Cannabinoids are a class of compounds that interact with receptors throughout your body. CBD is just one of dozens of cannabinoids found in cannabis, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the one responsible for marijuana’s famous high. Medical cannabis is technically any cannabis product used for medicinal purposes, and these can contain THC or CBD or both, said Nick Jikomes, a neuroscientist at Leafly, a website that provides information about legal cannabis. “A common mistake people make is to think that CBD is ‘the medical cannabinoid’ and THC is ‘the recreational cannabinoid.’” That’s inaccurate, he said, because THC is a potent anti-inflammatory and can be helpful for pain.
Carbon dioxide is passed through the plant material at a very specific temperature and pressure. Carbon dioxide, which is normally a gas at (or above) room temperature, can be pressurized until it becomes so dense that it takes on some of the properties of a liquid while still maintaining the fluid dynamics of a gas. In this state, CO2 is known as a supercritical fluid.
Perhaps it’s because many people have romantic and misplaced notions about nature. Some even point out that we come hard-wired with cannabinoid receptors in our brains and they must have a purpose, so why not use them? This is not exactly a persuasive argument: Nature endowed us with our own cannabinoids, so unless you have a deficiency of them or sluggish receptors, you really don’t need supplementation.
In the meantime, some physicians are forging ahead — and cashing in. Joe Cohen is a doctor at Holos Health, a medical marijuana clinic in Boulder. I asked him what CBD is good for, and he read me a long list of conditions: pain, inflammation, nausea, vomiting, intestinal cramping, anxiety, psychosis, muscle spasms, hyperactive immune systems, nervous system degeneration, elevated blood sugar and more. He also claimed that CBD has anti-cancer properties and can regenerate brain cells and reduce the brain’s levels of amyloid beta — a kind of protein that’s been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. I asked for references, noting that most of these weren’t listed in the Academies report or a similar review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “I think you just have to Google search it,” he said. It’s true that a preliminary study found hints that cannabinoids might reduce beta amyloid proteins in human brain cells, but the study was done in cells grown in a lab, not in people. As for cancer, the FDA sent warning letters last year to four companies that were selling products that claimed to “prevent, diagnose, treat or cure” cancer.
Keep in mind that CBD levels may vary from crop to crop—even from plant to plant. However, below are some strains that have been bred to contain higher CBD levels, so they might be a good place to start. Check the map on their strain page to see if these are sold at a dispensary near you. We also recommend checking with dispensaries about the specifics of their strains’ CBD levels. It’s always a good idea to purchase only lab-tested products that clearly state the CBD/THC levels so you know what kind of experience to expect.