Cannabis sativa

The plant of the moment is Cannabis sativa more commonly known as marijuana Ingesting or smoking it for whatever reason, be it medicinal or recreational, is legal or illegal depending on your locale. What is legal and readily available is hemp oil and many people are utilizing it externally (and internally) for a number of conditions. It is an herbal preparation and as such is of interest to gardeners many of whom use what they grow in herbal teas and other preparations. Chamomile tea is a popular bedtime drink to induce a calm and relaxed state conducive to sleep. Mint has been used as digestive aid for thousands of years. Other medicinal herbs are the basis of many pharmaceuticals.

With herbal preparations there is little scientific evidence to back up any of the claims and in the case of marijuana derivatives the research is even sparser due to the illegality of the plant. Like many other folk remedies there are people who have found hemp oil preparations effective and just as many others who have not. Let’s look at some of the claims for this preparation and what evidence there is to back them.

Fist there are two separate preparations of hemp oil and these are often confused. It is important to know just which is which because they have different properties. The first is extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant via cold press like olive oil and should be referred to as hemp seed oil. Because it is extracted from hemp plants that are bred for their original purpose of industrial or food use it contains little THC. The seeds in any case are not high in THC the component that induces an altered state. Hemp seed oil isn’t psychoactive, which Is why it can be bought legally anywhere in the US. While marijuana and hemp are the same plant botanically speaking legally the plant is considered “hemp” if it contains .3% (3/10 %) or less of THC and “marijuana” if it has a higher THC content. This designation was established so that farmers could legally grow hemp as a crop for something other than the drug trade.

Hemp seed oil has a number of uses. It can be used in cooking, substituting for other oils. It is also used in beauty products and soaps. It is high in fatty acids, especially linoleic, α-linolenic and oleic fatty acids. These can assist in retarding the aging process of the skin smoothing out wrinkles and preventing sagging skin. By controlling oil production these substances can also help with the control of acne. Gamma-linolenic acid is an inflammatory which can aid in promoting cell growth and can help control conditions such as psoriasis. It can also be helpful in the treatment of varicose eczema, lichen planus and dermatitis. It strengthens the skin and helps prevent infection. There is a certain amount of inconclusive evidence to these claims.

Animal studies suggest that hemp seed oil can protect the heart and the brain due to the high fatty acid content. It also contains substances that prevent neuroinflammation in the brain, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. These benefits require ingesting the oil. While sources say that this product contains a minimal level of THC and would not cause a positive drug test a Canadian study proved otherwise. This study found THC levels considerably over the legal limit in hemp oil extracted from supermarket bought seeds. Many sources suggest that the oils are contaminated by coming in contact with with the leaves or stalks of the plant where THC is generally concentrated. The problem with this theory is that hemp plants legally grown should not have a higher than legal concentration of THC in any part of the plant. If it is being made from a strain of hemp that is legally marijuana then the source is questionable.
The product that is more useful medicinally is CBD oil also known as full spectrum hemp oil or cannabidiol. It is made from the leaves, stalks and buds of the hemp plant and contains over 200 substances including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, terpenes and fatty acids.

There are a number of ways of extracting it but a CO2 extraction is considered the safest. It uses pressurized carbon dioxide to pull the compound from the plant so no potentially dangerous solvents are necessary. Again, these extractions should be made from the hemp plant with a THC level of .3% or less making the oil non-psychoactive.
CBD oil is primarily used as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory. Animal studies suggest that it may be useful in the treatment of osteoarthritis or other inflammatory diseases. It apparently works with certain receptors in the body and regulates how pain is perceived. Similarly, it can act on receptors in the brain that release chemicals that can alleviate depression or anxiety. It may also be useful in treating cancer. The only use that the FDA has approved it for is the treatment of several rare forms of epilepsy. Other than animal studies there is little research on how CBD works and if it is actually effective.

CBD is now legal in Pennsylvania and can be obtained with or without a prescription at dispensaries. It is also legal to buy it on line or wherever else it is sold although many sources are not differentiating between hemp oil and CBD oil. The warnings apply to CBD oil as well as hemp oil. Make sure you know what you are buying Lotions and creams used externally may not contain any CBD or they may contain huge amounts. Any preparation may contain over the legal limit of THC, which will show up on drug tests if taken internally.

There is no FDA regulation of these products and what is in them is anybody’s guess. Unfortunately, this is true of any herbal preparation. Plucking a mint plant and making mint tea may give you a concoction that contains wildly varying amounts of menthol. Herb plants grown under different conditions will contain different concentrations of oils. CBD oil is no different especially since there are so many strains of Cannabis sativa that have been genetically selected for different purposes. At this point rubbing it on a sore joint may not do any good but it probably won’t do any harm. Taking it internally should be passed by your physician and the product gotten from a reputable source.
In researching this I found many contradictions even from what would be considered reliable sources. There is a lot of information available but how accurate it is is open to question. As with any trend of the moment everyone is hopping on the band wagon and most aren’t reading the original research, which is for the most part, indecipherable to any normal human being. Tread with care!