CBD products are everywhere and CBD is in just about every kind of product… but, what is it and where does it come from?
WHAT IS CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is a chemical compound that’s found in the cannabis sativa plant. It’s one of over one hundred known cannabinoids that are present in the plant at any one time. CBD is considered a major cannabinoid along with Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) while most of the other cannabinoids are considered minor cannabinoids.
CBD has been thrust into the mainstream in recent years after a few major news outlets covered its proposed positive effects on a young girl with severe epilepsy several years ago. Since that time, the passage of the 2018 farm bill made hemp legal and CBD was placed on the map in the retail sector.
WHERE DOES CBD COME FROM?
Although CBD is a phytocannabinoid that is found in the cannabis sativa plant, things start to get a little confusing at this point. You see, the cannabis plant can be classified as either marijuana or hemp.
This classification is based on the level of THC present in the plant with any cannabis plant that tests under 0.3% THC dry weight classified as a hemp plant. A cannabis plant that tests over 0.3% THC, dry weight, is classified as marijuana. CBD can be extracted from either of these plant types.
One thing to know about the cannabis/hemp plant is that it is bioaccumulator. This means that the plant is very efficient at removing toxins, heavy metals and chemicals from the soil. It is vitally important that CBD brands test for mycotoxins, heavy metals and pesticides like Mellow Mammals does for every single product and every single batch.
For a CBD product to be legally sold outside of a dispensary, it should have a THC level below 0.3%, so be sure to look for current test results from the brand that proves that it is. Mellow Mammals provides easy access to all of our third-party test results so you can be assured of the THC levels of our products.
WHY DOES THC LEVEL EVEN MATTER?
THC is the only known cannabinoid naturally found in the cannabis plant that causes an intoxicating effect, so knowing how much is in a product matters. This is the cannabinoid that is known to produce the “high” associated with marijuana use. CBD does not produce a “high” even though it is psychoactive because it does have an effect on the brain. You may see CBD brands marketing their products as non-psychoactive and this is simply not true. A more responsible way to market CBD is to state that it is non-intoxicating.
THC levels matter quite a lot if you are taking a CBD product and are subjected to drug testing for your job or if you are giving a CBD product to your pet. Because the FDA has not made a determination on the regulatory frameworks required to create a CBD product, there is much variation in the market. This leads to products that are wildly inconsistent with their CBD and THC levels and even some “legal” hemp-derived products that test much higher than legal limits for THC!
Unfortunately, it's up to you, the consumer, to do your research on the brand that is selling the CBD products to make sure they are doing everything they can to produce a high quality, consistent, safe and effective product.
HOW DO YOU GET IT OUT OF THE PLANT?
Cannabinoids are extracted from the plant material using a variety of extraction techniques, some of which are “safer” than others.
After the plants are harvested from the field, they are typically hung to dry. (There are other techniques being developed such as flash freezing of the plant material in the field, but they are currently too expensive and difficult for most brands.) After the plant is dry, the flowers and leaves are ground to a specified size. This is typically done through a milling process, although some brands use a grinder for small batch runs.
The milled material is then fed into an extraction system. There are different types, but the most popular extraction systems used in the CBD space are ethanol and CO2.
There is a repeated message around the CBD space from different CBD brands and writers that CO2 extraction is the safest extraction. The message is that ethanol extraction is dangerous and will lead to residual ethanol in the end product and CO2 is safe because there are no harsh chemicals used in that process. There are multiple things wrong with this idea though...
First, most people that are 21 years and older have consumed ethanol at some point and many people enjoy it on most weekends. So, to say that it’s a dangerous residual chemical is a bit of an exaggeration.
Secondly, ethanol is very easy to remove during the extraction process via evaporation and if the brand is responsible and cares about safety, they will test for residual solvents prior to allowing a product to be sold to the public.
Thirdly, although CO2 extraction equipment and processes are much better than they were years ago, typically, the extract will go through a solvent based process called winterization which uses ethanol to remove waxes and lipids anyway.
The bottom line is, a solid team performing the extraction will yield a clean and potent CBD extract regardless of method chosen. The extract that is created from either of these processes has a honey-like consistency and is chocked full of all the cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes that were in the plant material and survived the extraction process.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CBD?
This is something of a pet peeve of ours, because all across the CBD and hemp markets you will see articles, blogs and product descriptions talking about the different types of CBD. There is only one type of CBD!
CBD, as stated earlier, is a chemical compound found in the cannabis sativa plant… There are not multiple kinds of it. It’s a singular chemical compound. There are multiple kinds of CBD PRODUCTS though. Maybe we’re just getting too technical here, but we believe words matter and when the wrong ideas are put out there, misinformation and confusion quickly follow. This is what has happened all across the CBD space and what our brand is trying to correct.
Let me explain. CBD products are made from extracts that can be CBD only, can have multiple cannabinoids without THC or can have all cannabinoids present in the plant. These extracts are classified in three ways, CBD isolate, CBD broad-spectrum and CBD full-spectrum extracts.
- CBD isolate - This is when the cannabidiol is isolated and removed from the other compounds found in the cannabis plant. Typically, CBD isolate is very pure at 90% and higher.
- Broad-spectrum CBD - This is an extract that has had the THC removed, but has all the other cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes that were present in the plant material and survived the extraction process.
- Full-spectrum CBD - This is an extract that contains all the compounds found in the plant material including THC.
This is important to understand because there is so much misinformation out there about CBD products and the messages that subpar CBD brands put out. For example, we have seen many CBD products that are labeled as full-spectrum and also say they have no THC in them. This is blatantly false and is a potentially harmful piece of misinformation to put out there!
Many things can go wrong if a product containing THC is used when the user believed it did not contain any because the label said it didn’t. Dogs are highly sensitive to the effects of THC and should avoid it unless under the direction of a veterinarian. Maybe you are subjected to drug testing at your job and need to avoid products containing THC… if it is a full-spectrum product, by definition, it is a product with THC in it.
Again, words matter.
WHAT CAN CBD DO THEN?
This is where we have to be very careful. Because the FDA has not ruled on the status of CBD in the food supply or supplement market, health claims cannot be made by us or any other CBD brand. However, I am sure you have seen plenty of health claims being made regarding CBD on social media, print media, brands websites, podcasts and more. There are several reasons for this and here are a couple:
- Marketing - CBD companies are always looking to explain how their products are better than their competitors and the low hanging fruit is to make health claims.
- Research - CBD is finally able to be researched by universities. This was first made possible by the 2014 farm bill, but really picked up speed after the passage of the 2018 farm bill. So, research is happening fast and new information is flowing out quickly… because the public is so interested in CBD, new stories are coming out almost everyday.
- Influencers - They will always talk about the most popular subjects and promote the most popular products in order to make as much money as they can and capitalize on the latest hot thing.
What we will say is that a CBD isolate prescription drug has been approved by the FDA, so clearly there are medical applications for plant based CBD. What exactly it can help with is up for much debate as well as what dangers there are for using CBD. We encourage you to do your own research, talk to your veterinarian or medical professional before using a CBD product on yourself or for your dog.
ARE THERE SIDE EFFECTS WITH CBD?
This is another example of where misinformation rules in the CBD space. Many subpar brands do not like to admit that there are side effects to CBD use and will boldly proclaim that CBD is completely safe. This is not only wrong, but potentially dangerous! You may have already been told or read that CBD is completely safe because it is natural… Well, so is arsenic. Do not let dishonest marketing put you or your pet in harm's way by using a subpar product from a subpar CBD brand.
CBD is not without side effects. Many of the known side effects are considered mild, although there are a few that are important to be aware of, most importantly (in my opinion), are:
- CBD can affect the way the liver processes other medications.
- CBD has been shown to cause liver damage with high doses and continued long term use
Milder known, and more common side effects are:
- Upset stomach
- Dry mouth
- Appetite suppression
Make sure you are talking to your medical professional or veterinarian while you are using CBD for yourself or your dog so they can closely monitor any side effects or changes in liver enzymes in the blood. The current research states that side effects seem to subside after CBD use has stopped, so they are mild in nature as compared to most side effects of prescription drugs.
CBD is complex and because regulators cannot make a decision about how to regulate it, there is simply no regulation in the industry to date. So, it becomes the responsibility of the brand owners themselves to ensure standards are being created and surpassed. This is why it is so important for you to investigate the brands and hold them to the standards that you expect.
Hopefully, you know what to look for and feel more comfortable with your basic understanding of hemp-derived CBD after reading this article. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about our processes, products or anything else you want to know. My wife and I are building this brand on a solid base of honesty and integrity and want to set a standard in the CBD space for other brands to follow.
Garrick Cline - Founder