Since the passing of the Farm Bill in 2018, which legalized hemp and hemp products, the CBD industry has exploded onto the market, with sales expected to reach upwards of $2 billion by 2022.
As a result, the market is flooded with CBD products in every shape and form, from tinctures to gummies, chocolates and sodas.
Although this feels like such a new fad (in many ways it is), hemp is also a historic remedy and medicine which can be traced back thousands of years to ancient China. For example, around the turn of the 20th century, hemp was the #1 prescribed remedy for migraine.
Why hemp was swept up with marijuana and prohibited for the majority of the 21st century defies logic. Luckily, scientists and researchers continued studying cannabis and hemp in the intervening years, and for that reason, we have a much better understanding of how these herbs interact with our body.
In 1992, while investigating the effects and interaction between our body and THC, researchers discovered our endocannabinoid system (ECS). To say it was revolutionary is not an understatement. This discovery is akin to learning about neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin, or the numerous cells that comprise our immune system.
What is even more fascinating is that our ECS is intertwined with literally every other system in the human body. Its main role is characterized as helping maintain homeostasis – balance – in all the essential functions of our body, sort of like the messenger system that sends signals around the body, telling different organs or cells to increase or decrease their activity.
Different cannabinoids like CBD and THC all interact with our ECS in very different ways and our understanding is constantly progressing and expanding.
THC can activate our ECS on its own, which can be both good and bad. For some, this causes euphoria; for others, paranoia. That is because THC goes into our ECS and essentially ‘flips all the switches.’
The other cannabinoids found in hemp, like CBD, CBG and CBC on the other hand, play a much more supportive role of our regular and healthy ECS function.
While the research is still ongoing, the understanding at this point is that these cannabinoids help our body’s own signaling cells stay in circulation longer, but it doesn’t lead to the same hyperactivity that THC can cause.
Of course, as with many health products, there is a lot of variation, so be a well-informed and reasonably suspicious shopper. Look for brands with independent testing to verify potency and purity, be wary of outrageous health claims, and when in doubt, ask for the opinion of your doctor or a well-informed employee at your favorite health store.
So is CBD worth all the hype? In a word, maybe. The foundation of research keeps growing and growing, with very little evidence of negative side effects.
While western medicine will likely take a long time to acknowledge the potential of hemp and all its compounds, it is safe and reasonable to expect this new trend in supplements, treats and drinks to keep on growing.
Andrew Harmon is Education Specialist for Danodan Hempworks in Portland.