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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Down in the Weeds: A Closer Look at CBD

Feb 28, 2020 09:29AM ● By Patricia Staino

As with many holistic approaches to wellness, cannabidiol (CBD) has been around a long time but is experiencing a resurgence in interest and popularity. One of the many naturally occurring chemical compounds, or cannabinoids, found in both hemp and marijuana plants, CBD is mentioned in Hindu and Chinese healing texts dating back to 1500 B.C. Today, CBD is available in just about everything, including lip balm, gummies, chocolates, bath bombs and dog treats, and there’s quite a bit of confusion around what it can and can’t do.

Let’s start with the science: Yes, CBD does alleviate symptoms of pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia and more, because it acts on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS helps maintain homeostasis, through receptors located throughout the body. The receptors, which have been identified in nearly every major organ system, react uniquely to each type of cannabinoid, so the effects felt after ingesting or applying a CBD product will depend on which compound the product contains. So, one person could be experiencing stress, another could be experiencing joint pain, and both could use a CBD product to soothe those ills. 

“CBD tailors itself to what a body needs,” says Jonathan Mickens, owner of Your CBD Store in Danbury. “It runs to where the fire is and takes care of it.”

Because of this, Dr. David Tolk, of Tolk Chiropractic and Wellness Center in Simsbury, recommends patients choose their CBD product wisely, depending on the cannabinoid it contains, in order to achieve the desired result. CBN (cannabinol) contains more sedation mechanisms, while cannabichromene (CBC) reduces pain and inflammation and cannabigerol (CBG) has been shown to relieve anxiety and stress. 

“Each cannabinoid, depending on the ratio used, acts a little differently,” says Tolk. “You really need to find a product that fits what you’re looking to achieve to be sure you’re driving the right reactions.”

Researchers continue to discover more applications for cannabinoids, which may transform healing in the future. For example, cannabidivarin (CBDV) may be particularly valuable for people suffering neurological disorders. Preliminary studies on mice have shown its efficacy as an anticonvulsant and antiepileptic, which could profoundly change the lives of those living with epilepsy and Parkinson’s.

If it works so well, why would such an effective product with a storied history be so misunderstood? For the uninitiated, many confuse it with THC, a psychoactive compound found in hemp and marijuana plants which gives users a “high,” which CBD won’t. THC is extracted from the hemp plant—which produces better-quality CBD than the marijuana plant—before the CBD compounds are extracted for use, so contrary to many misconceptions, CBD is not a hallucinogenic.

That’s only part of the story; basically hemp fell victim to a propaganda war waged by Big Industry. In the early days of this country, hemp was used in paper and fabric. But after the cotton gin was invented, it fell out of favor because cotton made softer clothing and was also cheaper to produce. Things got worse in the early 1900s when William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers ran propaganda about a new drug derived from the “marihuana” plant, which it claimed was causing people of color to rape and kill white women. After the release of the movie “Reefer Madness” in 1936, cannabis was believed to be the most dangerous drug in the world. Following all the bad press and misinformation surrounding cannabis, Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937. The Act didn’t criminalize possession or usage, but it did include provisions that penalized marijuana, cannabis and hemp handlers. Finally, in 1970, the Controlled Substances Act was passed, which labeled hemp—still lumped in with cannabis—a Schedule 1 drug, effectively banning hemp farming. 

That has turned around now, first with passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, which allowed institutions of higher education and state agriculture departments to grow hemp if state law permitted it. It also defined “industrial hemp,” setting the THC threshold at 0.3 percent. This was further codified with the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp’s cultivation, transport and sale.

With hemp back in production, CBD products are flooding the market as consumers seek out natural remedies for pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia and more. In many circles it is being considered as a solution for the opioid crisis, as CBD is non-addictive. In fact, Hemp Helps Inc., based in Norwalk, is a registered non-profit organization that raises money from the sale of CBD products on its website to support local treatment programs for opioid addiction. 

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. What should you buy and how much should you take? These are among the first questions most consumers ask when they first seek out CBD products, and the answers can be found by talking with someone knowledgeable, whether it’s a wellness practitioner or a retailer who specializes solely in CBD. 

Paul Nedovich, of Hemp Helps Inc., says he often meets people who say they’ve tried CBD, but it’s done nothing for them. “When they tell me the brands they’ve tried and the dosage amounts, it usually becomes clear that they are not taking nearly enough pure product to be effective,” he says. Often this is because they tried CBD without any professional guidance or feared the effects of taking too much. Nedovich, who takes a CBD tincture twice a day to address chronic pain, says he takes larger doses because “I’m a big guy. I definitely wouldn’t expect a 100-pound woman to take the same dosage as me.”

However, while CBD products for pets can make dosage recommendations on their labels, they can’t do the same for people, due to FDA regulations. Such direction would be considered acting like a doctor or a pharmacist, which CBD purveyors are not licensed to do. 

“I talk about a titration system to get started,” says Tolk. “I’d rather you start with less and add more than start with more and not know how little you can take for the effect. This stuff is not cheap, so the goal is to take as little as possible to achieve the desired effect.”

Misconceptions about CBD also are fueled by its lack of approval/recommendation by the FDA. Because it hasn’t been tested and approved for treating specific conditions, many people assume it is ineffectual or, worse, detrimental to their health. “The FDA also hasn’t approved a lot of vitamins, but that doesn’t mean vitamins are bad for you,” Mickens notes. 

Since CBD is not FDA-approved, medical doctors can’t prescribe it, nor can it be packaged and sold as a cure for any condition or illness. Tolk says while it is undeniably effective, it shouldn’t be viewed by anyone as a panacea.

“One of the biggest misconceptions about CBD is that it’s a cure-all,” says Tolk. “It doesn’t cure a thing. Actually, it builds on the body’s natural ability to manage stress levels. The leading cause of disease is stress, and when we experience stress, our bodies are in a state of fight or flight, which is the opposite of a parasympathetic state that allows rest, digestion, recovery, and healing. CBD allows you to rest and get the stress levels down so that your body can heal better and easier. To me it is a stress reducer, and in the process of reducing stress, it helps to manage the other processes of your body better.”

Your CBD Store Danbury, which carries CBD oils, water solubles, topical creams, edibles, pet products and beauty products, also provides customers with information and education about CBD’s benefits and how it can be used. “The most important thing people can do is to get educated,” says Mickens. “Because CBD has become so popular, sadly there are a lot of companies taking advantage of the lack of knowledge people have about it.”

Can a price point be a guide to the “real” thing? With CBD products, you really do get what you pay for. Mickens recommends shopping around and determining a relative “average” cost for the type of product you’d like to purchase. Anything significantly cheaper is probably subpar quality, and anything much more expensive is probably taking advantage of a health trend.

With so many CBD products flooding the market, it’s also important to verify the quality of the products you buy. Mickens, Nedovich and Tolk all suggest that the CBD products found in grocery chains and drugstores are probably not the highest-quality products in terms of purity and efficacy. “If you go into a store and buy a product that is 5 or 10 percent CBD, it’s probably not going to benefit you very much,” says Nedovich.

“I see a lot of people buying hemp oil, for example,” notes Mickens. “CBD does come from the hemp plant, but when you’re processing it, the cannabinoid compounds are extracted out of the plant first. Some companies are packaging the hemp oil and giving buyers the impression that they’re getting CBD when they’re not.”

Nedovich emphasizes that third-party testing of CBD products lends a lot of credibility and can help consumers guard against “bathtub gin” companies. “If a manufacturer can’t or won’t tell you what their product is made of, they aren’t reputable,” he says. “I don’t care how long the company has been around, they should have that information available.”

Tolk, Nedovich and Mickens sell only products that make available their lab tests and results, showing the ingredients and ratios in each product, so customers are fully informed about the products they purchase. All noted that reputable companies selling quality products will offer transparency into how the CBD is sourced, processed and tested. Tolk exclusively sells Vitalibis at his practice, after fully vetting its products and results, while Hemp Helps Inc. makes testing results available on its website for the products sold there. And Your CBD Stores have a QR code on every product’s label that enables a customer to scan the code with their phone and automatically access the lab test results breaking down the product’s ingredient percentages.

“There is no reason to hide that kind of information,” says Mickens. “We’re all on the same side, trying to help the customer, not taking advantage.” 

Patricia Staino is the managing editor of Natural Awakenings’ Hartford and Fairfield County editions.

Local Resources: 

Your CBD Store Danbury
52 Padanaram Rd, Danbury
203-826-7560 • 
YourCBDStoreCT.com

Hemp Helps Inc
11 Isaac St, Ste 2, Norwalk
877-711-7716 • 
[email protected]
HempHelpsInc.com

Tolk Chiropractic and Wellness Center
102 Hopmeadow St, Weatogue
860-651-3521 • 
TolkWellnessCenter.com