Finding Calm: How Hemp-Derived CBD Unwinds Stress and Invites Relaxation

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How do you relax and unwind after a long day at work/running after kids/ dealing with life’s endless admin? I know I struggle to switch off; my mind’s always on something that I still need to sort out. Recently, I tried out some hemp-derived CBD oil, with the hope that it might help me decompress after a stressful day and get a good night’s rest. After a few drops under my tongue about an hour before I went to bed, I definitely did feel a difference, but I wasn’t quite sure whether the results were legit or just a common case of the placebo effect.   

This week’s blog is thus my tribute to the research I embarked upon to figure out all my questions on the topic. Read on to find out the science behind how exactly hemp-derived CBD works in our body, its legality, ideal dosages, possible interactions and what to look for in a supplement.  

Is Hemp-derived CBD Legal to Use? 

In 2018, The Farm Bill was passed in the USA. This means that hemp and hemp-derived substances now no longer fall under the jurisdiction of The Controlled Substances Act (which criminalizes drug possession). In essence, it’s legal for you to use CBD in the US – if it’s derived from hemp (which has a THC level of less than 0.3%). 

What the Research Says 

Hemp is a relative of the cannabis plant (Cannabis sativa), and is the main source of CBD (short for cannabidiol). Chemically speaking, CBD is a substance (a cannabinoid) found naturally in the plant and is not psychoactive.  

To understand the way in which hemp-derived CBD affects your stress vs relaxation levels, you first need to understand how your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) works. 

The ECS's primary purpose is to keep our bodies' homeostasis intact. The ECS is like an internal override mechanism that helps us regain a sense of equilibrium when our anxiety takes over and our brain sends out an (unnecessary) emergency alarm. The ECS affects a whole range of other physiological systems as well, such as our body temperature, ability to perceive pain, memory, mood, appetite, metabolism, sleep and immune response. 

The ECS uses endocannabinoids (a type of neurotransmitter you naturally produce) to communicate with other parts of the body. Endocannabinoids are present in various organs and tissues, such as our muscles and brain. They become active when they bind with cannabinoid receptors, which are also located throughout our body. CBD, a plant-based cannabinoid, is chemically identical to endocannabinoids and interacts with the ECS's receptors, specifically the CB1 and CB2 receptors.  

What Forms Does CBD Come In? 

Hemp-derived CBD comes in all sorts of different forms, which definitely has an impact on how quickly you feel the effects and how long they last. 

Smoking or vaping 

Inhaled CBD gets into your blood the quickest and thus has the fastest absorption rate. You usually feel the effects within a few minutes, which will peak after 30 minutes. Some people continue to feel the effects for up to 6 hours. Hemp joints and vapes can make you feel extremely relaxed (sometimes to the point of feeling high) if you’ve never tried them before, are sensitive to slight amounts of THC, or take multiple inhalations. 

CBD oils and tinctures 

Hemp-derived CBD oil and tinctures normally have a base of glycerin, oil, or alcohol. Putting CBD oil under your tongue results in a slower onset, but the effects tend to last longer than if you smoke or vape.  

CBD Edibles 

Gummies are probably the most popular type of CBD edible and come in a variety of different strengths and flavors. Although edibles take the longest to kick in, their effects tend to last the longest. You normally begin to feel the effects within 30 minutes to 2 hours, which can continue for up to 12 hours. 

Topical CBD 

Topical oils, creams, and lotions are further forms of hemp-derived CBD. It’s important to remember that CBD applied in this manner is only absorbed at the skin site, and not throughout your whole body. Some people report feeling an immediate effect, while others may not feel anything for several hours. 

Dosage: Adapting CBD to Your Needs and Routine 

So exactly how much CBD do you need to take if you want to manage your stress? The short(er) answer is that your ideal dose relies a lot on the type of product you use, how you administer it, as well as your own health variables such as your body weight, metabolism and if you’re currently taking any other medication (this is covered further down). The typical dose range for CBD in adults is 15 - 30 mg a day. To be on the safe side, start with a slightly lower dose than whatever is prescribed. Increase your intake gradually to give yourself some space to figure out what works best for you. Remember, consistency is key – the long-term benefits may take some time for you to notice. The time of day at which you take your CBD can also have an impact on its results. Some people find taking it at night helps them relax and have a good night’s rest, while some others prefer to incorporate it into their morning routine for a calm and serene start to their day. 

Other Medications That May Interact 

Although hemp-derived CBD is entirely natural and plant-based, it can interfere with certain drugs, especially those processed by the liver. Quite a few different drugs (including CBD) are broken down by the same family of liver enzymes, known as CYP450. This means that any CBD you use may compete with or interfere with these enzymes, resulting in an excess or deficiency of the other drug in your system. Such drug interactions, known as "altered concentrations”, are usually difficult to foresee but can create some uncomfortable and occasionally dangerous issues. If you’re already taking other medication(s), it’s crucial that you consult with your healthcare professional before incorporating CBD into your regimen. 

According to studies, there’s a greater risk of experiencing negative effects if you consume hemp-derived CBD alongside these medications: 

  1. Antidepressants (for example, fluoxetine or Prozac) 

  2. Drowsiness-inducing medications (antipsychotics, benzodiazepines) 

  3. Macrolide antibiotics (erythromycin, clarithromycin)  

  4. Cardiovascular medicines (including calcium channel blockers)  

What to Look for When Buying a CBD Supplement

CBD products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means it’s up to you to make sure you’re buying a good quality product. The main thing you’ll want to look for is a Certificate of Analysis (COA). This is really important, since it’s akin to a quality assurance, which verifies the product you’re buying actually does contain the quantity and strength of CBD that’s claimed. For the most accurate and unbiased results, check that the COA is supplied by a third-party source and not the manufacturer/brand themselves. In addition, have a look whether it was done by an accredited lab that follows the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) guidelines.  
The Bottom Line

Let’s face it: we live in the type of world where stress is like that annoying ex-boyfriend/girlfriend who never wants to leave you alone. In my experience, hemp-derived CBD offers a ray of sunshine on those days where it’s just too cloudy to be a productive human being. Backed by research, CBD emerges as a plant-based, non-toxic option for those who’d like to try a natural way to manage their stress, unwind and reduce anxiety. 

Monique Demes

Copywriter at CanMar

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