“What is this CBD, why is it so popular, and how do I sift the hype and hooie from reality? Will it get me high?” Let’s start with the source: cannabis. – Marijuana is a close cousin of hemp – they aren’t the same plant. Marijuana naturally has high levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and lower levels of CBD; hemp has naturally low levels of THC and higher levels of CBD. When the THC levels are below .3%, it is considered industrial hemp by Federal law and is allowed for sale almost anywhere. CBD (cannabidiol) is another chemical found that seems to have excellent uses in supporting anxiety, pain, sleeplessness, etc. Marijuana is a bushier, lower growing, while hemp is tall and has sturdy stalks.
OK, so you have a pretty good idea where CBD comes from. Now let’s look at how it’s extracted. There are many, many ways CBD is extracted, depending on just what the company wants to sell. Labels can be confusing, so here are some of the more common ways it may be produced:
Full spectrum: squashed in water and extracted, often with a certain amount of heat and pressure. Produces a thick, green, oily liquid. Benefits: you get CBD, plus all of the supporting chemicals in the plant (all the terpenes, the other 100+ cannabinols, etc.).
Supercitical extract: Plant, pressure, carbon dioxide. Some feel that this method produces a more complete chemical profile. It all depends on the actual methodology and the plants involved.
Solvent extraction: Most times, this will be an alcohol extraction. The alcohol vaporizes and leaves behind the CBD extract. Some folks don’t like the idea of even trace amounts of solvent. Herbalists have been using alcohol for millennia to extract plant material into medical formulas, so it isn’t all that evil. Be careful as some solvent extracts might use hexane – yuck!
Full spectrum vs. isolate? What the what? Full spectrum, as I described above, is the squashed-up plant extract. The isolate is just that: CBD completely extracted out of all the other chemicals. Generally, full spectrum provides better and longer lasting relief. The isolate, however, does work well enough. It is ideal for folks who cannot take any THC-containing products, even near-zero levels.
Last: Does it really, really work? Most of the time, yes. It all depends on many factors. What you are treating, the severity, your constitution and expectations (complete pain relief vs. down to manageable levels, for example). Next Up: CBD Part 2: What to Look for When Buying CBD & How Much is Best