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If you’re at all familiar with the holistic health scene, you may have encountered anecdotes or articles talking about CBD - whether discussing its association with cannabis, talking about new CBD oils and tinctures, capsules and vapes, or investigating the myriad of health benefits that it has. Perhaps a stray review or the word of a friend caught your eye, and you’re curious to know more, but confused at every turn by the sheer amount of information and different products on display. Worry not, because we’re here to help you get to grips with the nuances of CBD and two of the more popular methods of consuming it.
Getting to know cannabidiol
Cannabidiol, known more widely by its abbreviation of CBD, is a cannabinoid - a term used to describe natural compounds produced by plants of the genus Cannabis, such as hemp and marijuana. Where they are found, these plants have been the main component in many traditional remedies and recreational activities in cultures all across the world. However, only in more recent years has public opinion and research pivoted to give them a greater spotlight, as we uncover more about their potential health benefits.
Cannabis plants boast soothing effects on the mind and body and unique psychotropic qualities and have been cultivated and processed by people in the past to take advantage of these effects. Within the plants themselves, this array of effects can be credited to cannabinoids, of which there are around 113 identified compounds.
CBD stands out in the pack as one of the most prominent cannabinoids, behind only tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in research and fame. Up to 40% of cannabis plant extract on average consists of CBD. This humble compound is currently the subject of much buzz, mainly centred around its effects on mood and sleep, as well as its pain-relieving, inflammation-reducing, and neuroprotective properties.
Consumers take CBD for an array of health benefits and for aid in dealing with many ailments. Chief among the conditions that CBD can combat is anxiety, as well as other mood disorders, thanks to its ability to alter serotonin signals. Research has yet to determine if CBD could meaningfully combat depression or other psychiatric disorders, but its potential in balancing serotonin levels and ameliorating anxiety is nothing but promising.
Another common condition that CBD can treat well is chronic pain - it’s effective at relieving various types of pain, from neuropathic pain or fibromyalgia to simple muscle aches, and even musculoskeletal diseases. Its muscle relaxant properties have also given it attention as a therapeutic method for people with epilepsy and other conditions which can cause seizures. People with dermatological conditions such as acne or psoriasis are another large part of CBD’s user demographic, as its ability to alleviate pain and inflammation and aid in healing are a great boon to anyone with a chronic skin affliction.
Many cancer patients have also found CBD to be helpful as a pain and nausea reliever, especially for patients undergoing chemotherapy. Studies also indicate that CBD has potential as a more direct therapeutic method against cancers, with the ability to aid in killing malignant cancerous cells and aiding in tumour reduction, though more research is required before we can fully assess CBD’s capacity as an anti-cancer agent.
A central part of CBD’s attractiveness to the average consumer is its non-neurotropic nature. This means that, unlike its relatives, it doesn’t induce a “high” when ingested - what we call the altered state of euphoria and heightened sensory perceptions that are associated with ingesting products containing cannabis. It is psychoactive, so a given dose will affect the brain and mental faculties, but only mildly. In stark contrast to the more prominent cannabinoid THC, which is chiefly responsible for that characteristic intoxication and psychoactive effects in cannabis, CBD when isolated will only lift your mood - leaving a consumer’s mental state sober.
And as a cherry on top, it’s also thought to be non-addictive and isn’t associated with dependency, making it a great option for those who intend to use it for long-term, chronic conditions.
How does CBD work?
CBD affects the brain, body and biological systems through a number of different mechanisms. We still have yet to fully map out all the interactions that CBD has across the body, which serves to demonstrate the breadth of the complex relationship that CBD has with us and our incomplete understanding of how this cannabinoid relieves certain conditions.
What we do know is this: when it enters the body, CBD interacts with a wide range of different proteins, particularly in the central nervous system. Many of these interactions we know take place within the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids and accompanying transport proteins and enzymes. This system is thought to regulate a wide range of physiological processes, from metabolism and digestion to immunity, sleep and mood, and more.
More specifically, these interactions revolve around the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are found all over the body, but primarily in the brain and nervous system for the former, and on immune cells for the latter. CB1 is thought to influence memory, appetite, sleep, temperature and motor function; while CB2 helps to modulate inflammation and control our immune response to pathogens. Together, they’re particularly notable for being part of the major pathways by which we sense pain and harmful stimuli.
Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids function as messengers for these receptors and can amplify or suppress brain signals or trigger biological pathways to manipulate physiological processes. THC, which binds directly to these receptors, creates an intoxicating effect and what is termed as a “high”. In stark contrast, CBD has the inverse effect. CBD has a very low affinity for CB1 and CB2, and instead acts to modulate hepatic cytochrome p450 enzymes. This increases the availability of our natural pain mediators, such as serotonin and anandamide, or externally-supplied pain mediators like THC. This lack of affinity for CB1 receptors, in particular, is also why CBD does not have the same mind-altering effect as THC.
CBD is known to further interact with other receptor proteins outside of the ECS, such as activating serotonin receptor 5-HT1A and vanilloid receptor TRPV1. These biological pathways might be key to CBD’s anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, though more research is still needed to fully uncover the intricacies of CBD’s effects on our systems.
What’s on the market
Before we dive into comparing our titular edibles and vapes, it’s good to look at the bigger picture and define the broad terminologies and tips so often thrown about by CBD manufacturers and enthusiasts.
Full-spectrum refers to products that contain a full range of cannabinoids and other cannabis plant compounds, including THC. These products are thought to be the most potent and effective because of what we call the “Entourage Effect” - the running theory that cannabinoids and other cannabis plant compounds like terpenes work with greater efficacy when used in combination with each other. However, the inclusion of low levels of THC does also mean that these products can induce mild intoxicating effects, so consumers might see some effects of this depending on their dosage.
Additionally, because of THC’s psychoactive properties, it’s a controlled substance in most countries and there are restrictions on the amount of THC a given product is legally supposed to contain. Before you purchase any CBD products, you should research legislation in your area regarding cannabis-derived substances and any regulations on THC content, and check THC content on what the items you intend to buy so you don’t break the law.
Broad-spectrum refers to products that contain a similarly full range, but with the exclusion of THC. A lack of THC means that these products generally comply with the law and can be bought legally at dispensaries, online retailers and other vendors, while still getting most of the benefit out of the Entourage Effect.
CBD isolate, as is self-evident in the name, refers to products which contain CBD as the main ingredient and no other cannabinoids. These products are ideal for those who simply want the benefits CBD has to offer, without any other distractions. On another note, because isolates don’t contain terpenes and cannabis plant compounds, they don’t carry that characteristic cannabis smell, which can be appealing for some who wish to discreetly take CBD.
As a note to newcomers to CBD: always consult with a doctor before using CBD products of any sort, particularly if you’re looking to use it to manage a serious health condition. Talk with your doctor about the correct dosage for you and monitor your own intake and health, as optimal CBD dosage a person needs will vary depending on the individual and can change over time. Also, take heed that CBD can interfere with other prescription medications or dietary supplements.
Sourcing your products from trustworthy, high-quality suppliers is also crucial, and you should always check that the product has received third-party lab testing. Products of brands without this label may not be legitimate, contain different concentrations of CBD and cannabinoids than listed, or mixed with substances that may cause adverse reactions.
Oral consumption: CBD Edibles
When one hears the word “edible”, they might associate it with cannabis food products, like the ever-popular brownies. But the label is much broader in scope than that first impression.
Edibles are a catch-all term for any cannabis and cannabinoid-containing products that are intended for use by eating them. This encompasses everything from straightforward foods and drinks that incorporate cannabinoids in their recipes, to non-prescription capsules, to more unconventional gummies and chocolate and other culinary innovations. These products are an attractive, easy, and relatively discreet way of taking cannabinoids, whether recreationally or for medical and health benefits.
Most edibles that you may encounter usually contain THC as a dominant ingredient, which confers the typical relaxing and euphoric effects that are typically associated with cannabis, among a wide range of other effects. CBD edibles, by contrast, refer to edibles that contain negligible amounts of THC and focus on CBD as the main component. As a fat-soluble compound, CBD can be easily added into recipes and used to whip up a variety of delicious treats. However, it’s also worth taking into account that its fat solubility makes it pretty unfriendly when added to drinks since it won’t dissolve.
With the ever-changing variety of products available for consumption, it comes as no surprise that the amount of CBD that these edibles actually contain can vary widely, whether full-spectrum or isolate. It’s generally advisable to start off with low-dose options and increase intake gradually according to needs and symptoms.
Inhalation: CBD Vapes
Breathing in plumes of cloud-like vapour, scenes of people vaping have become a normal part of the public consciousness after vapes burst onto the scene as a nouveau and hip alternative to smoking. Their rise in popularity and usage can be attributed in part to their sleek elegance and still-exciting novelty, but in larger part to their ease of use, functionality, discreet appearance, and more pleasant aroma as compared to cigarette smoke.
As cannabis is typically used by way of smoking, cannabis vaping thus comes as an easy next step for usage, and CBD vaping a logical innovation. The appeal of vaping CBD comes chiefly from potency, portability and speed, particularly when compared to other delivery methods.
E-cigarettes are constructed out of three key components - an atomizer, a power source (e.g. a battery), and a container for the e-liquid or vape liquid, usually in the form of a cartridge. For CBD vapes, these vape cartridges come pre-filled with a gram or half-gram of cannabis or cannabinoid oil.
This vape liquid is heated up by the atomizer into the characteristic vapour and inhaled by the user. For a cartridge to work properly and produce vapour, its contents need to possess an appropriate viscosity to vaporize. Depending on the main ingredient being used, manufacturers need to resort to various methods to produce oil for their cartridges.
CO2 oil is so named because of the method of manufacture - these products are made using carbon dioxide supercritical fluid extraction technology, which means they don’t require additives or other thinning or thickening agents to meet the necessary viscosity levels for vaping. This gives them compatibility with vape cartridges, and they can even retain small amounts of terpenes if the manufacturing process is done well, which act as natural thinning agents and add characteristic flavours.
CBD vape oil, also known as CBD vape distillate or CBD juice, is made from pure isolated CBD. This lends high potency and an excellent kick upon inhalation. It’s worth clarifying that despite the name, these products don’t actually contain oil, and are made for safe and proper vaping purposes. As vape oil can be produced from an array of different starting materials, they’re a popular choice with manufacturers, but require the addition of thinning agents or additional components in order to get the viscosity to the right level for vaping.
Additivesare added to some cartridges as supplemental thinning agents, to tweak viscosity and oil consistency to the right level for vaporizer use. However, growing health concerns over the exact nature of these compounds have placed a lot of scrutiny on these additives, so more and more manufacturers are turning to other options.
Terpene infusions are a safer and increasingly popular alternative to chemical additives. Terpenes are naturally occurring cannabis plant compounds that act as thinning agents when included in vape cartridges, and also have the added benefit of providing enticing flavours and aromas. They’re also thought to be a part of the Entourage Effect, and their inclusion can potentially augment the efficacy of products which contain them.
Please note that generic CBD oil should not actually be vaped. Most commercially available CBD oils contain coconut or olive oil, which are lipids and should not be inhaled or smoked as they can potentially harm the consumer. CBD oil that is advertised for vaping specifically doesn’t contain these oils and is safe for inhalation, but you should always be mindful to check ingredients beforehand to ensure your own safety.
So to eat, or to vape?
CBD edibles and CBD vapes are fundamentally very different methods of consuming the same compound, so at the end of the day the choice comes down to individual preference. That doesn’t mean they aren’t comparable, though! Here we’ll illuminate the key differences to better give you an idea of which method is for you.
The time it takes to see effectsdiffers significantly between these two methods. Edibles, by nature, have to be eaten, so effects only kick in after CBD has passed through the digestive system and been absorbed. Vapes, on the other hand, are much faster-acting, since the inhaled CBD can be absorbed through the lining of the lungs and thus enter the bloodstream in a much shorter timespan.
On the other hand, ingesting CBD provides much longer-lasting effects than vaping. CBD vapes are also consumed in much smaller, quicker-acting doses than most other methods - it enters quickly, but leaves the system quickly as well.
Dosageis also a large factor separating edibles and vapes in quality. Orally administered CBD has been proven in clinical studies to have efficacy at very high dosages; one study states dosages of 300 to 600 mg can be used to treat anxiety disorders, and another later study quotes a dosage of 300 mg to be effective in reducing anxiety with public speaking, but dosages of 100 mg as having no effect.
These doses are far out of the ballpark of most consumer products, which typically range from 5 mg to 25 mg for gummies and candies, and drinks or larger food products generally ranging anywhere between 50 mg to 120 mg of CBD content. This means a person may have to consume a significant number of edibles to see noticeable results beyond just the placebo effect, which, when considering the price ranges of most CBD edibles, is pretty prohibitive for the average consumer.
CBD vape oils often come in 30 ml bottles, at around 1 ml to 1.5 ml per serving. The concentrations of these oils can be anywhere in the 200 mg to 1500 mg range, so serving sizes will end up being around 6.6 mg to 50 mg. Though the dosage may seem roughly comparable, the actual efficacy is much higher when it comes to vapes, and one serving with the general recommendation of 10 mg is usually enough for effects to kick in.
This is all thanks to how CBD is processed and absorbed into the body in each method. Bioavailabilityis the proportion of a substance that is actually absorbed into the bloodstream when being consumed, and also differs between methods.
CBD edibles, unlike their THC counterparts, are notorious for their low bioavailability - no exact numbers have been agreed on by researchers, but studies point to an oral bioavailability of about 4 to 20% for CBD. This is in large part thanks to the “first-pass effect” of the liver, where the liver may break down certain compounds so much they don’t have a tangible effect on the body. In the case of CBD, it’s susceptible to the liver when it passes through digestion, which makes low doses particularly ineffective.
CBD vapes, on the other hand, offer a much higher bioavailability at around 34-46%, with rates of 56% being reported in some studies, making it one of the best ways to get the most CBD in your system among commercially available methods. This is thanks to the method of delivery - by inhaling CBD in vapour, it is efficiently absorbed via the lungs into the bloodstream, thus allowing it to spread throughout your system with every breath.
Combined with the speed and potency of vapes, a consumer can get an efficient, fast-acting and steady dose through a single session of vaping CBD as compared to taking CBD edibles. Vapes are thus especially appealing for people who don’t have more time to spare or who need their effects to kick in quickly.
Lastly, we would be remiss to not address the potential dangers that come with these products as well. While it’s generally pretty difficult to overdose on CBD, adverse effects are in rare cases known to happen with CBD use of any kind, such as fatigue, diarrhoea, weight and appetite changes. However, CBD vaping can also affect people in different ways, such as nausea, dizziness or chest pain, upon which a consumer should immediately stop using the product.
Getting the right product for you
After getting to know all the details and making your choice, the final step you have to take is figuring out where and who to acquire your product from.
At Amphora, we offer a curated range of CBD vape cartridges for those seeking the most effective and best quality CBD products. Everything we make is certified THC-free and tested and verified by a third-party laboratory to medical standard, ensuring you get the optimal experience out of your vape. With four unique blends designed to provide you with a holistic boost at any time of day, whether for energy or mood or a good sound rest, Amphora vapes can give you just what you need.
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.