The following is a guest blog by Dr. Ilene Naomi Rusk, Community Health
Education Director-Grillo Health Information Center and Co-Director, Brain
and Behavior Clinic, Healthy Brain Program.
Cannabis is composed of over 120 compounds, called cannabinoids, each with
varying effects on our bodies and minds. Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the
compounds in cannabis, but it has no psychoactive properties. That means
that it doesn’t affect your emotions or cognitions, which is a health
and safety concern for THC and some of the other psychoactive properties
in cannabis. CBD, for example, won’t impair your ability to safely
drive a car and it is not known to be addictive.
How does CBD affect your body & brain?
Humans are born with an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which consists of
endocannabinoids and receptors located all over the body and throughout
the nervous system and various organs, specifically those connected to
the immune system. Your ECS helps you maintain balance in relation to
your changing internal and external environment. If any bodily system/function
moves “out of range,” for example, if your temperature gets
too high, your ECS notifies your body to adjust, telling it that it’s
time to sweat to cool you back down.
The ECS has been found to underlie various functions of everyday life including
appetite, inflammation, pain, mood and sleep. Endocannabinoids have the
same properties as the cannabinoids in cannabis and the ECS reacts and
responds to both cannabinoids and endocannabinoids. So, when one consumes
CBD (a cannabinoid), it interacts with the important endocannabinoid system.
What does CBD help?
CBD can potentially have an impact on health conditions, especially those
with symptoms/causes related to the endocannabinoid system (as explained
above). Studies have shown that CBD has the potential to improve a variety
of medical/health conditions including:
- Anxiety disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Cancer (to treat tumors and nausea that comes with certain cancer treatments)
- Alzheimer’s and other brain-related illnesses
- Immune disorders
These studies are compelling and we need more studies with human participants
to better understand the effectiveness of CBD as a treatment. The most
compelling research confirms the usefulness of CBD in treating anxiety
inflammation and sleep disorders.
Currently, the only FDA-approved CBD treatment is for epilepsy. CBD was
shown to significantly reduce the incidence of seizures in children.
How Do You Take It?
CBD can be used in the following forms:
Oil: Placed under the tongue
Edibles: Eaten in a specific dosage; can come in the form of gummy bears, cakes
or cookies (among other things)
Tinctures: Added to drinks
Vaping: Used in a vaporizing smoking device
Topical ointments/creams: Applied on the skin
Regardless of the form, the product will generally list the amount of CBD
in milligrams on the packaging. The correct dosages and modes of ingestion
vary from person-to-person. A doctor can help you to understand how CBD
may interact with other medications, as well as to determine what dose
and form will work best for you.
Risks of CBD
The primary concerns when purchasing and using CBD are ensuring you know
what you are getting. Due to a current lack of regulation on many CBD
products, it is important to do your homework to understand the quality
and purity of the products you plan to use. Additionally, there is a possibility
that CBD will either enhance or reduce the effects of other medications
that you are using. This can be avoided by checking with a health care
professional. A final challenge when considering the purchase and use
of CBD are state and federal laws that determine whether using CBD is
legal to use. In Colorado, it is legal to purchase and use CBD.
Considering the lack of precise dosing data, it may take time to figure
out what works best for your needs. If you are interested in taking CBD,
it is recommended that you consult a doctor, specifically one who understands
medicinal cannabis. Data shows CBD to have very few if any, adverse effects,
so it might be a good idea to start considering whether CBD could be added
to your current health plan as a potential new healing modality. Ask your
trusted health care provider for guidance, or if possible, find a practitioner
who specializes in cannabis use.
About the Grillo Health Information Center
The Grillo Health Information Center is a non-profit helping community
members find science-based and personalized information on their health
conditions and concerns. Grillo’s goal is to enable individuals
and their families to make informed health care decisions and to facilitate
better communication and collaboration between individuals and their health
The Grillo Center, with promotional help from Boulder Community Health,
also hosts Stahl Health Lectures organized by its Director of Community
Health Education, Dr. Ilene Naomi Rusk. This ongoing lecture series features
local experts providing education to the public on cutting-edge topics
related to medicine and mental health. For more information, please visit