For years cannabis was regarded as a very controversial herb. Today we’re looking at it with a fresh perspective and answer some of the burning questions about CBD to help demystify many of the often misunderstood or misrepresented facts when talking about Cannabis.
What is CBD??
CBD is short for Cannabidiol. It is one of a large group of compounds, called cannabinoids, which occurs naturally in the Cannabis plant. There are at least 113 cannabinoids that can be identified and isolated from the plant.
Technically CBD should be called a phytocannabinoid, since it comes from a plant. This helps to draw a distinction from endocannabinoid, which is naturally occurring in the human body.
Will it make me high?
No. The compound responsible for the feeling of being “high” or intoxicated, is THC or Tetrahydracannabinol. THC is absent in a good quality pure CBD product.
Is CBD ‘dagga’?
No. From a scientific perspective, both hemp and dagga, used as a drug, is the same plant. Both Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica can produce dagga and hemp. But in order to be described as hemp, it must have a very, very low level of the intoxicating phytocannabinoid THC. It must have less than 0.02% THC to be called hemp. Recreational cannabis would be characterised by higher levels of THC.
Dagga, when used as a drug, specifically refers to the flowers of the female Cannabis plant.
Hemp is used when referring to all parts of the plant: leaves, roots, stem, flowers and seed. These other plant parts have a long list of valuable applications from textiles to fodder, fuel and building material, insulation, nutrition and cosmetic. Hemp is normally the starting material for CBD.
What is the difference between hemp and Cannabis used as a drug?
The legal distinction is the amount of the specific cannabinoid Tetrahydracannabinol (THC). Hemp is strictly speaking Cannabis, but with less than 0.02% THC. Recreational cannabis would be characterised by higher levels of THC.
Is it legal?
Based on international use and legal trends, the South African Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has exempted Cannabis and cannabis products that contains less than 0.02% of THC from scheduling as a medicine. Hence its use for general health maintenance or relief from low grade, non-specific symptoms is now allowed in South Africa.
The Endocannabinoid System?
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) was only discovered in the 1990s while trying to understand what happens in the body when THC in Cannabis makes a person feel ‘high’. We now know that almost all vertebrate and invertebrates have an ECS. It is not unique to human beings, or even more complex vertebrate animals.
That is a huge mouthful, and not very helpful to most of us.
It may help to think of it as the body’s electrical distribution box – full of switches and connections to just about all the rooms in the house. The system includes the plugs, the plug sockets and the current that travels along the network. The ‘sockets’ or receptors, receive the cannabinoid ‘plugs’. The body must make these cannabinoids to signal a long list of functions in all the body systems.
Receptors are present throughout the body. They can be found in our skin, immune cells, bone, fat tissue, liver, pancreas, skeletal muscle, heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract. Processes associated with the signalling molecules include pain, memory, mood, appetite, stress, sleep, metabolism, immune function, and reproductive function.
When the ECS is working well, your body achieves homeostasis – the delicate balance of wellness. All the plugs are in their sockets, the switches work perfectly. You sleep well, feel great and cope well with whatever life throws at you.
You may ask “What happens when the ECS is not working well?”
Conditions related to hypersensitivity to pain or stimulus (such as migraines, fibromyalgia, and IBS,) are associated with the dysfunction of the ECS. Even neurodegenerative diseases and rheumatoid arthritis have shown changes in endocannabinoid levels and receptor expression levels.
This suggests that targeting the ECS to restore balance and maintain good health may be an excellent approach.
*Important disclaimer: We still know so little about the ECS that in many of these cases it is not clear if the association is cause or effect. More research is needed. Be careful of anyone who says they know all the answers, because the truth is that we have much more to learn!
“If my body makes its own endocannabinoids, why would I need to add phytocannabinoids like CBD?”
The ECS can be disrupted by several factors: alcohol, nicotine, recreational drugs and chronic medications can all have an impact. So too the common lifestyle issues of a poor diet and chronic stress. Supplementation of CBD may support a return to homeostasis.
“What else can I do to help my body function optimally?”
The most common, simple advice that we forget easily: eat well, get enough sleep and get some healthy exercise. Never underestimate the value of those basic principles.
Supplementation with Omega 3 is also regarded as valuable for a healthy ECS. As recommended above, discuss all supplements and steps you take to improve your wellbeing with your qualified, registered health practitioner.