As I’ve written more about the research on Medical Cannabis, Kratom, and other lesser-known tools for mental health care, I’ve had quite a few people asking me what I think about CBD Oil.
My opinion on CBD Oil has evolved over the past few years, based on my own personal experience, conversations I’ve had with various professionals, and research I’ve read through. Like anything, my opinion may change as I learn more (and I always encourage people to send me more info if I haven’t seen it), but this is where I’m currently at on CBD Oil based on my current knowledge..
What is CBD?
This is not going to be a complete primer on CBD (and I am far from an expert on this topic), but just so you have a general idea what it is; CBD (cannabidiol) is one of over 60 active phytocannabinoids in the cannabis plant (and often can make up ~20-40% of the cannabis plant)1. One of the other cannabinoids (and a better-known one) is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the psychoactive component of Cannabis, whereas CBD is not psychoactive, which is part of its attractiveness to the general population, who otherwise have reservations about full Cannabis.
All of the Cannabis plant’s cannabinoids, operate on a system that we have inside of us called the endocannabinoid system.2 Cannabis as an entire plant has been used for thousands of years for medical effects including sedative/hypnotic, antidepressant, analgesic, anticonvulsant, antiemetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and appetite-stimulating effects. Cannabis does not come without its risks (which Dr. Jordan Tishler and I discussed on the Medical Cannabis episode of the Peak Mental Performance Podcast), but research has shown that these cannabinoids can play a large role in various health conditions with very low risk when used appropriately.
Back to the CBD cannabinoid specifically – CBD’s effects on receptors in the endocannabinoid system have shown to benefit a number of health conditions, including:
- Chronic pain
- Antibiotic-resistant infections
- …and other neurological disorders.
In addition to these benefits, CBD has grown extremely popular because it is (1) non-psychoactive (doesn’t get you “high”), and (2) is legal to purchase in the US as long as it is derived from a hemp plant containing under .3% THC4. Essentially this means you can purchase CBD Oil that provides you the CBD phytocannabinoid legally without psychoactive effects, even in states where full cannabis is not legal.
*Revision Note for Above (9/2/2017): While still available online, CBD Oil extracts are still considered Schedule I and therefore illegal (via DEA). Hemp Oil extracts purportedly containing CBD are still sold by many online retailers, but these commonly do not contain actual CBD cannabinoids. This is another reason trying to purchase CBD online poses issues, is the confusing and inconsistent statements by retailers.
So, this seems awesome, right? A number of articles (many that contain some good information), are titled things like “Get the benefits of marijuana without the high”, or something along those lines. An entire market has been created for those that aren’t interested in utilizing Cannabis (or can’t due to legality), but still want the health benefits of cannabis shown in research.
Based on this, it would seem like a no-brainer to purchase CBD Oil online and get all these health benefits without any of the “risks”, right? Here’s the problem…
Many resources online (coincidentally provided by retailers selling CBD oil), either don’t mention actual dosing recommendations, or mention them in very small amounts (.25-20mg of CBD per dose).5,6 Generally, if you search “how much CBD to take”, “CBD Oil dosing”, or any similar searches on Google, you’ll find an array of differing recommendations (from that low dosage, to upwards of 300mg).
When I had purchased some CBD Oil to try a few years back, this was one of the biggest concerns I had, and when I didn’t see much of an effect over time (particularly for the price, which I’ll talk about shortly), I went away from using it. Then, when I was researching some background on Medical Cannabis Expert Dr. Jordan Tishler for my Podcast interview with him, I came across his thoughts in this video:
This led me to start digging deeper in the research on what dosages where found to be effective for various conditions. Along with individual studies, there was a meta-analysis on CBD dosing that was very helpful for getting an idea of what doses have been used for different medical benefits.1
A handful of studies utilized lower doses (.25-20mg of CBD) and showed medical benefit, BUT what was missed when these studies were cited for CBD Oil retailer dosage recommendations, is that this was often in conjuction with THC and other cannabinoids. Because there is an entourage effect with various cannabinoids7, and they have been shown to work synergistically in various ways, using the dosages from these situations and translating them to CBD-only dosages doesn’t work. Now there have been a few studies utilizing CBD-only dosages in the lower range, but the majority that I’ve seen have been utilizing CBD-only dosages in the 200-700mg range in order to get beneficial effects vs placebo.1
So why is this important? Because many retailers sell these CBD-only extracts in bottles of amounts that barely scratch the therapeutic ranges noted in much of research. Here are examples of a few prices of various retailers I found just by searching on Google:
- 300mg of CBD Oil for $70
- 250mg for $50
- 300mg for $31 (cheapest I could find)
…Even if you’re using say a 20mg dosage (on the lower end from the research I’ve seen), that’s averaging out to be around $3-4 per dose for the low end, and if you’re looking at the majority of effective CBD-only high end dosing (200-700mg), that $50+ a dose.
Frankly, you’re paying a high amount even if the low dose works for you, and if it doesn’t, there’s no way the high dosage cost is sustainable (and if it is for you, props to you). Without going too deep down a rabbit hole, an “eighth” of cannabis typically costs $30-40, contains 3.5 grams of cannabis, which in say a 20% CBD ratio, would equate to 700mg of CBD (if I’m calculating this correctly) and that doesn’t include the THC and other cannabinoid content. It seems to me, that many of these retailers are taking advantage of the fact that CBD is “trendy” right now, and are cherry picking research in order to sell people on the idea of CBD being a wonder drug that isn’t “scary” like cannabis (an idea based on a lot of mis-information, which Dr. Tishler and I discussed).
Considering THC and other cannabinoids offer their own health benefits, if you’re in a state with medical cannabis, it could potentially be much more advantageous to work with a clinician to utilize a medical form of cannabis (and manage the psychoactivity as a side effect if that is undesired). Or, if this isn’t an option you’d like to utilize (or can’t due to medical, personal ethical, or legal reasons), look at other options aside from cannabis.
Spending enormous amounts of money on CBD Oil (which has a much smaller window that you have to nail in order to get therapeutic effects), and chasing the right dose could burn through your wallet incredibly quickly. CBD (and many of the cannabinoids) have incredible health properties, but you have to be strategic in how they are implemented.
This is where I’m currently at with my opinion on CBD Oil, based on what resources I’ve looked at and my own experience. Like I said, if there’s information stating otherwise, I’d be happy to look at it and develop my opinion further. And if you’re currently using CBD Oil and feel it’s helping you, no part of me is going to yell at you to stop. In a day and age where everyone is tight on money, however, I encourage you to look at the benefit-to-cost ratio as you evaluate where to spend your money in an effort to improve your health.
(This article was originally posted on PeakMentalPerformance.Org)
- Cannabidiol in Humans—The Quest for Therapeutic Targets. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3763649/
- The Endocannabinoid System as an Emerging Target of Pharmacotherapy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2241751/
- History of Cannabis as Medicine: A Review. http://www.scielo.br/pdf/rbp/v28n2/29785.pdf
- 5 Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana. http://www.leafscience.com/2014/09/16/5-differences-hemp-marijuana/
- CBD Oil Dosage: How Much to Take. https://cbdoilreview.org/cbd-cannabidiol/cbd-dosage/
- Irie CBD – https://iriecbd.com/pages/faqs
- Cannabis’s Entourage Effect: Why Whole Plant Medicine Matters. https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/cannabis-entourage-effect-why-thc-and-cbd-only-medicines-arent-g