Myths and Facts: 8 Misconceptions about CBD Oil

Written by: Genevieve R. Moore PhD

Close friends, health professionals, headshops, the grocery store checkout line… depending on where you hear about CBD oil, cream and gummies, you’re bound to learn very different facts. And the more you hear, the more confused you may become — because the CBD industry is rife with contradictions. What’s going on here?

People aren’t intentionally lying to you. (Well, not for the most part…) But the reality of the situation is that the “book” on CBD science is still being written. Researchers are still discovering new ways CBD affects our bodies. And unfortunately, that means what we know today could be vastly different from what we know tomorrow.

That said, a few matters have definitely been set straight. So, to help clear up some of the confusion, we put together 8 of the most outdated misconceptions about CBD. From CBD’s effect on the endocannabinoid system to whether or not it comes with side effects, we’ve got you covered:

Myth #1: CBD is CBD; all CBD oils are the same

A similarly wrong statement would be: All caffeine sources are equivalent. And if you’re looking for proof just how wrong it is, try replacing a tea drinker’s steamy mug with a morning caffeine pill. Warning: You might get smacked.
Although it’s true that only one molecule is called cannabidiol (CBD, pronounce it can-na-bi-DYE-ol), CBD oil is typically a natural complex product – like tea – that contains a broad spectrum of beneficial plant molecules in addition to cannabidiol. This can include terpenes and other cannabinoids like THC. And some of those other molecules, referred to as the entourage, could be even more powerful than CBD itself.
CBD oils from different plant sources often contain very different molecules — even when they both contain the same 20mg dose of CBD. And that means different CBD oils can affect your body in very different ways.
By now, most of us know whether our bodies respond better to green tea, black tea, coffee, or energy drinks.
When discovering which CBD oil is best suited for your personal chemistry, pay attention to the CBD’s source (ie hemp vs. cannabis) and stick to products that provide additional testing of all the active molecules.

Myth #2: Cannabidiol activates cannabinoid receptors

This one reminds me of a trick question on a True/False exam. It sounds so right. And yet it’s sooo wrong!
If you’re unfamiliar with it, the endocannabinoid system is a natural collection of endocannabinoids (messenger molecules) and their associated molecules. These endocannabinoids affect your health and mental state by activating specialized message-receivers, called cannabinoid receptors.
THC, the main intoxicating (& therapeutic) molecule found in cannabis, is a plant-based cannabinoid that can activate these receptors — just like your body’s natural endocannabinoids. However, although CBD is structurally very similar to THC, classified as a cannabinoid, and even named cannabidiol … when tested in the lab, CBD does not activate cannabinoid receptors!

I know, super confusing. But that’s science. Instead, CBD impacts the endocannabinoid system in two known ways: by encouraging your body’s natural production of endocannabinoids, and by dampening the activity of some cannabinoid receptors — not activating them. (This dampening effect is why some people use CBD to counterbalance the anxiety and psychoactive side effects of THC.)  

Myth #3: CBD works just like THC without the high

For the same reason Myth #2 is wrong, this common misconception is equally wrong. Not only do CBD & THC affect the endocannabinoid system differently, but these differences carry beyond the endocannabinoid system. From serotonin receptors to pain receptors to enzymes, CBD & THC can benefit our health in many unique ways. 
Interestingly, despite their underlying differences, many people use THC & CBD for the same reasons – like pain, inflammation or arthritis. And there is great scientific evidence that indicates why both molecules could benefit the same health conditions in their own unique ways. But if you normally experience symptom relief from THC, don’t be surprised if substituting cannabis with CBD oil feels completely different.
Depending on your personal chemistry and health goals, CBD could be more powerful or less powerful than THC. If cannabis is embraced by your community, it could be worth experimenting with the synergistic effects of both molecules together.
You can buy a full-spectrum product rich in both THC & CBD — or combine a cannabis product with CBD oil to find the perfect THC:CBD ratio for your body.  

Myth #4: There’s no proof that CBD has medical benefits

People who think CBD is snake oil haven’t been clued in that cannabidiol is now an FDA-approved drug used to treat several childhood seizure disorders. And with dozens of clinical trials coming down the pipeline, CBD will likely be approved to treat more health issues soon. 
But that said, a great number of us are using CBD oil for health reasons that do not and might never have supporting scientific evidence. Only time (and devoted researchers and lots of $$$) will tell which CBD health uses will be embraced by the medical system.

Myth #5: More CBD is better

This line of reasoning is wrong on so many levels. Here are a few of the reasons why more is not necessarily better:
  • In experiments, pure CBD isolate typically has a peak effective dose — where low doses and high doses are both ineffective.
  • Products with higher levels of CBD might be less beneficial than broad spectrum products that contain less CBD but more terpenes and other cannabinoids. 
  • How you take CBD affects how much of it actually enters your body. For instance, if you just swallow CBD oil, most of those CBD molecules will just pass through your digestive tract without ever entering your bloodstream. Try swishing CBD oil vigorously in your mouth for a minute before swallowing — that will help your body receive more from less.
  • Clinical trials have shown that very high doses (1,000+ mg/day for an average sized adult) come with increased side effects, and lowering the dose typically relieves these side effects.

The jury is still out on the ideal dose for CBD, and with so many types of products and entourage molecules out there, don’t expect standardized guidelines anytime soon. If you’re still trying to discover your best dose, check out our guide to finding the optimal dosage.

Myth #6: CBD isn't psychoactive

When people say this, they really mean to say that CBD will not get you “high” or make you feel intoxicated the way THC does. However, a psychoactive substance is technically any molecule that alters our brains and the ways we perceive our world — whether that’s a positive, negative, or neutral change.
Caffeine falls into the psychoactive category. And so does cannabidiol. CBD has a broad range of targets, and some of them — like 5-HT1A serotonin receptors — are associated with our central nervous systems.
The misconception that CBD is not psychoactive is everywhere. However, be warned that correcting it is akin to correcting someone’s grammar. Not everyone will appreciate your insightful knowledge.  

Myth #7: You'll know within a few hours if it's working

THC can hit like a bulldozer when it reaches your brain. CBD, not so much. 

Although some people report almost immediate improvement of their symptoms when they first try CBD products, there’s a good chance you’re not going to “feel” anything. And depending on why you’re taking it, you might not notice any changes until you’ve been supplementing daily for a few weeks. 

The best way to know if CBD oil – or any supplement you take — is “working” is by clearly defining why you’re taking it before you start. By keeping a record of your symptoms over time, it’ll be easier for you to judge if the supplement is a good fit for you. 

Myth #8: CBD has no side effects

Any company that tells you CBD has no side effects is not looking out for you. In reality, like most everything else we consume, CBD is not right for everyone and it comes with potential side effects — particularly at very high doses.

One important point to keep in mind is that CBD can affect the way our bodies metabolize certain prescription medications – particularly those that come with a warning about eating grapefruit, such as warfarin, anti-epileptics, HIV antivirals, chemotherapy and others

In clinical trials where children took very high doses of CBD (equivalent to an adult consuming an entire 1,000 mg bottle of Foria’s CBD Tonic every day for 3+ months), side effects included tiredness, reduced appetite, or digestive changes. However, these side effects nearly disappeared when the dose was halved to 500mg CBD per day — which is still a staggering amount of CBD to take.

So CBD can have side effects — but they’re not likely unless you’re gorging on pounds of gummies and edibles every day, or taking certain specific pharmaceuticals. 

However, if you you’re experiencing side-effects — despite discussing with your doctor and using only reputable CBD sources — listen to your body, and experiment with lowering your dose.

Written by: Genevieve R. Moore PhD

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