How to Spot the Difference Between a CBD Scam and Products that Work
CBD is the latest craze in wellness – a holistic remedy to help with sleep, anxiety, pain and more. But does it work? That depends. Not all CBD products are created equal and many on the market leave consumers disappointed and frustrated with the poor results.
Since the 2018 Farm Bill was passed making hemp products legal at the federal level, the demand for hemp-derived cannabidiols (CBD) has skyrocketed. A 2019 Gallup Poll found that 1 in 7 Americans have used CBD for pain, sleep, or anxiety. An explosion of consumer products from lotions to shampoos are touting CBD on their labels all marketing amazing health benefits. Before you run to your nearest big box store and purchase the newest CBD face wash or toothpicks (yes, really), a little bit of information can temper those big expectations.
Not all CBD products are created equally when it comes to effectiveness and safety. When choosing a high-quality CBD product that delivers therapeutic benefits, consider the key variables that affect the quality of a CBD extract: the genetic properties of the hemp plant, the extraction method, and the purification process. All of these factors affect the existence of an important compound in CBD known as terpenes. Armed with this research, you will be able to discern the CBD rockstar products from the imposters.
But First, the Basics
For those consumers not as familiar with CBD, it is important to note that hemp-derived CBD is not the same as marijuana. Hemp is a variation of the cannabis plant that is distinguishable by its predominance of cannabidiol (CBD) and less than 0.3% of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
“Both hemp and marijuana belong to the same genus and species of the Cannabis Sativa plant,” says Mahmoud A. ElSohly, Ph.D., professor of pharmaceutics at the National Center for Natural Products Research a division of the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences The University of Mississippi
“The chemical profiles of both varieties are qualitatively similar, but quantitatively different. The most important difference is in the THC and CBD content, with THC being the predominant cannabinoid in marijuana and with CBD the most predominant cannabinoid in hemp,” Dr. ElSohly says.
“Pure CBD is non-intoxicating and non-addictive and it has no abuse liability,” says Massachusetts General Hospital internist Peter Grinspoon, M.D. an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and board member of the advocacy group Doctors For Cannabis Regulation.
“It doesn’t directly stimulate the cannabinoid receptors in the brain and nervous system the way THC does, so it doesn’t cause a high, but it does affect a lot of the other receptors and can help with sleep, insomnia, and pain,” he says.
THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive or “high” effects of marijuana. The cannabis sativa plant has over 113 cannabinoids that interact with our body’s receptors in various ways, but CBD and THC are the most well-known and studied of the compounds. If you are looking for CBD in your marijuana, dispensary products in general have been genetically-engineered to have a high level of THC while very little, if any, CBD. Asking for a Certificate of Analysis is also a good idea to understand levels of cannabinoids you are consuming.
Terpenes: The Wow Factor
If you’ve been using CBD for awhile, you may have heard the reference to terpenes as an indicator of quality. Specifically, you want a CBD product that has not been stripped of terpenes during the purification process. Technically, terpenes only exist on a live plant, and once the plant is cured or dried, a chemical modification takes place and the terpene becomes a terpenoid (save that knowledge nugget for impressing your friends and co-workers).
Terpenes are found everywhere and whether you’ve heard of them or not, you’ve definitely been exposed to them. They are aromatic chemical compounds found in plants that are responsible for their survival by repelling insects and attracting pollinators. Terpenes give lemons the tangy fragrance and lavender a soothing scent. Terpenes are also known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin E and beta-carotene all have terpene structures. The Cannabis sativa (C. sativa) plant – the source of hemp-derived nonpsychoactive CBD – is one of the richest sources of terpenes.
CBD and the Entourage Effect
There is a growing amount of scientific research to suggest that terpenes work to improve and enhance the effect of CBD on the body’s endocannabinoid system which is responsible for regulating critical functions like sleep, mood, pain learning and memory, emotional processing, sleep, temperature control, pain control, inflammatory and immune responses, and eating. When compounds work better together than in isolation it is known as the Entourage Effect. A notable published study in 2001 titled “Cannabis and Cannabis Extracts: Greater Than the Sum of Their Parts” by John McPartland and Ethan Russo found supporting evidence that extracts rich in both cannabinoids and terpenes had enhanced “pharmacological activities that may strengthen and broaden clinical applications and improve the therapeutic index”
When it comes to CBD, more research is needed to better understand exactly how terpenes interact with the endocannabinoid system. In the most simplistic terms, terpenes modulate the effects of CBD and without them, the extract does not pack the same punch. That’s the primary reason full-spectrum CBD is far superior to a CBD isolate. Full-spectrum CBD comes from the whole plant, reflecting its original phytochemical profile.
Meet the Terpene Superstars
Here is a breakdown of the most abundant terpenes found in CBD and their therapeutic benefits:
Alpha-humulene has an earthy, woody, or even ‘hoppy’ aroma and can be found in hops and coriander. For physical effects, it is known to act as an appetite suppressant. Therapeutic benefits include anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and for pain suppression.
Beta-caryophyllen is found in cloves, cinnamon, basil, oregano and black pepper. As one might imagine, the aroma is distinguished as spicy, woody, or pepper-like. This terpene is known to help with insomnia, muscle spasms, pain, and can be used as an antioxidant.
Limonene is found in citrus fruits and not surprisingly, it has a distinctive aroma of lemons and citrus. It is known to be a mood booster and can alleviate emotional turbulence or provide general stress relief. It is known to be an antifungal agent, anti-inflammatory, and can be used for anxiety, depression, and gastric reflux. It is considered a very important terpene in regards to CBD because it expedites the absorption rate of other terpenes.
Alpha-Pinene: It is the compound that gives pine needles their distinct aroma. It is also in rosemary, and basil in addition to CBD. Therapeutic uses include its use as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It anti-anxiety properties, and it works as a bronchodilator, which means it opens up the airway passages quickly in emergency situations like an asthma attack. Alpha-pinene also helps with pain relief, aids memory, and boosts energy levels.
Linalool is a terpene most commonly found in chamomile and lavender. In hemp-derived CBD products it is often used in topical creams and ointments for its soothing scent and calming effects.
Full-Spectrum CBD For The Win
Now that you understand the entourage effect of terpenes and CBD found in the whole hemp plant, choosing a full-spectrum CBD product has significant therapeutic benefits over a CBD isolate. That is not to say that there aren’t any benefits to CBD in its isolated form like anti-inflammatory benefits, but there is compelling evidence that supports the important role terpenes play in the modulation and beneficial enhancement of the therapeutic effects of CBD.
When In Doubt, Check the Label
To find out about terpenes in CBD oil, make sure the product has been tested by a third-party lab and has a valid Certificate of Analysis, or COA. That will give you a better chance of knowing whether it contains terpenes, and if so which ones.
A high-quality Full-Spectrum CBD product will have a published phytocannabinoid profile that lists the levels of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids, as well as terpenes. Typically there is a QR code on the product packaging or a listing on the manufacturers website.
Vacaville Vaporium Specializes in CBD
The Vacaville Vaporium has the largest selection of Full-Spectrum CBD products that range from tinctures to lotions, vapes, and gummies. If you are curious about which kind of CBD product is right for you, come into the store and speak to one of our knowledgeable staff members that can help guide you through the selection process. We only carry the most trusted CBD brands in the market that are Medical Grade, THC-Free, with a large selection of certified organic, and certified non-GMO with Certificates of Analysis.