesticides, no such regulation exists for the United States just yet!

Sustainable Carrier Oils

For cannabidiol to perform best in your body, it needs to be suspended in a fatty carrier oil. And yep, you guessed it, not all of them are created equally. Be wary of conflict palm oil in a few different forms — whether it be oil, glycerin, or sometimes even MCT oil.

Third-Party Testing

Though US brands likely receive quality assurances from their manufacturer, some elect to use independent testing to calm consumer worries, and these are the companies to look for while the industry evolves. According to Kristy Hebert, co-founder and co-owner of Cypress Hemp, “Because this is a new industry without much regulation, many companies are taking advantage of that fact to make a quick buck and selling products that aren't what they claim they are. So in order to instill trust in our products, we go over and above to show consumers that even though this is an unregulated industry with a lot of uncertainty in regards to quality, we do triple testing throughout the process to help consumers feel more confident about what they are actually putting in their bodies.”

Though there are few brands currently using third-party testing, being able to definitively prove that your CBD oil does not contain soil contaminants or harmful bacteria is certainly a perk. Different labs test for different things, but keep an eye out for E.coli, salmonella, heavy metals (like lead and arsenic), pesticides, and residual solvents (from manufacturing).

What dosage is best for me?

CBD is available in a range of formulas and potencies, which can be confusing to sort out for your specific needs. Are you looking for relief from chronic pain? Help managing your anxiety or PTSD? Miraculously, CBD has the potential to treat a variety of conditions, but more research is needed to formulate better dosing guidelines. Many of the studies so far involve the treatment of epilepsy in children, which requires a high dose and should not be used as a guide for adults.

Although CBD has no known adverse effects, you may actually be doing yourself a disservice by starting with too high a dosage. CBD has been observed to have a U-shaped response curve, meaning higher doses can actually be less effective than low doses. To further complicate things, factors like diet, exercise, stress, and genetics play a role in how a patient responds to different dosages. Without production standards, cannabidiol dosing remains tricky and must be determined individually — usually through trial and error.

The general advice remains “start low and go slow.” To help, you can use a calculator like this one to account for your body weight and treatment needs, then observe how your body responds and tweak your intake from there.

TL;DR

Cannabidiol has the potential to revolutionize how we treat specific conditions, which is certainly something to celebrate. But because of its current unregulated status, it’s important to make conscious and informed decisions about your CBD use. Be wary of brands hopping on the bandwagon to take your money and remember to look for organic practices, sustainable oils, and third-party testing.