One of the hottest products on the market right now is CBD (cannabidiol) oil. This is not just based on brilliant marketing campaigns and the resultant consumer demand. The nationwide popularity of this “magical medical elixir” is due to several very good reasons; however, there are also some very important caveats. As with any health intervention, including this latest “herbal darling,” consideration of safety, standards, quality, and one’s own unique biochemical individuality should be taken into account.
The latest herbal darling
As I stated previously in a blog on this topic:
My partiality for treating people over prescribing protocols is also evidenced in how I tailor my wellness plans. They are based on a multi-systems and mind-body approach that considers a wide array of factors. These include an individual’s distinct biochemical makeup, predispositions, genetic variations, and lifestyle practices. This means that even though two people could share the same symptoms or disease label, they will both have a completely different regimen of health modifications.
Due to the complexity of the topic of CBD, I have devoted an entire series to it. So far, I’ve covered the following:
-a timeline to the use and legal restrictions of the cannabis plant, of which CBD is extracted
-clarifying the remaining restrictions on CBD oil after the passage of the Farm Bill that legalized hemp
Being well known for my love of essential oils, I have been asked to expand on the difference between CBD oil and cannabis essential oil. Therefore, in this article I will take you for a walk down terpene lane as well as provide you with an experience of the whole cannabis “entourage.”
Is CBD Oil an Essential Oil?
Most of the CBD oil in the U.S. is not technically the “essential oil of CBD.” CBD is a constituent in cannabis, you cannot extract an essential oil from a compound. CBD oil has different extraction methods than steam distilled essential oils. (source, source) This link provides a basic explanation for the most common type, fatty oil extraction.
According to Robert Tisserand, an internationally respected essential oils expert, there is a steam distilled CANNABIS essential oil available in Canada, Switzerland, and France.
Enter the “Entourage” of Cannabis, the Cannabinoids and the Terpenoids
I mentioned the concept of the “entourage effect” of cannabis in Part IV of my series. This term references the idea that the whole spectrum extract of hemp or cannabis will have enhanced benefits over any of its isolated compounds alone or in a selected combination. This concept is similar to what I discussed regarding synergy with herbs and essential oils:
Synergism regarding essential oils means that they will “behave” in a different manner than the sum of the actions of their constituents. They have a harmonizing and balancing effect from all the compounds keeping each other “in check.” This is the main aspect that explains why extrapolating the actions based on one or two compounds from essential oils, that contains hundreds of them, is bad science.
In a 2017 article, Medicinal Cannabis: History, Pharmacology, And Implications for the Acute Care Setting, the authors expanded on this concept when they discussed that CBD could have separate and synergistic actions to THC. They stated:
THC is known to be the major psychoactive component of cannabis mediated by activation of the CB1 receptors in the central nervous system; however, this very mechanism limits its use due to untoward adverse effects. It is now accepted that other phytocannabinoids with weak or no psychoactivity have promise as therapeutic agents in humans.
The cannabinoid that has sparked the most interest as a nonpsychoactive component is CBD.31 Unlike THC, CBD elicits its pharmacological effects without exerting any significant intrinsic activity on CB1 and CB2 receptors. Several activities give CBD a high potential for therapeutic use, including antiepileptic, anxiolytic, antipsychotic, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects.
CBD in combination with THC has received regulatory approvals in several European countries and is under study in registered trials with the FDA. And, some states have passed legislation to allow for the use of majority CBD preparations of cannabis for certain pathological conditions, despite lack of standardization of CBD content and optimal route of administration for effect.32 Specific applications of CBD have recently emerged in pain (chronic and neuropathic), diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington’s disease.
Animal studies indicate that a high dose of CBD inhibits the effects of lower doses of THC. Moreover, clinical studies suggest that oral or oromucosal CBD may prolong and/or intensify the effects of THC. Finally, preliminary clinical trials suggest that high-dose oral CBD (150–600 mg per day) may exert a therapeutic effect for epilepsy, insomnia, and social anxiety disorder. Nonetheless, such doses of CBD have also been shown to cause sedation.33
In a review entitled, “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects,” the author details how this entourage effect is specifically applicable to the essential oils (mostly in the form of terpenes) found in the cannabis plant:
Are cannabis terpenoids actually relevant to the effects of cannabis? Terpenoid components in concentrations above 0.05% are considered of pharmacological interest (Adams and Taylor, 2010).
Animal studies are certainly supportive (Buchbauer et al., 1993). Mice exposed to terpenoid odours inhaled from ambient air for 1 h demonstrated profound effects on activity levels, suggesting a direct pharmacological effect on the brain, even at extremely low serum concentrations (examples: linalool with 73% reduction in motility at 4.22 ng·mL−1, pinene 13.77% increase at trace concentration, terpineol 45% reduction at 4.7 ng·mL−1).
These levels are comparable to those of THC measured in humans receiving cannabis extracts yielding therapeutic effects in pain, or symptoms of multiple sclerosis in various randomized controlled trials (RCTs) (Russo, 2006; Huestis, 2007).
Positive effects at undetectable serum concentrations with orange terpenes (primarily limonene, 35.25% increase in mouse activity), could be explainable on the basis of rapid redistribution and concentration in lipophilic cerebral structures.
A similar rationale pertains to human studies (Komori et al., 1995), subsequently discussed.
In the next post, I’ll discuss more about this entourage effect that is within the cannabis essential oil itself!
Note: I have no affiliation with any current hemp or CBD product at the time this article is written.
Sarah LoBisco, ND, IFCMP, is a graduate of the University of Bridgeport’s College of Naturopathic Medicine (UBCNM). She is licensed in Vermont as a naturopathic doctor and has received her certification in functional medicine through the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM), which is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). She holds a Bachelor of Psychology from State University of New York at Geneseo and is also certified in Applied Kinesiology. Dr. LoBisco currently incorporates her training in holistic and conventional medicine through writing, researching, and through her independent consulting work with individuals and for companies regarding supplements, nutraceuticals, essential oils, and medical foods. Dr. LoBisco speaks professionally on integrative medical topics and has several journal publications. “Dr. Sarah” also enjoys continuing to educate and empower her readers and clients through her blogs and social media. Her main blog can be found at dr-lobisco.com.