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Health Benefits of CBD: Hope or Hype?

The best natural way to ease anxiety, insomnia, pain—and even Parkinson’s tremors—might be CBD.

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In the past few years, products containing cannabidiol (CBD) have exploded onto the American market—as have claims of CBD’s benefits. How to separate the hope from the hype? We asked Emily Kane, ND, a naturopathic doctor and expert in holistic health to answer some of your most common questions.

Is CBD really a wonder medicine?

My clinical experience confirms that CBD can be effective for pain, anxiety, and insomnia, and can also help reduce Parkinson’s tremors. CBD is an extract of the cannabis plant, but unlike the more well-known extract, THC, it doesn’t get you high. In some states, you can legally buy products that contain both, but what’s of most interest health-wise is the non-hallucinogenic component in cannabis, CBD.

What are cannabinoids?

The principal cannabinoids found in cannabis are CBD, CBG, CBN, and THC. These cannabinoids target receptors found throughout the body that are reported to help relieve pain, nausea, inflammation, and other symptoms.

THC is the most abundant and widely known cannabinoid in cannabis, and is responsible for marijuana’s famous psychoactive effect. CBD, on the other hand, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that can help reduce pain, anxiety, inflammation, and more. CBD is known as a dopaminergic, meaning it helps stimulate cells that produce the calming neurotransmitter dopamine. This is why some research shows that CBD may help treat Parkinson’s tremors—one of the key factors in Parkinson’s is a reduction in the ability to produce dopamine.

CBG (cannabigerol) is the “parent” cannabinoid, and emerging research points to its potential to provide pain relief, lower inflammation, improve digestion, resolve skin conditions, and help treat cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

How does CBD work?

The many pleasant terpenes found in full-spectrum CBD (and the cannabis plant) not only impart flavor and aroma, but also offer healing properties. These terpenes are widely represented elsewhere in nature in aromatic foods, spices, and tree resins, including broccoli, citrus fruits, mangoes, beer, basil, rosemary, cinnamon, and oregano. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Alpha-pinene terpenes are said to help enhance focus and memory. They are also thought to have bronchodilator, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.
  • Linalool is a sedative, anti-epileptic, and analgesic that also can help reduce anxiety. It is also found in lavender.
  • Myrcene is analgesic, muscle-relaxing, and antibiotic. Also found in mangos.
  • Beta-caryophyllene, known as the “happy” terpene, reduces anxiety, lifts spirits, and acts as an antioxidant and antimicrobial. It’s also found in cloves.
  • Limonene, as the name suggests, is also found naturally in lemon peel. It improves mood, reduces anxiety and depression, and boosts immunity.

What kind of CBD should I buy?

Now that it’s legal to grow hemp in the U.S., a huge market has opened up for CBD products. CBD is found in both the hemp plant and marijuana plant, but only hemp-sourced CBD products are legal to sell in the U.S. The federal government defines legal hemp as containing no more than 0.3 percent THC.

When it comes to dosing, you’ll need to experiment. Figure out what you want—pain reduction, anxiety relief, easy sleep onset, mood boost—and do a little research. Start low, and experiment to find a dosage that works for you. Used judiciously, cannabis helps many ailments. Despite a history of being called a “gateway” drug to the bad stuff, cannabis is now being used ever more widely as medicine, including as an “exit” drug in opioid detox programs.

How much should I take?

While it make take some trial and error to find a dose that works for you, here are some common recommendations:

  • Social anxiety: 10–25 mg daily for social anxiety, as needed
  • Improved sleep: 25–50 mg at bedtime daily for durability
  • Pain: 50–100 mg, once or twice daily as needed (CBD works best for nerve pain, like sciatica, as opposed to wound pain or migraine)

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