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In these trying modern times, when our lives have paradoxically become both longer and more stressful, we increasingly search for new and effective ways of helping us cope with the strain of living. Holistic health practices have flourished in trying to aid consumers, and there is an abundance of different so-called ‘miracle’ compounds and cure-alls floating around.
One of these might have caught your eye - little bottles of oil, capsules, vape cartridges, or even drinks infused with a substance going by the striking three-letter-moniker of CBD. But how exactly can this compound assist you with your wellbeing? We’re glad to tell you that there’s evidence behind all the CBD hype, and we’ll expound on that right here for you.
What is CBD?
CBD stands for cannabidiol, and is one of many cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. These plants have been known to us for millenia, and have been cultivated and processed for medicinal, recreational, and even practical purposes, but it’s only in more recent years that new evidence has brought to light evidence for benefits that have now brought them into the mainstream.
In the cultures where they have been historically used, cannabis plants are renowned for their intoxicating and soothing effects, as well as other, more medicinal, attributes. Research efforts in the last half-century have enlightened us on the intricacies of cannabis and its interaction with our physiology and behaviour. We know now that the notable effects that cannabis plants have when consumed are all thanks to the 113 identified cannabinoids which are found in cannabis plants.
Given that CBD is proportionally one of the most abundant cannabinoids, it is not surprising that a great deal of current research has focussed on its effects, over the 112 other compounds found in much lower levels. To date, CBD has been highlighted for having therapeutic benefits for those suffering from anxiety, skin conditions, musculoskeletal and movement disorders, chronic pain and cancer, as well as its potential to treat many other disorders. As CBD is being increasingly well characterised, attention is increasingly also shifting to other cannabinoids and their effects.
CBD for Health
Among its health benefits, CBD has been widely and successfully used for treating symptoms of anxiety and mood disorders. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter crucial to maintaining mood and mental health, is known to be low in people with depression or anxiety. CBD alters serotonin signals, and many studies and anecdotal accounts show that it has great efficacy in aiding people with anxiety.
One of the other major reasons people use CBD is for relieving chronic pain, as it has been proven to be effective in alleviating various different types of pain, ranging from neuropathic pain to fibromyalgia. Its pain relieving ability also has resulted in its use in cancer patient populations, where it also helps with nausea and improves appetite for those undergoing chemotherapy. It also acts as a muscle relaxant, and so has been used as a method of managing conditions with frequent muscle spasms, convulsions or seizures. In the USA, a form of therapy for two rare types of epilepsy is based around CBD use.
CBD is also gaining traction as a skincare agent and as a method of managing dermatological conditions, ranging from acne to psoriasis, and even rare skin disorders like epidermolysis bullosa. CBD’s ability to modulate the immune system and reduce inflammation, in tandem with its pain-relieving properties, makes it excellent for treating both mild and serious conditions and for promoting skin healing.
It’s also particularly attractive as a holistic health method thanks to its non-neurotropic nature. In contrast to the more well-known cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn’t induce the intoxicated altered state of euphoria, pleasure and heightened sensory perception characteristic of cannabis. While it is psychoactive, meaning that a given dose will affect your brain and mental faculties, it doesn’t get you high when it’s taken. In addition, CBD also has non-addictive properties, and studies also suggest consumers are unlikely to build up a tolerance to it compared to other substances, which are both appealing qualities for consumers looking to manage chronic, long-term conditions.
The Science of CBD
Understanding what mechanisms CBD uses to affect the body and our systems is crucial to taking full advantage of CBD’s health benefits. To begin with, we first need to understand the biological cell-signalling system through which cannabinoids interact with our systems.
Cannabinoids, though naturally produced by cannabis plants, are highly structurally similar to certain neurotransmitters produced by our bodies. These neurotransmitters, named endocannabinoids, travel throughout our bodies and act on cannabinoid receptors distributed on cells throughout the vertebrate brain and nervous system, the immune system, and other organs and tissues. By binding to these receptors, endocannabinoids can amplify or suppress signals from the brain and trigger biological pathways.
We call this the endocannabinoid system (ECS), and research suggests that it plays a large part in regulating an array of different bodily functions, ranging from metabolism and digestion, mood and sleep, pain sensation and immunity, heart function, muscle function, temperature and possibly more. It is also, naturally, the system through which we feel the pharmacological effects of cannabis and cannabinoids.
CBD’s interaction with this system is unique among cannabinoids, and particularly against its most well-known relative, THC. The exact mechanisms and interactions have yet to be fully understood, but current studies indicate that CBD doesn’t actually directly interact with the main cannabinoid receptors. It has low affinity for these receptors and inhibits cannabinoid receptor functions by antagonizing compounds that would activate them. One type of cannabinoid receptor prominent in the brain and central nervous system is thought to cause cannabis’ signature psychotropic effects when activated, so CBD’s lack of affinity for cannabinoid receptors is the basis behind its non-neurotropic qualities.
Instead, it modulates hepatic cytochrome p450 enzymes, which play a major role in drug metabolism. CBD thus increases the available amount of the body’s own endocannabinoids or naturally-produced pain mediators, such as serotonin, simply by occupying these enzymes. Besides this, CBD also activates serotonin (5-HT)1A receptors and TRPV1 vanilloid receptors, which affects neurotransmission and results in antidepressant effects.
It also affects other compounds, most notably THC. CBD has been found to mitigate the adverse side-effects of THC when taken together, thus boosting the therapeutic efficacy of both compounds. This particular pharmacological combination is part of a broader theory on cannabinoid usage known as the “Entourage Effect”. Research points towards cannabinoids being more productive and active when taken in combination with each other, and when accompanied by other cannabis compounds like terpenes.
Getting the most out of your CBD
Looking at the array of potential health benefits CBD has to offer, it’s clear as to why consumers are making this humble compound a fixture in their daily lives. But how do you most effectively and mindfully use CBD? After getting to know some of the science behind CBD’s pharmacological effects, we now have to take a step sideways and look at commercially available CBD, and know what to look out for your own wellbeing.
Firstly, CBD products come in one of three general classifications when it comes to their ingredients and contents. There are different benefits and drawbacks to each option.
Full-spectrum products contain a full range of cannabinoids, terpenes and other compounds found naturally in cannabis plants. These products are thought to give the best and most full experience thanks to the Entourage Effect. Full-spectrum products are also the least processed during manufacturing, adding to their appeal. However, these products usually contain small amounts of THC, which means that consuming them may induce the intoxicated state characteristic of cannabis use. The UK and other countries also have regulations on the amount of THC allowed in a given product - in the UK, 0.2% THC and less than 1 mg are the current threshold.
Broad-spectrum products are mostly similar to full-spectrum products in their range of compounds, but with the exclusion of THC from their ingredients. This exclusion means that they pass muster on THC regulations and are legal in most countries, and still maximise the benefits of the Entourage Effect. These products are generally manufactured with industrial hemp as a base, since it has a lower THC content than marijuana.
CBD isolate products contain pure CBD, extracted with no additional compounds in the mix, Pure CBD thus provides all the benefits one can get from CBD alone, without potentially incurring any of the other effects associated with other cannabinoids or compounds. CBD isolates also don’t have the signature aroma associated with cannabis plants, which adds to their discreetness and makes them particularly enticing for those who don’t want to draw attention to themselves. Much like broad-spectrum products, CBD isolates are usually extracted from industrial hemp, as it has a high CBD content.
Different classes of CBD products offer different therapeutic benefits, but this isn’t the only factor in a consumer’s choice. For all of CBD’s beneficial effects to kick in, it needs to be present in the body’s systems first.
What is Bioavailability?
No matter how seemingly powerful or beneficial a product is labelled as, if the CBD in it can’t access the cells and receptors it needs to work then it’s akin to a placebo. One of the ways by which we can gauge a product’s actual effectiveness is to look at its bioavailability.
Bioavailability is defined as the amount of an administered substance that actually reaches the body’s systemic circulation when taken, as well as the rate at which it enters. Essentially, we compare the amount of CBD in a given dose to the CBD levels in your blood and plasma after taking it, to see how much is lost along the way.
The effectiveness of a given compound doesn’t necessarily depend on bioavailability alone - take CBD topicals for example, which don’t enter the bloodstream directly by design and can be effective by acting on local receptors in the skin. However, bioavailability is generally a good measure of the effectiveness of substances which need to be distributed on a wider and more systemic scale to properly work. It’s also a good way to ascertain just how much value you’re getting out of a given CBD product for your money.
Maximising Bioavailability: Delivery Methods
While you can’t increase the bioavailability of CBD itself, per se, there is a large difference in bioavailabilities with different methods of administration. The immediacy and effectiveness of any CBD product can range so widely mainly due to the differences in delivery methods, and their mechanisms of entry.
Intravenous administration is said to have a 100% bioavailability, against which we can compare all other methods. Most quoted figures for bioavailability also come from expert researchers, and scientific data gathered from precise dosage and methods - thus, an individual’s own experience may vary considerably. Picking the right method for your needs and knowing your own appropriate dosage is the best way to optimize your intake so you get your ideal dose of CBD. Here we’ll go over and compare the main commercially available delivery methods in terms of their bioavailability and overall efficacy.
Topical application, as we’ve mentioned, has a generally low bioavailability. To elaborate, this term refers to products that are applied to an external membrane on the body, usually referring to the skin but also encompassing drops for the eyes or ears. Since these products cannot access circulation directly, they instead act by interacting with local receptors in the skin or the membrane to which they are applied. For topicals that are applied to the skin, they must face the challenge of passing through the skin to reach the inner layers of dermis, as skin is a difficult barrier and absorbs CBD at a slow rate.
Certain methods such as transdermal patches, or products that target mucous membranes, can bypass the skin more easily and give more full effects, but as topical CBD does not reach systemic circulation it doesn’t work to treat more systemic or internal afflictions, which need CBD to act on receptors in the central nervous system or other tissues. It is still effective for targeted pain relief in specific areas of the body.
Taking CBD orally, whether through food or drink or capsules, is a popular method largely thanks to its ease of use and familiarity. It’s much easier to get used to popping a few gummies in your daily routine as opposed to liberally applying creams or vaping, and it’s delicious to boot. Oral ingestion is, however, one of the least effective CBD delivery methods in terms of efficacy, as CBD’s oral bioavailability only comes to around a rough average of 10 to 20%, and has been as low as 6% in some cases.
This low bioavailability is thanks to the effectiveness of our digestive systems at breaking down and filtering out foreign compounds. When CBD is consumed orally, it has to pass through the digestive system before it can access the bloodstream, which is a slow process in which a great deal of CBD is lost. A large part of this is thanks to the liver, as CBD undergoes extensive first-pass metabolism and is broken down to be excreted via the kidneys. This also means that oral CBD takes the longest to take effect, and any relief that it provides to a consumer may not be as effective. On the other hand, this method also provides longer-lasting effects.
Sublingual administration is a more effective method, involving holding drops of CBD oil beneath the tongue for 60 to 90 seconds at a time. This allows for it to be absorbed by the sublingual gland, and from there it can quickly and directly enter the bloodstream and begin taking effect around the body. It’s one of the faster methods, and generally produces effects within 20 minutes or so, whether using lozenges or sprays or tinctures. CBD oil administered with this method has a bioavailability of 13 to 19%, though some research suggests the number to be as high as 35%.
It should be noted that this bioavailability and effectiveness is highly dependent on correct technique - holding the CBD beneath the tongue for the appropriate amount of time without swallowing too soon. Otherwise, the bioavailability would be the same as taking CBD orally. This method, while effective, also may not be ideal for users who don’t prefer the flavour of cannabis.
Last on the list is the intranasal method of taking CBD - wherein CBD is vaporised and inhaled, such as through a vape pen or vaporizer. By doing so, CBD makes contact with the lining of the lungs and can be absorbed near-immediately, passing through the membranes and rapidly entering the bloodstream to travel and act all throughout the body.
This process thus lends intranasal methods the highest bioavailability out of the methods, at a comfortable 34 to 46%, even rising to rates as high as 56% in some reported studies. Continuous inhalation provides consumers with a steady dosage of rapidly-absorbed CBD, allowing for quick-acting effects. On the other hand, it leaves the system as rapidly as it comes, and its effects only last for a short duration of time after a single session of vaping, so can only provide a short boost. Nevertheless, for sheer bioavailability and efficacy, CBD vapes beat out the rest of the market fairly easily.
Why choose vaping?
Just a decade or two ago, and vaping was nothing more than a niche hip alternative to smoking. That concept is nigh unimaginable now: in 2020, vaping has reached a level of incredible popularity and become firmly entrenched in the market and in the public consciousness.
But many sceptics still abound, and not for unfounded reasons - vaping is still a young industry, and the concept of vaping cannabis products and CBD is even fresher. For those unfamiliar with the mechanics and intricacies of vaping, we’ll give a quick rundown.
When you vape, you use a device called a vaporizer, also known as a vape pen or an e-cigarette. These devices are constructed out of three main parts: an atomizer to vaporize the liquid, a power source such as a battery, and a container like a cartridge to hold the vape liquid. Vape liquid is heated up by the atomizer into signature vapour, which is simply and easily inhaled by the user.
The vape liquid in a given cartridge needs to be at a certain viscosity for a vaporizer to work and produce vapour well. Depending on the main ingredient being used, and the method of making the vape liquid, manufacturers may resort to adding different compounds and additives as thinning agents. When considering CBD vaping, this influences what ingredients go in alongside your CBD and how your CBD is extracted and manufactured.
Generally speaking, most CBD vape cartridges contain CBD vape oil, also called CBD vape distillate or juice. This is pure isolated CBD, which makes it highly potent, but also necessitates adding thinning agents and the like to get the right viscosity. One 1 to 1.5 ml-sized serving, packing a recommended 10 mg of CBD, is enough for effects to take hold when inhaled.
Factoring in speed, potency, efficacy, and ease of use, it’s clear as to why vapes are a fast-growing CBD trend, especially for those who want to get a dose into their system quickly and smoothly amid a packed schedule. From vaping just before a big presentation to calm the nerves, or to get some much-needed pain relief to tide you over till the end of the day, or simply to get some of CBD’s long-term benefits for skin health and overall mood, it’s a useful and versatile holistic health method that’s easy to incorporate into your routine.
Vaping CBD mindfully
Vaping does have its health risks and drawbacks - vape usage is associated with gum inflammation and increased risk of cavities, as well as increased risk for strokes, heart attacks and heart disease. Some unwanted side-effects are known to happen rarely with CBD use in general, such as fatigue, diarrhoea, and weight and appetite changes. As the combination of these two methods, CBD vaping carries its own potential adverse effects, including nausea, dizziness or chest pain, all of which are red flags that should prompt a consumer to stop vaping at once.
On the other hand, for those who already smoke or use e-cigarettes regularly, CBD vapes are a potentially rewarding alternative to opt for for your long-term wellbeing. Studies suggest that CBD has great benefits in helping people with nicotine addictions, without having that risk of addiction itself.
As a final note, please keep in mind that generic CBD oil should not actually be vaped. CBD oil in its usual commercially available form usually contains coconut oil or other oils, which should not be inhaled or smoked. Using actual oils like these puts the consumer at risk for respiratory issues and in more severe cases, lung damage. CBD oil advertised for vaping specifically will not contain these oils and be safe to use, but when vaping CBD you need to be mindful of illegal or unregulated products that might have these oils among their ingredients.
CBD vapes for better living
For those looking for some way of helping with their daily lives, Amphora has a range of different CBD vape cartridges to offer for the health-conscious consumer, for any situation, made with innovative recipes and organically grown hemp plants. All our products are certified THC-free, so they’ll let you keep your mind sharp and clear, and our ingredients are thoroughly verified and undergo third-party testing to keep them to an exacting medical standard.
Our four signature blends are refined and hand-picked to cater to your needs in your daily life. Whether you need a little pick-me-up in the morning before starting the day, something to clear your mind and find some inner peace, a post-workout chaser when your muscles are aching, or to lull you into a good night’s rest, you’re sure to find a vape that suits your needs just right.
Written by | Infused Amphora Team
The Infused Amphora Team is dedicated to creating resources to educate and engage consumers on the growing evidence of CBD benefits and the extensive health and wellness properties of CBD oil.
Contributors | Angus Taylor + Dr Gaylord Wardell
IPI is a pharmaceutical ingredient company that cultivates cannabis strains curated to extract specific cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids for the formulation of effects-based health and wellness products. Angus is an experienced public speaker, engaging stakeholders, governments and media. Angus was the co-founder of NewLeaf Cannabis, Canada’s most successful retail brand to date, and has been established as a well-known and recognized expert in the field.
Dr Wardell is a practising physician with over 40 years of clinical and educational experience in pain management, medical practices and education. Dr Wardell is past President of the Pain Society of Alberta, and current President of the Alberta Medical Association, section of Pain. He is a popular public speaker, an active blogger on medical and pain-related issues, and proponent for scientific validation for patients experiencing pain.
Infused Amphora “Learn” is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.